Sarah Jeong: An Intro to Fragility
It's all over the place! People are OUTRAGED over the past tweets of an Asian journalist newly employed by the New York Times. Accusations of "left bias" and "reverse racism" and even "overt racism" have been thrown around. Oh, the hypocrisy and double-standard, and all of the things that go along with the response of certain white folks to the Tweets made by Sarah Jeong, which present a snarky, negative, and hateful view of white people.
So, what do you think? Is this racist? Is this hateful? Is this wrong? What this story needs is something that is sorely lacking-- a bit of perspective.
As a Black man, I have been exposed to more racial slurs than I'd like to think about. "Black ape," "nigger", having "White Power!" shouted at me from a speeding car...and that's just me-- my parents had to deal with MUCH worse than this. I have a very multi-ethnic group of friends; white, Hispanics, Blacks, Indians, and Asians. More specifically to this story, I have female Asian friends, co-workers, and and ex-girlfriends. I'll tell you...I have heard some crazy stories about the ignorant and stupid things that white folks (especially men, in the case of Asian women) have said and done. I have heard many white guys share their fetishes about Asian women. I remember a guy on the sales team of an ad agency I worked for telling an Asian co-worker that he wanted a Geisha girl. His exact quote: "Oh GOD, I want a Geisha girl!" She and I proceeded to shame him unmercifully over this remark, which he agreed was inappropriate and stupid. I'm sure, though, that he used that line again with some other Asian girl.
When I read the Sarah Jeong Tweets, they immediately appeared to me as her lampooning of comments she's heard either personally or from other white people about Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, and other groups of people. It immediately appeared to me that she was taking those lines and just inserting "white people" into them. Which makes it ironic that the major criticism I'm hearing from offended white folks is "what if you replaced 'white' with Black?" Unfortunately, you don't have to, because there have been MUCH WORSE things said about Black people for CENTURIES in this country. What these Tweets represent is a mockery of some painful experiences that she and other people have had. Unfortunately, tone and intent are lost in older tweets that do not have the context that they need in order to make them teachable.
Where Sarah went wrong is that she did not wrap these tweets in the context of her experience. On their own, they do read as racist. The next question being "can Asians/Blacks/Hispanics be racist?" Of course, they/we can. There are Asians that don't like Blacks, Blacks that don't like Asians, Hispanics that don't like Asians, Hispanics that don't like Blacks, and on and on and on. It's not common, but it does happen. In America, we live in a society where white folks have laid a foundation of racial animus that is rooted in white supremacy myths. With that in mind, consider that Asians don't wear hoods and terrorize white neighborhoods, Hispanics don't burn crosses on white people's lawns, and Black folks don't hang white men, women, and children from trees, then pose for pictures around the hanging corpse (Google "lynching postcards").
In 21st Century America, we are living in a day and age where the white supremacy myth is dying a slow, painful death. And it should. There are white people in this country that feel that their "culture" is under attack and endangered. They see the election of a two-term Black president, the taking down of Confederate statues, and the firing and alienation of white racists caught on camera and going viral on social media as their undoing. And...they're right. The white racist is in the minority in America. After centuries of non-whites tolerating this behavior, there is now a vehement backlash against it. That's they way it should be. This sort of thing was never "okay," and people are not willing to go back to that nonsense. So if the "culture" that they feel they are losing is that of white racial animus...they're right, it's dying.
There are plenty of white folks that do not side with this mentality. These are the white folks that "get it." In other words, there are white people that don't need to have these sorts of things spelled out to them. There are plenty of white people in my life that understand 100% that the supremacy myths are nonsense. These folks, like the rest of us, just want to live their lives and accept everyone based strictly on the content of their character, and not something as irrelevant and stupid as focusing on someone's ethnicity or skin color. There is a beauty in embracing the many, MANY cultures we humans have in the world. And there are good, great, wonderful people that represent those cultures. EVERYONE likes good people! What's not good are the ones that try to divide people into "them" and "others" while propping themselves up as something special or better. That stupidity has to stop.
White supremacists are now, for the first time in American history, having to deal with the criticism that comes with being on the wrong side of history. And that's ALL they are dealing with...criticism. There is no existential challenge or threat being made to them, other than the one they are imposing on themselves. Their separatism, their animus, their blind and irrational hatred, their willful ignorance will be their undoing. And out-of-context tweets from a frustrated person of color are not going to change that.