To Everybody Following the Texas Abortion Debate, On Both Sides:

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Today, the Texas House is supposed to vote on a law that will ban abortions in Texas after 20 weeks, and force all but 5 abortion clinics to close, because they don’t have ambulatory capabilities. 

What a depressing prospect, but for a ray of hope, two weeks ago: 

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(Source: texastribune.org)

This is Senator Wendy Davis against the entire Senate leadership, most of whom are white men. I mean no disrespect in referring to them that way, just that they’ll never have to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term or to abort it, themselves. How nice, though, that they have the governorship, legislative control in both chambers, the gavel, and other tools and symbols of control to decide for women that abortion is always wrong. That they had the authority to tell Davis that Roe V. Wade isn’t relevant to the Texas abortion ban. To resort to trickery to end the filibuster and force a vote before midnight. 

This may not be the best picture to illustrate it, but still, have you seen a starker example of our unequal society, in a nutshell, right here? 

But hey, Wendy wore ‘em down, and then Leticia Van de Putte dealt the decisive blow: 

Serving up some David and Goliath realness, y’all.  (Click on the hyperlink, in case the video embed didn’t work) 

So as the Texas legislature votes on and debates this bill AGAIN in yet another Rick Perry wants-to-get-his-damn-way special session, I’m standing with the women of Texas, of Ohio, of North Carolina, of Wisconsin, of Mississippi, of Alabama, of all 50 United States. The pro-lifers may have the power and privilege, but the rest of us have logic, compassion, and a whole groundswell of anger to beat them back. 

spoonfulofromance:

Sorry that this post is incredibly long but I thought it was important to respond. As a person of color (Mexican but often mistaken for Indian/Middle-Eastern etc.) I felt compelled to respond. I actually have to agree that Luke had a point in ASKING what the situation was. Sure he shouldn’t have compared his experiences to a WOC. They are going to be different as females are often sexualized for their “exoticness” and you shouldn’t compare your experiences to someone elses anyway. But seriously? A “fuck you” to someone who made the mistake of assuming you spoke a different language? Assuming it wasn’t an aggressive encounter, instead of responding negatively, address the mistake. While it’s 2013, people are going to make the mistake. It happens. I’m not saying that we have to grin and bear it because our appearance is an excuse for others to mistake our identity, but we need to be upfront and educate people. A “fuck you” is only going to negatively reinforce them to separate us by behavior. Responses like this give WOC a bad rep for being rude bitches. 
Also, being offended because people ask you about your ethnic background? I don’t get it. Shouldn’t we be proud of our history and want to share it? Yes, I’m an American, but I carry my Mexican culture with me and I’m proud of that. I’m often asked what I am because people can’t tell. And it’s not just white people, it’s people of any race. I’d rather people ask than make assumptions about myself. And no, I don’t speak Spanish but that’s ok and I can correct people who assume I do. There’s a difference between being culturally unaware and being racist.

Hello, I’m the writer of the above facebook status. And you’re the lucky person I chose to respond to! I’m glad you have some empathy with my situation, but Luke didn’t ask what the situation was. He assumed that he could apply his own experience to it and then called me a racist and angry and irrational because I didn’t agree with him. 
I said “Fuck You” to this guy because that’s what I thought of in the moment. The guy made me feel singled out for my ethnicity and then tried to walk away. I had a small window of opportunity - I seized it. It’s fundamentally naive to assume that you can just reason with somebody who will confront you about your ethnicity in that way. He was rude and cowardly about it, so I don’t have any responsibility to treat him politely. 
If somebody thinks I’m a rude bitch, that’s on them. I’ve long since learned that women (white and of color), no matter what they do, will be discredited and shamed for their gender and ethnicity, and by extension, anything they say or do. People will smear them if they’re silent, people will smear them when they speak out. You are wrong when you assert that it is my responsibility to not seem like a “rude woman of color.” No, it is YOUR responsibility, and others’, to be open-minded and respectful. 
I am not ashamed of my ethnicity, quite the opposite. This is why I stuck up for myself. And I would do it again in a heartbeat and publicize it on my facebook. Being polite or quiet about street harassment will get us nowhere in making this problem disappear.  spoonfulofromance:

Sorry that this post is incredibly long but I thought it was important to respond. As a person of color (Mexican but often mistaken for Indian/Middle-Eastern etc.) I felt compelled to respond. I actually have to agree that Luke had a point in ASKING what the situation was. Sure he shouldn’t have compared his experiences to a WOC. They are going to be different as females are often sexualized for their “exoticness” and you shouldn’t compare your experiences to someone elses anyway. But seriously? A “fuck you” to someone who made the mistake of assuming you spoke a different language? Assuming it wasn’t an aggressive encounter, instead of responding negatively, address the mistake. While it’s 2013, people are going to make the mistake. It happens. I’m not saying that we have to grin and bear it because our appearance is an excuse for others to mistake our identity, but we need to be upfront and educate people. A “fuck you” is only going to negatively reinforce them to separate us by behavior. Responses like this give WOC a bad rep for being rude bitches. 
Also, being offended because people ask you about your ethnic background? I don’t get it. Shouldn’t we be proud of our history and want to share it? Yes, I’m an American, but I carry my Mexican culture with me and I’m proud of that. I’m often asked what I am because people can’t tell. And it’s not just white people, it’s people of any race. I’d rather people ask than make assumptions about myself. And no, I don’t speak Spanish but that’s ok and I can correct people who assume I do. There’s a difference between being culturally unaware and being racist.

Hello, I’m the writer of the above facebook status. And you’re the lucky person I chose to respond to! I’m glad you have some empathy with my situation, but Luke didn’t ask what the situation was. He assumed that he could apply his own experience to it and then called me a racist and angry and irrational because I didn’t agree with him. 
I said “Fuck You” to this guy because that’s what I thought of in the moment. The guy made me feel singled out for my ethnicity and then tried to walk away. I had a small window of opportunity - I seized it. It’s fundamentally naive to assume that you can just reason with somebody who will confront you about your ethnicity in that way. He was rude and cowardly about it, so I don’t have any responsibility to treat him politely. 
If somebody thinks I’m a rude bitch, that’s on them. I’ve long since learned that women (white and of color), no matter what they do, will be discredited and shamed for their gender and ethnicity, and by extension, anything they say or do. People will smear them if they’re silent, people will smear them when they speak out. You are wrong when you assert that it is my responsibility to not seem like a “rude woman of color.” No, it is YOUR responsibility, and others’, to be open-minded and respectful. 
I am not ashamed of my ethnicity, quite the opposite. This is why I stuck up for myself. And I would do it again in a heartbeat and publicize it on my facebook. Being polite or quiet about street harassment will get us nowhere in making this problem disappear.  spoonfulofromance:

Sorry that this post is incredibly long but I thought it was important to respond. As a person of color (Mexican but often mistaken for Indian/Middle-Eastern etc.) I felt compelled to respond. I actually have to agree that Luke had a point in ASKING what the situation was. Sure he shouldn’t have compared his experiences to a WOC. They are going to be different as females are often sexualized for their “exoticness” and you shouldn’t compare your experiences to someone elses anyway. But seriously? A “fuck you” to someone who made the mistake of assuming you spoke a different language? Assuming it wasn’t an aggressive encounter, instead of responding negatively, address the mistake. While it’s 2013, people are going to make the mistake. It happens. I’m not saying that we have to grin and bear it because our appearance is an excuse for others to mistake our identity, but we need to be upfront and educate people. A “fuck you” is only going to negatively reinforce them to separate us by behavior. Responses like this give WOC a bad rep for being rude bitches. 
Also, being offended because people ask you about your ethnic background? I don’t get it. Shouldn’t we be proud of our history and want to share it? Yes, I’m an American, but I carry my Mexican culture with me and I’m proud of that. I’m often asked what I am because people can’t tell. And it’s not just white people, it’s people of any race. I’d rather people ask than make assumptions about myself. And no, I don’t speak Spanish but that’s ok and I can correct people who assume I do. There’s a difference between being culturally unaware and being racist.

Hello, I’m the writer of the above facebook status. And you’re the lucky person I chose to respond to! I’m glad you have some empathy with my situation, but Luke didn’t ask what the situation was. He assumed that he could apply his own experience to it and then called me a racist and angry and irrational because I didn’t agree with him. 
I said “Fuck You” to this guy because that’s what I thought of in the moment. The guy made me feel singled out for my ethnicity and then tried to walk away. I had a small window of opportunity - I seized it. It’s fundamentally naive to assume that you can just reason with somebody who will confront you about your ethnicity in that way. He was rude and cowardly about it, so I don’t have any responsibility to treat him politely. 
If somebody thinks I’m a rude bitch, that’s on them. I’ve long since learned that women (white and of color), no matter what they do, will be discredited and shamed for their gender and ethnicity, and by extension, anything they say or do. People will smear them if they’re silent, people will smear them when they speak out. You are wrong when you assert that it is my responsibility to not seem like a “rude woman of color.” No, it is YOUR responsibility, and others’, to be open-minded and respectful. 
I am not ashamed of my ethnicity, quite the opposite. This is why I stuck up for myself. And I would do it again in a heartbeat and publicize it on my facebook. Being polite or quiet about street harassment will get us nowhere in making this problem disappear.  spoonfulofromance:

Sorry that this post is incredibly long but I thought it was important to respond. As a person of color (Mexican but often mistaken for Indian/Middle-Eastern etc.) I felt compelled to respond. I actually have to agree that Luke had a point in ASKING what the situation was. Sure he shouldn’t have compared his experiences to a WOC. They are going to be different as females are often sexualized for their “exoticness” and you shouldn’t compare your experiences to someone elses anyway. But seriously? A “fuck you” to someone who made the mistake of assuming you spoke a different language? Assuming it wasn’t an aggressive encounter, instead of responding negatively, address the mistake. While it’s 2013, people are going to make the mistake. It happens. I’m not saying that we have to grin and bear it because our appearance is an excuse for others to mistake our identity, but we need to be upfront and educate people. A “fuck you” is only going to negatively reinforce them to separate us by behavior. Responses like this give WOC a bad rep for being rude bitches. 
Also, being offended because people ask you about your ethnic background? I don’t get it. Shouldn’t we be proud of our history and want to share it? Yes, I’m an American, but I carry my Mexican culture with me and I’m proud of that. I’m often asked what I am because people can’t tell. And it’s not just white people, it’s people of any race. I’d rather people ask than make assumptions about myself. And no, I don’t speak Spanish but that’s ok and I can correct people who assume I do. There’s a difference between being culturally unaware and being racist.

Hello, I’m the writer of the above facebook status. And you’re the lucky person I chose to respond to! I’m glad you have some empathy with my situation, but Luke didn’t ask what the situation was. He assumed that he could apply his own experience to it and then called me a racist and angry and irrational because I didn’t agree with him. 
I said “Fuck You” to this guy because that’s what I thought of in the moment. The guy made me feel singled out for my ethnicity and then tried to walk away. I had a small window of opportunity - I seized it. It’s fundamentally naive to assume that you can just reason with somebody who will confront you about your ethnicity in that way. He was rude and cowardly about it, so I don’t have any responsibility to treat him politely. 
If somebody thinks I’m a rude bitch, that’s on them. I’ve long since learned that women (white and of color), no matter what they do, will be discredited and shamed for their gender and ethnicity, and by extension, anything they say or do. People will smear them if they’re silent, people will smear them when they speak out. You are wrong when you assert that it is my responsibility to not seem like a “rude woman of color.” No, it is YOUR responsibility, and others’, to be open-minded and respectful. 
I am not ashamed of my ethnicity, quite the opposite. This is why I stuck up for myself. And I would do it again in a heartbeat and publicize it on my facebook. Being polite or quiet about street harassment will get us nowhere in making this problem disappear. 

spoonfulofromance:

Sorry that this post is incredibly long but I thought it was important to respond. As a person of color (Mexican but often mistaken for Indian/Middle-Eastern etc.) I felt compelled to respond. I actually have to agree that Luke had a point in ASKING what the situation was. Sure he shouldn’t have compared his experiences to a WOC. They are going to be different as females are often sexualized for their “exoticness” and you shouldn’t compare your experiences to someone elses anyway. But seriously? A “fuck you” to someone who made the mistake of assuming you spoke a different language? Assuming it wasn’t an aggressive encounter, instead of responding negatively, address the mistake. While it’s 2013, people are going to make the mistake. It happens. I’m not saying that we have to grin and bear it because our appearance is an excuse for others to mistake our identity, but we need to be upfront and educate people. A “fuck you” is only going to negatively reinforce them to separate us by behavior. Responses like this give WOC a bad rep for being rude bitches. 



Also, being offended because people ask you about your ethnic background? I don’t get it. Shouldn’t we be proud of our history and want to share it? Yes, I’m an American, but I carry my Mexican culture with me and I’m proud of that. I’m often asked what I am because people can’t tell. And it’s not just white people, it’s people of any race. I’d rather people ask than make assumptions about myself. And no, I don’t speak Spanish but that’s ok and I can correct people who assume I do. There’s a difference between being culturally unaware and being racist.

Hello, I’m the writer of the above facebook status. And you’re the lucky person I chose to respond to! I’m glad you have some empathy with my situation, but Luke didn’t ask what the situation was. He assumed that he could apply his own experience to it and then called me a racist and angry and irrational because I didn’t agree with him. 

I said “Fuck You” to this guy because that’s what I thought of in the moment. The guy made me feel singled out for my ethnicity and then tried to walk away. I had a small window of opportunity - I seized it. It’s fundamentally naive to assume that you can just reason with somebody who will confront you about your ethnicity in that way. He was rude and cowardly about it, so I don’t have any responsibility to treat him politely. 

If somebody thinks I’m a rude bitch, that’s on them. I’ve long since learned that women (white and of color), no matter what they do, will be discredited and shamed for their gender and ethnicity, and by extension, anything they say or do. People will smear them if they’re silent, people will smear them when they speak out. You are wrong when you assert that it is my responsibility to not seem like a “rude woman of color.” No, it is YOUR responsibility, and others’, to be open-minded and respectful. 

I am not ashamed of my ethnicity, quite the opposite. This is why I stuck up for myself. And I would do it again in a heartbeat and publicize it on my facebook. Being polite or quiet about street harassment will get us nowhere in making this problem disappear. 

#floppyhats #maine

kzhang:


Yep, I just yelled “fuck you” at some blow job who said “ni hao” to me in the park.

My good friend Phoenix, posted this Facebook status a few weeks ago that turned into this interesting hotbed of resentful Western White male privilege.
Not only did this guy, Luke, brazenly display an incredibly condescending whitesplaining, mansplaining attitude, but he demanded that my friend, a woman of color, explain to him why the behavior that this man displayed while yelling at my friend in the park was harassment.
I hope I do not need to explain how utterly ridiculous and entitled of him it is to tell a Chinese-American woman to “present [him] with depth” and prove to him why it’s unacceptable for some dude to approach strangers in the park, saying “ni hao” at them. I hope it’s evident as to how absolutely arrogant it is for a White man to defend some stranger he’s only ever heard about rather than believe a woman of color when her life experiences deem this encounter to come from a point of racism/sexism. As obvious as how presumptuous Luke’s entitled reaction may be, I would like to make it clear that White men injecting themselves, uninvited, into conversations women and people of color are having about oppression happens all the time.
All. The. Time.
And worse than White men assuming their opinions are welcome in this place, White men believe their opinions should be valued above all others’, for theirs are the only ones that are “un-biased”. Notice the silencing tactics Luke uses. Women of color who are upset by racist/sexist remarks made to them in public who dare to react to those violations are “angry”, “irrational”, and not deserving of this White man’s Facebook friend list. Welcome to Gaslighting 101, everyone! Racist, sexist, privileged, arrogant gaslighting.
However, I don’t want to write about awful gaslighting today. I actually want to write about something else this privileged White dude brought up, being White in China vs. being Chinese* in the U.S.
Luke wrote,

[…] and for the record, I’ve had numerous similar experiences as being the ‘white guy’ in China for the past decade. I never reacted like that but then I don’t think this is about race as much as it is about Phoenix […]

First of all, way to be an asshole, Luke, by again dismissing the validity of Phoenix’s experiences and her assessment of the situation that she was in and you were nowhere near.
Second of all—and I want White people to understand this so—YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WHITE PERSON IN AN ASIAN COUNTRY IS NOT THE SAME NOR AT ALL “SIMILAR” TO MY EXPERIENCE OR THE EXPERIENCE OF FELLOW ASIAN/PACIFIC ISLANDER PEOPLES IN THE UNITED STATES. Got it?
But, “why, Kathy?” you may ask. “Why can’t I just swap out different races/ethnicities in any scenario and the end result be the same?”
Really? Why? Because read a fucking history book—preferably one not crafted by the hegemonic White Western discourse.
The same people who think saying “ni hao” or “konnichiwa” to an Asian person in the U.S. is the same as an Asian person saying “hello” to a white person in an Asian country are the same people who think “reverse racism” is a thing. Guess what? Reverse racism isn’t real and those two situations are not at all the same thing.
Let’s just start with demographics. We all know that race is a social construct, but for simplicity purposes, let’s use it.

Population of China: 1.35 billionPopulation of the U.S.: 316 million
Percentage White in the U.S.: 72.4%Percentage Asian in the U.S.: 4.8% 
Percentage Asian in China: 99.x%Percentage White in China: <1% (the number of White people in China is so insignificant compared to the entire population, it hasn’t been properly documented)

Wow! There is a significantly smaller percentage of the Chinese population that is White compared to the American population that is Asian! Who would’ve thought?
Okay. That shouldn’t be a shock, right? The United States is a “land of immigrants” (even if certain states and politicians seem to spit on that fact). Being non-White in the U.S. isn’t supposed to be a novelty, it’s a truth. The U.S. census estimates that in 30 years, non-Hispanic/Latin@ Whites will make up less than half of the population. So seeing a non-White person really shouldn’t be a shock in the U.S. in 2013. And considering Phoenix works in Boston, and not middle-of-nowhere, Maine, she shouldn’t be treated as an anomaly walking through a park.
Approaching a random person of color or any person you do not definitively know the ethnicity of and saying “ni hao”, “hola”, or “jambo” at this person (particularly if you do not speak Chinese, Spanish, or Swahili) is not only obnoxious, but it is othering. The effect (regardless of whether it’s intentional or not) of this action on the person of color is to point out that they are somehow different from the White person (and legitimate American) speaking to them while transmitting the message “you are not welcome here”. API peoples constantly receive this message. From “where are you from?” to “what language do you speak?” to “what does your name mean?”, White people are consistently reminding us that because we are not White, we are not American.
So when some stranger says “ni hao” to my Chinese-American friend in the park, it is absolutely not  to be “friendly”, it is to invade her space and remind her that no matter what her birth certificate, voting record, or life experiences are, she will never be considered American and she will never be welcome because her hair isn’t blonde and her last name isn’t Smith.
People of color built this country. They did so despite political, economic, and social barriers erected to prevent them from prospering. The first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the 1800s, brought over to work on the transcontinental railroad as cheap labor at wages. Chinese workers were paid $27-$30 a month, compared to Irish workers, who were paid $35 a month and provided with living arrangements. Not only were the Chinese paid less than the Whites, they were also treated terribly. The White construction crews would order Chinese workers to enter caves where not all the dynamite had gone off, killing dozens of Chinese men. These men were forced to risk their lives, placed in to baskets and lowered over cliffs or into mines to drill holes and place dynamite, staking their luck and their lives on how quickly their fellow workers were able to pull them up. The term “Chinaman’s chance”? This practice is one of it’s origins. Over 1,200 Chinese workers died building the Central Pacific Railroad alone.
And what did the U.S. do to repay these Chinese immigrants for building such an extensive railroad system in this country? They passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to prevent Chinese immigration and then passed the Geary Act to extend the exclusion and placed new requirements on existing Chinese residents of the U.S. Among these requirements was a law that Chinese residents must carry proof of their residency at all time or risk a year of hard labor or deportation. Sound familiar? The Geary Act also forbade Chinese residents from bearing witness in a court of law and denied Chinese bail in habeas corpus proceedings.
For a country so proud of its immigrant-roots, its laws speak differently. Or are only White, Anglo-looking people allowed to claim this country as their own and all people of color must simply accept that we can never call the United States our homeland?
Let’s just step back a minute. Many Chinese families have been in the United States just as long or even longer than your European ancestors. Chinese workers played a big part in building this country. Yet, Chinese-Americans are being treated like they don’t belong in this country daily. Yes, even in the 21st century.
So don’t you dare fucking compare how you as a White man are treated in China to how a Chinese-American woman is treated in the United States. I haven’t even started exploring the rampant sexism that’s entwined with White men fetishizing API women as submissive and exotic. This view is a stereotype. It is a stereotype largely rooted in a history of Western colonialism and the geo-political dynamics between American soldiers and local women in the various wars and military aggressions of the late 20th century waged in East Asia and the Pacific, a stereotype that’s been perpetuated by Western, White, male-dominated mainstream media.
If you are a White person in China, you are most likely a tourist, or your job has located you there and you make significantly more money than the average Chinese worker (~$9k/yr). If a Chinese stranger approaches you and says “hello”, that might be annoying, but it doesn’t come with any of the same history and implications as a White stranger saying “ni hao” to an Asian person in the U.S., regardless of whether that person is Chinese. Considering the fact that British and U.S. imperialism has made English the default official language for multinational organizations and the forced lingua franca of many states in the Global South, the power differential between the White person and the Asian person in both of these situations favors the White person.
To Luke and every other White asshole who doesn’t “think about race”:
Your experience as a “minority” in an Asian country is not comparable to Phoenix’s experience as a Minority (Capital M for all of the historical, political, social baggage of that word) in the United States.
So sit down and shut up.
 
—————
*You can apply this same theory to Japanese-, Korean-, and other API peoples in the U.S., in so much as noting that being White in Japan is nothing like being Japanese in the U.S. (or Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, etc.). However, remember that although API peoples have a shared identity, the histories of each ethnic group’s legacies in the U.S. are different and the geo-political histories of the U.S.’s respective relationships (and wars and imperialism, etc.) are also distinct. It is ludicrous to assume that all 17.3 million Asian-Americans have the same histories and that nations with a combined population of 4 billion people have the same diplomatic relationship with the U.S. It is not only irresponsible, it is also racist.

copying and pasting from my facebook post: 
I remember when Kathy Zhang and I were couch surfing and she yelled at our host in French for catcalling some girls on the street! No joke, she’s been my hero ever since. And now she’s written something amazing on the most frustrating sexual harassment situation I’ve ever dealt with. This one goes out to every woman/person of color who has had to deal with racism and sexism and the apologists who always have to pipe up when we speak out about these issues.
And if anybody is curious: I would do it all over again, and that includes getting angry enough to yell an expletive and “bragging” about it on my facebook, because it’s NOT productive to be polite about issues like this.  kzhang:


Yep, I just yelled “fuck you” at some blow job who said “ni hao” to me in the park.

My good friend Phoenix, posted this Facebook status a few weeks ago that turned into this interesting hotbed of resentful Western White male privilege.
Not only did this guy, Luke, brazenly display an incredibly condescending whitesplaining, mansplaining attitude, but he demanded that my friend, a woman of color, explain to him why the behavior that this man displayed while yelling at my friend in the park was harassment.
I hope I do not need to explain how utterly ridiculous and entitled of him it is to tell a Chinese-American woman to “present [him] with depth” and prove to him why it’s unacceptable for some dude to approach strangers in the park, saying “ni hao” at them. I hope it’s evident as to how absolutely arrogant it is for a White man to defend some stranger he’s only ever heard about rather than believe a woman of color when her life experiences deem this encounter to come from a point of racism/sexism. As obvious as how presumptuous Luke’s entitled reaction may be, I would like to make it clear that White men injecting themselves, uninvited, into conversations women and people of color are having about oppression happens all the time.
All. The. Time.
And worse than White men assuming their opinions are welcome in this place, White men believe their opinions should be valued above all others’, for theirs are the only ones that are “un-biased”. Notice the silencing tactics Luke uses. Women of color who are upset by racist/sexist remarks made to them in public who dare to react to those violations are “angry”, “irrational”, and not deserving of this White man’s Facebook friend list. Welcome to Gaslighting 101, everyone! Racist, sexist, privileged, arrogant gaslighting.
However, I don’t want to write about awful gaslighting today. I actually want to write about something else this privileged White dude brought up, being White in China vs. being Chinese* in the U.S.
Luke wrote,

[…] and for the record, I’ve had numerous similar experiences as being the ‘white guy’ in China for the past decade. I never reacted like that but then I don’t think this is about race as much as it is about Phoenix […]

First of all, way to be an asshole, Luke, by again dismissing the validity of Phoenix’s experiences and her assessment of the situation that she was in and you were nowhere near.
Second of all—and I want White people to understand this so—YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WHITE PERSON IN AN ASIAN COUNTRY IS NOT THE SAME NOR AT ALL “SIMILAR” TO MY EXPERIENCE OR THE EXPERIENCE OF FELLOW ASIAN/PACIFIC ISLANDER PEOPLES IN THE UNITED STATES. Got it?
But, “why, Kathy?” you may ask. “Why can’t I just swap out different races/ethnicities in any scenario and the end result be the same?”
Really? Why? Because read a fucking history book—preferably one not crafted by the hegemonic White Western discourse.
The same people who think saying “ni hao” or “konnichiwa” to an Asian person in the U.S. is the same as an Asian person saying “hello” to a white person in an Asian country are the same people who think “reverse racism” is a thing. Guess what? Reverse racism isn’t real and those two situations are not at all the same thing.
Let’s just start with demographics. We all know that race is a social construct, but for simplicity purposes, let’s use it.

Population of China: 1.35 billionPopulation of the U.S.: 316 million
Percentage White in the U.S.: 72.4%Percentage Asian in the U.S.: 4.8% 
Percentage Asian in China: 99.x%Percentage White in China: <1% (the number of White people in China is so insignificant compared to the entire population, it hasn’t been properly documented)

Wow! There is a significantly smaller percentage of the Chinese population that is White compared to the American population that is Asian! Who would’ve thought?
Okay. That shouldn’t be a shock, right? The United States is a “land of immigrants” (even if certain states and politicians seem to spit on that fact). Being non-White in the U.S. isn’t supposed to be a novelty, it’s a truth. The U.S. census estimates that in 30 years, non-Hispanic/Latin@ Whites will make up less than half of the population. So seeing a non-White person really shouldn’t be a shock in the U.S. in 2013. And considering Phoenix works in Boston, and not middle-of-nowhere, Maine, she shouldn’t be treated as an anomaly walking through a park.
Approaching a random person of color or any person you do not definitively know the ethnicity of and saying “ni hao”, “hola”, or “jambo” at this person (particularly if you do not speak Chinese, Spanish, or Swahili) is not only obnoxious, but it is othering. The effect (regardless of whether it’s intentional or not) of this action on the person of color is to point out that they are somehow different from the White person (and legitimate American) speaking to them while transmitting the message “you are not welcome here”. API peoples constantly receive this message. From “where are you from?” to “what language do you speak?” to “what does your name mean?”, White people are consistently reminding us that because we are not White, we are not American.
So when some stranger says “ni hao” to my Chinese-American friend in the park, it is absolutely not  to be “friendly”, it is to invade her space and remind her that no matter what her birth certificate, voting record, or life experiences are, she will never be considered American and she will never be welcome because her hair isn’t blonde and her last name isn’t Smith.
People of color built this country. They did so despite political, economic, and social barriers erected to prevent them from prospering. The first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the 1800s, brought over to work on the transcontinental railroad as cheap labor at wages. Chinese workers were paid $27-$30 a month, compared to Irish workers, who were paid $35 a month and provided with living arrangements. Not only were the Chinese paid less than the Whites, they were also treated terribly. The White construction crews would order Chinese workers to enter caves where not all the dynamite had gone off, killing dozens of Chinese men. These men were forced to risk their lives, placed in to baskets and lowered over cliffs or into mines to drill holes and place dynamite, staking their luck and their lives on how quickly their fellow workers were able to pull them up. The term “Chinaman’s chance”? This practice is one of it’s origins. Over 1,200 Chinese workers died building the Central Pacific Railroad alone.
And what did the U.S. do to repay these Chinese immigrants for building such an extensive railroad system in this country? They passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to prevent Chinese immigration and then passed the Geary Act to extend the exclusion and placed new requirements on existing Chinese residents of the U.S. Among these requirements was a law that Chinese residents must carry proof of their residency at all time or risk a year of hard labor or deportation. Sound familiar? The Geary Act also forbade Chinese residents from bearing witness in a court of law and denied Chinese bail in habeas corpus proceedings.
For a country so proud of its immigrant-roots, its laws speak differently. Or are only White, Anglo-looking people allowed to claim this country as their own and all people of color must simply accept that we can never call the United States our homeland?
Let’s just step back a minute. Many Chinese families have been in the United States just as long or even longer than your European ancestors. Chinese workers played a big part in building this country. Yet, Chinese-Americans are being treated like they don’t belong in this country daily. Yes, even in the 21st century.
So don’t you dare fucking compare how you as a White man are treated in China to how a Chinese-American woman is treated in the United States. I haven’t even started exploring the rampant sexism that’s entwined with White men fetishizing API women as submissive and exotic. This view is a stereotype. It is a stereotype largely rooted in a history of Western colonialism and the geo-political dynamics between American soldiers and local women in the various wars and military aggressions of the late 20th century waged in East Asia and the Pacific, a stereotype that’s been perpetuated by Western, White, male-dominated mainstream media.
If you are a White person in China, you are most likely a tourist, or your job has located you there and you make significantly more money than the average Chinese worker (~$9k/yr). If a Chinese stranger approaches you and says “hello”, that might be annoying, but it doesn’t come with any of the same history and implications as a White stranger saying “ni hao” to an Asian person in the U.S., regardless of whether that person is Chinese. Considering the fact that British and U.S. imperialism has made English the default official language for multinational organizations and the forced lingua franca of many states in the Global South, the power differential between the White person and the Asian person in both of these situations favors the White person.
To Luke and every other White asshole who doesn’t “think about race”:
Your experience as a “minority” in an Asian country is not comparable to Phoenix’s experience as a Minority (Capital M for all of the historical, political, social baggage of that word) in the United States.
So sit down and shut up.
 
—————
*You can apply this same theory to Japanese-, Korean-, and other API peoples in the U.S., in so much as noting that being White in Japan is nothing like being Japanese in the U.S. (or Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, etc.). However, remember that although API peoples have a shared identity, the histories of each ethnic group’s legacies in the U.S. are different and the geo-political histories of the U.S.’s respective relationships (and wars and imperialism, etc.) are also distinct. It is ludicrous to assume that all 17.3 million Asian-Americans have the same histories and that nations with a combined population of 4 billion people have the same diplomatic relationship with the U.S. It is not only irresponsible, it is also racist.

copying and pasting from my facebook post: 
I remember when Kathy Zhang and I were couch surfing and she yelled at our host in French for catcalling some girls on the street! No joke, she’s been my hero ever since. And now she’s written something amazing on the most frustrating sexual harassment situation I’ve ever dealt with. This one goes out to every woman/person of color who has had to deal with racism and sexism and the apologists who always have to pipe up when we speak out about these issues.
And if anybody is curious: I would do it all over again, and that includes getting angry enough to yell an expletive and “bragging” about it on my facebook, because it’s NOT productive to be polite about issues like this.  kzhang:


Yep, I just yelled “fuck you” at some blow job who said “ni hao” to me in the park.

My good friend Phoenix, posted this Facebook status a few weeks ago that turned into this interesting hotbed of resentful Western White male privilege.
Not only did this guy, Luke, brazenly display an incredibly condescending whitesplaining, mansplaining attitude, but he demanded that my friend, a woman of color, explain to him why the behavior that this man displayed while yelling at my friend in the park was harassment.
I hope I do not need to explain how utterly ridiculous and entitled of him it is to tell a Chinese-American woman to “present [him] with depth” and prove to him why it’s unacceptable for some dude to approach strangers in the park, saying “ni hao” at them. I hope it’s evident as to how absolutely arrogant it is for a White man to defend some stranger he’s only ever heard about rather than believe a woman of color when her life experiences deem this encounter to come from a point of racism/sexism. As obvious as how presumptuous Luke’s entitled reaction may be, I would like to make it clear that White men injecting themselves, uninvited, into conversations women and people of color are having about oppression happens all the time.
All. The. Time.
And worse than White men assuming their opinions are welcome in this place, White men believe their opinions should be valued above all others’, for theirs are the only ones that are “un-biased”. Notice the silencing tactics Luke uses. Women of color who are upset by racist/sexist remarks made to them in public who dare to react to those violations are “angry”, “irrational”, and not deserving of this White man’s Facebook friend list. Welcome to Gaslighting 101, everyone! Racist, sexist, privileged, arrogant gaslighting.
However, I don’t want to write about awful gaslighting today. I actually want to write about something else this privileged White dude brought up, being White in China vs. being Chinese* in the U.S.
Luke wrote,

[…] and for the record, I’ve had numerous similar experiences as being the ‘white guy’ in China for the past decade. I never reacted like that but then I don’t think this is about race as much as it is about Phoenix […]

First of all, way to be an asshole, Luke, by again dismissing the validity of Phoenix’s experiences and her assessment of the situation that she was in and you were nowhere near.
Second of all—and I want White people to understand this so—YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WHITE PERSON IN AN ASIAN COUNTRY IS NOT THE SAME NOR AT ALL “SIMILAR” TO MY EXPERIENCE OR THE EXPERIENCE OF FELLOW ASIAN/PACIFIC ISLANDER PEOPLES IN THE UNITED STATES. Got it?
But, “why, Kathy?” you may ask. “Why can’t I just swap out different races/ethnicities in any scenario and the end result be the same?”
Really? Why? Because read a fucking history book—preferably one not crafted by the hegemonic White Western discourse.
The same people who think saying “ni hao” or “konnichiwa” to an Asian person in the U.S. is the same as an Asian person saying “hello” to a white person in an Asian country are the same people who think “reverse racism” is a thing. Guess what? Reverse racism isn’t real and those two situations are not at all the same thing.
Let’s just start with demographics. We all know that race is a social construct, but for simplicity purposes, let’s use it.

Population of China: 1.35 billionPopulation of the U.S.: 316 million
Percentage White in the U.S.: 72.4%Percentage Asian in the U.S.: 4.8% 
Percentage Asian in China: 99.x%Percentage White in China: <1% (the number of White people in China is so insignificant compared to the entire population, it hasn’t been properly documented)

Wow! There is a significantly smaller percentage of the Chinese population that is White compared to the American population that is Asian! Who would’ve thought?
Okay. That shouldn’t be a shock, right? The United States is a “land of immigrants” (even if certain states and politicians seem to spit on that fact). Being non-White in the U.S. isn’t supposed to be a novelty, it’s a truth. The U.S. census estimates that in 30 years, non-Hispanic/Latin@ Whites will make up less than half of the population. So seeing a non-White person really shouldn’t be a shock in the U.S. in 2013. And considering Phoenix works in Boston, and not middle-of-nowhere, Maine, she shouldn’t be treated as an anomaly walking through a park.
Approaching a random person of color or any person you do not definitively know the ethnicity of and saying “ni hao”, “hola”, or “jambo” at this person (particularly if you do not speak Chinese, Spanish, or Swahili) is not only obnoxious, but it is othering. The effect (regardless of whether it’s intentional or not) of this action on the person of color is to point out that they are somehow different from the White person (and legitimate American) speaking to them while transmitting the message “you are not welcome here”. API peoples constantly receive this message. From “where are you from?” to “what language do you speak?” to “what does your name mean?”, White people are consistently reminding us that because we are not White, we are not American.
So when some stranger says “ni hao” to my Chinese-American friend in the park, it is absolutely not  to be “friendly”, it is to invade her space and remind her that no matter what her birth certificate, voting record, or life experiences are, she will never be considered American and she will never be welcome because her hair isn’t blonde and her last name isn’t Smith.
People of color built this country. They did so despite political, economic, and social barriers erected to prevent them from prospering. The first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the 1800s, brought over to work on the transcontinental railroad as cheap labor at wages. Chinese workers were paid $27-$30 a month, compared to Irish workers, who were paid $35 a month and provided with living arrangements. Not only were the Chinese paid less than the Whites, they were also treated terribly. The White construction crews would order Chinese workers to enter caves where not all the dynamite had gone off, killing dozens of Chinese men. These men were forced to risk their lives, placed in to baskets and lowered over cliffs or into mines to drill holes and place dynamite, staking their luck and their lives on how quickly their fellow workers were able to pull them up. The term “Chinaman’s chance”? This practice is one of it’s origins. Over 1,200 Chinese workers died building the Central Pacific Railroad alone.
And what did the U.S. do to repay these Chinese immigrants for building such an extensive railroad system in this country? They passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to prevent Chinese immigration and then passed the Geary Act to extend the exclusion and placed new requirements on existing Chinese residents of the U.S. Among these requirements was a law that Chinese residents must carry proof of their residency at all time or risk a year of hard labor or deportation. Sound familiar? The Geary Act also forbade Chinese residents from bearing witness in a court of law and denied Chinese bail in habeas corpus proceedings.
For a country so proud of its immigrant-roots, its laws speak differently. Or are only White, Anglo-looking people allowed to claim this country as their own and all people of color must simply accept that we can never call the United States our homeland?
Let’s just step back a minute. Many Chinese families have been in the United States just as long or even longer than your European ancestors. Chinese workers played a big part in building this country. Yet, Chinese-Americans are being treated like they don’t belong in this country daily. Yes, even in the 21st century.
So don’t you dare fucking compare how you as a White man are treated in China to how a Chinese-American woman is treated in the United States. I haven’t even started exploring the rampant sexism that’s entwined with White men fetishizing API women as submissive and exotic. This view is a stereotype. It is a stereotype largely rooted in a history of Western colonialism and the geo-political dynamics between American soldiers and local women in the various wars and military aggressions of the late 20th century waged in East Asia and the Pacific, a stereotype that’s been perpetuated by Western, White, male-dominated mainstream media.
If you are a White person in China, you are most likely a tourist, or your job has located you there and you make significantly more money than the average Chinese worker (~$9k/yr). If a Chinese stranger approaches you and says “hello”, that might be annoying, but it doesn’t come with any of the same history and implications as a White stranger saying “ni hao” to an Asian person in the U.S., regardless of whether that person is Chinese. Considering the fact that British and U.S. imperialism has made English the default official language for multinational organizations and the forced lingua franca of many states in the Global South, the power differential between the White person and the Asian person in both of these situations favors the White person.
To Luke and every other White asshole who doesn’t “think about race”:
Your experience as a “minority” in an Asian country is not comparable to Phoenix’s experience as a Minority (Capital M for all of the historical, political, social baggage of that word) in the United States.
So sit down and shut up.
 
—————
*You can apply this same theory to Japanese-, Korean-, and other API peoples in the U.S., in so much as noting that being White in Japan is nothing like being Japanese in the U.S. (or Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, etc.). However, remember that although API peoples have a shared identity, the histories of each ethnic group’s legacies in the U.S. are different and the geo-political histories of the U.S.’s respective relationships (and wars and imperialism, etc.) are also distinct. It is ludicrous to assume that all 17.3 million Asian-Americans have the same histories and that nations with a combined population of 4 billion people have the same diplomatic relationship with the U.S. It is not only irresponsible, it is also racist.

copying and pasting from my facebook post: 
I remember when Kathy Zhang and I were couch surfing and she yelled at our host in French for catcalling some girls on the street! No joke, she’s been my hero ever since. And now she’s written something amazing on the most frustrating sexual harassment situation I’ve ever dealt with. This one goes out to every woman/person of color who has had to deal with racism and sexism and the apologists who always have to pipe up when we speak out about these issues.
And if anybody is curious: I would do it all over again, and that includes getting angry enough to yell an expletive and “bragging” about it on my facebook, because it’s NOT productive to be polite about issues like this.  kzhang:


Yep, I just yelled “fuck you” at some blow job who said “ni hao” to me in the park.

My good friend Phoenix, posted this Facebook status a few weeks ago that turned into this interesting hotbed of resentful Western White male privilege.
Not only did this guy, Luke, brazenly display an incredibly condescending whitesplaining, mansplaining attitude, but he demanded that my friend, a woman of color, explain to him why the behavior that this man displayed while yelling at my friend in the park was harassment.
I hope I do not need to explain how utterly ridiculous and entitled of him it is to tell a Chinese-American woman to “present [him] with depth” and prove to him why it’s unacceptable for some dude to approach strangers in the park, saying “ni hao” at them. I hope it’s evident as to how absolutely arrogant it is for a White man to defend some stranger he’s only ever heard about rather than believe a woman of color when her life experiences deem this encounter to come from a point of racism/sexism. As obvious as how presumptuous Luke’s entitled reaction may be, I would like to make it clear that White men injecting themselves, uninvited, into conversations women and people of color are having about oppression happens all the time.
All. The. Time.
And worse than White men assuming their opinions are welcome in this place, White men believe their opinions should be valued above all others’, for theirs are the only ones that are “un-biased”. Notice the silencing tactics Luke uses. Women of color who are upset by racist/sexist remarks made to them in public who dare to react to those violations are “angry”, “irrational”, and not deserving of this White man’s Facebook friend list. Welcome to Gaslighting 101, everyone! Racist, sexist, privileged, arrogant gaslighting.
However, I don’t want to write about awful gaslighting today. I actually want to write about something else this privileged White dude brought up, being White in China vs. being Chinese* in the U.S.
Luke wrote,

[…] and for the record, I’ve had numerous similar experiences as being the ‘white guy’ in China for the past decade. I never reacted like that but then I don’t think this is about race as much as it is about Phoenix […]

First of all, way to be an asshole, Luke, by again dismissing the validity of Phoenix’s experiences and her assessment of the situation that she was in and you were nowhere near.
Second of all—and I want White people to understand this so—YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WHITE PERSON IN AN ASIAN COUNTRY IS NOT THE SAME NOR AT ALL “SIMILAR” TO MY EXPERIENCE OR THE EXPERIENCE OF FELLOW ASIAN/PACIFIC ISLANDER PEOPLES IN THE UNITED STATES. Got it?
But, “why, Kathy?” you may ask. “Why can’t I just swap out different races/ethnicities in any scenario and the end result be the same?”
Really? Why? Because read a fucking history book—preferably one not crafted by the hegemonic White Western discourse.
The same people who think saying “ni hao” or “konnichiwa” to an Asian person in the U.S. is the same as an Asian person saying “hello” to a white person in an Asian country are the same people who think “reverse racism” is a thing. Guess what? Reverse racism isn’t real and those two situations are not at all the same thing.
Let’s just start with demographics. We all know that race is a social construct, but for simplicity purposes, let’s use it.

Population of China: 1.35 billionPopulation of the U.S.: 316 million
Percentage White in the U.S.: 72.4%Percentage Asian in the U.S.: 4.8% 
Percentage Asian in China: 99.x%Percentage White in China: <1% (the number of White people in China is so insignificant compared to the entire population, it hasn’t been properly documented)

Wow! There is a significantly smaller percentage of the Chinese population that is White compared to the American population that is Asian! Who would’ve thought?
Okay. That shouldn’t be a shock, right? The United States is a “land of immigrants” (even if certain states and politicians seem to spit on that fact). Being non-White in the U.S. isn’t supposed to be a novelty, it’s a truth. The U.S. census estimates that in 30 years, non-Hispanic/Latin@ Whites will make up less than half of the population. So seeing a non-White person really shouldn’t be a shock in the U.S. in 2013. And considering Phoenix works in Boston, and not middle-of-nowhere, Maine, she shouldn’t be treated as an anomaly walking through a park.
Approaching a random person of color or any person you do not definitively know the ethnicity of and saying “ni hao”, “hola”, or “jambo” at this person (particularly if you do not speak Chinese, Spanish, or Swahili) is not only obnoxious, but it is othering. The effect (regardless of whether it’s intentional or not) of this action on the person of color is to point out that they are somehow different from the White person (and legitimate American) speaking to them while transmitting the message “you are not welcome here”. API peoples constantly receive this message. From “where are you from?” to “what language do you speak?” to “what does your name mean?”, White people are consistently reminding us that because we are not White, we are not American.
So when some stranger says “ni hao” to my Chinese-American friend in the park, it is absolutely not  to be “friendly”, it is to invade her space and remind her that no matter what her birth certificate, voting record, or life experiences are, she will never be considered American and she will never be welcome because her hair isn’t blonde and her last name isn’t Smith.
People of color built this country. They did so despite political, economic, and social barriers erected to prevent them from prospering. The first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the 1800s, brought over to work on the transcontinental railroad as cheap labor at wages. Chinese workers were paid $27-$30 a month, compared to Irish workers, who were paid $35 a month and provided with living arrangements. Not only were the Chinese paid less than the Whites, they were also treated terribly. The White construction crews would order Chinese workers to enter caves where not all the dynamite had gone off, killing dozens of Chinese men. These men were forced to risk their lives, placed in to baskets and lowered over cliffs or into mines to drill holes and place dynamite, staking their luck and their lives on how quickly their fellow workers were able to pull them up. The term “Chinaman’s chance”? This practice is one of it’s origins. Over 1,200 Chinese workers died building the Central Pacific Railroad alone.
And what did the U.S. do to repay these Chinese immigrants for building such an extensive railroad system in this country? They passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to prevent Chinese immigration and then passed the Geary Act to extend the exclusion and placed new requirements on existing Chinese residents of the U.S. Among these requirements was a law that Chinese residents must carry proof of their residency at all time or risk a year of hard labor or deportation. Sound familiar? The Geary Act also forbade Chinese residents from bearing witness in a court of law and denied Chinese bail in habeas corpus proceedings.
For a country so proud of its immigrant-roots, its laws speak differently. Or are only White, Anglo-looking people allowed to claim this country as their own and all people of color must simply accept that we can never call the United States our homeland?
Let’s just step back a minute. Many Chinese families have been in the United States just as long or even longer than your European ancestors. Chinese workers played a big part in building this country. Yet, Chinese-Americans are being treated like they don’t belong in this country daily. Yes, even in the 21st century.
So don’t you dare fucking compare how you as a White man are treated in China to how a Chinese-American woman is treated in the United States. I haven’t even started exploring the rampant sexism that’s entwined with White men fetishizing API women as submissive and exotic. This view is a stereotype. It is a stereotype largely rooted in a history of Western colonialism and the geo-political dynamics between American soldiers and local women in the various wars and military aggressions of the late 20th century waged in East Asia and the Pacific, a stereotype that’s been perpetuated by Western, White, male-dominated mainstream media.
If you are a White person in China, you are most likely a tourist, or your job has located you there and you make significantly more money than the average Chinese worker (~$9k/yr). If a Chinese stranger approaches you and says “hello”, that might be annoying, but it doesn’t come with any of the same history and implications as a White stranger saying “ni hao” to an Asian person in the U.S., regardless of whether that person is Chinese. Considering the fact that British and U.S. imperialism has made English the default official language for multinational organizations and the forced lingua franca of many states in the Global South, the power differential between the White person and the Asian person in both of these situations favors the White person.
To Luke and every other White asshole who doesn’t “think about race”:
Your experience as a “minority” in an Asian country is not comparable to Phoenix’s experience as a Minority (Capital M for all of the historical, political, social baggage of that word) in the United States.
So sit down and shut up.
 
—————
*You can apply this same theory to Japanese-, Korean-, and other API peoples in the U.S., in so much as noting that being White in Japan is nothing like being Japanese in the U.S. (or Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, etc.). However, remember that although API peoples have a shared identity, the histories of each ethnic group’s legacies in the U.S. are different and the geo-political histories of the U.S.’s respective relationships (and wars and imperialism, etc.) are also distinct. It is ludicrous to assume that all 17.3 million Asian-Americans have the same histories and that nations with a combined population of 4 billion people have the same diplomatic relationship with the U.S. It is not only irresponsible, it is also racist.

copying and pasting from my facebook post: 
I remember when Kathy Zhang and I were couch surfing and she yelled at our host in French for catcalling some girls on the street! No joke, she’s been my hero ever since. And now she’s written something amazing on the most frustrating sexual harassment situation I’ve ever dealt with. This one goes out to every woman/person of color who has had to deal with racism and sexism and the apologists who always have to pipe up when we speak out about these issues.
And if anybody is curious: I would do it all over again, and that includes getting angry enough to yell an expletive and “bragging” about it on my facebook, because it’s NOT productive to be polite about issues like this. 

kzhang:

Yep, I just yelled “fuck you” at some blow job who said “ni hao” to me in the park.

My good friend Phoenix, posted this Facebook status a few weeks ago that turned into this interesting hotbed of resentful Western White male privilege.

Not only did this guy, Luke, brazenly display an incredibly condescending whitesplaining, mansplaining attitude, but he demanded that my friend, a woman of color, explain to him why the behavior that this man displayed while yelling at my friend in the park was harassment.

I hope I do not need to explain how utterly ridiculous and entitled of him it is to tell a Chinese-American woman to “present [him] with depth” and prove to him why it’s unacceptable for some dude to approach strangers in the park, saying “ni hao” at them. I hope it’s evident as to how absolutely arrogant it is for a White man to defend some stranger he’s only ever heard about rather than believe a woman of color when her life experiences deem this encounter to come from a point of racism/sexism. As obvious as how presumptuous Luke’s entitled reaction may be, I would like to make it clear that White men injecting themselves, uninvited, into conversations women and people of color are having about oppression happens all the time.

All. The. Time.

And worse than White men assuming their opinions are welcome in this place, White men believe their opinions should be valued above all others’, for theirs are the only ones that are “un-biased”. Notice the silencing tactics Luke uses. Women of color who are upset by racist/sexist remarks made to them in public who dare to react to those violations are “angry”, “irrational”, and not deserving of this White man’s Facebook friend list. Welcome to Gaslighting 101, everyone! Racist, sexist, privileged, arrogant gaslighting.

However, I don’t want to write about awful gaslighting today. I actually want to write about something else this privileged White dude brought up, being White in China vs. being Chinese* in the U.S.

Luke wrote,

[…] and for the record, I’ve had numerous similar experiences as being the ‘white guy’ in China for the past decade. I never reacted like that but then I don’t think this is about race as much as it is about Phoenix […]

First of all, way to be an asshole, Luke, by again dismissing the validity of Phoenix’s experiences and her assessment of the situation that she was in and you were nowhere near.

Second of all—and I want White people to understand this so—YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WHITE PERSON IN AN ASIAN COUNTRY IS NOT THE SAME NOR AT ALL “SIMILAR” TO MY EXPERIENCE OR THE EXPERIENCE OF FELLOW ASIAN/PACIFIC ISLANDER PEOPLES IN THE UNITED STATES. Got it?

But, “why, Kathy?” you may ask. “Why can’t I just swap out different races/ethnicities in any scenario and the end result be the same?”

Really? Why? Because read a fucking history book—preferably one not crafted by the hegemonic White Western discourse.

The same people who think saying “ni hao” or “konnichiwa” to an Asian person in the U.S. is the same as an Asian person saying “hello” to a white person in an Asian country are the same people who think “reverse racism” is a thing. Guess what? Reverse racism isn’t real and those two situations are not at all the same thing.

Let’s just start with demographics. We all know that race is a social construct, but for simplicity purposes, let’s use it.

Population of China: 1.35 billion
Population of the U.S.: 316 million

Percentage White in the U.S.: 72.4%
Percentage Asian in the U.S.: 4.8% 

Percentage Asian in China: 99.x%
Percentage White in China: <1% (the number of White people in China is so insignificant compared to the entire population, it hasn’t been properly documented)

Wow! There is a significantly smaller percentage of the Chinese population that is White compared to the American population that is Asian! Who would’ve thought?

Okay. That shouldn’t be a shock, right? The United States is a “land of immigrants” (even if certain states and politicians seem to spit on that fact). Being non-White in the U.S. isn’t supposed to be a novelty, it’s a truth. The U.S. census estimates that in 30 years, non-Hispanic/Latin@ Whites will make up less than half of the population. So seeing a non-White person really shouldn’t be a shock in the U.S. in 2013. And considering Phoenix works in Boston, and not middle-of-nowhere, Maine, she shouldn’t be treated as an anomaly walking through a park.

Approaching a random person of color or any person you do not definitively know the ethnicity of and saying “ni hao”, “hola”, or “jambo” at this person (particularly if you do not speak Chinese, Spanish, or Swahili) is not only obnoxious, but it is othering. The effect (regardless of whether it’s intentional or not) of this action on the person of color is to point out that they are somehow different from the White person (and legitimate American) speaking to them while transmitting the message “you are not welcome here”. API peoples constantly receive this message. From “where are you from?” to “what language do you speak?” to “what does your name mean?”, White people are consistently reminding us that because we are not White, we are not American.

So when some stranger says “ni hao” to my Chinese-American friend in the park, it is absolutely not  to be “friendly”, it is to invade her space and remind her that no matter what her birth certificate, voting record, or life experiences are, she will never be considered American and she will never be welcome because her hair isn’t blonde and her last name isn’t Smith.

People of color built this country. They did so despite political, economic, and social barriers erected to prevent them from prospering. The first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the 1800s, brought over to work on the transcontinental railroad as cheap labor at wages. Chinese workers were paid $27-$30 a month, compared to Irish workers, who were paid $35 a month and provided with living arrangements. Not only were the Chinese paid less than the Whites, they were also treated terribly. The White construction crews would order Chinese workers to enter caves where not all the dynamite had gone off, killing dozens of Chinese men. These men were forced to risk their lives, placed in to baskets and lowered over cliffs or into mines to drill holes and place dynamite, staking their luck and their lives on how quickly their fellow workers were able to pull them up. The term “Chinaman’s chance”? This practice is one of it’s origins. Over 1,200 Chinese workers died building the Central Pacific Railroad alone.

And what did the U.S. do to repay these Chinese immigrants for building such an extensive railroad system in this country? They passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to prevent Chinese immigration and then passed the Geary Act to extend the exclusion and placed new requirements on existing Chinese residents of the U.S. Among these requirements was a law that Chinese residents must carry proof of their residency at all time or risk a year of hard labor or deportation. Sound familiar? The Geary Act also forbade Chinese residents from bearing witness in a court of law and denied Chinese bail in habeas corpus proceedings.

For a country so proud of its immigrant-roots, its laws speak differently. Or are only White, Anglo-looking people allowed to claim this country as their own and all people of color must simply accept that we can never call the United States our homeland?

Let’s just step back a minute. Many Chinese families have been in the United States just as long or even longer than your European ancestors. Chinese workers played a big part in building this country. Yet, Chinese-Americans are being treated like they don’t belong in this country daily. Yes, even in the 21st century.

So don’t you dare fucking compare how you as a White man are treated in China to how a Chinese-American woman is treated in the United States. I haven’t even started exploring the rampant sexism that’s entwined with White men fetishizing API women as submissive and exotic. This view is a stereotype. It is a stereotype largely rooted in a history of Western colonialism and the geo-political dynamics between American soldiers and local women in the various wars and military aggressions of the late 20th century waged in East Asia and the Pacific, a stereotype that’s been perpetuated by Western, White, male-dominated mainstream media.

If you are a White person in China, you are most likely a tourist, or your job has located you there and you make significantly more money than the average Chinese worker (~$9k/yr). If a Chinese stranger approaches you and says “hello”, that might be annoying, but it doesn’t come with any of the same history and implications as a White stranger saying “ni hao” to an Asian person in the U.S., regardless of whether that person is Chinese. Considering the fact that British and U.S. imperialism has made English the default official language for multinational organizations and the forced lingua franca of many states in the Global South, the power differential between the White person and the Asian person in both of these situations favors the White person.

To Luke and every other White asshole who doesn’t “think about race”:

Your experience as a “minority” in an Asian country is not comparable to Phoenix’s experience as a Minority (Capital M for all of the historical, political, social baggage of that word) in the United States.

So sit down and shut up.

 

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*You can apply this same theory to Japanese-, Korean-, and other API peoples in the U.S., in so much as noting that being White in Japan is nothing like being Japanese in the U.S. (or Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, etc.). However, remember that although API peoples have a shared identity, the histories of each ethnic group’s legacies in the U.S. are different and the geo-political histories of the U.S.’s respective relationships (and wars and imperialism, etc.) are also distinct. It is ludicrous to assume that all 17.3 million Asian-Americans have the same histories and that nations with a combined population of 4 billion people have the same diplomatic relationship with the U.S. It is not only irresponsible, it is also racist.

copying and pasting from my facebook post: 

I remember when Kathy Zhang and I were couch surfing and she yelled at our host in French for catcalling some girls on the street! No joke, she’s been my hero ever since. And now she’s written something amazing on the most frustrating sexual harassment situation I’ve ever dealt with. This one goes out to every woman/person of color who has had to deal with racism and sexism and the apologists who always have to pipe up when we speak out about these issues.

And if anybody is curious: I would do it all over again, and that includes getting angry enough to yell an expletive and “bragging” about it on my facebook, because it’s NOT productive to be polite about issues like this. 

Social media is so obnoxious

but follow me on twitter! 

http://twitter.com/Legallyphoenix

New Articles: Asian Americana

For Sampan, covering Boston Chinatown and the New England Chinese community at large: 

Quincy Lunar New Year celebrates Year of the Snake

'Spoonful of Ginger' raises awareness for Asian Diabetes

Photographer documents Chinese-American contribution

The last article was the one I connected with the most. Corky Lee roams around the country taking pictures of every Asian cultural group. I don’t know of anybody else that does that. Their depth is amazing too. 

Enjoy! And look out for more Sampan articles from me here.

The two times I’ve commented on the AV Club

1. To proclaim that that sex scene in Observe and Report is rape

2. To defend Beyoncé, indubitably

So, like, I don’t understand art. I’ve never gone to museums often, so when I see something that’s not immediately pretty, that’s like much of the conceptual, deliberately chaotic and ugly stuff at the ICA for their 80s exhibit, I’m just baffled. And I read their wall descriptions and am like “?” (“that’s just a picture of a man, a woman, and a camera. how am i automatically supposed to look at this and think ‘male gaze’?”). art renders me stupid. and when the exhibit titles and the descriptions tell you to consider politics and gender norms with these whatevers, it just feels wrong to me. like, i think of a museum or gallery as a neutral space and these works are just ripped from their context and jumbled together. well, no, i’m sure their presence and order are carefully considered by the curator, but it’s lost on me. 

so that was a whole paragraph of “i’m lost.” cool. art is great and important, i’m sure, i just never grew up with it or trained myself to know how to approach it. 

but! i glommed onto the pieces that had a lot of words in them, because i love to read, so the words gave me something to focus on. and i loved “The Shadow” by Sophie Calle, because the words dominated, and were full of names like “Tuileries” and “the Louvre” and “I bought flowers at the grocery store” and all these words that set off starbursts in my head, like, “Paris! Paris! I love Paris! take me back there!” 

it was a relatable piece too. because it was so creepy and narcissistic. are you ever walking through a great city alone and you feel and look beautiful and vital and you wish somebody was watching you and admiring you? you can just wait for those moments to come along, or you can just hire a private investigator to tail you and create that feeling sort of on-demand! throughout her report of the meandering day that she took him through, calle was all, “i was afraid he would lose me,” “it comforted me to see him having a beer at the bar,” and “i wonder what he thinks of the day i created for us. i wonder if he has thought of me, after.” 

so this was a day that calle ostensibly created for the benefit of her spy. she took him to really well known places in paris, tourist attractions. i assume her investigator is from paris, or from france. i kept thinking that it would’ve been more interesting to go to more obscure places, and to relate to him like a local (a hipster?) (though she made him trace her traditional walk to school and everything). or so that actual parisians or people who have lived in that city like them could be like, “yes!” or “i gotta check that out.” but maybe it’s for the benefit of those who have never been, either. you know, those who watch “Midnight in Paris” and are like, “i want to be in THAT postcard.” 

that’s fine. i like that conception of paris, and i’m glad that i’ll never lose it myself, even though i have seen enough of its sometimes greatly, sometimes drearily obscure corners. there’s something about that city that belongs in the realm of nostalgia and romanticization, even if it’s only sometimes true.