BlackLivesMatter vs BlueLivesMatter

A/N: Due to the nature of this post, my commenting policy will be strictly enforced. This goes for comments on my Facebook page as well. 

I’ve been seeing a video by Nick Palmisciano called “Blacklivesmatter vs Bluelivesmatter” being spread around on Facebook and while I’m not surprised, I am irritated. I actually started to comment and reply on a friend’s post, but it burgeoned into something incredibly long and unwieldy for a Facebook comment. Then I remembered that I have a blog.

Here’s the video I’m talking about. My thoughts are below.

On the surface of things, this video seems reasonable.

Surely, both sides have valid points. After all, the police officer in the video just accidentally bumped into the black woman. He didn’t mean any harm and she recognizes the situation for what it really is: an accident. Neither of them can figure out why people are coming in, literally silencing them, and putting words in their mouths.

Everyone except the original cop and woman is portrayed as unthinking idiots who hate nuanced thinking and context.

Except, of course, that most of the “situations” that spurred the BlackLivesMatter movement were not accidental bumps in a parking lot where no harm occurred. These situations resulted in physical violence, arrest, and/or death.

Look, I know a few cops – and quite frankly, in my entire life, I have never been ill-treated by a police officer. In fact, every time I’ve had interactions with the police, whether because I got pulled over for a ticket, or because they were actively protecting me and my family from stalking or physical violence, I have been treated well, with kindness, and respect.

But you know something? As much as my experience with the police has been fantastic (well, no one would say getting a speeding ticket is fantastic, but let’s just say I have never feared for my life – even when I was annoyed or less than polite), I am aware that my experience is not the same as everyone else’s. In fact, I am 100% positive that my experience, as an Asian American woman, whose stereotype is that of a meek, submissive victim, is quite possibly completely opposite that of a black man or woman.

Some of this video is true in the sense that individually, there are definitely cops and black folks who are “bad apples.” Equally true, the video posits that many people don’t want to think or consider nuance. The irony is that this video also lacks nuance.

You see, what #blacklivesmatter understands and #bluelivesmatter doesn’t seem to is the problem of systemic racism. Racism that is inherently part of the system – and if you are born and raised in America regardless of race, you cannot help but absorb through culture constantly telling you that black people are dangerous criminals and that cops are the good guys who occasionally have to use force to protect us.

So if you’re a cop – even a good, well-meaning cop, because of these messages, you may unconsciously use more force more quickly on a black person than a white person. These biases perhaps may be at best, just a nuisance, but can turn deadly in an instant as long as you, the cop, “feels” danger is imminent or threatened.

But as for WHY cops might feel endangered, THAT isn’t being questioned or explored. THAT is the quandary black men and women feel the consequence of all the time. The reason why cops feel threatened by an unarmed black kid in a hoodie is far more subtle than “the guy is racist.” The reason is because society is racist, constantly telling us that black men and women are violent drug addicts who are ghetto and poor and have no class.

Our country, as great as it is, was founded on slavery and genocide. We are literally built on the blood of not only revolutionaries who wanted freedom from paying the King’s taxes, but also with the blood of brutally enslaved peoples and the systematic elimination of another people. All our country’s wealth was possible because it relied on free labor from humans who were treated as cattle (HUGE TRIGGER WARNING) as well as stealing a fertile land by trickery, broken promises, and outright warfare. This evil has infiltrated every aspect of our country’s systems and is woven into the fabric of our history and collective memory (no matter how hard we try to deny it).

So, we all, by virtue of being born in the United States, are complicit and part of this racist society. Some of us benefit more so than others.

It is so much easier to say that it is individual police officers who are giving the rest of cops out there a bad name.

We want these matters to be on an individual level because then we as a people do not have to do anything. We can just call these events a singularity as something out of the ordinary that lets us judge those “racist cops” or those “thugs.”

We can then sit back, smug and safe.

I can just sit back, smug and safe.

But if it is a systemic problem, the solution isn’t easy or simple or even straight forward. I don’t even think there is a solution short of a complete overhaul of not only our existing structures (be it justice, education, economic, or religious), but also a complete overhaul of our thoughts.

Who wants to examine how our thoughts are influenced by racism, sexism, and religion? Who wants to go through life seeing things as they are (or at least, less oblivious than we used to be)? Who wants to write letters to our representatives, confront our pastors and teachers and school boards and HOAs and our neighbors? Who wants to be the squeaky wheel? Who wants to write long blog posts about that again? Or comment on Facebook posts?

A systemic problem makes me complicit and that makes me uncomfortable.

This whole post makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because although I’ve been vocal, I still don’t enjoy putting myself out there. I still want to seem pleasant and likable and not one of those people – you know, who always has to bring race or sex or whatever into the conversation.

But you know what? People are dying. Black people are dying. And my discomfort pales in comparison.

Just Another Reminder That I Don’t Belong

Honestly, I should have seen it coming.

I was at a homeschooling seminar last night and had mentioned I was homeschooling Cookie Monster in Chinese. People were impressed and then afterwards, the super nice, informative, lovely speaker (who I really liked) said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”

And before she even finished her sentence, I already knew what she was going to ask.

“… how come you don’t have an accent?”

“It’s because I was born here,” I reply politely.

She then proceeded to expound on how awesome it was that my kids are learning another language, blah blah blah. I tried to take my leave as quickly as possible and since then, the comment has gnawed at the back of my mind.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think this woman was a bad person or had any malicious intentions. I don’t even think she is stupid. (Although her comment was.) So, let’s not pile abuse on this woman. I did like her and I’m sure if we were better acquainted, I would continue to like her.

That may be surprising to some of you since from my blog, I seem all ragey and like I’m spoiling for a fight. Don’t get me wrong. I can be. But most of the time, I really just want to go through life as pleasantly as possible. I want to like people and have them like me and we’re all happy and laughing and then get back to our lives.

But it bothers me. And I’m a little mad about it. And not for the reason you may think.

Well, a LOT for the reason you think – but that’s not the only reason.

Of course, it’s just one more comment in a long line of comments that pointedly remind me that people (especially white people) don’t think I belong in America even if I was born and raised here and am likely more “American” (whatever that means) than they are. After all, it isn’t the actual comment itself. It’s the piling up of 37 years of these types of comments. It’s the constant reminder that no matter how nice or kind or well-meaning, people really aren’t that safe. That really, I should stick to my own “kind.”

I mean, FFS, people. I live in the Bay Area, in an area that is flooded with Asians. It’s not like we’re somewhere that I’m a tiny minority and I’m some type of unicorn.

So, what does it say about this woman that she has so little exposure to Asians that she thinks everyone is foreign born? And doesn’t see anything wrong with that assumption?

Here’s a thought: maybe the reason I don’t have an accent when I speak English IS BECAUSE I WAS BORN HERE.

Then I thought, maybe it was the fact that I was homeschooling my kid in Chinese that threw her off.

But then I thought, being fluent in another language doesn’t preclude speaking English without an accent. I mean, come on people. That’s just sloppy reasoning.

So here’s the part that really makes me mad: why do people have to ruin being otherwise nice and lovely people by lazy thinking?

I mean, what was I supposed to do? Be mean? Come back with what I wish I could say in these situations with, “How come your  English is so good?” and then act super surprised that she was born in the US?

Instead, of course, I just swallow all of the snark because if I didn’t, I’d be immediately shunted into “angry minority” status and who wants to be that? Who wants to always be so angry? Or have people be worried that they have to “watch what they say” around me?

But seriously. WHY CAN’T PEOPLE WATCH WHAT THEY SAY AROUND ME?

I mean, I watch what I say around white people all the time (unless I know that they are a safe space or ally). In fact, many minorities do this type of code-switching all the time. But think about it, it’s not just minorities. It’s everyone. You change your language and adapt your behaviors depending on what group you are with.

So why is it so hard to think a little more carefully about what you have to say?

I realize this post is all over the place. Mostly, because I am all over the place about it. I’m annoyed at this person, and then annoyed at myself for being annoyed.

I’m annoyed at society for being conducive to this type of racist stupidity – and for general stupidity. (Talk about being mad at the ocean for being wet or salty or huge.)

And I’m annoyed because I know I am guilty of this same lazy thinking all the time. We can’t help it. It’s ingrained.

And yet, I would like to think that when confronted, I attempt to change.

So though you are not that lady, please consider this a polite reminder to really think about the stuff you say. Whether it is some glib comment about body types, or values, or poor people, or black people, or Republicans, or whatever.

Really think.

And not just because of some possible threat to your personal safety or personal concept of who you are as a person.

Think things through because faulty reasoning is bad for everybody. And what does it hurt us to change our way of speaking if it spares someone pain and harm?

Alright. As usual, I’m having difficulty ending this piece. So, I’ll just leave it at this: Have a lovely Monday.

The Slow Crazy-Making Of Microaggressions

Have you ever thought you smelled gas or a burning smell but couldn’t find the source no matter how much you tore apart your home to find it? And because it’s something that could be life threatening, you keep smelling it – long after you’re mostly certain that you were imagining it? Only to later find out that there really was something wrong?

Last year, I was visiting a friend’s new home and I kept smelling gas in their kitchen and occasionally, outside their house. It got so bad that I finally mentioned something to them. I felt a little embarrassed, but hey, it’s gas. You don’t want there to be some type of explosion and you could’ve done something about it. I prefaced with the caveat that I could totally be making things up, but since it’s free to ask the gas company to come and check it out, no harm, no foul.

Turns out, there WAS a gas leak in their kitchen. I wasn’t crazy.

Or a few weeks ago, I kept smelling something burning in the house and after checking my stove and oven, and walking around my house sniffing, I couldn’t figure it out. A few hours later, my mother came by and called me downstairs. She said, “Your fireplace is on.”

Now, for those of you who haven’t been to my house, that seems super obvious – why didn’t I notice before? Well, the simple answer is this: I have a giant plastic kitchen that takes up the entire front of the fireplace. (I mean, when would I need to use the fireplace in CA? Also, easy baby-proofing!) It’s a gas-lit fireplace with a light-switch on/off and I have it taped down to “OFF.”

It turns out, Gamera had been randomly hitting light switches that morning and she had hit that switch so hard, it broke the tape and the fireplace was turned on, slowly melting my plastic kitchen. Hence, the burning smell.

TERRIFYING. And also, more importantly, I wasn’t crazy.

Or, have you ever forgotten your phone and although no one ever calls you, now that your phone isn’t in your possession, all of a sudden, every ringing phone is yours. Or worse than that, you constantly hear a phantom ringing phone?

Now, imagine this happens every day of your life. Randomly. Sometimes, it’s the smell of gas. Or you think you have tinnitus. Or you hear a constant drip of water. Or random whistling. Whatever drives you nuts because you can’t find the source and do anything about it.

And now, you think you’re crazy because you even hear or smell or see signs of the smell or leak or phone everywhere – even when there is legitimately nothing to worry about.

That, my friends, is a tiny example of what it is like for minorities (be it women, race, etc. – anything that is outside of the “norm”) as we experience microaggressions (unintentional discrimination). (A ridiculous term, but I get why there is a term. It just sounds so vapid.)

In many ways, I almost prefer blatant racism because that’s easy to point to. I mean, sure, I Hulk out, (confer that time I got “Ching Chang Chonged”), but ultimately, it’s almost comforting to experience something so tangible. Like, finally, I can point to something to illustrate what I’ve been feeling! (Although technically, people could categorize it as a microaggression as well. I didn’t find anything micro about it!)

But the problem with obvious racism is that it obscures the more mundane things that get to you. Plus, it allows people (including myself) to justify and feel better about themselves. After all, “I’m not burning crosses or calling people the N word! I can’t be racist!”

The problem with microaggressions is that they are hard to prove. The comments seem innocuous and are usually meant that way. But over time, they build up and pretty soon, it’s not just the comment itself that sets off a negative reaction. It’s ALL the comments you’ve ever received.

Like smelling the gas everywhere, after a time, you begin to imagine offenses and become overly sensitive. (Which is a horrible way to live because who wants to be offended all the time? Or to be known as an easily offended person?)

And then when some real shit happens, people think you’re overreacting again.

Trust me. No one wants to be the boy who cried wolf.

And the super annoying thing is that really, the microaggressions come out at random. There is no preparing for it.

Like you could be talking to someone totally fine and seems super cool and then, they come out with, “Where are you from? No, I mean, originally. No, before that. No, I mean, where are your parents from? No, before that.” And you’re like, “Do I fucking know you? Am I renting a house from you? Am I applying for a job and this is an interview that I was unaware of? WHY THE FUCK DO YOU NEED MY CREDIT HISTORY OR WHATEVER?”

Or perhaps you’re riding your bike on a trail and a woman coming from the opposite direction takes up the whole trail by herself and her dog and she doesn’t move out of your way even despite multiple warnings and when it causes you to brake suddenly or run over her fucking stupid dog and causes your bike chain to fall off and you to fall off your bike, she yells, “Go back to where you came from!”

What, Jersey? (True story that happened to my friend.)

After my post last week came out, I had my usual Mandarin playgroup at my house and pretty much every single woman there had a similar story. If you go to any gathering where there are minorities and someone brings this topic up, you will be overwhelmed with stories.

We are not imagining it. This shit happens. All. The. Time.

Here’s the thing, I’m pretty sure we all think or inadvertently say or do racist/sexist/whatever-ist things. That’s the danger of being human and living in a world that requires us to make snap judgments and sweeping generalizations on a daily basis. I get that. It doesn’t make us bad people.

However, how we choose to respond when other people who have been hurt by our comments or behavior inform us (sometimes, un-gently) that they have indeed been hurt or offended might.

Of course, we feel defensive and embarrassed and terribly gauche and misrepresented, but in the end, it doesn’t matter because it’s not about us. It is about the person we have hurt.

And what do we do when we hurt someone? We apologize sincerely for our actions. (Note: We do NOT apologize for them being offended. That is a non-apology and possibly even more infuriating than the original offense.)

I have more to say on this matter, but I’ll save it for another post. Suffice to say, it’s been something I’ve been thinking about for awhile (on Reality and how stating Reality is not a judgment on anyone but just a statement of facts) and I just haven’t had the time yet to give form to my inchoate thoughts.

May all your aggressions today be macro instead of micro. Oh wait, that was NOT the point of this post. At all.

That Time I Got “Ching Chang Chonged” At Mini Golf With My Kids

This afternoon, my three children attended their good friend’s birthday party at a mini golf course with a swarm of six year olds and a smattering of their younger siblings. They descended upon this poor mini golf course and since they are small, ran amuck. I was without Hapa Papa due to lack of thinking things through on my part, so my three children scattered and were little punks as unsupervised children are wont to do. (However, let it be noted that my kids were not the only ones running wild and crazy. See aforementioned party.)

As I was yelling at my kids in Chinese to stop whatever they were doing and come back, I overhear a white man (most likely in his mid-late twenties) at the 18th hole mutter “Ching chang chong” or something similar to his date, a white woman in her mid-late twenties. When I looked over at him, he gave me a smug look, as if to say, “What the fuck are you going to do about it?”

Now, the last time I heard “Ching chang chong” hurled in my direction was on the elementary school yard before I knew it was a bad thing (and likely before the kids who used it did, too). Since my parents had inculcated me with an inordinate amount of pride in my Chinese heritage, I just responded with something akin to mockery and pity, thinking (and likely saying), “That’s not Chinese at all. Idiots.”

Well, it’s been thirty years or so since then and now I do know full well the meaning. And though I still feel contempt, mostly I feel a piping hot rage. I wish I could instead feel pity and disdain and let it go, but I no longer have a better nature.

You see, the guy said it just loud enough for me to hear and be offended. I bet he was counting on me pretending he didn’t say anything at all. You know, because I’m an Asian female and we’re all submissive like that. Wouldn’t want to start a confrontation or make a big scene, you know?

Guess he chose the wrong Asian woman.

I can’t truly recall what I said because it’s all a blur. Something akin to, “I bet you think you’re so clever to say, ‘Ching chang chong,’ huh?”

His date turns to me and says, “Well, he’s part Asian so he can say that. Why don’t you go get your kids?”

“I do have my kids.”

“Oh yeah? We almost hit one of them with a ball.” With that parting shot, the couple stalked off in a fit of righteous indignation. As they left the course, I could see them still pointing and talking about me.

Sigh. Hapa Papa would be so ashamed of me, letting myself be “negged” and side-tracked from the main point.

But as much as I’d like to be someone who has that perfect thing to say at the right moment, I am much better on paper. Truly, my viciousness is better showcased a few moments after my fury has laid waste to my sputtering incoherence. Biting commentary after the fact? That is where I truly shine.

So though I’d like to not have had my entire afternoon derailed and me allowing some fuckwit to have so much power over my feelings and behavior, alas, it wasn’t until after I devised a multitude of apt bon mots on the drive home that I felt a little bit calmer.

Here then is what I would’ve liked to say to the woman after her date was a racist jackass to me:

“You know what, lady? Your boyfriend being part Asian doesn’t give him a pass to say racist things. You think it’s like black people saying the N word to each other or in hip hop? No. It’s not. No one’s even trying to reclaim ‘Ching Chang Chong’ as some empowering thing or co-opt its meaning.

“Consider this: I’m all woman – just like you. Does that mean it’s okay for me to call you a ‘fucking cunt bitch’ because I also have a vagina?”

Or perhaps, if I didn’t have a 20 month old Glow Worm squirming in my arms, I would’ve just sucker punched her in the throat and ran away. That would have felt awesome and like a total win – that is, until the police showed up and booked me on charges of assault and battery. That would be a great example to my children and all the children at the party.

Here’s the thing: I get why the couple was annoyed. I mean, I was annoyed – and they’re my kids. I was already trying to corral the kids into some semblance of obedience, but again, I get that it’s probable the couple didn’t see that, or if they did, didn’t care. That’s their right and prerogative.

However.

That still does not give these people the right to be racist – or at least, racist in public. To me.

And you know that if it were my friend’s 6’5″ white husband who speaks fluent Chinese (like a fucking boss) yelling at his kids in Chinese, these assholes would not have even thought “Ching chang chong” for even a millisecond. If they said anything at all, it might be to compliment his ability to speak a foreign language so well. Ah, the benefits of being a big, white dude. Sometimes, I wish I could have that superpower for myself. (On second thought, given my violent tendencies, that might not be a good idea.)

I have no idea how to end this post. shakesfistatendings

Suffice to say, in the grand scheme of things, I know this incident was a minor drop in an ocean of racism. But sometimes, like a grain of sand in your eye, it’s the tiny things sneaking past your guard that grate the most.

Who Made Me Gatekeeper?

It has occurred to me that based on my previous posts, it can seem that I have some sort of chip on my shoulder when it comes to Mandarin Immersion. (Perhaps “chip” seems inadequate. “Boulder,” maybe?) And perhaps, at times, I do. But like I mentioned in my previous post, just because my delivery isn’t to your liking doesn’t mean what I’m saying is not also accurate.

At any rate, I’d like to clear some things up and answer some (self-selected) questions folks may have. To change things up a bit, I’ve decided to do the post Q&A style today. If only because that requires less transitional writing. (Hey, what can I say? I want to be informative, but also, I’m really lazy.)

So, without further ado, a highly curated and self-induced Q&A.

Q: Why are you so mad all the time anyway? Just what is your problem with Mandarin Immersion and people who are not Chinese/Asian (non-heritage speakers) who want to do Mandarin Immersion?

Since I’ve already written several posts on this topic, I’ll refer you to those:

1) How An Article Confirmed My Worst Fears About Mandarin Immersion

tl;dr: Even on the topic of Mandarin Immersion wherein the majority of students are of Asian or Chinese descent, the focus is on the white experience. STOP OBLITERATING ASIANS FROM THEIR OWN STORY!

2) Hating On Mark Zuckerberg’s Chinese

tl;dr: Why is a rich white guy learning and having mediocre Chinese so impressive when millions of immigrants are FLUENT in English (albeit with an accent) but insulted and maligned and told, “You’re in America, speak American!” (And usually with laughably bad English.)

3) Will All This Mandarin Immersion Be For Naught?

tl;dr: My internal conflict re: the Mandarin Immersion bandwagon. On the one hand, I’m pleased at the increase in resources and classes. On the other, I’m still really annoyed by my language being relegated to a trend.

Q: Why can’t you be happier for more Mandarin Immersion opportunities?

As I have repeatedly mentioned, I am happy there are more opportunities for Mandarin Immersion. Anytime more people can be introduced to another language (in this case, Chinese) is a good thing. The more folks there are who express interest, the more resources and opportunities there are for me to take advantage of for my children. So, in purely Machiavellian terms, it is in my own self-interest to promote Mandarin Immersion.

However, it is possible to be both happy about more Mandarin Immersion opportunities and point out shit that makes me angry about the current situation.

Truly, even though there are parts of me that scoff at all the unrealistic expectations folks have for Mandarin Immersion, what’s it to me? Who cares if people are doing it for the “wrong” reason? Or don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell for their kids to actually become and retain fluency? How does it harm me? And how is it any of my business?

The only time it does matter to me is when there is actual harm to me and my kids. (And by harm, I consider racism, entitlement, etc. all forms of harm.)

Again, my main concerns relate to the following:

1) When non-heritage parents and students think that just because they know some (or are learning) Chinese that they are now somehow Chinese and can understand and speak for the Chinese/Asian American experience.

2) When non-heritage parents and students dismiss the legitimate concerns and experiences of Chinese/Asian American parents and students.

3) When heritage parents and students dismiss the legitimate concerns and experiences of non-heritage parents and students.

4) When the white experience and viewpoint is of primary importance and spotlighted to the exclusion or tokenism of other experiences. (Ie: business as usual.)

5) The entitlement and utter cluelessness non-heritage (okokok, I mean white) parents exhibit when they complain about their kids being excluded or not popular or otherwise experiencing what every single minority person in America experiences to some degree on a daily basis. Then they cry “reverse racism!”

Q: Why are you so divisive? 

As for division, I am not advocating for exclusivity or some sort of litmus test. But rather, truthfulness in a community. There is no peace when the offenses and hurts of part of the community are papered over and over again for the sake of “unity.”

That isn’t real unity, opportunity, or peace. That is a lie.

ETA: Just had a thought. Why is it when I, as a Chinese American person, don’t like the idea of white people jumping on the Mandarin Immersion bandwagon, I am considered an elitist? But when white people do it about their golf courses, or financial institutions, or neighborhoods, they’re just “keeping tradition”?

Q: It seems like you’re wanting a litmus test or some type of delineation to see who should be allowed to participate in Mandarin Immersion. As if there were a “right” way to do it.

As appealing as a litmus test initially sounds, ultimately, I find it a dangerous slippery slope.

After all, who is to say who should “qualify” and be a “good” Mandarin Immersion candidate? Should it only be native speakers and their children because the parents want to pass on their cultural heritage and legacy? Should it also include heritage parents who CANNOT speak the language because they feel regret at their lack of fluency and because they also want to pass on their cultural heritage? Should it include only white and non-heritage allies? Should it include only white and non-heritage families who show the appropriate amount of dedication and commitment to learning a whole different language and culture? For that matter, should it include only native families who show the appropriate amount of dedication and commitment?

And even if we could “decide” who the “right” people are to allow in the Mandarin Immersion classes, who should do the deciding? And why them? And the danger of having such a calcified code of rules and qualifications is that all of them are so subjective. A person runs the risk of failing their own litmus test!

You know what that’s called? DOGMA.

I am uninterested in dogma.

I think the only litmus test is that the participants be human and someone in their family signed them up and enrolled them in Mandarin Immersion. Everything else is gravy.

Q: Who made you The Mandarin Immersion Gatekeeper?

No one. Aren’t you paying attention?

I am not The Mandarin Immersion Gatekeeper. Nor do I wish to be. After all, who wants to be the one who’s telling others that the “Seat’s Taken?”

I’ll freely admit. I used to wish there was a gatekeeper of sorts. You know, to keep the rabble out. But over time, I realized that that type of thinking was incredibly arrogant and divisive and ultimately, not helpful to the conversation. Plus, if I loved Mandarin Immersion, then really, I want as many people to take part in it as possible.

Personally, I think all schools should have some type of language immersion – be it Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, Russian – whatever. Having more languages and cultures can only be a good thing. Keys to better understanding our allies and enemies and what have you.

Some instrumental posts that have changed my mind from being super “conservative” as it were about Mandarin Immersion, have actually come from the geek/SFF world. Many long time gamers or purveyors of Geek Culture (yes, capitalized) got all upset by the mass marketization of the things they love. And SF author, John Scalzi, wrote several posts that helped me a lot.

Now, I realize that the analogy is imperfect because I wouldn’t say geeks are or ever were an oppressed minority with major justice issues needing address. But the parallels are there. (Although there IS a need to address injustice and minority representation WITHIN the forms of comics/games/books. But that is an altogether different post.)

Anyhow, the main articles that really resonated with me are:

Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be – John Scalzi

A Creator’s Note to “Gatekeepers” – John Scalzi

When Someone Says They Love A Thing That You Love, Don’t Challenge Them; Embrace Them, And Love That Thing Together – Wil Wheaton

Q: You talk a lot about what you don’t want from fellow participants in Mandarin Immersion. What are things you would want? Or think that people “should” do?

Sigh. Again with the “shoulds.” I know. It’s human nature to want to draw a line in the sand and separate the sheep from the goats.

I don’t want people to live in fear of a bunch of “shoulds.” I don’t want non-heritage families to be kow-towing to heritage families. (But wouldn’t that be a nice reversal? NONONONONONO. Let’s not even go down that path.)

Rather, I consider some of these on my Wish List. A bunch of, “Wouldn’t it be nice if people acted in this manner?”

Here then are some of my “It Would Be Nices”:

– For non-heritage parents to listen, truly listen (without being the Tone Police), to the experiences, pain, and opinions of Chinese and Asian American parents. Language does not exist in a vacuum.

– For non-heritage parents to think before they speak. Especially thoughtless comments like, “What is ‘Asian,’ anyway?” or “Will they make any friends that speak English?”

– For both sets of parents to remember that not all Chinese Americans can already speak or read Chinese.

– For heritage and native speakers to not seem/be so smug.

– For non-heritage speakers to remember that it’s not all about them.

– While we’re at it, it would be nice for heritage speakers to remember that, too.

– For each group to remember that there are unique challenges each type of parent faces and to be a safe space.

Ultimately, the community of Mandarin Immersion families needs a healthy mix of heritage and non-heritage families. If the community is limited only to heritage families, there is no way Mandarin Immersion will reach the critical mass it needs in order to get more resources and money. If the community is limited only to non-heritage families, there is a great loss of cultural context.

Truly, it is possible to recognize that there can be different needs for different families – and to address those different needs. Let’s be respectful to the unique challenges each type of parent faces and be a safe space. Ultimately, we want to raise happy, healthy, and hopefully bilingual children.

Feel free to add more questions in the comments! As per usual, all trolling will be ignored and/or disappeared.

How An Article Confirmed My Worst Fears About Mandarin Immersion

Author’s Note: As per usual when I have a controversial post, I direct you to my Comment Policies. I encourage discussion but trolling, flaming, and general bad behavior will be vigorously disappeared. Also, comments that attempt to Tone Police will not be tolerated. If you don’t know what that is, figure it out. I don’t shit on your kitchen floor; don’t shit on mine.

Yesterday, an article about Mandarin Immersion schools in San Francisco made the rounds all over my Facebook feed. Pretty much every time I’ve seen it posted is in the context of self-congratulation and affirmation.

Well, friends. It’s time to Get Real.

For folks who find the article too long or too dry, here’s the tl;dr version: Chinese immersion schools are on the rise and super popular in the Bay Area. White parents worry their kids will make friends with Chinese kids who only speak Chinese. (Because OF COURSE Chinese kids can’t speak English.) White parents are sad their kids are excluded from the Chinese and multi-ethnic kids so they withdraw their children because they have The Sads. Oh, and didn’t you know? We aren’t even Asian anymore. Or Chinese. White people are. You know, because their kids can “talk” to the waiter in a Chinese restaurant.

Takesdeepbreath.

I haven’t yet decided if my post today will be scathing and sarcastic or even keeled and level-headed. (Trust me, thus far, I’ve been holding back.) On the one hand, I feel like we tiptoe too much around white people in case we offend their “delicate” sensibilities. On the other hand, I also know that it is hard to listen and learn when you’re being publicly ripped a new one.

I am, as it were, conflicted.

At any rate, upon reading the article, my immediate reaction was a swift and biting fury. And in true fact, I am still livid. But as I mull over this article more, I realize, more than my anger and offended sensibilities, is a deep underlying sadness.

Here we have an article on Mandarin Immersion that could be so encouraging in terms of garnering interest, collaboration, resources, and so many other possible things, and instead, we have an article that is at best, facile, but mostly, plainly offensive. But it is useless to bemoan what an article could have been. Rather, let us focus on what it is.

For an article that describes the immersion school demographic as mostly Asian or mixed-Asian descent (at De Vila, 63% identify as Asian, 18% white; at Chinese American International School, 38% Asian, 19% white; at Alice Fong Yu, 66% Asian, 5% white;), it manages to obliterate Asian people from the picture. Literally. Even the fucking CARTOON is of a white, blond family.

Oh, sure. They quote a few Chinese Americans who married white guys and aren’t fluent in Chinese. And full disclosure, my husband is half white, and most of my best Asian friends’ husbands are white. I really don’t care who people are married to or what language they speak. I don’t disparage Chinese Americans for not being able to speak Chinese. As an American Born Chinese (ABC), I know too well how difficult it is to maintain a language with which there are few people to converse and seemingly irrelevant to my life in America.

But overwhelmingly, the article treats Chinese as a commodity. A tool to be acquired separate from its people and culture. Chinese is for white people – something which they are entitled to because reasons. Just one more thing with which to be competitive in this hyper-competitive world.

The Chinese and Asian students and parents are mentioned only in the following contexts: demographics; a passing comment by a white couple that their kid only made friends with Chinese speaking kids; wanting kids to be able to learn their heritage; and excluding white kids.

Even in situations where Asians are the majority-minority, the focus is on the white children and the white experience. We cannot even star in our own fucking story.

The article mentions that some kids think they are Chinese because they can “speak” the language. How cute, the article implies. Look at how tolerant and accepting we are!

NO.

It is not adorable or a sign of “colorblindness” (please don’t get me started on that term) for some white kid to think he or she is Chinese. Because no matter what, that kid is still a white boy or girl who will grow up to be a white man or woman. And no matter how fluent or culturally aware this kid becomes, they will still be white. With all the privileges and cultural currency whiteness evokes.

He will not be Chinese because he will not be overlooked as a meek or effeminate male who just needs to be a little more assertive to get that promotion.

She will not be Chinese because though she will encounter sexism, she will not be seen only as a submissive sex object to fulfill every white man’s fantasy. Or a victim. A prostitute. A dragon lady.

He will not be Chinese because he will not have the size of his penis mocked or be told by his iPhone to open his eyes when he smiles.

She will not be Chinese because all her hard work and success in math, science, or medicine will be dismissed because she’s Asian and they’re all good at math. It’s in their DNA.

He will not be Chinese because any poorly pronounced Chinese words he speaks will be fawned over and praised and gushed about and make the international news cycle where a Chinese man who is actually fluent in English but has an accent is written off as a waiter or the dry cleaner or the delivery man with a “Ching Chong Chinaman” song.

She will not be Chinese because even though she was born here, no one will be amazed at how well she speaks English. Or randomly spout Chinese words at her like “Gung hay fat choy” or “Wo ai ni” or some other cheesy pick up line and then get offended if she isn’t suitably impressed. Or ask her where she’s from. No, where she’s really from. No, where her parents are from. No, before that.

He will not be Chinese because he will walk into any room or any country and expect to be catered to because he is American but really because he is a white male and the world bends over backwards to make sure the poor, sensitive white man is not insulted or has his feelings hurt.

She will not be Chinese because even though she is with her own children, no one will come up to her and ask her how much she charges to be a nanny or au pair.

I am deeply offended when the article quotes an author of a Mandarin Immersion book (a book which I purchased because I thought it would be helpful to me in my homeschooling) saying, “What is ‘Asian’ anymore, anyway?”

What’s Asian? What’s Asian? I’ll tell you what it’s NOT.

It’s NOT white people randomly deciding that my people’s language is suddenly useful for the future so it’s the hipster language trend of the moment.

It’s NOT some thing you can acquire from lessons or a bauble you add to your collection of progressive liberalism to show off how fucking enlightened you are.

I want to give the author, Beth Weise, the benefit of the doubt. However that doesn’t give her a pass. It doesn’t matter if she had good intentions. A person can have good intentions and be offensive. Weise’s comment is incredibly dismissive of an entire people. In fact, an entire continent of multiple peoples and cultures and lives.

Also? I’m really weary of constantly giving benefits of the doubt and passes. Where the fuck is MY benefit of the doubt or pass when I am angry about racism or sexism? Or when the Tone Police come to town when poor white folks are offended by the truth and consequences of their actions?

And then, the article ends with indignant white parents who cry because their kids aren’t popular and are excluded because the cool kids are Chinese and “mixed” kids. As a result, only a handful of non-Chinese kids are still in the programs by the eighth grade.

Look, I’m sorry your kid is miserable and not cool. I get that it is painful and sad. No one likes to be left out. But you know what else? WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF MINORITIES, YOU FUCKING ENTITLED TWATS.

Or, as my friend, Guava Rama put in a much more tactful way, “It’s nice some people can pull their kids out or graduate out of being a minority.”

Or as my friend, Irish Twins, said in a less tactful, but incredibly spot-on way:

I get that we need white allies to have more resources, get more immersion, etc. But they [white people] are so entitled. I think they feel heard. Because that is really important. Did you know that is it HARD to be a minority? Sometimes you get teased!

Congratulations on being so enlightened that you realize that the US has about 5% of the world’s population and there are other languages out there. That they [the kids] know any Chinese. Even if they don’t, they will be much more compassionate people because they have walked in the shoes of a minority and understand what it is like to not be the default answer to what is normal, pretty, cool. But oh wait, THEY CAN FUCKING LEAVE IMMERSION SCHOOL. Oops.

You know what annoys me about white people or non-heritage people who are trying to raise their kids bilingual in Chinese and English? It often feels like they are trying to make it about them. (Possibly because they are.)

Here then, is the crux of why I have spent the last few hours of my day seething and why so very many Chinese Americans are both cautiously optimistic as well as highly skeptical of Mandarin Immersion programs: Once again, we are being rendered invisible.

Can you imagine how that feels? To have your culture and your language appropriated and commodified? But then, to still have your people, your very personhood and identity denied? Or if acknowledged, as a charming footnote to someone else’s story?

Look, I am all for Mandarin Immersion. I value it so much, my blog has Mandarin in the title. I’m considering homeschooling my kids so that they will be surrounded in Mandarin as long as humanly possible. I send my children to Mandarin preschools. I go to Mandarin Mommy and Me’s and playgroups. I have spent thousands of dollars on Mandarin DVDs, CDs, books, materials, schooling. You name it and I’ve got it.

And sure, you can say that I’m all for Mandarin Immersion because I’m ethnically Taiwanese/Chinese and want my children, who are multi-racial, to “inherit” my culture. But do I want other people to have Mandarin Immersion?

YES. I really do. If only on a purely selfish level, more interest means more resources available for me.

But on top of that, I really do think Mandarin Immersion is a wonderful thing and if non-heritage families want to participate, how does that hurt me (except in the instances I have just illustrated in this post)? Like Irish Twins said, it can only be more helpful to have more folks have positive memories of Chinese language and culture vs the “Ching chang chong” crap I remember dealing with as a kid or a general suspicion of Chinese things as weird or exotic.

So, I tell myself it is a good thing. As long as folks who are doing Mandarin immersion don’t all of a sudden believe they are immune to being racist or an expert on being Chinese American, I think it is a good thing.

I hate that I even have to justify myself. I feel like I’m mollifying an overly sensitive child.

Just because you don’t like how I say it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Don’t fucking tell me how to feel, how to state facts, or how to point out bias just because you can’t handle it or are uncomfortable with where it’s going.

Your discomfort and my anger doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, it has nothing to do with you.

This post is not about you.

This post is about the entire peoples, in particularly, those who are ethnically Chinese or Taiwanese, that the article neatly sidesteps and renders unseen.

This post is to implore and beseech writers of articles, parents of Mandarin Immersion students, and the students themselves. Be aware of how your internal biases affect your writing, your response, and your behavior. Be cognizant that there are more people than just your narrow, self-centered, white-centric view of the world. Be open, humble, and gracious enough to the opinions, experiences, and pain of the people you affect with your words and ignorance – no matter how innocuous.

It doesn’t matter if your intentions are good. If you mean well.

Unfortunately, your intentions have no bearing upon the natural consequences of your actions. And honestly, I don’t particularly care. Please don’t act like a two year old and whinge about how other people are reacting.

And finally, my language, my culture, and my people are not commodities.

I am not a trend.

I am not a competitive edge.

I am not foreign.

I am not a memento.

I am not just another angry minority.

I am a person.

I am fury.

I am wounded.

I am exhausted.

I am powerful.

And I will NOT be silenced.

Admitting You Have Privilege Doesn’t Make You a Bad Person

Nowadays, the worst thing to be called is “racist.” After which, there is “sexist,” “classist,” etc. You get the idea. There is a huge misconception about what it means when minority groups of people (be it of color, class, religion, gender identity, etc.) say the majority people have privilege. Folks seem to think that if they are in whatever majority group that is being called to task, that they are being attacked somehow. That the minorities have their panties all in a bunch and are accusing the majority of having everything be perfect and rainbows and unicorns.

Well folks, let me help you out. It is not about you.

Is that too harsh? It isn’t meant to be. But it is true.

When minorities are talking about privilege, we are not making a judgment about you and how you are a bad person for being part of the majority. We are talking about our experiences as minorities. So guess what? You probably don’t have those same experiences in that same context. And just because you have never personally experienced what we are talking about, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. To us. Or other folks like us. Or a LOT of other folks like us.

Look, a person of privilege can’t help being in that position anymore than a person with less privilege (and we all have some mix of privilege and non-privilege depending on our environment and surroundings and daily living). We don’t choose what race we are born, to what class, to what parents. We are all conceived (without any say), forcibly birthed, and just thrown into a situation at an inconvenient time. We figure out how to be a person given our environment, our families of origin (or lack thereof), and our perceived reality.

So let me reiterate. It is not about you.

(Part of me is even annoyed that I have to take into account the majority group’s feelings. I mean, cue the world’s smallest violins, right? But again, I have to remind myself that I am often in the majority group and when I am confronted with my own privilege and complicity, I want grace and understanding and forgiveness. So, I try to be that way to folks who are genuinely distressed and wanting to learn. If folks are just being obstinate asshats, however, I just try my best to be polite and stick to facts versus giving into my gut instinct of bludgeoning people with sarcasm and contempt. Because hey, nothing persuades like contempt.)

Anyhow, what was I saying? Ah, yes. A person can’t help being privileged and benefiting from those privileges. And really, why wouldn’t you want to benefit from your privilege? I certainly enjoy benefiting from mine.

(And I absolutely identify as a person of privilege. I may be a Taiwanese American woman, but I am highly educated, financially well-off, Christian, American, thin, extroverted, married, straight, and reasonably attractive. All of those have privileges attached to them in some way or another.)

What a person can help, however, is how they use their privilege.

Do I use my privilege to, at best, be an ally and help lift other people up? Or, somewhat status quo-like and keep people “in their place” or just keep the “peace”? Or, at worst, actively campaign to stamp my boot across the back of their necks and hold folks down?

The thing is, most people, myself included, don’t want to be bad people. We just want good things for ourselves and our families. As long as other people don’t interfere with my objectives, it’s cool. You know, a general sense of live and let live. We don’t want to rock the boat.

Plus, not only do we want to think we’re good people, we want to think we earned everything that we got. That we are only in our current position because of all our hard work, our suffering, and that we didn’t get anything from anybody else. That somehow, we are lesser or weak if we got any help along the way. (Which, if you can’t tell, is a load of malarkey.)

This type of thinking always reminds me of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air episode, Will Gets A Job. Will tells Uncle Phil that he wants to be a self-made man and never need anyone else’s help. Uncle Phil sets Will straight by saying he had lots of help. Many people opened doors for him and there was nothing wrong with him walking through those doors. (Clip below.)

And that’s the way with privilege. There is nothing wrong with being a privileged person. It doesn’t make you inherently a bad person or racist or sexist or whatever. Having benefited from privilege doesn’t make you weak or less hard-working or less-deserving. But that also means that those who did not benefit from privilege might not be quite as undeserving or lazy as we think they are. (It doesn’t mean they aren’t, either.)

However, when we are in a place of privilege and someone who isn’t comes along and tells us their experiences and we dismiss them or mansplain or whitesplain or whatever equivalent condescension, THAT is what pisses folks off. In fact, enrage is likely more accurate.

For example, if you’ve never had people consistently assume you are the nanny when you are taking care of your own children (because hey, sometimes your kids look white-ish), then don’t tell me it was an honest mistake and that I’m just making things up or just looking for things to get mad about.

If you’ve never had people (white dudes, especially) repeatedly come up to you saying, “Gung hay fat choy!” or “Wo ai ni!” when it is neither Chinese New Year, nor are they your family or friend or loved one, then, don’t say I’m too sensitive and should be happy people are trying to speak my language.

If you’ve never had strangers ask, “Where are you from? No, before that. No, before that. No, where are your parents from? No, before that.” Don’t fucking tell me that they just want my credit history or are trying to make conversation.

If you’ve never had people ask you if you’re the company owner’s girlfriend because otherwise, how would you be the president of the company, or you’ve never had someone assume you’re the secretary instead of the financial advisor because hey, you’re a woman, then don’t tell me I should be flattered or make some joke about hot secretaries.

So when we tell you that this is our daily experience or even our sometime experience, please, do us all a favor and SHUT UP. And LISTEN. Don’t interject how it’s just like that one time you experienced. Maybe it is. (Most likely it isn’t.) But really, that’s just being kinda douchey.

LISTEN. REALLY LISTEN.

This is why it’s so important to have friends who are different than you are. Sure, it’s nice to be in your own comfort zone with people just like you, but you know what? That discomfort you feel when you’re the only white person or only man in a room? That’s how people of color or women feel all the fucking time. Somehow, we make do.

General obliviousness can only be excused so many times before it’s tired and annoying and a crutch.

Look, I’m not immune just because I’m a woman of color. I come across my privilege and ignorance quite often. But I only come across it when I have contact with people who are different than me. And when these thoughts and realizations come up, I try to examine why I hold onto them and let them go. (Sometimes, unsuccessfully.)

For example, recently (and I mean, within the last few months), I realized, “Oh, black people can baby wear or blog or knit or use cloth diapers.” When I say it out loud, it’s embarrassing. I mean, no fucking shit, genius! Why wouldn’t black people do these things? Just because I hadn’t seen it before doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. (ETA: The irony is that I just remembered that both the woman who taught me how to knit and the owners of the two yarn stores I used to frequent were both black women. This tells you a lot about how I selectively recall memories to fit my narrative and how I see the world.)

It doesn’t make me a bad person. Ignorant. Kinda silly, but ultimately, who cares? It happened. I realized I was wrong. I moved on.

Same thing with privilege. Having it doesn’t make you a bad person. Acknowledging that FACT doesn’t make you lazy or stupid or undeserving. It just makes you human. And just maybe, it makes us think that people who are not privileged are human, too.

Author’s Note: Clearly, this is a huge topic and I don’t have the time or energy to get more into detail. If you would like more information, I highly recommend Google. It would be nice and awesome if I provided a bunch of handy links and books and sites on privilege and race and gender, etc. But hey, we’re all grown ups and know how to use the internet.