Friday, March 21, 2008

Interesting Assumptions

Well, I've had a regular anonymous commenter making remarks about 'white guilt' and 'white privilege', amongst a host of other interesting but rather silly observations.

First off, it's clear that this person has assumed I am 'white' or Caucasian, and sorry to say it my anonymous friend, you are wrong. I am not Caucasian. Further to that, my race is not an issue, despite you trying to make it one.

Now, this concept of 'white privledge' got me a little intrigued, as did the concept of 'white guilt' being pushed as reasons why Asian racism is not as bad / non-existent, should not be discussed (the old "you are racist to so don't preach" argument) . I think the concepts are both piles of steaming junk.

First of all there is the false assumption that 'white' concepts of racial superiority were unique to western schools of thought. This is not true, a number of other societies have had related concepts of racial divides and levels etc independently of any western influence and often pre-dating western contact. So the concept of racial hierarchies is not a western construct.

The second false assumption is that only 'white' nations engaged in colonialism to enrich themselves. Again, wrong. Indeed four of the biggest colonial powers, the Mongolians, the Han Chinese, the Japanese and the Indonesians are not 'white' and, in the case of the Chinese and Indonesians, are still today engaged in colonialism.

The third false assumption is that somehow the combination of a belief in racial superiority combined with colonialism and economic domination and control has led to some form of privilege that only white people enjoy.

What a joke, and a funny one at that! The fact of the matter is that for whatever reason, western societies went from a level of civilization below that of most of the rest of the world to basically running the world in around 300 years. That's a big turn around. WHY this happened is still open to debate. Was it technology? was it the underlying social systems that developed? the economic ones? the intense competition between European nation states? whatever the reason, the concept that somehow 'white' people should be guilty for their successes is laughable.

What is NOT laughable is that they should apologize for their colonial actions and repressions. Likewise we have right now in the world, a number of Asian countries that are still playing the colonial game. China is one, Indonesia another and Japan has never truly confronted it's imperialistic past the way, say, the Germans have. So if the 'white' people need to apologize for colonial actions, then a large part of the Asian world also needs to do so, and even worse, desist in current colonial actions.

So how does this relate to Mr anonymous? Well he appears to be trying to say that in Asian soceties no such thing as 'white privledge' exists. I have to disagree and respectully suggest to Mr anonymous that they read a plethora of information on this blog and elsewhere to see that this is simply not true.

Mr anonymous also asserts that as a 'white' (as false presumption) I can never know what it feels like to be the subject of white racism AND that any racism a 'white' faces in Asian CANNOT (repeat, CANNOT) be as bad as what non-whites face at the hands of whites.

Now, i'm sure most of my educated readers won't need to see the strawmans arguments in those assertions. But for the fun of it...

1. How do you measure how bad racism is? therefore, how do you tell if a person of Asian origin, experiencing a racist act at the hands of a 'white person' feels worse than a 'white' person experiencing the same racist act at the hands of an Asian person?

2. Why is racism perpetuated by one group (in this case, accoring to Mr anonymous, 'whites') worse than racism perpetuated by another? What makes it worse? why is it worse? How do you measure it?

3. What is so unique about 'white' racism that makes it so different to other forms? (remember, the historical, social and economic aspects that supposedly make 'white' racism unique are bunk arguments as other ethnic groups that engage in racist behavior have the same historical, economic and social advantages over others groups, hence the circumstances that many writes suggest make 'white' racism unique, are indeed not unique)

As such, I don't think 'white privilege' really stands up to scrutiny in the 21st century. Likewise, I see no reason why 'white guilt' over success (not over colonial acts, the two are not totally connected) should exist. Even if you take both concepts to be true, then there should be Chinese-Singaporean privilege and associated guilt, Malay privilege and associated guilt and so on and so forth.

Mr anonymous then suggested that I should make a blog against ALL forms of racism in the world. With all due respect Mr anonymous, thanks for the tip but NO.

I started this blog for a number of reasons. First of all 'white' racism is well documented and there are a large number of links of WWW to support groups and so on and so forth. There is even one on this very blog. Likewise blogs against he caste system in India and the discrimination between inter-arab groups and inter-african groups also exists.

Secondly, I believe, given my experiences in Asia over the last 20 years (coming onto 21 soon) that I am in a better position to write about Asian racism against other Asians and non-Asians that I could write about the experience of say, Turkish migrants to Germany, Serbian shopkeepers is Kosovo, African Americans in Texas, Lebanese migrants to Australia, Japanese migrants to Brazil or Maori experiences in New Zealand.

So i could write about the time I was detained for nearly 48 hours by airport police, in an Asian country, being interrogated without legal representation, over a bottle of talcum powder in my carry on bags for my new-born baby, repeatedly being told that as I was a (insert name of my ethnic background) they were POSITIVE that it has heroin, that I was a drug smuggler, that my people were all thieves and crooks etc etc etc.

I look back (now) and laugh at the situation because that particular nation is now one of the worlds leading drug suppliers and people from that nation have been responsible for establishing criminal drug distribution networks in a large number of non-asian countries.

So YES Mr anonymous i have experience racial profiling and discrimination first hand, and that is not the only incident in my time in Asia where my race has been used as the basis for refusal of service, physical intimidation and assault, rejections from educational institutions based on racial quota's, extortion, detention (then release, obviously!) and overt hostility.

Racism in Asia is a problem, like racism anywhere. This blog aims to highlight it, to bring news clippings, academic articles etc into one place for reference purposes. This is not in anyway denying the equally destructive other forms of racism.

The differences between Asian Racism and other forms is this:

1. Gernerally speaking, Asian Racism is not discussed in Asian media, and indeed in some countries (it appears Mr anonymous is in Singapore) it is even 'off limits' by government control on media. As a result people are not always challenged to acknowledge, discuss and confront the problem.

2. Generally speaking, Asian Racism is not even seen as a social problem by the dominant ethnic majority and likewise, minorities perspectives are discredited (ala Ainu in Japan, Indians in Singapore, Tibetans in China etc)

3. Unlike most western countries, most Asian countries donot have strong anti-racism systems in place at the governmental or community level. As such there is often little recourse for those who have been discriminated against or little done to educate people in ways that reduce racial tensions or little done to sooth community relations when issues do arise.

4. As shown by Mr anonymous, the common response when talking about Asian racism by those that seek to defend it or deny it's existence is that the author should not comment as they either (a) come from a racist country (b) are not Asian (c) are not citizens of the country of residence (d) a racist themselves or that (e) other forms of racism are somehow worse or more deserving of attention.

Finally, Mr anonymous challenged me on another two issues:

1. My own anonymity and lack of ability to contact me directly.
2. Freedom of speech

Ok, on the first issue let me make my reasons who having a moderated blog and not having my email anywhere on this blog for a number of reasons. First of all, given the country I live in it would be unwise to have an unmoderated blog as case law has show that site owners and editors (and blog owners are considered editors) WILL be held responsible for any racist comments that appear on thier blog regardless of weather they are personally responsible for the content or not. Given the number of "*uck you you stupid *ucking angmoh/gaijin/white/honkey/redneck *****hole" type comments i get, followed by diatribes against Caucasians, Indians, hell, i've even had some crackpot white supremest post a number of 1000+ word articles on the evilness of a specific ethnic group. Damn scary stuff. So given all that, a non-moderated blog is not an options.

Secondly, I donot have my email as contactable for similar reasons as above, plus spam reasons AND given that various countries have anti 'sedition' laws in the books and given my previous run-ins with one government in particular whilst working for Amnesty international in the late 80's and the Red Cross in the late 90's, no thanks, I'll keep myself off the radar a little.

Finally, freedom of speech. I love it. I support it. But I also support censorship in certain circumstances (i.e pornography, hate speech etc) and in my opinion Mr anonymous, your last posts were paint all 'whites' and most western countries in a very specific and negative way, and so as a result, I saw little value in what they can add to the debate as this is not a debate about western colonialism or racism, but Asian colonialism and racism.

Mr anonymous, you can deny it exists, but to do so is like walking with your eyes closed. It's out there and this blog is designed to highlight it. This doesnot mean I don't acknowledge other forms of racism, merely that this blog doesnot deal with them.

For more on 'white' guilt etc take a look here and here.




voxel said...

As an Asian Canadian I agree with your sentiments. It all starts with the family and in my case old world stereotypes (unflattering) of Africans, East Indians, Japanese, etc.. that my parents and relatives tried to pass on to me unsuccessfully.

I'm not sure the government can do much to fight racism, but the media needs to expose this problem. I think it is the case of "Ideas don't die until the people who believe in them die."

AsianRacism said...

Hi Voxel;

Thanks for the comments. I agree that ideas don't die until the people who believe in them die - or have their minds changed. To me that is what is perhaps most disturbing about living in NE and SE Asia is the (general) acceptance of racism as 'the way it is' and poor effort put in by governments and the media to eradicate it. No country is perfect, but at least some countries are prepared to look in the mirror and declare "that's ugly and shouldn't be like that" and then try and do something about it.

Peace out.

ThaiRacism said...

Its nice to have found your blog. I'm Thai and as much as we like to rail on about Britain and France's aggression towards us during the 19th and 20th century and how we are "bullied", Thais are still simply racist.

From some of the most educated to the least educated. Racist against all sorts of people, we hate mainlander Chinese for being rude and will characterize them as such (even when most of us have Chinese blood), we hate black people because we assume they cause crime, Indians are smelly and stingy, and Farangs are hypocrites who like to talk about good things but do different things. We even hate Koreans for being arrogant and aggressive.

Of course when I say "we" I don't mean the entire population, just the various groups of people with their own stereotypical views of others. And its despicable, but people cling on to them because of irrational emotions and fail to realize the extent of their hypocrisy. The media, especially, participate in this. Take a look at our commercials for skin whiteners, the rhetoric from our leaders, and the politician columnists who show their xenophobia.