This is dedicated to all Asians who claim that they are apolitical. Your day will come. — MAMAGUNZ
One day the apolitical intellectuals of my country will be interrogated by the simplest of our people.
They will be asked what they did when their nation died out slowly, like a sweet fire small and alone.
No one will ask them about their dress, their long siestas after lunch, no one will want to know about their sterile combats with “the idea of the nothing” no one will care about their higher financial learning.
They won’t be questioned on Greek mythology, or regarding their self-disgust when someone within them begins to die the coward’s death.
They’ll be asked nothing about their absurd justifications, born in the shadow of the total lie.
On that day the simple men will come.
Those who had no place in the books and poems of the apolitical intellectuals, but daily delivered their bread and milk, their tortillas and eggs, those who drove their cars, who cared for their dogs and gardens and worked for them, and they’ll ask:
"What did you do when the poor suffered, when tenderness and life burned out of them?”
Apolitical intellectuals of my sweet country, you will not be able to answer.
Yellow fever, also called Asian fetish or orientalism, is an (oftentimes exclusive) attraction non-Asian people have towards Asian people, typically women, and/or cultures. Since the phenomenon complicates the common understanding of racism, less-informed folks tend to think of it simplistically, as merely an “attraction” or “preference” and thus perceive it to be a positive dynamic. At most, if people who support yellow fever are called out, they erect a wall around it, calling it a personal issue that others have no right to comment on. By the way, that is how patriarchy often works—oppressors hide and individualize their problems, such as in cases of domestic violence. Thus, an occurrence of violence is made to seem like a one-time issue, not a reflection of a larger systemic problem, so that abusers can keep up their abuse.
Yellow fever is a difficult subject to broach for me because I react viscerally when I see it. Not only am I tired of my direct experience with this oppression, but I am also tired of explaining it. To be fair, this is tricky business. It is not immediately obvious that racist desire is still racist and often patriarchal. Yellow fever reduces Asian women to just their race or nationality, attributing all attractive aspects about them to their race. Asian women are stereotyped to be submissive, exotic, and shy yet sexual objects to be dominated. Thus, the connection between the stereotype and the fantasies of sexual violence is apparent once you explore the implications of these ideas. If Asian women are sex dolls who do not know any better, who is all the better to rape them than racist non-Asian patriarchs?
The objectification also reduces women’s nationalities to something static and uncivilized, which is central to the idea of orientalism. Asian women are supposedly products of the mysterious “Orient,” which is a savage, one-dimensional land of patriarchal samurai and dancing women in hijabs who need to be freed from these patriarchs. Yes, I purposefully mixed up the different cultures because to people who actually subscribe to these notions, there are no differences among the various Asian cultures. Neither are there complexities to the manifestation of patriarchy in Vietnam, for example, as opposed to that in the Philippines. To those with yellow fever, the solution to ending patriarchy in all of Asia is to enforce their own version of patriarchy.
I dated a white man briefly and noticed that he had an inexplicable attraction towards East Asian women and cultures. Since he was a self-proclaimed radical, I decided to take up the issue with him. Okay, I admit that his arrogance also annoyed me, so I wanted to bruise his ego at the very least.
He did not deny that he had yellow fever, although he said he was not an orientalist. As an aside, I do not see the difference between the two. For more on orientalism, check out this YouTube video, “On Orientalism,” which explains Edward Said’s position on how the stereotyping of Arabs and other Asian peoples justifies imperialism.
Edward Said is pissed about orientalism
The white man gave the classic defense that he could not control who he was attracted to and tried to divert the conversation numerous times, saying, for instance, that white worship is hard on him, too. (Sorry, boy, that’s a tough sell!) When he found that I was not easily distracted, he asked me, what was he to do, not date people who attracted him?
Finally, as the kicker, he was angry about the way I phrased the problem, instead of engaging with the content of my argument. He said, “I wouldn’t even be defensive if you said to me, ‘90% of the desires you have are complete bullshit,’ but you’re like, ‘I don’t like people.’” For the record, the discussion started when I said that I like it when people don’t have yellow fever. During the conversation, I advised that “it helps to fight yellow fever if you deconstruct your desire and read good racial analyses, especially as they link to patriarchy, imperialism, and the like.” I never said I hated anybody. And even if I did, how does that negate the validity of my argument? How smart of him to throw down all the defenses that people typically use to avoid self-criticism!
I have been uncertain that yellow fever can be cured, but what is racist desire and hatred but two sides of the same coin? They are both dehumanizing, rooted in the desire to control and consume the minds, bodies, cultures, and resources of the oppressed. If racial hatred can be torn down by humility, open-mindedness, good analysis, and practice that feeds the analysis, such as when people of different nationalities struggle together to win workers’ rights, so can racist desire. I had told this guy that it helps to deconstruct his own desire and read good racial analyses. I am now more convinced that it is not only a good starting point but it can end the yellow fever as well. But oppressors have to start by breaking their silence and admitting their faults. Guilt does nobody any good. We have to move beyond that and truly fight for the self-determination of the oppressed, starting with addressing our own complicity.
I was at my first demonstration a few months ago when I met a male activist through a friend. He was one of the leading organizers. I was new to everything — how to organize, activist lingo, political discussions outside of the classroom, and other activists. This guy that I met – let’s call him Allen – knew this and volunteered to “take me under his wing.” I did not hesitate and gladly welcomed his help.
As a womon — and an Asian Amerikan womon at that — I was vulnerable to men hitting on and harassing me. The stereotype of Asian womyn as submissive is pervasive and leads men to think “she can’t say no to me.” Naïve as I was, I thought that male activists would know better than to fetishize Asian womyn. How wrong was I to assume that! My illusion was quickly smashed when Allen spoke to me online soon after I met him.
He would be very flirtatious with me even when I did not reciprocate. For men, this should be a clear sign that the womon that you are speaking to is uncomfortable. Eventually, Allen asked me if it was a good idea if he asked me out. Without hesitation, I said no, I think it is a bad idea.
It was a bad idea for the following reasons:
(1) The power dynamics of the relationship is similar to that of a teacher and a student. He knew that I was new so he could take advantage of me in any way that he wanted to. His eagerness to want to “help” me should have been a warning sign. Not to mention, he is at least 10 years older than me. After speaking to some other activists about my experience, they told me that it was a common thing that womyn activists generally face — getting hit on by male activists. Tell me how you can go out there and protest about a big cause and NOT be critical of your own practices!
(2) It was obvious that he had Asian fetish. He had a “particular” type of womon that he was fascinated with: North Korean traffic guards. (Those were not the only pictures he showed me.) When he showed me those pictures, I felt objectified. After that, I tried to avoid having other conversations with him. However, I realized that shutting him out was not the best thing to do for me. Instead, I should have confronted him and heavily criticized him.
For Asian womyn, I think speaking out against yellow fever is empowering. You have to tell those bastards to back the fuck off! How else would you have control over your space and body?
The few exchanges that I had with Allen led to me an important conclusion: male culture in activist circles is no different from male culture outside of activist circles. It needs to be overthrown and replaced with a new culture that respects womyn.
I think Asian womyn can initiate this new culture by speaking more about our experiences with Asian fetish and coming up with ways to obliterate the problem. Concretely speaking, what we can do is to organize among ourselves. You know how guys gather together and cat call sometimes? Well, we can pull that shit on a guy who has yellow fever and is unwilling to change. Gather together and embarrass the shit out of him in public together.
However, if a guy realizes that yellow fever is wrong and wants to change, then a discussion might be helpful. These kinds of discussions, especially those initiated by Asian womyn, need to be public because it can help other Asian womyn.
But for starters, we need to flip the finger at those horny pricks who think that they can fuck with an Asian womon! Who said that Asian womyn are quiet and submissive??
Was just on MRZine reading Vijay Prashad’s plenary address to the American Studies Association, titled “Crisis, Chains, Change: The American Exception to Marxism.” It repeats a few ideological notions that appear routinely in revisionist “left” narratives of u.s. history and need to be challenged.
This isn’t surprising given Prashad’s ties with the revisionist left in India and his past apologetics for their state repression and killings of poor peasants at Nandigram. In India, it is clear where Prashad stands. However, among asian amerikan activists, there is still an absence of ideological clarity and political lines of demarcation (e.g. Prashad was chosen to be the keynote speaker at the 2008 NAASCon and this year’s ECAASU). This is reflective of the general lack of political consciousness among asian amerikans.
Contrary to Prashad, what is most significant about the 60s-70s are not social movements (Civil Rights, student, women’s liberation, gay liberation), but the development of rev organizations. And, like in many other places in the world, the drawing of the line against the revisionist left.
Even the use of these categories themselves (Civil Rights, student, etc.), that read like some high school history textbook, fail to capture the living dynamics of the decade: from Civil Rights to Black Liberation, the endogenous formation of rev organizations among different oppressed nationalities inspired primarily by the BPP (and not the white left), how the white student movement developed into the New Communist Movement spilling out of the constraints of the student sector, and the revolutionary trends within the women’s and gay liberation movements.
The notion of the social movements also serves the easy and incorrect narrative that “the 30s were about the working class movement” and “the 60s were about the social movements.”
Further, is it true that “Marxism in America didn’t have much of a tradition to begin with”? Perhaps there is another way of looking at this familiar argument - what about the writing of Marx and Engels on the Iroquois Confederacy? Can’t we say, in this sense, that Marxism actually has some very deep roots on this continent? We just need to know where to look: not to white amerikkka, but to the indigenous nations.
Prashad’s analysis of u.s. history is just very … white. In his view, the significant “popular upsurges” in the 19th and 20th centuries centered on: the Socialist Party (had segregated branches in certain locales, contained openly white supremacist leaders) and the Knights of Labor (participated in anti-Chinese lynch mobs); and resulted mainly in FDR’s New Deal (which, based on the exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers from social security, functioned like yet another white privilege).
Racism, skin color divide of the working class, blah blah, the usual liquidation of the national questions.
Also, perhaps more can be said about the Tea Party and its historical roots. Right-wing populism goes back as far as Bacon’s Rebellion, based on settler-colonial land grabbing (contrary to those who depict the event as a glorious plebian rising where black and white bondsmen united against the ruling class).
We need to reanalyze the history of this country based on: the oppressed nations, and the lower/deeper strata of the class. We need to point out why figures such as Prashad are not legitimate voices for the exploited and oppressed.
why chinese mothers teach obedience and submission to authority
Women of the May 4th Movement break with feudal traditions.
There’s a lot of truth in Amy Chua’s depiction of Chinese parenting and asian amerikan progressives are having a hard time taking her honesty.
Asian amerikan progressives, many of whom dream of assimilating into the white nation, who bristle at any reminder they and their families are not “from here,” are offended not because Chua’s parenting practices are fucked up (true), but because she says Chinese culture is different and transplanted.
As a result, progressives try to bring the discussion back to the more familiar and comfortable terrain of US inequities and model minority stereotypes:
“‘Tiger Mothers’ Are Driven by U.S. Inequity, Not Chinese Culture” (Colorlines); or, “[F]uck you, Amy Chua, for reinforcing that tired old model minority stereotype" (Resist racism)
We should appreciate how Chua’s piece reinforces the racism associated with the model minority stereotype, but at the same time the responses here are entirely one-sided. They prevent us from critically examining feudal Chinese culture, shedding its reactionary tendencies (those that promote obedience and submission to authority figures), and uprooting any remnants of Confucianism.
As the youth of the May 4th Movement recognized nearly a century ago, we need to create a new democratic Chinese culture and develop ourselves into a New People, a process that often began for the generation of May 4th with the individual’s revolt against the family.
The Family is not necessarily a site of warmth and refuge in this society. More likely, it functions as a link in the social hierarchy, an institution that prevents political struggle against the existing conditions (including racism and white supremacy). I’m reminded here of a statement by Lorena Barros on the role of the family (quoted in “The Women of the First Quarter Storm of 1970: Women ‘Fully Engaged in the Making of History’”):
Conservative wives and mothers perform the very important social task of perpetuating the values of the old corrupt order… . [T]hey produce nice little girls who never dare to question what anyone in authority says, who themselves believe that women should be seen, not heard, in short, … nice little girls who will be exactly like their mothers: quiet, obedient, passive and suffering their husbands’ philandering and saintly acquiescence to the status quo.
In the rush to repudiate Amy Chua (for good reason), let’s not shy away from engaging in the much needed criticism of our own culture.