Relive my youthful transgressions

Always count on F C to come through! I did a quickie search of my past as a poster king on USENET. I love some of these quips from an angry, egotistical, smartie-pants.

Background Note: We had a lot of threads devoted to identity and terminology. As you can imagine, the two are intertwined, can’t talk about identity without talking about terminology/names. Talked about “oriental” vs “asian american” vs “american” vs “ american”…

Some gems of mine from a 27 post thread:

“Finally, not to start another flame war on terminology but I appear to
be the only one who finds something irksome with the term Asian
American.” (March 12, 1991) Prior to this there were some posts about “Asian American” and I stated I found it to be insulting to me to be labeled such. I argued that I was an American, without the descriptive qualifier “Asian”.

From the same post:

“….what does an Asian American have to do with Western culture given
the person’s roots are Eastern? An interesting corollary question would
be: what is the heritage of an Asian American?”

In the same thread, responding to A. H from Stanford, I again railed against the term “Asian American”!

> All the more reason to have Asian-American studies.
> At least then there would be *some* information opposed
> to the traditional stereotypes.

Yes, that’s the argument. A counter argument is that the effectiveness
of “studies” can not and do not overide the stereotypes and incorrect
perceptions that people who have not been in contact with different
ethnic groups. Books that seek to “bring” reality to ignorant people
are not real so therefore the effect is diminished. I also would argue
that the effect of media (ie. television and pictures) are more powerful
that than words in shaping the ideas of people.

> >[YC wrote:]
> >Finally, not to start another flame war on terminology but I appear to
> >be the only one who finds something irksome with the term Asian
> >American…
>[A.H wrote:]
> I’m not that fond of it either. How ’bout “Yellows”? 🙂

Heh heh. The term Asian American fails the “diversity” test if you
will. Those PC people who trumpet the ideal of “diversity” and use the
term Asian American fail to recognize that diversity can not exist when
you try to cram so many different ethnic Asian groups under “Asian
American”. Not only are the experiences between Korean Americans,
Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Indian Americans, Philipino
Americans, Vietnamese Americans etc as a whole but the individual
experience within each group is different depending on generation and
geographical location (ie. West vs. East and MidWest or North vs. South).

It does an injustice to these individual differences (aka diversity) by
lumping everything together into some term that hardly describes what
exactly it is to be an “Asian American”. The term implies a paradigm
that everyone exists under and follows but that is hardly true. And
it’s quite ironic.

Here’s another one, rather prescient hmmm:

>[Yale Poster]
> Now here’s a question for all you out there in net-land: what should
> replace “minority” in the language? I’m not too crazy about “person
> of color” either, since a) white is a color too, and b) it’s really close
> to “colored person,” which carries extremely negative connotations.

Why should there be a change? Are we going to create yet another
arbitrary “politically incorrect” term? You confuse the way “minority”
is used *in context* to describe American society, not the world.

Asians in this country are indeed minorities for they make up a small
percentage of the total population. However, using the word “minority”
has had an implicit comparison to the “majority” group (white in this
case) but with the continuing influx of ethnic groups, there may be a
time where “minority” and “majority” will become meaningless.

here’s another gem where I rant against the enforced separation of Asian Americans:

Some kind poster asks SCAA group what they thought of Asian greek organizations. I flamed back:
“I understand the need for such ethnic organizations. However, it merely
enforces a premeditated separation which defeats the very purpose that
these organizations were created in the first place.”

What I really meant was that creating these types of organizations, and not just fraternities/sororities but Asian whatever group doesn’t help bring integration and color-blind society. Back then I was a vocal and ardent supporter and speaker for the color-blind society in America and this put me in somewhat of a “minority” among my Asian American “activist” types. Often was labeled, banana, twinkie, sell-out, self-hater, conservative blah blah blah. I constantly railed against “ethnic” identifiers. The only one that I would accept as it defined me was “Chinese American”, not “Asian American”. I often used the liberal “diversity” petard against the misguided liberals championing “Asian American” terminology by saying that “Asian American” is actually limiting diversity by grouping possibly (dis-) similar ethnic groups under a single umbrella. In a true diversity environment, we ought to celebrate and acknowledge all our different ethnic backgrounds hence, “Chinese American” “Korean American” etc was much more in the spirit of diversity than “Asian American”. They didn’t like my argument :-). They didn’t like it because they knew I was right hehehe!

Anyways, I’m all pooped from reminiscing about my hot-headed past. So flame away :-)!


0 thoughts on “Relive my youthful transgressions”

  1. At the risk of fanning the flames (and if it gets out of hand, I’m going to cut off this thread really quick) but…

    The question really is what good is the “Asian/Pacific American” sobriquet? It should not be used to create the “cause” (she’s qualified, but she’s also an APA, so we are or are not going to accept her), but to measure the “effect” (the applicant pool is 40% APA, but out of 1,000 seats, no APAs are accepted; why is that? What’s wrong with this picture?).

    The clearest valid reason in my mind for making racial distinctions, and particularly that of APAs, is that it makes possible the measurement of systemic problems, such as discrimination, public health, and political representation, and therefore enables government to actually govern. Without useful accurate statistics, government is powerless. Too fine or too course a measurement, and trends are unable to be determined.

    An analogy would be to DWI vehicular homicides: if you put them only in the general homicide category, one looking at the stats would not be aware that drunk driving was involved. If it was put only in the DWI category, one would not be aware that people were being killed. New York’s dramatic decrease in crime over the last decade is due to the use of the Comstat system, where police commanders are responsible for reporting accurate statistics on a very regular basis, and being accountable for making quantative improvements over the previous benchmark.

    I think the recent Supreme Court case on law school admissions has it right: that there must be individualized treatment of each person upon the totality of their qualities, but not that the system must be blind to disproportionate effects to a certain class of people. The recent California proposition which wanted to ban all collection of racial data by government funded entities, rightly failed. Sure, that would be an instant solution — if we can’t get rid of minority discrimination by dealing with discrimination, let’s get mathematically get rid of the minorities. If the result means that medical trials are inhibited for diseases such as asthma, cancer, and diabetes — which strike minorities in general and APAs in particular in greater proportion to the general population for reasons that are still not clear whether they are genetic or environmental — because government funded researchers can’t record whether test subjects belong to a racial group, then that defies good sense.

    Unlike maybe in the last decade or the last century, “inter-racial dating” issues today are a dead letter both in popular opinion and modern morality. Anti-miscegenation laws are history. Today, being a hapa (multi-ethnic person) is the American reality; racial identity is no longer a zero-sum game. I don’t see the difficulty in identifying with multiple groups, even if those groups are super- or sub-sets of other groups. I’m a natural born U.S. citizen, but I legitimately and proudly associate with being Chinese, as well as being Hakka — a subset of Chinese, and Asian/Pacific Islander, a super-set. I also associate with being Caribbean, a group approximately of the same context as Asian/Pacific Islander, as that is where my parents were born. None of these are contradictions; I never feel I must choose one over the other; I don’t think that I am poorer for dividing loyalties.

    If the gripe is that “Asian/Pacific Islander” is an “artificial” classification, arguably every grouping of people is a human construct. What makes a label legitimate is ultimately the taking ownership of the label by the members of the group in a useful manner to that group. To use an example from my background, “Hakka” originally was a label that in Cantonese Chinese literally means “guest people” , an euphasmism for “foreigner” created by indigenous Cantonese to set themselves apart from the interloping northern Chinese tribes. It started out as pejorative. The same characters would be pronounced “ke-jia” in the Mandarin or northern dialects. However, the Hakka Chinese adopted the name in the Cantonese pronunciation for self-identification and as a badge of honor. A similar thing occurred in 2000 when the hapas successfully petitioned during the U.S. Census to allow self-identification of all ethnic groups one wanted to identify with instead of choosing the “closest one”, which was and is the right way to deal with this.

    The same thing occurs with New Yorkers. There are a number of people who when they travel identify themselves as New Yorkers (which to a foreigner implies living within the New York City limits) when pressed admit that they actually live in Westchester, or Long Island, or God forbid, Hoboken, New Jersey. On the other hand, people from Brooklyn will as likely as not say that they are from Brooklyn first, and maybe mention New York if pressed. It’s all about a New York State of Mind.

    As to the Asian fraternity/groups thing, I would refer to Tocqueville’s comments on public associations in “Democracy in America” ( : in a democratic society, they serve to unify, empower, and serve as a check against tyranny. I don’t think that they divide and marginize..

    OK, way too much writing for a comment, but there it is. And at least I didn’t flame you, I just choose for old times’ sake to respectfully disagree, at least in part. 🙂

  2. People should check out Model Minority: A Guide to Asian American Empowerment. I see after 10-15 years, a lot hasn’t changed. There’s still a lot of angry people out there whose misdirected energies are counterproductive. 15 years ago, a batch of early activists (60s and 70s generation) said the same thing to my generation. If anything, AA history lessons haven’t been learnt and often repeats itself. The arguments and topics are mostly same. It’s rather eerie and sad (but completely expected) how the threads from SCAA track with the forums on MM.

    The bottom line should be:
    1. Build bridges, not walls
    2. Tolerance
    3. Embrace persons and their individuality

    This formula works very well in life.


  3. This summer, I read Frank Wu’s book, “Yellow” – very fascinating book. His views on what it means to be Asian, American, a lawyer, and so forth, were really good. But, his more introspective, creative writing chapters were what made his writing lag I thought. Otherwise, I liked his idea of building bridges, since Wu was something of a rarity – an Asian American law professor at a historically black university – and had a unique perspective. Ideas of building bridges and tolerance are great, but the hard part is in the actual execution and application of the ideas.

  4. Failure to execute is a matter of failure of one’s conviction. Lots of people just pay lip service but in reality, every one likes their own little world, wrapped up in a cocoon. The old SCAA threads and the threads on Model Minority (MM) haven’t changed a bit. Still angry people who blame other people for their problems. No accountability, no responsibility for one’s own action. That’s easy to say but it’s mostly a cop out. What is particularly galling to me, is that many of these angry AAs live here in California! I wonder how’d they really feel if they lived in the Midwest or East or South. Directing negative energy at things you can’t control is really useless self-pity. Too bad they can’t see it. I think over time, age will mellow them out. It did for my contemporaries heh.


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