Warning: Life is Not as It Appears on Facebook

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Warning: Life is Not as It Appears on Facebook

I share all kinds of stuff on Facebook.  I have family and friends scattered around the world and love seeing what people are up to and want people to know what I’m up to. Unfortunately, I’m also a flawed petty and prideful person. I sometimes like to show how well I’ve ended up sometimes because I never thought my life would be like the one I have now. It wasn’t easy, it was not just my singular effort, and I am thankful. The other is that the world doesn’t let up on vacation of course, and that feels especially clear abroad.

This is a super douchey Facebook post, and my friend and I laughed about it. What you don’t see in this story was moments after we took this picture, some weird crazed looking man came up to us and went on a rant we couldn’t quite understand but we could make out “why refugees and why not us something something.”  Clearly he saw us and didn’t like what he saw, two non-White people enjoying the seats outside the National Museum of Denmark.  We weren’t the only foreigners frolicking in the fountain set-up they had, but we were the ones he decided to confront.  (A very LA part of me was ready to pick up the chair next to me and defend myself with it if necessary).

Later we talked about the irony of the situation given that we are the direct American descendants of refugees or products of open immigration policies – chances given to unwanted people.  My friend was in Denmark because she has family that was settled after the Vietnam War.

There’s such a twisted irony that we’re able to fool around in Europe in our nice clothes on a nice vacation as the direct result of open policies for people in bad situations to one day be accosted by a Danish man upset about this generation’s refugees. We are a living testament of generations of our families working and being allowed to be in a place where we could succeed beyond anything those we came before us could imagine. Unlike many Americans, we don’t have to go beyond the living for memories of families fleeing burning towns to go into distant lands as unwanted people.

Other than the indigenous people, all Americans are immigrants. As a people, we have a tendency to either desire or were forced to completely forget where we came from or people maintain a grip into past cultures to never forget, sometimes to a fault. I definitely fall into the latter camp. Hanging onto to languages, customs, passports, and memories can be a source of torment, but it’s also a source of perspective.

I’m aware I’m totally making a blanket judgement here about Europe and thinking too much, but the more I see things the more:

1) I’m convinced that we as Americans need to get our shit together and be active citizens that vote and shape policy because:

2) The United States and Canada are likely the only ones who can solve the refugee problem with resources, culture, and conditions to absorb people in a way that they don’t become a permanent and unaccepted underclass. Even though we have significant problems with racial justice in the United States, European societies are a much less realistic place to attempt to take these people on.

In a generation or two they’ll be totally American, loyal and productive and eventually be drivers and rebuilders of where they came from after the night has ended. Maybe they’ll be doing what I’ve been doing. We also bare responsibly for being complicit in Bush’s war and Obama’s mistakes in not containing ISIS of why the world is as it is now. Seeing signs about the crisis and seeing it on the news here when you’re not an ocean away does make it more real and sickening. Indeed much support for today’s refugees from from Southeast Asians who were settled after the Vietnam War and Asian American justice groups. I’m not naive, it won’t be easy or without cost or conflict to take on this challenge, but the US and Canada, are uniquely able to face this challenge.  

Despite our own own current flirtations with fascism, the reality is that most non-White people assimilate and take on American and Canadian identity in a way that Europe doesn’t seem to have a social set-up for.  It’s absurd to think people imported from former colonies could become the French or German, identities that go back to ancient times.  I, and many other Americans like me, don’t identify nor share any semblance of historical bloodline with people around me who have ancestors that go back beyond the Civil War, but I’m able to become a part of the American story.  That’s a powerful bit of soft power America and Canada have that America appears to want to squander now.

Who knows what will really happen but the decisions we make today and realizing how lucky we are was not just luck and we bear responsibility. Many Americans have no memories to realize how lucky they are or to realize that such a life is fragile and is intentional, there’s no magic here. People make decisions to create a better world and we’re failing horribly at our responsibilities right now.  People need to vote, in elections other than presidential ones.  Even Barack Obama’s historical election had only about 57% turnout rate.  Those of us with resources need to lobby and contribute to causes.  We’re letting the bigots drown out our voices right now.  While I wasn’t going to pop off on a crazy Danish man, I’m voting and giving money and resources to the causes I care about here at home, and that includes refugees.  

And yes, I’ll talk about it on Facebook.

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I’m Blogging. It Finally Happened

As far as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with culture and identity…

Below is the first iteration of the about portion of this site.  No doubt it will change heavily over time as I work on this.  It’s as good a place to start as any.  My thoughts will be here.  I have no plan, no real organization, other than to tell my story.  A lot of the writing will be on culture and race as it relates to current events, but also things that go way back in history.  I’m very interested in that I have social opinion about, such as the role of technology and data visualization, that will plenty of love too.  For now, this is what Middleman Minority will be able.  I have a backlog of writing I’ll be pushing out before I probably fall into a weekly or biweekly posting cycle.

I also claim to be no journalist or real writer, so a lot of this will be rough and ready and off the fly to begin with.  Expect grammar mistakes and occasional hot takes.

About This Site and Why I Started Writing (and Publishing that Writing)

There’s been a lot of questions in my mind around identity and my place in the world that really died down after college but reintensified in 30something adulthood…

I spend most of twenties basically living the wannabe tech yuppy life in SF.  I was all about the hustle. I decided I didn’t like the person I was becoming and also felt like I was living a dream that wasn’t my own. I went home to LA to go to grad school at USC.  Prodigal daughter returns home and all of that on the personal level.  The events of Ferguson and being in a graduate program at USC woke up a long dormant part of myself that cared about social justice and give me a new lens to look at the world and myself.  The magic of education and all that.

I started doing a lot of writing in grad school for my coursework that then propelled a series of mostly rants and screeds on Facebook that involved into more thoughtful discourse, and at the urging of many, has made me believe and want to share my unique perspective.  I put of those voices, including my own, on the backburner to look for my next thing.

Now I’m a thirty something yuppie in NYC.  Successful Model Minority on the outside.  Still angry woman of color on the inside.  I started this out now because:

1) To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected: I feel that I have a perspective worth telling and I also literally have a degree in Communication where I think I was basically brainwashed over two years into believing that sharing my perspective will provide some benefit to the world.

2) More Selfishly:  I feel that I carry around a lot of things that aren’t necessarily mine.  There was a point about a year and half ago where I kept re-reading this excellent piece The Science of Suffering, about essentially how trauma is being passed on intergenerationally.  Being Taiwanese-American, and a particular kind of Taiwanese-American (I will get deep into this at another time), a piece of this really resonates with me.  Being Taiwanese is to be fraught with questions of identity, who we are as a people, and where do we go for here?  Being Asian American is so much about our contentious place in the American racial order, not seen as the downward assimilating minorities and used as a wedge group so often, and so often being unable to have our voices and stories told in the mainstream in any meaningful way.  So much of who I am and we are is a caricature, even to us.  I don’t see my story and perspective and those like me being told, so I am going to tell it now.

On Asian America

What is more important?  Bloodline or a racial history?  Is there an in between place?  What claim does an upwardly mobile Chinese-fluent Taiwanese American like me have on the activism of the Manongs in Delano and Japanese-Americans post-internment, and what claim does that Asian American history have on me?  Should a racial panethnic Asian American identity matter more?  Is that not reconcilable with the Chinese and Taiwanese I hear in my dreams and my deep roots in Taiwan? I’m not a banana or a twinkie and don’t struggle with that, does not make me not really Asian American (as I have been told)?  Am I a person of color? Or am I just a model minority –The racial mascot between White versus Black and Brown?  What gets pegged effectively in America as a Middleman Minority.

A totally loaded term, I know.  The wikipedia entry cites a definition from one of the most problematic and hated voices in Asian America. Yet it’s probably not a terrible imagining of where people inside and outside our community perceive us, at least to me.  Not White, but not racialised in the same way Brown and Black is in this country.

I also find problematic the gap at what I see as a dichotomy between social justice culture in Asian America versus #bobalife or the image of us as model minorities (The #morethanboba initiative addresses this).

There’s the historical racial identity born out of panethnic protests of the 1960s, an activist legacy adopted by many, especially those in academia or who have been through Asian American Studies.Then there’s evolving post-1965 immigrant identities, those of us whose families came after the immigration acts that effectively created the upper middle class part of our community.  People like me who grew up in places like San Gabriel Valley, NY Chinatown, SF Sunset/Richmond/Chinatown, Little Saigon in OC, etc., where the history and culture of where our families come is the pillar of our identity, our mindsets, and our realities.  There are many other facets of our post-1965 brethren, including the refugees who came after US involvement in wars in Southeast Asia.  There’s definitely an East Coast versus West coast culture and the unspoken specter of class.  I think we need to have more diverse perspectives speaking because I rarely ever feel like I see a voice like mine out in the Asian American blogosphere much less other diverse voices.  Eddie Huang might be the closest, but I find it telling that there’s no similar female voice.

That being said and as this unfolds, I have really strong opinions on culture, politics, technology, race and social justice informed by standpoint and invoking intersectional identity.

I don’t have any easy answers or even answers on anything.  I wouldn’t be surprised everything I say is perceived as totally inflammatory, but I’ve always felt like I’ve existed in a boundary zone, the way Asian Americans exist as an effective racial buffer.  Culturally, I’ve felt like an anomaly in Asia American, born in the Los Angeles but fluent in ancestral languages, unwilling to let go of my Taiwanese identity.  From my career to where I have a half-tech and half-advertising role, to my identity as an Asian American, I’m the code-switcher.  The one who will go down to an underground hip hop show in Bushwick but get on a plane to Taipei and dine at some of the finest restaurants in the East District.  I’m the kind of bitch that reads Complex and Monocle.  Boundary points have always been a feature of my life, crossing borders, tangible and invisible, an emotional immigrant of sort.

I have to acknowledge this is an ability that is heavily informed by privilege.  I’m really aware I’m not White (clearly), but I’m also a light-skinned East Asian woman born in America who is upwardly mobile whose managed to hang on to her ancestral language and culture.  That really counts for the degree of autonomy and being able to control my destiny in a way that many people of color in this country have not been able to do.  That’s also why I’m not writing under a pen name.  Part of the reason why I’m doing this now is that I feel the benefits of expressing myself now outweigh professional backlash.  I’m aware that what I have to say will not be universally beloved.

To wrap up, I believe it was Takeshi Kaneshiro (and I’m not trying to equivocate my situation here), the Taiwanese-Japanese actor who said when you have double the culture, you have double the perspective, double the opportunity, and double the problems.  I’ve been privy to so many experiences and discussions that I think I have a perspective worth sharing because I’ve had the privilege of being so many spaces.  But I would be lying if the contradictions weren’t tormenting. So here we go.

About Me

Data Visualizer for an advertising agency by day.  Armchair culture nerd and junkie by night.  I’m that weirdo that reads wikipedia and to be delighted to learn that Lake Baikal is the deepest freshwater lake in the world (no lie).  Undercover angry woman of color.  NYC by way of LA (626 to be exact).  Former Yay Area resident.  Taiwan is where my heart goes to rest.  Carving out my place as another Asian American voice on the internet and general repository for my thoughts.

I also collect stuff that inspires me for work and culturally.  I’m also a travel junkie and make travel maps (coming soon).

Acknowledgements

I had a lot of great teachers at USC, so I give a lot of credit to Henry Jenkins, Nick Cull, and Virginia Kuhn about telling our stories and in particular to Erin Reilly about thinking about culture.  I also especially have to give credit to Asian American Studies at UC Davis, particularly to those that taught or mentored me me: Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde, Isao Fujimoto, Sunaina Maira, Rachel Parrenas, Oiyan Poon, My Diem Nguyen, and Richard Kim and countless other faculty and staff, without whom I would never have become the person I am today.  I am a proud child of Ethnic Studies.  I don’t always agree with all my teachers, but I’m here to tell mine and my perspective.