Saturday, June 21, 2014

Reacting to Asians Saying the Stuff (Too Many) White People Say

How do I love this YouTube video? Let me count the ways: 1) It proves that a YouTube clip doesn't have to feature silly memes, cutesy cats or sexed-up pop tarts to rack up viral viewership in the millions. 2) It tackles a serious topic with humor, not preachy pontificating. 3) It presents so many important truths, not just in the video itself but also in the reactions to it, both the positive and the negative ones. (Righteous indignation to any kind of commentary can be just as telling as what inspired it.)

One of my favorite comments came from "SuperMommav":
"The point was that non whites are judged as a group and whites have the luxury of being judged as individuals."
If I could go back and run that sentence at the beginning of every article and blog post I've ever written about race...

As a writer who keeps returning to the subject of racism (and I devote two chapters in my forthcoming book, Is It True What They Say About Black Men?, to the anti-Asian racism I witnessed in Australia and, of all places, in Bangkok), I've read so many of the sort of complaints leveled at the video over and over, to the point of nausea: But I'm not like that... Not all white people are like that... How stereotypical!... Why are you still whining? 

Add the indignant critics who drop the R words (reverse racism), and there's still no valid reason to dismiss a reality that too many people (typically ones who are unaffected by it) are simply too uncomfortable to face and others have no choice but to face. Just because you are not a criminal doesn't mean crime doesn't exist. Just because you are a man who doesn't cheat doesn't mean that many bordering on most men don't do it. Just because you don't make disparaging comments about/to black people, or Asian people, or [insert minority/ethnic group here] doesn't mean there aren't enough people doing it to make a video like this necessary.

A friend once had the audacity to call my articles on race too "black and white" because he doesn't think/act like the white people I write about, as if that somehow made my observations faulty, as if a better way to begin every article would be a disclaimer along the lines of "Please disregard this if it doesn't apply to you."

Attention: Not everything is about you.

Yes, the title "If Asians Said The Stuff White People Say" does mirror the sort of stereotyping that it's criticizing -- and I suppose you can say the same thing about every article that calls white people out on their racism because not all white people are like that -- but why devote so much time to worrying about semantics when there are far more pressing issues at hand? Having to uncomfortably watch one video that slams "white" behavior is nothing compared to living every day being judged as a group and not as an individual.

That there are exceptions is always implied. That the video isn't titled "If Asians Said the Stuff SOME White People Say" doesn't automatically invalidate it or make it just as racist as the racists it's ridiculing. (And I suspect it's the lampooning aspect that's caused so many hurt feelings: Who wants to be turned into the butt of their own unintentional joke?) As for the dreaded R words, reacting to a crime with another crime doesn't absolve the first criminal from guilt. Both criminals will be tried -- in separate courts. If you have issues with reverse racism (and I must dissent with the poster who says it doesn't exist), put them in your own article, or in your own YouTube video.

Don't use it as an excuse to dismiss this one. Whining and putting your hands over your ears because you know better doesn't make it a non-issue. Firing back with comments like "Well, some [insert minority/ethnic group here] are racist," or "Black people use the N word, too," doesn't absolve the original sin. Yes, racism is a difficult topic, but it's one that many of us can't avoid by simply turning off the computer and choosing to ignore it.

For many of us, it won't be ignored (like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction -- and we all know how scary and threatening she was). If it's so uncomfortable to talk about or read about or look at for one minute and 45 seconds, imagine what it must feel like for those of us who must live with it every day of our lives.
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