For the last week of December, we’re re-posting some of our favorite posts from 2011.
Last week Lisa posted about the racist “Asians in the Library” video from UCLA student Alexandra Wallace, and how the responses to it have often drawn on very sexist, demeaning language, as though the only way we know to combat one type of stereotyping or prejudice is to use another. Yuki T. send in a video response by slam poet Beau Sia that, as Yuki says, “stands out as a real examination of the white privilege and fear that underlies the racism that Alexandra Wallace displays,” rather than just trying to degrade or mock Alexandra in whatever way possible:
UPDATE: I found a transcript at dandelionchild, via Common Pitfalls of the Amateur Poet, though it appears the first place the transcript was posted was Madame Thursday. It’s after the jump. Thanks for reminding me, WellWheeled!
Didn’t you hear me say that I’m not politically correct? I said that, but you’ve all been misinterpreting me so let me be clear. There are hordes of Asians at my school and it’s starting to freak me out. They act in a manner I wasn’t taught growing up and I don’t want to question who I am and how I was raised so they are starting to be a real problem for me. I don’t understand their language, their culture, the way they hold family sacred and shared and instead of consider whether or not that is threatening to me, I’d rather the things they do, the people they are be wrong.
It’s so hard maintaining fitting in when these Asian people clearly aren’t. They’re so not the TV I’ve seen, so not the stories I’ve read, so not my experience where I’m from, and I’m letting their existence jeopardize my idea of the world and I don’t like it.
And I’m not afraid to personally address those who’s behavior is affecting me so. I’m just choosing to find solidarity in my beliefs on the internet to prevent the course of questioning my statements would cause me. If someone directed similar comments towards whom I’ve had to represent in my life.
I don’t want to have to consider why I’ve based my observations on a number of Asians smaller than some Asian families. Or what exceptions I’d have to consider if I didn’t use blanket assumptions. Or if there’s a conflict about the world changing that I don’t want to face, because of the face I was born with. There are so many more important things in my life. I don’t want to have to explore my relationship to everything around me.
And there are many who think the way that I do. And, you know, from what I know of America, these Asian people are not supposed to be this way. And I’m not talking about the laws of this country. Requirements for citizenship or taxes paid in full. Nnn-nn!
I am talking about what I’ve been programmed to think family is. How manners prove native, who should decide how identity must conform, for whom identity must conform, and why identity must conform. If only these Asians would learn English! If only they understood. That I’m here too. That I share this place with them. That I belong here. That the hordes and swarms invading the system I’ve learned remember who I am as the world changes. I’m so afraid I’ll have to fend for myself. Without what I’ve been told was mine.
Phoebe — March 22, 2011
That was quite excellent. I'm going to be sharing it with others. Sorry, I don't have anything meaningful to add to the discussion, but I just wanted to say that.
Amadi — March 22, 2011
People might recall Beau Sia giving an awesome response when Rosie O'Donnell mocked Asian languages (the horrible "ching chong" thing) when she was a co-host of The View. Beau is always on point on this issue.
Darkwing Duck — March 22, 2011
Used in introduction to anthro class to talk about the invisibility of privilege. Very successful discussion starter. Thank you!
Chorda — March 22, 2011
That was a beautiful poem, so perfectly encapsulating the fear experienced by someone having their preconceptions challenged. Recognizing that one's own culture is not the only way to do things--and most especially not the "right" way that all others must follow--can be a terrifying experience from someone first learning of their own privilege.
Beau Sia illustrates the absurdity of stereotyping and ignorance, yet does it with surprising empathy towards those who ignorantly stereotype. They are foolish, but they are human. It's only in recognizing how easy and comforting that outlook can be that we can better examine ourselves for signs of it.
WellWheeled — March 22, 2011
transcript for us deaf readers?
Jfermiller — March 22, 2011
It's a shame, in my opinion, that Alexandra Wallace dropped out of school. I wish that instead she could rise up and meet the challenge of her prejudice like I (try) to do. It does suck to think you have a privilege and then see it slipping away. It can be a little intimidating until you realize that the privilege is always at someone else's expense. Now that she has quit school and run away, I fear that she is lost in a spiral of increasing hatred rather than increasing awareness.
Thank you Beau Sia for the insight, and the message you posted after your poem. If she can hear that, maybe there is hope for her.
EMAILBEN145 — March 22, 2011
this is great and all but it's still hella annoying when people talk on their cellphones in the library
Lara Evans — March 22, 2011
Major irony: as the video above was playing, GoogleAds was running across the bottom: Beautiful Asian Women Now!
Sandra @ Dark Urban Fantasy — March 22, 2011
Egad. That was wonderful. Thank you!
mars — March 23, 2011
People of all races and colors should be quiet in the library. Thats where one goes for sleep.
Katelin — March 24, 2011
Here is an interesting video response. Definitely from a Christian perspective, but generally applicable to all:
m — March 24, 2011
Well written, fantastically acted, and leaves you with a lot to think about. This is great!
Ang — March 24, 2011
In the original video, her racism and narrow perspective was terrible, but I understand her point. Asians do talk loud in the library. So do a lot of people but I happen to notice this group the most because...well, I'm Asian. It's something I notice about my own people and is very rude, no matter how acceptable it is in my culture. It's a habit of the culture that a lot of people closer to the mainland share but, whatever the case, her point should be explored.
Either way, at my university, I always either tell them to be quiet or inform the library staff whether these talkers are Asian or not.
Penelope — April 5, 2011
That was excellent, the acting (I thought) was spot on, and I liked how gentle Sia seemed: he didn't attack or belittle Wallace when it would've been easy to do so. Very graceful.
julesy — April 19, 2011
I can't believe I didn't recognize Beau right away -- he was my introduction to poetry, but then again, that was quite awhile ago.
This is awesome and I hope at least one person is able to learn something from it.
Monica Zoe Guzman — December 29, 2011
Bravo! Thank you, brilliant! Anger is based on fear.
Dn — December 30, 2011
any person who is exposed to loud noises and has ringing in the ears talks loud. plenty of people talk loud and that stupid girl needs to get over herself. maybe that uninformed girl should stop focusing on what others do and pay attention to her own misguided assumptions of cultures to which she does not belong to or make any attempt to understand on firsthand basis. its really funny because i had a classmate who was from china and she spoke very softly to the point where i had to lean in to hear her ( and she sat right next to me) god forbid if someone talks in a louder tone because they might feel comfortable with their peers. Alexandra wallaces parents are wasting good money for their child to be unwilling to deal with cultural diversity.
Gilbert Pinfold — December 30, 2011
Asian entitlement is no less a problem than white entitlement. Much more so potentially, as we move into the Chinese Century, with diminishing American economic and cultural power. This poet seems to have no shortage of entitlement.
Annamarie Zarate — January 15, 2012
I think to write and express a strong and deep meaningful reply is a lot powerful then bashing and degrading Alexandra Wallace's rant about asians. It shows a sign of well strength and maturity when it's done this way. You can tell how passionate he was by his body language, facial expressions and of course his words. I enjoyed this, great poem :)
Blix — January 20, 2012
Every time someone talks about something "Asian" I ask, "Oh, like Russian?" just to make them check themselves. It's not that I don't acknowledge continents of origin, it just annoys me when people state such blatent generalities (especially when it's about a person). Another thing that really bothers me in the U.S. is when people say someone is Asian and they are an American. American is American.
"Asians in the Library", Privilege, Misogyny, and the Banality of Prejudice — November 18, 2012
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