I’ll get right to my point. The single most important issue our community faces today: Unity.
Ironically, where non-Asians view us as one homogenous mob of exotic, stoic, and hard-working brown and yellow people, we differentiate ourselves into countless coteries by geography, clan origins, skintone (light vs. dark), Westernized vs. Asian natives, inner-city vs. suburbanite, socioeconomic classes, and by political factions. Differences between us impress upon our attitudes so heavily that Asians discriminate against other Asians much more so than non-Asians discriminate against Asians. This leads many to throw their hands up at the idea of Asian unity and say, “It cannot be done.”
Well, it has to be done. And we can start by each taking 5 baby steps in a positive direction: (1.) Avoid disparaging one another, in jest or in rant, (2) Give one another the benefit of our doubt, (3.) Do not inherit our parents’ ethnic prejudices, (4.) Join national Asian-interest associations or networks, and (5.) Volunteer at an Asian-interest non-profit organization.
5 Baby Steps Each of Us Can Take Toward Solidarity
1. Avoid Disparaging One Another, In Jest or In Rant
Stop telling each other racist jokes about Asian nationalities different from your own. A Japanese person has no more right to make derisive remarks about Chinese stereotypes than a White person making the same. It’s just as ignorant. So stop it.
Also, if you can refrain from it, no vituperative rants against one another either, please. Even if you care nothing for Asian unity, it’s just unclassy behavior. For example, 8A readers voiced their concerns over possible homophobia, anti-Semitism, and misogyny at ModelMinority.com, which then prompted MM to create an entirely new discussion forum to address our references to them. MM members like WStallion wrote, “Why the f**k should we care about what other whorientals think?” (Note his signature block: “Kill, kill, kill the white man!”) to which another author kizoku replied, “Who said you should? I just happened upon it and thought it was interesting what ‘outsiders’ had to say.” (Again, going straight to the heart of my contention—that we care more to divide ourselves than to unite.) After that exchange, other authors like Three_Kingdoms jump in and name-call kizoku a “prostitute,” further utilizing highly derogatory language to persecute kizoku, referring to her reproductive organs in a manner more explicit than I’m (or anyone should be) used to. That was all on page 1. I did not even click forward to page 2. Exchanges like these need to stop.
2. Give One Another the Benefit of Our Doubt.
Generally, we’re so harsh and critical of one another, like how many of our overbearing parents were to us. We claim we do it because we hold ourselves to a higher standard, because at bottom it’s all out of love and sure, we can argue our hearts are in the right places, but the unyielding harshness and criticism destroy more than they mend. Stop assuming the most negative outcome possible from a fellow Asian.
For example, our banter here on 8A regarding interracial dating reveal some of our own not-so-high-minded judgments of one another for the choices we make. I am personally censurable for my cynical dicta on Asian men. Doing so never helps any cause and only polarizes members of the same community even more. Everyone tends to make sweeping generalizations, but for our own sake, when those happen to be negative against our own people, can we please take a step back to think twice on whether it’s really worth our mention?
Note: This is not to say we cannot criticize each other at all, but when you do, keep the criticism constructive.
3. Do Not Inherit Our Parents’ Ethnic Prejudices.
You can’t change what your Taiwanese mother thinks of the mainland Chinese or what your Korean father says of the Japanese, but you can control how it affects your judgments of people. You don’t have to pass on the prejudicial attitudes to your children and you certainly don’t have to repeat the hearsay to others. Rape, war, plunder, and torture went on in our mother lands, but here in America and Canada, we’re in the same plight now. So start trusting and relying on one another.
4. Join National Asian-Interest Associations or Networks.
Special interest groups tailored to our ethnic community have the power and potential to apply political pressure on our government. That strength, however, comes in numbers. The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are about 10.7 million Asians in America and projects the numbers to grow by 213% in the next 50 years to 33.4 million. If every one of us joined the Asian American Institute, for example, AAI would have twice as much political sway as the NRA, which currently has about 4.3 million members. Your. Name. Counts. Supporting these groups also fortifies them with the capital and resources they need to instigate change on our behalf.
These associations and networks often send their members newsletters or frequent updates on significant events in our community. By enlisting as a member, we’ll have access to knowledge directly pertinent to us and we stay informed. Nothing else furthers a democracy like informed citizens.
A Few National Asian-Interest Orgs to Consider:
- APALA, http://www.apalanet.org/
- Asian American Institute, http://www.aaichicago.org/
- Asian American Justice Center, http://www.advancingequality.org/
- APIA Vote, http://www.apiavote.org/
- Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP), http://www.leap.org/
- National AAPI Mental Health Association, http://www.naapimha.org/
- National APA Bar Association, http://www.napaba.org
- National Council of APAs, http://www.ncapaonline.org/
5. Volunteer at an Asian-Interest Non-Prof.
Diasporic Asians may fare better economically as a whole than many other minority groups, but do not let this divert your attention from those of us trapped in the cycle of poverty. Before I demand the rest of North America to pay attention to our indigent friends and families, I ask our haves (those of us who actually do represent a “model minority”) to give a little to our have-nots.
Most of us reading this blog currently lead an economically privileged lifestyle, but our parents were struggling immigrants once, and there’s a new wave of struggling immigrants now. Pay respect to our humble beginnings. Spend a weekend helping immigrants fill out citizenship papers, or help them file their tax returns, or volunteer at activity centers to mentor our youth. No one is asking you to quit your day job for this. Just spend one or two weekends each year volunteering in the Asian community. Is that really asking a lot from you?
Sources for Finding Volunteer Opportunities:
Even if you never participate in a public demonstration or protest on behalf of the Asian Diaspora or openly object to everyday discrimination against members of your community or even stand up for yourself when you’ve been marginalized on sole account of your ethnic identity, if in the alternative you merely fulfill these 5 enumerated steps, you will have had a greater impact on the progress of our community’s social and political empowerment than you can even begin to fathom.
Postscript. If readers have additional links, information, or ideas on how we may forge solidarity among all Asians, then please contribute.