Being the Other People of Color in this Election

This election has come down to the wire. I’ve already casted my vote absentee in the State of New York, where I reside (I’m away on business and will be so for the election). I’ve donated numerous times to HRC. This is my last piece before our “day of reckoning” that I’ve been writing on and off for the past few weeks, so the tone shifts back and forth quite a bit.

First, my friend Alice, who is also Asian American articulated why she’s voting more than I ever could:

We filled out our ballots yesterday. Just a nice Saturday afternoon spent enjoying the fresh breeze coming in from our patio, and a little political discourse. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am voting this election cycle. I vote in every cycle, but this one has obviously given our nation a lot of food for thought. So, here goes:

Because we moved from our home of Hong Kong to America in advance of the 1997 return to China, so that we could live in a democratic nation.
Because my parents worked multiple jobs to scrimp and save so they could become small business owners.
Because despite not initially speaking a lick of English, immigrants like my parents (and ultimately their children) can be successful through education and hard work.
Because so many people live in a place where they do not get a vote.
Because so many before us fought for our right to vote.
Because I don’t believe in more walls or directed policing of specific communities.
Because Black Lives Matter.
Because I don’t condone inflammatory, hateful statements towards people because of their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference.
Because taco trucks are awesome.
Because I believe in equal rights.
Because love is love is love is love.
Because inappropriate sexual behavior should not be rewarded.
Because any human being’s body is theirs, and nobody should violate it by touching without consent or telling a person what they can and cannot do with it.
Because Planned Parenthood is needed in many communities across the nation.
Because we should not invite foreign nations to hack us.
Because global warming is real.
Because the unemployment rate is now below 5%, down from 10% in 2009.
Because our next generation shouldn’t have a bully in the Oval Office as their example.
Because experience matters.
Because a woman should not be defined by what her husband did/does.
Because it’s time to shatter ceilings.
Because I can.

So many reasons. What are yours?

The NYTimes ran this article Donald Trump Is Seen as Helping Push Asian-Americans Into Democratic Arms, which was followed up with this piece on FiveThirtyEight and NPR.  I also wanted to add more layers to this conversation, especially given our historically low-levels of voter turnout.

I know as an Asian person, I’m not seen quite like other People of Color or even as an American by both White people and other People of Color. I’ve lost count of the times racist White people think I’m playing on their team in being okay with being prejudiced toward other groups, not understanding why I would identify and side with Black and Brown people, not understanding oppression is one big hate I know whose barrel could be turned against us at anytime.

I’d like to think this needed no explaining but the nonetheless this piece below articulated this much better than I can:

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“Pollsters remain puzzled why Asians, the wealthiest racial demographic, still vote to the left, and social scientists breezily wonder out loud if it won’t be long before whiteness invites Asians to join the club. I’m doubtful. As long as Asians continue to be reminded they ultimately do not have say over their own Americanness, they will have more in common with the other minority groups vulnerable to the caprice of public fear and political fearmongering. Muslims and Arabs are terrorists; Latinos are undocumented job-thieves; blacks are violent criminals. And Chinese—those circumspect, duplicitous, sneaky Chinese—are spies.
There is a reckoning coming for people of color, as the steady march toward a majority-minority country butts up against retrenched white nationalism, currently feeding on the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s campaign. For Chinese Americans, the contours of how that reckoning might take place are visible thanks to Wen Ho Lee. Referring to trade deficits, Trump has said, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country.” His website includes zero-tolerance language about “China’s ongoing theft of intellectual property.” It’s not hard to imagine Trump, or whoever comes after him, drastically affecting Sino-American relations; and thus the lives of Chinese Americans.
Wariness is now the word. The next generation of Chinese American voices will have to remember that despite their patriotism, their relative privilege, their country doesn’t trust them. This is the enduring lesson of Wen Ho Lee, the Patient Zero of the unnerving present and uncertain future of being Chinese in America. He was there at the wrong time, had made just the wrong amount of missteps, and was just the wrong amount of American.”
Also: I like Karthick Ramakrishnan’s quite cerebral piece as well for reference.

When I first graduated college, more than a few people suggested to me I could work as a translator or something of that nature for a government agency.  Honestly, I probably didn’t have the right language skill or communication skills at the time. Still, I was like, “Hell no, they ain’t ever gonna do me right.” I knew I’d always be under suspicion of some sort, even though I grew up as (and still am) a fat taco eating Southern Californian.

At some point in a formative stage of my life even before then, I read about what happened to Wen Ho Lee around the same time I was figuring out what it meant to be a person of color and deciding to not aspire to Whiteness or even White-acceptable. I say no to respectability politics. I had never been model minority enough, and it is very weird people consider me that way now off face value as a hipster culture-loving yuppy New Yorker.

Both in the United States and in the rest of the West to quite an extent (Canada, Western Europe), see us Asians are seen as a model minorities, a double-edged sword of eager assimilationists and/or a foreign fifth column threat.  An image both partially of our own making and for us to be used by larger forces as a wedge group.

So now people are confused to find that we’re also increasingly publicly not fine with being used as a model minority wedge group and the continued orientalist views of Asian culture as “fitting conservatism.”  I always find that these assertions that we’re supposed be Republican and aligned with conservative values ironic given that richer Asian countries have more socialized healthcare systems than the United States and large majorities of Asian Americans support Obamacare.

A lot of immigrants and even American-born Asian-Americans are okay being racial mascots and playing second fiddle to White people and doing what they need to do to be accepted, effectively scrambling over other minorities to get the first scraps, but I’m not. It’s not like I hate White people (except you basket of deplorables. You are just terrible humans because you don’t consider other people human.) My homies is great though, but we are not treated like them.

We are not the same. Those of who are woke know that and are voting accordingly.

I’ve been told I’m one of those supposedly rare loudmouth Asians. I don’t think we’re rare, we just to don’t get to be on TV (also see wedge group above).

I’m a proud Taiwanese-American. I’ll say this, aside from the appalling bigotry and just ridiculousness of Donald Trump being a candidate that could elected, I’m personally also engaged at the potential of my American life possibly getting ruined right after feeling like I just got my piece of the American dream.

It’s been an interesting (if not terrifying) time to be a Person of Color, an immigrant, or thus descended from in America and the rest of  Western world. I was listening to Monocle one morning where the conversation mentioned it felt like race relations were getting worse in both Britain and America.

I don’t think that’s necessarily true quite. What’s changed is that the conversation is much more out there, uncomfortable, and unavoidable for White people. A lot of them aren’t responding to that well. Simultaneously, we’re also seeing is a more public abandonment of respectability politics by People of Color, exemplified by Colin Kaepernick.

Previously, I think in the past public spaces and mass media tended to stay clear of the race conversation or were perhaps overly permissive in a way to make White people feel comfortable.  It was probably also much harder for all People of Color in general to speak up in the past without being blacklisted or paying a huge cost. We now have a greater ability to control their own story to the public through social media platforms, exemplified by Black Lives Matter.

A lot of left-leaning Americans joke around about moving to Canada or getting the hell out if Trump gets elected. I make the same jeers, but I also went through the trouble of checking to see if I qualify for express entry because of professional skills and also think about Taiwan, where I have right to jus sanguinis citizenship. Just in case if things actually get bad enough.

And it’s unfortunate, because I love America.  

I love America, but I am not a fool. If Donald Trump gets elected, I’m in danger. 

And I know the America I love is not the same one Donald Trump supporters love.

The diverse cacophonous complicated America, where we come from everywhere and don’t always get all along the time but solve our problems. The America I grew up in, where Chinese restaurants exist next to burger stands that play mariachi music.  Where people move to cumbia and salsa on concrete sidewalks along side cars rolling by bumping trap music.

When Michelle Obama talks about waking up in a house built by slaves and Khizr Khan.  Like, I straight up ugly cry. Like not tears down face, but straight up ugly cry, hot tears streaming down my cheeks onto my clothes, choking on my snot, alone in my apartment wrapped around a blanket bawling.

Diaspora Person of Color America meeting White America and finding a way to broker a country and society together to move forward. That’s what I’m voting for. The place where we all came to be free.

Our people and our culture and everyone else’s people and their cultures deserve to be treated as full human beings as equals with the same amount of respect. I’m not ok with being a sidekick or a second class citizen or even being second place to White people in the racial hierarchy. We all deserve the same dignity.

I love my country, the one I was born in, but I’m not a fool. We’re all different, you and I. Acknowledging that difference shouldn’t make people so uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean precluding equality, justice, and ability to reach our highest human potential and happiness. You know what’s really uncomfortable? An unequal society that chips away everyday at everyone’s humanity.

I’d like to believe we all deserve the same chances to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So help me God.

So don’t forget to vote. In every state. The downballot matters. It all matters. #imwithher

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What’s up with like the White hipster people and hating on higher ed? I’m genuinely curious.

Can someone explain to me this trend of people, especially in my personal experience, a lot of White folks and privileged Asian people from both sides of the political spectrum, who distain higher education, grad school, etc, outside of a the financial perspective?  I can’t help but sense more dumbing down of Americans here, and this country can’t afford to be anymore fucking spoiled and stupid people. I am not the first one to feel that this advice incredibly dangerous to give to vulnerable groups.

It seriously makes no sense to an Asian person, me, who is kind of rough around the edges. You can’t learn everything in school, but there’s plenty of experience you can’t get elsewhere too. Part of the reason why I did it was for most people of color, we can’t walk in a room and expect to be taken seriously. This is a real thing. As an Asian, it’s almost expected to be extra educated. Way worse for other people of color by the way. I still get a lot more benefit of the doubt for being a light-skinned East Asian and can ‘talk white’.

For a lot of lower and middle-class White people too, it might also be one of the few tickets for upwards mobility (not to mention coming in contact with people of color in an intellectual setting designed to mix people together as well. There’s only a certain class of White people (and Asians for that matter) who can hustle their way up the socio-economic ladder without the connections of a degree. Surprise! It’s not coal miners from West Virginia.  The Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world are overwhelming from well-off resourced families. Drop-out provision does not apply to Debbie at Wal-Mart greeting people in a rural town.

To me, higher ed isn’t a certification so you can get X job. It’s to teach you how to think from multiple perspectives. As someone who was very much raised and influenced by classic Chinese thought (德之不脩,學之不講,聞義不能徙,不善不能改,是吾憂也。), I look at education as the cultivation of self. Also, growing up in an Asian neighborhood and then going to what was than a UC that still had more of a working-class culture at the time, I was surrounded by other scions of refugee families who more or less had this mantra, “People can take away your wealth, your home, the clothes off your back, but no one can take away your education.” This is what happened to them.  Their intellect and will is what helped people rebuild their lives.

Yes, education is too costly. The social contract of education is inherently broken for that reason. People now expect it to be an ROI-driven proposition – I was totally like this to a strong extent at USC, but I also excelled in my coursework and outside of it. I never expected because I had that piece of paper with the name attached to me that it would get me something. The work I did, my intellectual capacity, and what I brought to the table that was useful to the places I wanted to work was what got me the job, and a lot of the work and intellectual capacity was developed at USC. I really like how Philip Guo wrote about it.

I don’t know why people do expect a job because of a degree. I am speaking as someone who is on a hiring committee and has interviewed well over two dozen people this year. It does get a lot of people through the door though, but by no means is a guarantee.

Note: Education isn’t just happening in school for the cultivation of self and creating better citizens to function in a complex world. You can’t just be a marxist bookworm and be unable to apply your skills in the real world. I’m playing looking at you Phd students in a basement expanding human knowledge but am also very worried about your financial future.

School is one of the few places where people from different backgrounds, both in the traditional senses as well as the professional and intellectual sense, can come together to build wisdom for sake of it. Nothing else. Wisdom and intellect is what makes you the money from education. It also powers people to more fulfilling lives.

So why the hate? I feel like there’s something about it beyond anger that people are ill-prepared for the job market or the staggering burden of student debt that I sense. Aside from those valid points, what else?

(Full Disclosure: I got told over and over again not to go to grad school.  I walked out with not only a much better paygrade but a much more fulfilling work-life situation.  So I’m biased as hell and maybe just defending – though I’ll say the key was combining my practical experience from working with deep learning from education. But I’m way more alarmed by the lack of intellectual capacity in this country to interpret data, and bemoan what I perceive as the disrespect given to education by people who should ostensibly know better.)

On Reconciling Double Consciousness and Being an Emotional Immigrant

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From a few weeks ago after a pretty amazing but tormented first year in New York City and dealing with the weirdness that sometimes comes with life changes and upward mobility:

On Monday night, I was on my way home after a meet-upy thing I’m super excited about that I wouldn’t have even considered a few years ago bc I would have been no joke like “that shit is for white people.”

I opened my phone to figure out the best way to get home and instinctively opened Waze and chuckled. I had spent the last week and a half in LA back on freeways but mostly back in the neighborhood I grew up in, where everyone is more or less like me. I couldn’t wait to leave this time last year (when I signed the contract for the job I have now), but as always, distance makes the heart grow fonder.

I switched to Google maps to check train times while walking through the cacophonous internationalism and diversity that is NYC on an extraordinarily beautiful night. I’ve always really wanted to be a global citizen despite inclinations for tribalism.

Lately, I’m always switching place to place space to space. I put on different clothes, talk with a different accent, speak in a different language, change different IDs and transit cards out of my wallet all without thinking. Feeling like an emotional immigrant, not quite real and definitely not down.

I’ve struggled in the past year to finally get that this life is both a gift and a responsibility and that is ok, even though it can feel like a burden with sense of torment, the constant mix of ecstasy and guilt immigrant Americans can feel. Of always being an outsider, but someone who moves past borders, real and invisible. My adaptability has sometimes made me wonder if I’m a plastic person.

But I can’t keep worrying about feeling like selling out or that I’m being a faker – I’ve made my choices with no regrets. Maybe I can be a bridge and accept it as both a form of duty and a stroke of luck, because let’s face it, most of the world cannot be global citizens. Choosing the best parts of life and knowing that to much is given much is expected, but I can enjoy it, appreciate it, use it, and forever be grateful for this moment in life.

Trump’s ‘Losers’ of Capitalism Army

Some scary as shit from NYTimes: Voices From Donald Trump’s Supporters Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 12.16.40 AM.png

I have to wonder if there is some dark side of capitalism and structural change when mixed with an entitled group if people fall behind. The unsympathetic side of me would say these racist losers who probably have no skills for the 21st century deserve to be poor and forgotten. After all, isn’t our system supposed to reward those who work hardest (in theory)? If people can cross oceans and deserts and care out better lives than them, why the fuck should I give a shit about them? Full disclaimer if you couldn’t tell already from the blog title, I’m an Asian person. I could make the argument I probably pay tons of taxes for their welfare and they probably hate seeing someone like me living a much better life than them or god forbid a Black president who was the son of an immigrant. But then the on the flipside, they literally are a flaming trash fire of danger to everyone including themselves. I also generally believe in alleviating the suffering of the downtrodden, if not to just to save my own skin with keeping society stable.

The United States is hardly the first country to have seen a middle class get gutted because of mechanization, globalism, and other structural changes. I have to wonder though if the natural conclusion and human nature is to blaming other people and turn against each other when you live in a diverse society. It’s not as if middle class people in other developed countries haven’t started facing salary crunches long before the United States did, but it spurred renaissance of small businesses and people finding other ways to live, even if obviously is not ideal (I’m thinking particularly of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong here) and cope. In the West, we have resurgent xenophobia, racism, and the strange economic and political self-immolation with actions such as the Brexit and supporting an unstable demagogue. Once you get entitled people in a frenzy, fearful, and desperate, they’ll believe anything someone says. Also, while these people aren’t anyway near a majority of the country, it’s not as if vengeful and prejudiced minority groups haven’t exercised tyranny over entire countries for significant and devastating periods of time (the Serbs in the Balkan wars, White South Africans, upper classes in South America, the KMT-in-exile in Taiwan, colonialism the world over). Unfortunately, generally educated peace-loving cosmopolitan people are shit in a fight and slow to wake up and stand up to barbarism. Just saying.

Weaponizing Narratives and Identity Politics

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Compare and contrast the headlines. 

I want to just take a break from the news. It would be easier for me at this point of my life to turn a blind eye, I probably could, but I won’t be a bystander. I do question the value of posting on social media*, but we live in a world where narratives can be weaponized and people dehumanized in a way that was not possible 15 years ago in a pre-9/11 world, before 24 hour cable networks, internet news, and now social media. I don’t doubt there are dark times ahead, but at least I’ll be able to look into the eyes of posterity and say that I at least tried to stand in the side of justice, even if I never live to see the kind of world I would have like to live in.

I have people in my life who I love who are Black and people I love who work in law enforcement (those categories are not mutually exclusive), it makes me sick to live in a world where I have to worry people making it home so much. I don’t talk about this as much as I maybe should, but I’m aware how much it is easier for me to slip through the world unbothered and unworried compared to so many people I know (to spell it out bluntly: I’m an upwardly mobile light-skinned Asian woman) and how worried I get about the people I do know who don’t have that luxury. It’s maddening, but we each make a choice to stand by or stand up (again to spell it out bluntly, that was a thinly veiled plea for those of us who could stand down not to).

I also hate to point out what should be an obvious logical fallacy, but you can be in support of reforming the justice system, which could actually amplify safety for both citizens and law enforcement in the long-term, and Black Lives Matter without being “anti-Police” or “anti-White” and being part of this “race war” narrative that will be the news item in the upcoming weeks. There was a huge opportunity lost, most notably I think by Bill de Blasio after the deaths of Officers Ramos and Liu, to take control of the narrative so supporting police didn’t become a vehicle for racists to attach themselves to, but this is the situation now.

 

 *I originally posted this on Facebook – just noting to account for some of the tone.  

Other media worth looking at today: