Provincial Minds in Los Angeles and Race


“We should be worried about online silos [news, information, opinion, and discussion communities that are dominated by a single point of view]. They make us stupid and hostile toward each other.” Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia and Citizendium

Six years of living in Los Angeles reinforced several conclusions in my head: 1) if New Jersey is called “the armpit of the union” then Los Angeles is by far the asshole of the union; 2) my faith in Bill Hicks’ “Arizona Bay” philosophy that the world would be better off when the earthquake strikes and the floods sink L.A. beneath the waves, flushing all the jerks, traffic, pollution, lawyers, self-righteous liberals and pompous conservatives, and the rest of the freaks away; and 3) the over-emphasis on race and political correctness distracts people from seeing the overall picture that results in problems that people ASSUME is a result of being born “the wrong” race–for race does not explain social hierarchies and economic realities or other discord, it’s that perception of race and value added to it which are the results of those problems.

I don’t doubt that race is an issue that exists throughout parts of the world, I just don’t think that the whole “You’re white, you have privilege and power” and “He’s black, Affirmative Action is the only reason he got into UC Berkeley” attitude is going to solve anything, nor does it answer the questions raised when asking why things exist as they are. Sparing myself from meaningless and pretentious platitudes and puerile pricks, life around different parts of North America and multiple countries have led me to reject racism and race relations as a lens to perceive and explain reality.

A quick sprint through a few highlights of race and culture with Asian Americans in Los Angeles, which I find to be a lot more unique to the political and cultural makeup of the urban necropolis with bleached hair and ultraviolet tans:

– Ethnic studies classes where it was hard to separate the experience and the framework of interpreting history WITHOUT turning people into militant lunatics with a myopic and dismissive “you don’t know what it’s like to be oppressed” victim’s attitude and attacking anyone who even QUESTIONS that perspective as ignorant. Don’t get me wrong, but I had a few good instructors and peers, read a few decent works, but the crowd ranged from slackers looking for an easy A writing a paper about racism in their personal experience (easily exaggerated) to violently provincial and parochial, self-righteous, “I am fucking holier than thou” misanthropes.

– Lambda Masta Beta Asian “fraternities” who prided themselves on brotherhood and assembled into a herd of dunderheads sitting on the staircase and pretending to be tough while glaring at any non-Asian male with an Asian female and hazing Asians who did not have the “privilege” or “spirit” to be initiated and accepted into their little boy’s club. The only constant I saw was a lot of overcompensating for a lot of insecurity amongst wannabe gangs with no real goal in practice besides being Asians hanging with Asians.

– Student “culture clubs” where grappling with questions of culture, it often becomes more of a bubble tea drinking and shaved ice or restaurant-trawling club with many people of the same ethnicity and a few “outsiders” where “discovering” culture seems to be the question that gets left unanswered every year. My British Chinese girlfriend at the time went to one meeting and left when one person’s attempt to explain was “Oh we’re all Americans anyway, doesn’t matter what we do that’s Chinese” forgetting the fact that many colleges have non-Americans in attendance too (again, more parochialism and provincialism, even if the patriotic sentiment can be praised).

– Asian Film Festivals made worse by YouTube “celebrities” with perpetual sticks in their rectums that causes them to lift their noses up high towards anyone who doesn’t buy into their personality cult. The prior three experiences are typically what shape the pretentious and pompous directors and actors who appear in these festivals and present themselves as these paragons of authority on race and social commentary, who had likely slept through a few high school American history classes, took a few ethnic studies classes in college, went to some hack film school, settled in with a group of like-minded (re: small-minded) individuals to make (terrible) films that they screen in these events where everyone gathers around the silver screen to praise Asian faces rather than substance and art. They then project their “authority” to explain race as the problem (as if it’s the only one and explanation to all the issues in the world) on countries they have never traveled to and know nothing about. So while the archetypal pompous film director, whose worst experience in racism was “feeling rejected because he was Asian” suddenly thinks he’s the authority on race in his art (crap), he also somehow thinks his “racism” is akin to the oppression of black slaves and Jim Crow America, who in turn exports this lunacy in his work. Though I’d love for these people to be hung by their underdeveloped testicles and have lead pencils jammed into their useless urethra, I take satisfaction in knowing this is as good as it gets for most of them: three film festivals a year to feel glorious before reality comes when the self-importance is fed by a few fans.

– It’s made worse now that we give credence to YouTube “stars” due to their large number of views, but if we really were to use popular opinion as an authority, then the greatest song of the sixties and seventies generation was “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies, nothing by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Jimi Hendrix and the like. That’s like saying the large number of views on Justin Bieber justifies that his “art” is “good”.

I don’t doubt that there have been some remarkable individuals from all over the world drawn to L.A. and that there are actual intelligent and cultured people in Los Angeles, and I definitely don’t dismiss the race hypothesis altogether because it’s a collective projection that is prevalent in L.A.–I just have encountered very few people who can go beyond thinking race automatically leads to oppression and privilege, and where those same forces at work are benefiting from that tunnel vision of refusing to see problems that exist before, after, and beyond race, creating the global disorder at play thanks to globalization.

Looking at econometrics, with a recent article on Mother Jones about lead, the “hidden variable” to explain the criminal element. You can say “Aha! Black people! Race is still an element, math proves it!” but to critically look at it, one of the questions should be “What CREATED that racial divide that existed before the division?” Can’t say “race” because retrofitting one modern hypothesis and looking to make things find fit into that explanation doesn’t prove a point, it is rationalizing with confirmation bias. Another example: we can agree that poverty is bad, but what are the REASONS that CREATE poverty? Race and poverty are symptoms, not the cause. But as anyone who is likely to violently argue, the one sentence summary of this missive: the hidden variable that can explain problems (especially in an econometric analysis) is not race, that’s the lazy, uneducated, self-assured man’s approach.

photo credit: Emmanuel_D.Photography via photopin cc

Thanks for rating this! Now tell the world how you feel - .
How does this post make you feel?
  • Excited
  • Fascinated
  • Amused
  • Disgusted
  • Sad
  • Angry

About JohnnyC

Johnny C is a self-described Accidental Asian American: born in California and raised in Hong Kong and Manila, he spends his days traveling as a freelancer for various NGOs in development and human rights. An idealist and adventurer, his travels are both for work and fun, while sharing stories through his pictures, videos, and writing. When he's not dance-walking to indie rock songs on his iPod in cities around the world, he's usually got himself engrossed in a science fiction novel traversing the portals of reality.
This entry was posted in Discrimination, Observations. Bookmark the permalink.