Jodi’s recent banning from some kind of alleged racist message board is discussed at great length in her post (and the comments appended to it) titled In Defense of the White Boy.
I’m not going to get into my opinions of the specific case, but just say that I’ve been frustrated with the kind of thinking that runs behind this. Young guys, mostly, who like to think themselves political, strong, militant, and so they get all vocal about racial issues without thinking, without reasoning, without seeing that what they themselves have adopted is racism.
I think people have a right to be angry, of course, but I also think that when one oversteps the boundaries of proportion, anger becomes self-caricature. When anger blinds one to context — leading one to use Asian-American political references when discussing a wholly other context, like life in an Asian country — one has given up on something crucial to useful political thought: rigorousness. This is the equivalent of giving up mathematics and just focusing on the science… it cannot be done with the expectation that anything worthwhile will be produced.
This is one of the reasons I skim, at best, the comment sections of most Korea-related blogs these days. Marmot’s, Asia Pages, and so bring me to mind of the book I’m reading these days, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which has what looks like it’s going to turn into a pretty damning critique of ideological purity, of unrigorous rhetoric, and the rest. For the book isn’t only about the Black Experience in America, like some people have suggested to me: it’s about a particular kind of political awakening, yes, one in a specifically black-American mid-twentieth-century context, yes; but that’s not all one should see in the book.
When I see young white guys ignorantly disparaging this country which has given them better-paying jobs than they’ll ever get back home, I feel angry. They don’t really know what racism is, not really; racism would be more like the social isolation of living as a white in Korea, PLUS poverty… the lack of the relatively decent jobs they came here for in the first place. That would give them a better picture of racism. Yes, there is a carefulness that more intelligent whites cultivate when living in Korea, a guardedness and a secrecy that becomes necessary in the face of occasionally rapid, rabid, and hypocritcal judgment. But I have never heard of a white person in Korea living in conditions like those of the people in the rude old houses we see near the beginning of Invisible Man. The society of White-Expats-in-Korea isn’t as warped as what we see through the narrator’s eyes of Bledsoe and the Trustees. I’ve never had to fight in a battle royale to get an education, and I think I wouldn’t even if I enrolled in school here now.
However, when I see young Asian-Americans who are pretending to critique racism, and at the same time spewing racist filth like there’s no tomorrow, then I am put into mind of the black “Brothers” in the Brotherhood who, sadly, fail to grasp that they’re contradicting themselves by kowtowing to the white Brothers in order to ensure equality later on down the line. Not thinking things through, replicating racism for racism, letting such a negative reaction to perceived racism determine so much of a person’s point of view… it’s sad. It’s sad because, frankly, I don’t think Asian Americans have it all that bad compared to several other groups in America — blacks, Mexican and Latin American immigrants in general, and Native Americans all seem to have a much shorter end of the stick. Whining about racial politics in mainstream media seems a lot more futile when you think about the people on Cree reservations who don’t have indoor plumbing, or the gays who get lynched — yes, let’s use that word, lynched — on the streets.
It’s all so saddening, and it makes me skip comment sections all the more readily. More time for me to finish this book. (And I should note, I haven’t yet finished the novel. I may have a different opinion of the relationship between it and the other stuff I discussed above once I read the end. But it’s an excellent, excellent book so far…)