Asian HYPEN American
I am Asian HYPHEN American.
My white peers are simply American.
They could be Jewish HYPHEN American,
Irish HYPHEN American,
Scottish HYPHEN American,
Hungarian HYPHEN American,
or any other European HYPHEN American.
But I will always be, Asian HYPHEN American.
They can choose to have another ethnicity if it seems to benefit them.
They can be seen as cooler for having ancestors that were once immigrants.
They can celebrate their non-American traditions without fear of discrimination.
They can be praised for having so much culture.
I only have one ethnicity whether it benefits me or not.
I am seen as a foreigner for having ancestors that were once immigrants.
I cannot celebrate my non-American traditions without fear of discrimination.
I am not praised for having so much culture.
Because I will always be, Asian HYPHEN American.
When I travel back to the Asian country of my ancestors,
I am also Asian HYPHEN American.
I am not Vietnamese enough to be fully accepted by Vietnamese citizens,
nor am I American enough to be fully accepted by American citizens.
I am and will always be, Asian HYPEN American.
A forever outsider to all.
Yellow Rage Poetry
After watching this clip of two women’s slam poetry about their experiences as Asian American women, many things spoke out to me. The first of these things was the concept that Asians and other people that speak a language other than/in addition to English are always made to feel as though they ought to translate what they are saying to those that do not understand the language. While this may seem minor and simple to do in theory, it is astounding to think that we are so conditioned to believe that it is something we should do for the sake of the other person. The reason for this, as the women so perfectly state, is that the ability for us to speak in another language took years for us to learn and was taught to us by a long lineage of heritage and culture. So for us to be always pressured into being someone’s “personal translator” is rather ridiculous when the person could go attempt to learn the language since they desperately want to understand so badly. It should not be the original speaker’s responsibility to relay all the information to you because no one should expect someone to always translate all the different, non-English languages for them.
Another key concept from the poem is the common trend for non-Asians to get an Asian tattoo (one that has Asian characters or symbolism) and still be discriminatory against Asians. The contradiction that lies in this phenomenon has been discussed as an example of cultural appropriation given that those that engage in this behavior are simply using Asian culture as an aesthetic rather than truly appreciating those of that culture. It reminds me of when a Black NBA star attempted to declare cultural appropriation on Jeremy Lin for having braids in his hair, and Lin responding with how that NBA star has Asian characters tattooed on him and may similarly be engaging in cultural appropriation. This is not to say that either of them were or were not engaging in cultural appropriation, rather, to illustrate the complexity of the situation and the similarities in each.
The last thing that stood out to me in this video was that the speakers were both screaming, speaking in slang, and physically aggressive. It is common for Asians to take up a submissive, quiet role in society given that they are not as privileged as White Americans but also not as oppressed as other minorities. So, to see that these Asian women were defying the stereotypes of being submissive and quiet even in their presentation of prejudices they face as an Asian American was so perfectly thought out in my opinion.
Racial Comedy in America
Racial humor has been widely used by many famous actors and comedians throughout history as a way to generate laughs while speaking upon one’s race. The conversation around this topic remains one that is highly debated given people’s perceptions that it may serve to further perpetuate racism or that it breaks the taboo of speaking about race. In my own opinion, I believe that these instances of racial humor overall provide a net positive effect on society because it allows us to discuss the complexity of the issue overall. While I do admit, some comedians may take it a touch too far by stating negative racial stereotypes of their own demographic, I believe that many of those that use racial humor in their career are simply doing so to alleviate racial tensions. For instance, Chris Rock is known for making jokes at his own race and the dynamics of being Black in America, but he also highlights what that really means by subtly addressing the known realities of racism. In this video, Who Wants To Change Places? (https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DVJmvfbDdhFg&psig=AOvVaw3liMj3Z-j-Gkf11kxf-ztq&ust=1620107625442000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAMQjB1qFwoTCNiX36_prPACFQAAAAAdAAAAABAE), Chris Rock satirically illustrates the idea of “oppression olympics” in America. Stating that “everyone needs to calm down, because Indians have it the worst” crudely demonstrates the multi-layered issue of racism in America. He argues that, while Black people may face constant racism, Native American populations have faced the longest discrimination to date. Although this may seem to brush matters under the rug, I believe that it is helpful because comedians that talk freely about race seem to be able to dive into more hard-hitting realities because the audience is not as defensive to the idea since it is being delivered as a “joke”. Had a person done the same thing without a comedic effect, they would most likely not have an audience that is as receptive to the conversation and instead have people that lose interest quickly after a polarizing topic is brought up. Another example of a comedian that uses racial humor is Jimmy O Yang. While it can be taken as offensive and stereotypical of Asian culture, I would argue that those that have experienced similar situations as an Asian American, the jokes made do come off (at least to me) as funny and relatable. I think oftentimes people can become overly sensitive about certain ideas because it perpetuates an idea commonly stereotyped by white Americans, however, some instances actually do occur regularly. For instance, my experience with having immigrant parents do have some similarities with Asian stereotypes such as having an accent and being extremely stern on academics/extracurriculars. So to me, it is seen as funny content that we can finally discuss without being afraid to admit actually happens. The audience member sharing the same background as the comedian allows for the bit to be interpreted more so as comedy than racism, however, I feel that if a person from a different background of the comedian was unaware of the cultural complexity of the joke, they may simply absorb it and perpetuate the stereotype further. In short, I believe that the debate with racial humor being used is simply one that is overall necessary for productive conversation to be had and adjustments to be made. We cannot necessarily prevent people from speaking upon their racial experiences, but we can discuss how a person may take the joke too far and inadvertently cause racial tensions to increase.
Is Iggy Azalea Culturally Appropriating Black Music and Vernacular?
In Brittney Cooper’s article, Iggy Azalea’s post-racial mess: America’s oldest race tale, remixed, Cooper argues that Australian popstar, Iggy Azalea, culturally appropriates black culture for monetary profit and social gain. Many of Cooper’s points resonated in me such as her feeling ashamed for “talking white” yet Iggy Azalea is embraced for her use of AAVE. I agree that having to “talk white” is a result of racial discrimination faced by many minorities simply because their English seems to be more “broken”. So, for Iggy Azalea to be able to use AAVE as an aesthetic and not face the same criticism of having broken/improper English is simply unfair. This is especially true because she had not been raised in an environment in which one may adopt the jargon and lingo used by those around her nor has she showed any appreciation of the culture in which she is mimicking overall. However, a point in which I must disagree with lies in the complexity of cultural appropriation as a whole. Music is a common entity that faces constant diffusion and influence from other cultures, so to say that one is “stealing” another’s cultural music becomes hard to argue. Gatekeeping the music industry and artistic freedom of others prevents the creation of new songs and visions. If one were to only write songs using content solely from their own culture, we might not ever evolve into new genres of music as we have today. This is not to say that we should not hold artists accountable for when they may be using lyrics, jargon, or imagery of another racial demographic, but it is to show that the diffusion of thoughts and ideas is natural to our social environment. While I still agree that Iggy Azalea may lean more on the side of cultural appropriation, we should be careful of wielding that term as a threat towards others as it may prevent the diffusion of creativity overall.
What does it mean to be a White American?
Prior to the modern development of America, White people were loosely categorized as any person characterized by having fair skin, lighter hair, and colored eyes. However, for the early years of America’s development, many of the immigrants that would be considered as white today, were surprisingly labeled as non-white. For instance, newly immigrated Jewish people were faced with the same level of racism and scrutiny as BIPOC today. This serves to show the interesting phenomenon of the white identity and what it means and looks like to be considered a “White person”. The ability for Jewish Americans today to be simply referred to as White Americans or even just American illustrate the changing dynamic of the white ethnicity. Having an optional ethnicity as a white person in modern times (such as being Jewish or Hungarian) illustrate the ongoing systemic racism that exists in America. Since many BIPOC simply do not have the option to choose their ethnicity, non-white Americans are constantly being made to feel as if they are not a true American. Worded differently, many minorities in America face are susceptible to the stigma and assumption that they are not white, and thus, do not belong. While it is interesting to see that the definition of American and being “white” has changed over time to include more people of different backgrounds, those with darker complexion still face the enormous pressure of not belonging.
Alien or American? How Racial Characteristics Imply National Identity.
Upon reading Coyote Nation, I was intrigued by the amount of racial profiling inflicted upon the Latinx population of New Mexico. Despite the fact that “Ninety percent of New Mexico’s population… were listed as ‘White’ in the census”, many Americans still believe that there are many foreigners/non-Americans residing in the region simply due to the population’s racial characteristics. The concept that one may be perceived as un-American simply because the person does not have the typical “American characteristics” is ridiculous as well as detrimental to the Hispanic population that are American citizens. Moreover, to use metaphorical imagery to describe New Mexico as being plagued by a disease of immigrants only serves to perpetuate the idea that non-white Americans simply do not belong in the balanced American ecosystem.
Reading this article reminded me of a similar article read previously in class, “A Genealogy of Modern Racism” by Dr. Cornel West. In that article, we read about the history of racism and the development of race as a social construct. Similarly, Coyote Nation, highlights on the idea that race is generally based upon racial stereotypes and characteristics rather than any innate human characteristic. To define New Mexico as being comprised of Hispanics rather than true Americans coincides with the concepts of modern racism overall. Declaring that someone does not belong and discriminating the person based on their outward appearance and supposed race illustrates that racism still exists in America — but has only transformed into a newfound experience. Using medical terminology such as referring to ethnic groups as a “disease” that needs to be treated perpetuates the modern racist ideology that only white Americans are the true Americans that belong.
The Denial of Racism in Predominately White Communities.
After a viral video of students shouting a racial slur in Southlake, Texas emerged in 2018, the Carroll ISD school board of trustees convened to create the Cultural Competence Action Plan to fight against the racism seen in the community. While the response was first initiated by this video, many others like it have since emerged — revealing the underlying racial bias inherent in the city. While the plan for diversity may be seen as more progressive and liberal to the majority of Southlake’s white, conservative residents, the criticism and remarks made against the plan illustrate the clear denial of racism in the community. Those in opposition to the plan argue that there is no need for any intervention since bullying is already prohibited in the code of conduct and that the plan would only serve to increase the racial tensions among students. Moreover, some parents have “flatly denied” the existence of racism and would rather have their children “colorblind” to race rather than educated about it. In arguing against the plan for diversity, Southlake residents have indirectly shown the nation that this predominately white town is content with the current racial inequities harming both its students and community members. Furthermore, by blanketing the argument as a wish to “maintain traditions”, those in opposition to the plan are simply denying and ignoring the enormous amounts of academic and anecdotal evidence available to them. A potential reasoning for this denial may lie in the fact that many of Southlake’s residents are rarely exposed to other races and have also never encountered racism themselves, so the idea of racism may be too conceptual to believe.
What It Means To Be An American
The letter from the Trump Administration perpetuates a harmful rhetoric of what it means to be an American by claiming that CRT training attempts to push a “divisive, anti-American propaganda” onto government workers. In making this statement, the administration is insinuating that those that strive to validate the experiences of the oppressed are behaving in an unpatriotic manner and are thereby “un-American”. Upon reading the letter, the claims made by the administration seemed to run contradictory to the true values and mission of the field of CRT and have quite insignificant backing overall. In response, teachers and scholars from the field have highlighted the realities of racism in America and the conditional freedoms that exist within the American Constitution. This counterargument to the original letter critiques the Trump Administration for attempting to silence an entire academic field of study as well as any “efforts to name racism and address systemic racial inequities.” Moreover, unlike the letter from the Trump administration, the counterargument ended its letter with a realistic call for inclusivity rather than a skewed perception of a perfect America. Overall, both essays illustrate the current divide we see in American citizens today as racial tensions grow and greater civil unrest is seen.