Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Model Pejority

My finger, as it is, always on the pulse of America, reads the zeitgeist of "Asians as the Model Minority" like this:

The "model minority" stereotype is a patronizing cudgel with which the conservative White establishment pummels Black Americans. It actually has nothing to do with Asians at all, except to stereotype them as two-dimensional work-bots -- a compliant, literate work-force.

I suggest that entire notion of the "model minority" is exclusively a snotty meme designed to humiliate African-Americans. The idea that Asians are a "model minority" is a way of saying to Black Americans: "Why can't you people be like the Asians? See? They're happy and have jobs, they had hardships. You people are just complaining about racism that doesn't exist. (And you're lazy.)"

The reason I say it has nothing to do with Asians is that as a stereotype it breaks down almost immediately. If Asians are such a model minority and "if they can do it why can't you?" is the lesson learned, what is up with the fact that Asians can't get into management at Google? Well it looks like even if you're the model minority you're still subject to racism.

But, as always, it turns out I'm not the first to think these things:
People who shape the dominant political narrative in this country—politicians, pundits, media—have little use for substantive conversation about any group of non-white people unless it’s to uphold, in stark terms, notions of black inferiority and white supremacy. To that end, Asians have actually been the subject of quite a lot of public fascination, mainly as props used to denigrate blacks and Latinos and programs designed to support them and other people of color—including segments of the Asian-American population. All too often, Asians are willing to play along.
Yeah. That about sums it up.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

White as a Race

I pretty well agree with all of Kartina Richardson's notions about White being the "default" except for her conclusion.
White people becoming "free" by accepting their race is a theory which, when put into practice, has gone noticeably bad.
Many White supremacists are totally down with the idea that White people should think of Whiteness as an ethnicity, that there's a White culture and a White heritage. The problem is there really isn't.
White people frequently ask me what my ethnicity is. I like to ask them back and they preface their answer with a sheepish expression, “Oh, I’m just regular white” they say, or “Oh, just plain boring white.” They don’t believe they have an ethnicity because The Default has erased European ethnicity to absorb people of European descent (and a few lucky Middle Easterners) into Whiteness.
I think the "default" of European ethnicity and how White people don't think of themselves as having a culture is somewhat more complex than what's described by Richardson above. In the United States, the former Europeans seem to have done something that I don't think any other colonialists to other places have done, and that is to have deliberately wiped away their own cultural heritage. There was, to a fairly great degree, the concept that "We're in America now, we speak English, and we do things the American way" was fairly prevalent among White immigrants from the 1800's and 1900's. Our forefathers actually said: no, we will not have an ethnicity ourselves. 

Now I'll note that what the "American way" was didn't really exist. It was kind of made up out of whole cloth by what people's thoughts and prejudices were coming in. But parents tended not to teach their kids whatever language the parents natively spoke (if it wasn't English), and tended to build on whatever idiotic racism they found which, in turn, created the White people in the US.
Encouraging White people to be in touch with their own culture raises a whole bunch of questions and doesn't answer a dang one of them. It would be fantastic to remove the default setting of America from "White, male, mid-30's, brown hair" and not have a default at all. But I don't see how, practically, we can give an ethnicity to "White" people in order to do so without it going very, very wrong.
I've known people who were really into, say, their Celtic heritage and loved the crosses and saints who were based on pagan gods and what-have-you. And, you know, that's awesome. That said, what would be more awesome is if the Nordic Runes of ancient Europeans hadn't been co-opted by the Nazi party in Germany.
And that's pretty much what we've got. Is the culture of White people Mozart? Or some later Austrian? 
Yes, White people do in fact suffer from a lack of "ethnicity".  It would be cool to have some idea where we Whites might call ourselves a group and get together and be proud of ourselves and not be in some prison gang in order to do so. Being part of a group is fun. It makes Danish people happy. But I think making Whites in America an ethnicity actually, straight-up, cannot be done. We lost that one. 
My great-grandfather showed up here in the Union army in Kentucky, stopped speaking French, and decided he was American. Do I wish my family still spoke French? Yes I do. But I'm afraid that culturally, there's no going back. We're going to have to find another way out.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Big White Guy

As a middle-class, middle-aged, White American guy these are my very important thoughts*:

I frequently object to the use of the word "privilege" because 1. I can't spell it and 2. it's usually used in a way I'd consider wrong. For instance, I'm not privileged that I can walk down the street late at night and feel relative safety. That is a right. Everyone should be able to do that. Just because some people can't doesn't make it a privilege, it makes it a basic human right that is not granted to everyone.
That said, what certainly is a privilege is me being able to walk down the street not having a single clue how a six-foot tall man ignorantly stomping down the road might intimidate other people.
I actually have a fairly early memory of having intimidated someone. I'm going to guess I was in 7th grade at a roller-rink. Going to a roller-rink was not really a part of my childhood experience, I'm sure I'd only gone twice in my life. But I remember requesting a song from the DJ and him ignoring me and in a sort of 12-year-old overdrama I stuck my arm out to lean against the DJ booth. And there was some girl there. Probably about my age. And she violently shrank away from me like I was putting a move on her or something in a super aggressive creepozoidal way. I hadn't even really noticed her before that. And her reaction surprised me.
Note that I'd never seen this girl before, she wasn't from my school so she hadn't known me since kindergarten. She just saw a rando creepy boy being all awkwardly rando** creepy and ran away.
So that happened.
And that's stayed with me because of how much that surprised me.
Now I'm perfectly aware that the fact of my ethnicity has inured me from generally being the scary man walking down the street. And my blithe ignorance of this on a day-to-day basis is certainly a privilege.
I think the psychology is that gee whiz, I know I'm not some violent guy whose coming to hurt people, why don't you know that? Well, because you just don't know. And honestly, I have no idea how to tell you. If I get on an elevator behind you, what am I supposed to do? Just get off? Stare at the floor? Make a pretend telephone call to my mom?
I don't actually have any answers here.
So yeah. Privilege. I'm getting better at spelling it with practice.

*Yes, this is joke, because you see all my thoughts are extremely important.
**Both "rando" and "creep" weren't really words used by kids back then.