August 24, 2006

Survivor Divided by Race

Thanks, Yi, for sending this article. I think this is the most exciting news I've seen in a really long time.

So the big news is that the next Survivor is going to be divided along the lines of race. I'm not kidding. There's going to be a "White tribe," a "Black tribe," a "Hispanic tribe," and an "Asian tribe." The three four tribes are going to compete in regular Survivor-style competitions.

Rush Limbaugh has a radio clip here . I'm not a Rush Limbaugh fan, but I thought this clip was really funny. In the clip, he jokes that the black tribe will lose if there is swimming involved, that the Asian tribe will outsmart the rest but lack "native understanding of the land," and that the white tribe will bring "vials of diseases" and will "oppress" the other tribes if CBS allows cheating.

It's clear that Rush is joking (why would he joke about black athleticism?)--but there are some very real comedic possibilities here, especially when it comes to Asians. If the stereotypes come out, it's the Asians--not the whites, blacks, and Hispanics--who could be having problems. For example:
  • Will the Asian male members get domestically violent against the Asian female members? Will the Asian female members go running to the White tribe and accuse the Asian men of sexism? What if the White tribe sets up a printing press to distribute Kingstonian propaganda against the men of the Asian tribe?
  • What if the female members of the Asian tribe become infatuated with the male members of the White tribe and are unable to compete against their objects of their undying love? (Hey, this is a real possibility if you consider this.) What if the Asian women get Madame-Butterfly-suicidal after spending time away from the men of the White tribe?
  • What if the Asian men fight amongst themselves over who is smarter, better looking, or makes the most money, and are therefore unable to come together as a team? What if one of them acts like the "good Hop-Sing David Henry Hwang oriental" and winds up betraying his team for a whiter, I mean higher, cause? What if they decline to rock the boat--by losing?
All joking aside, I think this is going to be GREAT. What is lost in all the controversy is the fact that this will be the FIRST TIME in American television history (outside of "All American Girl" and other embarassing moments) that we have a group of Asian Americans together in one show. If anything, it will be great for diversity, and it is almost guaranteed to shake up the status quo.

August 22, 2006

Councilman John Liu

Good article on Councilman John Liu from Flushing, New York. I've seen this guy speak, and he's pretty articulate. It's really great how he has used his City Council position as a pulpit for national Asian American issues.

August 19, 2006

The Quite Farang

I read this opinion article this morning in the NY Times.

The article is spot-on correct. This has always been one of the main mysteries of life to me. Why is it that whenever Western (read: European or American white) men associate with Asians, it almost always seems to have something to do with some sort of sexually deviant behavior or expectation? And equally mysterious is this: why do Asian people encourage it? It's no mistake that a very significant part of the Thai GDP comes from accommodating the johns who come looking for Thai prostitutes. After the Gary Glitter incident, local radio host Bob Rivers called Thailand "the most permissive country in the world."

Last year, Sheridan Prasso wrote a book called "The Asian Mystique" that discusses the trend of Western-Asian sex across Asia. A few years back, Karen Kelsky wrote a book called "Women on the Verge" that discusses the trend as specific to Japan. To their credit, they both attribute to the problem of complicity between both white people and Asian people.

Most Asian American writers have always seemed to view Western-Asian relationships as a colonial type of relationships, where Westerners are the aggressors and Asians are the victims. In my opinion, this kind of mentality is self-defeating because it eliminates any kind of responsibility on the part of Asian people. It disempowers us because it says that the fault is entirely that of white people, and that we're just a powerless, emotionless people who suffer from the sins of others.

Such cannot be the case. It isn't too often that one hears of poor black people or poor white people selling their daughters and sons into sexual slavery. You don't often hear of African, Russian, or poor European governments trying to build an industry out of the sex trade. The dignity of such countries is such that they would rather remain poor than debase their women and children by selling them into the sex trade. They would rather remain poor than debase their men by eoncouraging them to become pimps and hustlers.

Communism and censorship and violent history aside, one good thing I can say about the Chinese government is that they have actively pushed for Asian people to be treated with respect. They are trying to create industry where Asian people can distinguish themselves by their human capital, not their sexual capital. Such is not the case of all Chinese people obviously--there are many Chinese people who still try to base our image on sex (some of them are Chinese American writers in this country who write garbage like "M. Butterfly") . But the push towards greater recognition does exist in the Chinese government, and it would be great if it existed in larger measure here in the U.S.

I think we'll all be happy when we can get beyond the old tired images. But to get beyond these images, we need to first change our internal actions. This includes the actions of Asians in Asia, Asians in America, and Western people. When we try to see people as people and treat people as people, the world will become a more equal place.

August 18, 2006

Update on Racial Slurs

Update on the post immediately below:

My friend D--who happens to be a kung-fu expert--has convinced me that racial slurs are not the same as physical attacks. His reasoning is that they are psychological attacks more than anything. If the violence never actually begins, one usually walks away with nothing more than anger and stress.

Racial slurs do indicate intent for physical harm though, and I think, given the context of their historical use, that they are indeed physical threats. With a racial slur, the speaker indicates the intent to cause imminent physical harm. Calling someone a "chink" in my opinion is akin to saying "I'm going to beat the @#$ out of you." In my opinion, if one fears the threat, one has the right to physical self-defense. Of course one wouldn't be justified in getting physical against an 80 year old woman who shouts a racial slur (unless of course, she had a gun...I think that would be more comedic than anything else), but in my opinion, an angry young man (or men) who uses such a slur has indicated an immediate threat to cause physical harm.

And in such cases, I believe it is morally justified (and maybe morally imperative) for a person to defend himself.

August 14, 2006

Fighting Against Hate Crimes

Saw news of a hate crime on this morning. According to the news story posted, TWO white guys beat up on FOUR Asian guys. When I first saw the blog post, the first idea that crossed my mind was this: how the hell do you lose a fight when you outnumber your attackers two to one? Even if those were two REALLY REALLY big white guys and four REALLY REALLY small Chinese guys, how do you lose when you have twice the number of fighters?

I found another news story--a more detailed story-- about the same incident on the web. It explains the story a bit better. You can see footage of the victims here. Incidentally, there was a witness--and it's a white guy. So the two thugs will most likely do some time. (As a side note which isn't really related to this post, I found it funny that one of the racists who didn't like "gooks" was from Flushing--one of the "other" NYC Chinatowns. Poor guy. It's kind of like being David Duke and living in Harlem...)

The story is this: apparently, the two white guys rammed into the back of the car of the four Chinese guys. They were shouting racial slurs while doing this, and so the four Chinese guys tried to get away. When they thought they had eluded their pursuers, they pulled over to the side. One of the Chinese guys got out of the car, and the two white guys surprised him by punching him. One of the other Chinese guys got out of the car to help his friend, and they beat him too. So it wasn't really two against four; it was more like two against one in Round One, then it was two against one again in Round Two. The two other Asian men in the car declined to participate (According to the New York Times, the two men were calling on their cellphones. Exactly why it takes two men to place a call is beyond comprehension. I'm actually not sure what is more sickening--the racist attack or the cowardice displayed by these two men watching their good friends getting beaten by two unarmed guys.). Round Three was with the police--the belligerent ones lost that round.

What most likely happened was that the Chinese guys were surprised by the force and speed of the attack, and so they were unable to mobilize effectively. After getting hit with the first surprise punch (or punches), the first Asian guy was effectively taken out of the fight. The second Asian guy may have just been a poor fighter (The Club is a terrible weapon to use, especially for a small guy. While it can inflict damage when you hit someone with it, the design is so unwieldy and slow that it's hard to actually land a blow. He probably would have been better off just using his fists.). The other two Asian guys just stayed in the car with their cell phones and therefore never posed a threat.

Fighting is a scary thing, and one never behaves exactly as one would like to behave in a fight. It's like the karate teachers always say--"It's different on the street." Some fighters freeze up when they fight under pressure, and many are unable to perform as they do in a controlled environment. I've been there, and I can attest to the fact that it is scary when one assails you with racial slurs and then uses his fists on you. I don't think that the Asian guys did anything wrong. Yet at the same time, I think they could have handled themselves better. They could have mounted a much better defense, especially given their situation.

There is a Korean American man on the fighting44s website who argues effectively that racial slurs in and of themselves are a form of racial violence. In other words, throwing a racial slur is akin to throwing a punch; it's an act of violence. Racial slurs are so normally accompanied by physical violence that their usage connotes bodily harm and threats, and therefore it is a form of physical violence.

I would agree 100%. I think the violence happened way before the two guys hit their car. I think it occurred way before they punched the first Asian guy, way before they smashed the skull of the second with the Club. I think the violence occurred the minute the word "chink" or "gook" was uttered. Especially in this day and age, no one ever says "chink," "gook," "nigger," "fag," or any other derogatory term without the intent of causing physical harm. The slur itself is an attack. Once the four guys were assaulted (and they were assaulted) by the slur, they should have called the police right away. And if they wanted to leave the car, they should have left the car together.

Now assuming the Asian guys all left the car together, the moment the racist guys came out of their car, one of the four Asian guys should have thrown the first punch. After all, two guys shout racial slurs, ram your car, and then charge at you? Even if you were to throw and land the first punch, it would still be self-defense, not an act of aggression.

Violence is wrong. Racism is wrong. I'm a Buddhist and believe strongly in nonviolence. But you have to play it smart; there's no heroism in being a passive, voiceless victim. When an angry racist man addresses you by shouting a racial slur, he has committed an act of violence against you, and you need to run from him or fight him. The slur has signalled his intent to kill or maim you, and if you value your life, it behooves you to protect yourself. Don't wait for him to hit you. Hit him first. Break his nose. Stick your thumbs in his eyes. The situation demands it. You aren't spreading any good karma by letting him fracture your skull. Your passive acceptance of his behavior teaches him that violence and racism are good and that you approve of the way he treats people who look like you. Beat him to the punch, hit him first and hit hard, and you are demonstrating to him a greater morality. You are teaching him--and people like him--that racism is wrong. You're also saving money by avoiding the hospital (or saving your parents' money by avoiding the morgue.).

August 13, 2006

The World in Which I Live

Thanks for visiting my blog. This is my first post.

Saw this article in the New York Times today.

I think it's really great how the world is becoming greener and that these ideas are taking root in New York. It looks like for the time being, only the more affluent city dwellers will be able to make the most of green living, but as the price of technology drops (as it usually does), I expect that green values will play an increasingly larger role in the lives of all people.

I was at a Portland City Club meeting last year, and I heard the statistic that even though many think of pollution when they think of New York, New York actually produces less pollution per citizen than any other major American city. The person who quoted this statistic said that New York is able to achieve this feat mostly through its highly efficient subway system.

In Portland, we have a public transportation system called the Max. It's a great system--cleaner and and more on-schedule than the New York subway, but it only has three lines, which means that it isn't directly accessible to much of the Portland area. As it was explained to me by a city planner, Portland simply doesn't have the population density to get the same kind of public transportation efficiency that New York has. So because of our low density, we produce more pollution per citizen. But without the high density, we also lose the problems that come with overcrowding. So it's a tradeoff.

I'm personally looking forward to the day when I can drive from one place to another without releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. With more and more people actively living with greener values, I hope our people and government will encourage more research in this area.