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Pet Sins January 2005

The misunderstood 'racist' - Asian Americans jump to the defense of Euro-America/The Western World

Some readers have shared their experiences with being called 'anti-white' or 'anti-Western' by Asian Americans. The circumstances are rather interesting:

First, we have L, a Euro-American lady. L is of the view that white Americans should acknowledge their privilege in this society - a privilege that extends to the job market, the dating scene, and many aspects of daily life. Her former boyfriend T, a Japanese American, accuses her of being 'racist' against her own 'race'. L does not think so. She did not advocate that white people live their lives in collective racial guilt, she did not believe that white people should be especially nice to people of color, she certainly did not think white people should have less rights than other people to make up for past injustices. She most definitely does not believe in the genetic inferiority of white people to non-whites. All she asked is that "we recognize how our 'race' benefits us in our daily life, and be aware that the same privileges we take for granted may not come as easily to someone else." I'm not entirely sure if thinking that way makes one 'racist'.

The second account came from N, an Asian, who has spoken out against Asian racism against blacks. An Asian American friend of N accused him of being 'racist' against whites. N is not of the view that whites should be treated worse than anyone else. He simply points out that it is unfair for Asians, or anyone else for that matter, to treat whites better than blacks. Like L, N does not believe in the genetic inferiority of whites. He does not advocate vengeance against white people. But he is called 'racist against whites' just for asking why fellow Asians do not extend the same welcome to whites and blacks.

A third account comes from C, who is from Asia and temporarily working in the US. C had a conversation with an Asian American friend T about a US TV program on Iran. An interviewer and a commentator were in dialog about recent changes in Iran. C was wondering why the interviewer kept mentioning the "western dress" of Iranian women in the same breath with the rise of 'democracy' and other Western ideals. C observed that the interviewer acted "as it there was some kind of personal triumph to be felt when non-Westerners adopt Western dress". The commentator on TV pointed out that the increased adoption of Western dress was only a superficial change and did not necessarily reflect any rise in democracy. On hearing this comment, C mentioned the opposite possibility that hypothethically, a society could also adopt Western ideals, technology and governmental structures without adopting Western dress, since clothing is just superficial.

T's reaction was curious indeed. First, she accused C of being anti-Western, when C had just effectively said that Western ideals were worth adopting. C was surprised. C repeated that she thought that non-Westerners could indeed learn from the West about many things. After all, C had a Western education and wore 'Western' clothes. But T just didn't get it. She went on to say that all the people of the 3rd world would wear Western clothes if given a chance, that who wouldn't exchange a burkha for a pair of Levi's jeans? It is odd that she equates the dress code of the entire "3rd world" with the most oppressive example of Afghan women's attire, when there are so many other less oppressive examples to choose from. Typical tactic of comparing their worst against our best to make us look good.

C pointed out that traditional clothing of most countries did not in any way impede the doing of modern tasks such as typing on a computer, or using a microwave, citing the example of a West African man she saw in traditional dress sitting in an airport typing on his laptop. But T was adamant. She insisted that Western clothing and Western technology must go hand in hand, and that one cannot, or should not, happen without the other. T stated that the 3rd world should "conform" to the modern standard, that is the western standard of dress because it would make "people" feel more "comfortable" if everyone dressed the same. C asked her who "people" was, pointing out that T's definition of "people" was Westerners. C pointed out that while non-Western immigrants could be expected to conform to Western dress codes when they moved to the West, there was no reason that Westerners should impose their dress codes on non-Western countries. In fact, C said, by T's reasoning, Westerners should abide by native dress codes when they travel outside the West.T grudgingly conceded the point but still continued insisting that all 3rd world people would abandon their countries and flee to the US if given the chance, and their backward, oppressive social structures were tied directly to their traditional clothing.As if all 3rd world countries could be generalized as backward and oppressive.

One would think the view of C - acknowledging the leadership of the West, but advocating respect and preservation of neutral aspects of non-Western cultures - is hardly liberal amongst Westerners, and unlikely to cause much offense even with conservatives. But this is not enough for T, who is apparently only comfortable with the entire world's total cultural capitulation to the West, and sees anything less than that as 'anti-Western'. It is amazing that the above-mentioned Asian Americans react with an irrational ardor when they perceive that white supremacy or Western ascendency is being questioned in any way. Some non-whites believe more strongly in white supramacy than most whites do.

2004