Yellow Peril
January 17, 2014 7:20 PM   Subscribe

10 Examples of Asian American and Pacific Islander's Rich History of Resistance counters the notion that "there is a prevailing notion out there that, in contrast to other minorities, Asian Americans “lack a history of resistance” (or that we think we do), and that this invisibility and dearth of civil rights history actually confers upon the Asian American community a form of racial privilege."
posted by Conspire (18 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 


I'm sometimes surprised at how little public recognization there is of Yuri Kochiyama, one of my biggest heroes ever - to the point that the vast, vast majority of people wouldn't even recognize her as the woman at the side of Malcolm X at LIFE's famous picture of his assassination, much less know of their close relationship as fellow activists and close confidants.

She's mentioned in the FPP article; one of the things that I really admired about her was her tireless work at unifying racial groups and movements under their shared struggles - definitely an early precursor to the concept of intersectionality we prize today. She was especially cogent in her understanding of the importance and value of both differences between groups, in which racial groups were to be respected and given their own leaders and spaces, and similarities, in which racial groups could band together in solidarity under. Her work was so important in countering many of the historical tactics used to pit racial groups against each other to prevent them from organizing - which persist to today in the continued forms of the model minority stereotype, inter-minority racism, and indeed, the suppression of Asian-American activist history.
posted by Conspire at 8:21 PM on January 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fantastic article. Thanks.
posted by this is a thing at 8:23 PM on January 17, 2014


Fantastic article, but I'm just trying to parse that sentence in the post. I'm reading it as;

- There is a feeling that Asian Americans don't have a history of resistance.
- Because of this, people feel it gives Asian Americans privilege.
- I'm here to disprove that thesis with examples.
- Therefore, Asian Americans don't have privilege.
- Yay! We have less privilege!

It leads me a little confused that someone would chose to frame such a history as an attempt to prove they have less privilege than another group / less privilege than previously thought.
posted by Jimbob at 8:30 PM on January 17, 2014


I don't think it's framed as having "less" privilege - it's to directly address the model minority stereotype, which in a nutshell claims that Asians are exempt from racism because of inherent Asian cultural values in order to assert that American society was "colorblind" so long as you assimilated properly and acted in the "right" ways. It is a historical notion created in the 1960s by popular media that persists especially even today - for instance, that's where the myth that Asians are all smart and good at science and math exclusively come from - and is an incredibly damaging form of racism because it attributes the accomplishments of Asians to some inherent bioessentialist "Asian" tendency or "Asian cultural values" rather than from the person themselves. It prevented Asians from obtaining redress or acknowledgement for historical wrongs and erased the presence of Asians in racial movements and activism. Furthermore, by falsely painting any Asian who managed to overcome racism to succeed in society as having done so due to having no racist barriers in the first place, it promoted stigmatization of Asians both within racial movements as privileged and within white culture as "stealing opportunities from whites".

This is a good concise history of how the Model Minority stereotype came to be.

So I'm not a fan of ranking oppressions either, but I don't think this is what the FPP is trying to do - it is trying to address modern misconceptions of Asian privilege as created by a legacy of the Model Minority myth through a historical argument.
posted by Conspire at 8:43 PM on January 17, 2014 [28 favorites]


That was a better answer than I'd ever have hoped for. Thank you.
posted by Jimbob at 8:46 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The very next sentence addresses your question?
"Putting aside the second half of that assertion regarding privilege for a minute, there’s one other major problem: any argument that relies upon the assumption that Asian Americans lack a history of resistance is patently ahistorical. Like really, really, really wrong. Like insultingly wrong."
The privilege idea is A then B. He's saying that not only does B not follow from A, but that A isn't even true. He's only addressing the first part, and leaving the second as an exercise for the reader.

The idea that Asian people experience less racism, have been less oppressed and thus have more privilege is a pernicious one. It denies history, denies the legitimacy of the Asian American experience all while perpetuating a pretty old idea: that Asians are a docile, subservient people, and that if other races would just do that, they'd get along much better in white society too.

[oops, answered better by Consipire]
posted by danny the boy at 8:50 PM on January 17, 2014


I don't really understand the "asian privilege" thing. Any more info on what this is all about?
posted by cazoo at 8:57 PM on January 17, 2014


And the fact that the more-privilege idea has purchase within the Asian American community is heartbreaking, because it means that

1. You don't know your recent history
2. You've bought into the model minority idea, probably because you want to have some hope for yourself but which ultimately
  a) hurts you
  b) hurts everyone else too
posted by danny the boy at 8:58 PM on January 17, 2014


What really struck me about this is that this was a gap in my knowledge of US history that should have been pretty glaring if I'd thought about it.

Like, yeah, I'm someone who reads a decent amount of radical and labor history — and I could name at least a few activist movements from most other minority communities in this country, and I could name a decent number of fucked-up things that have been done to Asian-American communities — but sure enough, I couldn't have named a single act of resistance by Asian-American communities, and it didn't even occur to me that this meant there were probably some stories I was missing.

Which, I mean, duh. The whole point of blind spots is that you can't see them. But it's always both nice and sort of unsettling to get a reminder of that.
posted by this is a thing at 9:10 PM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Gah. You know what's hard to parse? That comment I just wrote.)
posted by this is a thing at 9:13 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Somehow I don't think the author of this piece is going to be supportive of action against the ways that Asian Americans suffer under public policy now: college admission policies which discriminate against them radically because other minorities are more desirable, and a tax policy biased to high marginal rates on earned income, which makes them pay far more of their share of general government versus whites (who have relatively more capital income) and other minorities (who have low income across the board and pay little tax).
posted by MattD at 11:27 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm sometimes surprised at how little public recognization there is of Yuri Kochiyama, one of my biggest heroes ever - to the point that the vast, vast majority of people wouldn't even recognize her as the woman at the side of Malcolm X at LIFE's famous picture of his assassination, much less know of their close relationship as fellow activists and close confidants.

I think it has been easy to both accidentally and deliberately ignore things that complicate the simple story, like Kochiyama or Grace Lee Boggs in Detroit, even though the complications are precisely what made things possible.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:57 AM on January 18, 2014


I was hoping for more Grace Lee Boggs in the post.

San Francisco's Manilatown resistance to gentrification forces and real estate speculators is on my mind a lot lately -- and the coalition built to fight the destruction of the International Hotel is still present in San Francisco in many ways today.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:12 AM on January 18, 2014


that Asians are a docile, subservient people--

I'd put it differently: for Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and elsewhere since the 1960s, what's paramount is political stability. In contrast with the wars, famines, massacres, and general chaos of twentieth-century Chinese history, the political stability of the US and Canada is not to be taken lightly.

In this view, fighting against social injustice is secondary. What political system has ever been perfectly fair?

Of course, the political views of immigrants aren't necessarily shared by their children (although I would guess that there's some degree of influence). And people whose families have been here since long before the 1960s are likely to have an entirely different point of view--they're just as American as anyone else, they have no connection at all with Asia.

--a tax policy biased to high marginal rates on earned income, which makes them pay far more of their share of general government versus whites (who have relatively more capital income)--

I would imagine that the author would be supportive of the Occupy Wall Street movement and higher taxes on capital income. (I would disagree that current marginal rates on earned income are too high. A top marginal rate of 50%, or even a few points higher, seems reasonable to me.)

The curious thing about US politics these days is that the Republican Party, the supposedly conservative party, is actually the one pushing for radical change. (Barney Frank: "We're not perfect, but they're nuts!") As long as that's the case, Asian Americans are likely to support the Democrats over the Republicans. USA Today, April 2013:
Republicans admit they have a problem with Hispanic voters. They have an even bigger problem with Asian Americans — a group that was a majority GOP voting bloc less than 20 years ago.

Three-quarters of Asian Americans went for President Obama in 2012, more than any other group except black voters. ...

According to the National Asian-American Survey, 67% of Asian-American voters favor raising taxes on the wealthy to cut the deficit; they want more spending on health care (46% compared with 41% of the general public) and less spending on defense (only 21% want to increase defense spending compared with 31% overall.)
The article also notes that two-thirds of Asian Americans were born overseas.
posted by russilwvong at 7:38 AM on January 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


He's saying that not only does B not follow from A, but that A isn't even true. He's only addressing the first part, and leaving the second as an exercise for the reader.
For the record, I'm pretty sure the author of that blog post is a woman.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:19 AM on January 18, 2014


Philippine-American War
posted by cupcake1337 at 11:07 AM on January 18, 2014


Nice Post. I think people should read: 'Imagining America: Paul Thai's Journey from the Killing Fields of Cambodia to Freedom in the U. S. A.'
posted by clavdivs at 9:43 AM on January 19, 2014


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