By Guest Contributor Lindsey Yoo: originally published at Filthy Freedom
Disclaimer: The discussion of inclusivity and solidarity is relevant to many constituencies in different ways; this is my unique take as an Asian, female-identified individual.
I’ve come to a curious, heightened recognition these past few weeks: My ethnicity is something to laugh at. When an Asian woman is denigrated and exoticized by a group of white men in an offensive video
entitled “Asian Girlz”, I am told I shouldn’t be so upset because the woman clearly enjoyed it and the video was clearly just a joke. When the lone Asian character in the critically acclaimed Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” perpetuates negative racial tropes
through easy, cheap humor that capitalizes on her awkward silences and accented, broken English, I’m supposed to double back in laughter, shake my head, and say “Well, at least they have Laverne Cox!” When I express my anger at careless, racist reporting of an Asiana Airlines crash that killed two teenage girls–KTVU fired a producer
after the network broadcast the pilots’ names as “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow”–the immediate reaction I get is a giggle and a laugh.
was a worldwide trending hashtag originally created to expose the tendency of feminism to exclude the experiences and narratives of women of color. The hashtag led to robust and much-needed discussions that unmasked the tendency of all progressive circles to work in silos instead of calling for true
solidarity across multiple race and gender identities. Filthy Freedom founder Bea Hinton and I both participated in the discussions and watched as they yielded hashtags such as #blackpowerisforblackmen
, which highlighted the privileging of black male voices in discussions on black empowerment, and #fuckcispeople
, which called out the tendency of all social justice narratives to focus solely on cisgender struggles. Through the steady stream of well-formulated tweets (and angry trolls), I kept wondering: Is my voice, as an Asian, female-identified individual, relevant at all?In Matthew Salesses’ “How the Rules of Racism are Different for Asian Americans
,” Matthew recounts how he came to realize that Asians seem to have no place in discussions about racial hierarchies:
For my day job, I organize a seminar at Harvard on the topic of Inequality. I attend these talks both out of responsibility and out of interest. But after two and a half years, I can only remember Asians being mentioned twice, once in direct response to a question by an Asian student. I remember sitting beside another Asian American student and listening to a lecture earlier this year. He said something like, “Nobody ever talks about Asians,” and I said, “Asians don’t exist in Sociology.” We both laughed. It was a joke, but it stung with a certain truth.
I also learned that Asian-Americans occupy a very limited niche in conversations about social justice. In my sophomore year in college, after I learned of Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama
’s role in the civil rights movement and asked a sociology professor why none of our classroom discussions included any mention of her role, she told me that “bringing an Asian into the discussion on civil rights would just confuse people.” When I pointed out to another sociology professor that the statistics we were studying that day, on the parenting styles of black and Hispanic parents versus white parents, did not take into account the unique perspective of Asians, she told me bluntly that “the Asian perspective can be found in the stats on white people.” Continue reading
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