C.N. Le, ECAASU 2011, and the Politics of Accommodation

By HTT

C.N. Le’s essay, “ECAASU 2011: Lessons in Mis/Understanding Different Levels of Analysis,” posted originally on Asian-Nation and reposted on the official ECAASU blog, is a good example of the dominant perspective in asian amerikan politics in our time: the perspective of accommodation and assimilation into white society.

Reflected in the vacuous appeals for “inclusion” now emanating from the ECAASU Board of Directors and in C.N. Le’s boring attempt to put on the airs of a learned professor counseling young people to change institutions “from within,” the main trend in asian amerikan politics today encourages collaboration with the white supremacist ruling class and fears autonomy, even while engaging in empty talk about “social change” and “racial justice.”

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"Imperialism has staked a claim on our children in uniform, and that’s why we will never relinquish our claim on them. We will never surrender in the struggle for the souls of this and future generations. Never." —Stan Goff

ECAASU Writes to Us… and We Write Back!

This is their message to us:

Hi, I’d like to respond to your post on behalf of the ECAASU Board.

ECAASU strives to inspire people to think about these issues, and bring change and more equal opportunity into this world—especially as it relates to Asian Americans. We believe that to do this effectively, we must engage and converse with all different organizations. We are an inclusive organization, and we welcome people from all different socio-economic, political, ethnic, (insert your segmentation of choice) backgrounds to participate in ECAASU. Because of this inclusive culture, we feel it would be against our values to turn down sponsors who want to help promote diversity within their own organization by sponsoring ECAASU or otherwise participating in our programming.

Second, we believe that, like many other organizations, these organizations have a lot to learn from our community and vice versa, and we think the best way to change these organizations is to help them achieve more diversity and understanding of our issues—not to ostracize them. By inviting them to participate in ECAASU, we also give them an opportunity to learn about our issues and think about our issues. We give them the opportunity to recruit from a more diverse pool of applicants so that, in the future, the diversity we can bring to their organization will help them create a better work environment, and drive their strategic future. Isn’t this what we all seek to achieve?

Last, we engage with all different types of organizations—from profits, to corporations, to government and everything in between. I think if you look at our list of sponsors, workshop presenters, and keynotes (such as yourself), you will find such a diverse set of organizations and individuals. Sponsorship is simply one of the ways you can participate in ECAASU. We encourage everybody to come to the table with their opinions, and challenging each other and engaging in professional discourse with each other. I and confident that with our diversity body of participants, that is exactly what we will achieve.

I hope this will help you better understand where we are coming from and why we chose to partner with these organizations. Let me know if you have any questions.

[name omitted]

Our response:

To the ECAASU Board:

For the record, this blog has nothing to do with Lai Wa Wu or any other ECAASU speaker, but we do support her for her remarks from this past conference.

In response to your email, we don’t simply believe in equal opportunity for Asian Americans because:

(1) We believe in national liberation for all Asian nationalities. We don’t believe in inclusion or diversity or “a better work environment” but the right to self-determination. An oppressed people should be able to choose how to regain power, not simply to mainstream itself into the larger (white) society.

In addition, promoting diversity is actually right-wing rhetoric. The Right co-opted the rhetoric and demands of national liberation movements from the 1960s and 70s. Instead of acknowledging activists’ demands for the right to self-determination, the Right diluted their message, simply praising multiculturalism in institutions, which meant allowing a few people of color to enter their ranks and tokenizing them while leaving oppression intact for almost everybody else. By no accident, segregation in schools, for instance, is worse today than it’s ever been, even before the civil rights advances of the 60s.

For more information about the damages of “diversity” rhetoric, check George Lipsitz’s The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, among many other books that explain this phenomenon.

(2) Asian Americans don’t live in isolation from the rest of the world, especially not from the countries their families originated. Oftentimes they came to the US because the US destroyed their homelands economically, militarily, or otherwise. What does equal opportunity mean for a Filipina, for example, who’s only allowed to study in the US to gain a nursing degree when the US has been in cahoots with Philippine regimes to crush Pin@y right to self-determination? Equal opportunity to compete with others for a nursing degree but not gain access to other fields? Equal opportunity to contribute intellectual and menial labor but not be allowed citizenship? Equal opportunity to face national and gender oppressions in the states? Most importantly, equal opportunity to send money home when she and the rest of her family are dealing with crippling poverty?

If there’s anything the US military should learn from us (Asians and Asian Americans), it is that silencing our people’s dissent through money is unacceptable while it destroys people of color at home and abroad. Go Lai Wa Wu for raising ECAASU attendees’ consciousness on the destruction many of the ECAASU funders wreak on the lives of people all over the world.

We are glad ECAASU provides a forum for Asian American students to discuss issues important to them. But ECAASU itself has been depoliticized from its more radical past. Check our previous post on ECAASU’s past, which you all should be well-versed on already.

We have some suggestions for you and the rest of ECAASU to address the problems we just described, if you are so inclined:

  • We suggest that you move back to the Left. It has been ECAASU’s legacy, but it is also the right thing to do. Give back the stage to Asian Americans who call for self-determination and shed light on the US government’s oppression. Help raise the consciousness of future generations of Asian American students when they attend the conference.
  • We suggest that you also give serious thought to who is funding the conference. We do not claim that there are easy answers, but perhaps you can hit up universities and Asian-owned businesses to start with. There is a long history of oppressive institutions that fund progressive causes to silence their criticism. ECAASU doesn’t have to continue to be part of this. Check out The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence for a wealth of information on that topic.

We hope that you would take our words to heart. Personal attacks are not worth our time, unless you want to amuse us. But we welcome questions and thoughtful criticism.

—raf

The song “Commencement Day” is dedicated to all my brothers and sisters who are keeping the legacy of the Asian Amerikan Movement alive and well. 

YOUR BEEF IS MY BEEF — by Wildfire

The term ‘Asian Amerikan’ was an identity that was created during the 1960s. If you identified as Asian Amerikan, you were against the war in Vietnam. You were a leftist and an anti-imperialist. You were also for Asian Amerikan studies without hesitation.

Nowadays, the term Asian Amerikan has been co-opted. It no longer used in a way that signifies a united front against imperialism. In fact, when ordinary people (including Asians themselves) think of an Asian Amerikan, the first thing that probably comes to mind is hardworking people who fulfill the “Amerikan Dream” or the model minority myth. And what’s even more troubling about this is that Asians actually believe this shit!

Asian students, for example, usually pursue careers in the medical, law, science, engineering, and business fields, thinking that they will score big time because they’re going to make a lot of dough later on.

They might join a club that talks about being Asian Amerikan all the time but it goes nowhere, because they don’t know the history of the Asian Amerikan Movement. (And they don’t bother it learn about it on their own either.) There are only two reasons why they join these kinds of clubs: 1) to socialize and 2) it looks good on their resume because it shows that they’re part of the “multicultural” tapestry of Amerikkka.

After these students graduate, some are actually eager to work for corporations. They VOLUNTEER to be the running dogs of white supremacist capitalism! They volunteer to exploit other people.

Those that don’t get corporate jobs might look into being doctors or lawyers – the petit bourgeoisie. But they don’t serve the people either! Can you name an Asian Amerikan doctor or lawyer who would provide you their services pro bono?

I’m not going to criticize the students without criticizing people who influence the students. That means professors, counselors, and whoever else works for the administration under some kind of “multicultural” program. You don’t get to call out students and say that they need to be more active on campus.

Part of problem are you motherfuckers. You encourage them to assimilate. You miseducate them with the White Man’s history. You believe in the idea of multiculturalism – that Amerikkka is some kind of melting pot. How do you expect them to be active on campus if you’re feeding them shit? You need to stop following orders from the White Man and get your act together before you tell the students what to do.

And students: WHY ARE YOU LISTENING TO THOSE FOOLS?!

One reason why there is such a small number of Asians who are involved in radical politics is because they are so busy trying to lick the boots of the White Man and trying to be like the White Man. To assimilate is their wet dream.

Until students take over their own education and become exposed to Asian Amerikan history that empowers them to continue the legacy of those who were committed to the Asian Amerikan Movement in the 1960s and the 1970s, they will continue to be miseducated and abused.

Asians also must destroy the model minority myth so that Third World solidarity is possible. Continuing to uphold the model minority myth is not only self-hating because you’re taking compliments from the White Man, it pits Asians against other oppressed nationalities. Saying that Asians are the model minority means that Black people and Latinos are not model minorities. And that something is wrong with them. That they should look up to Asians. There’s nothing to look up to if Asians are voluntarily getting smothered by the white man’s ass. As Blue Scholars says, “Your beef is mine. We’re one in the same.” 

Him Mark Lai, A Historical Survey of Organizations of the Left Among the Chinese in America, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Fall 1972

An important essay by Him Mark Lai, the pioneering scholar on the history of Chinese people in the US, who did not need some (dis)honorary certificate, a.k.a. a degree, from white academia to research and teach in the field.

A point to the Asian American studies / ethnic studies majors and grad students out there: what did our people do before these departments were created? Where did figures like Him Mark Lai (or John Henrik Clarke who did not even have a high school diploma) come from?

In comparison, why do many of us believe today that we need validation from white and/or ineffectual “poc” professors who are on some critical race theory nonsense, who are detached in academia and have no ties to our peoples’ national struggles, to research history and develop living theory for our movements? Where is the initiative to create new things (publications, distribution-publishing houses, conferences, associations) outside of and in opposition to the ruling institutions, as generations before us had to do?

And, sorry, but prefacing “ethnic studies” with the word “critical,” as some are trying to do, isn’t going to rescue its revolutionary character, when the entire ideological framework and vocabulary that one operates in is alienating to the people. Next, we’ll have critical critical theory … like, really critical, you know.

We need to use and develop the concepts of historical materialism, national oppression, and Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, which will never be academically acceptable and never should be, because they are the negation of the university and the mental-manual labor divide. We can take as a model the shipyard workers of Shanghai studying Wage Labour and Capital and Critique of the Gotha Programme during the Cultural Revolution.

In any case, the piece begins: “The history of the left among the Chinese in America is a neglected chapter in the history of the Chinese community. This is a preliminary survey of the left movements until the end of the 1950s.” -HTT

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