Posts tagged ‘race’

December 19, 2011

Conversations about Race or other -isms

So, I’ve watched more than one video by Jay Smooth and, for the most part, enjoy his commentary. His TED Talk has been making the rounds and while it does (if I squint at it) make some sense for trying to have productive talks about racism. Except that I disagree with this approach, which is also discussed in this video (although he admits in his TED talk that 90% of the time his strategy may not work).

Now, he tells us to focus on what people did and not what they are. Growing up with a Stern Asian Dadâ„¢ means that I was taught from the cradle to believe that actions are an expression of character. That what you do stems from who you are. That what you believe will provide the motivation and frame your actions and activities. The result? If you do something racist, you be racist. Now, this is a matter of opinion and I’m willing to agree to disagree with Jay Smooth about this.

The main problem I have with his approach is how it frames calling someone racist as equivalent to doing something racist. That is is somehow just as bad to be called a racist as to have something racist  happen to you. The framing of this discussion runs that if you call someone a racist, it’ll shut down the dialogue you could have or the teachable moment that this could be.

Except that 1) I don’t think I need to be educating racists and 2) doing something racist, as far as I’m concerned, basically shuts down any viable ability to have a constructive conversation. As far as I’ve been able to tell, there isn’t anyway to have productive conversations with racists. It doesn’t matter how gentle the tone, whether or not you stick to ‘I’ statements, if you present rational arguments, if you talk about your feelings, or any other method for trying to have a constructive conversation. The only people I’ve had constructive conversations about racism with are other PoC or white people committed to being anti-racist. Conversations with anyone else have been a shit show.

Why? Because if you cared about being anti-racist: you wouldn’t do racist shit (i.e., in my view you wouldn’t be a racist). You would spend some damn time educating yourself about the issues. You’d be the kind of person that a PoC would know, without having to walk on eggshells to protect your delicate feelings, could take criticism without being defensive or engaging in a shit-ton of whitesplaining.

For PoC who engage in horizontal hostility, I will always have more time and patience for y’all. But that is mainly cause most of you who’ve I’ve discussed racism (shockingly) get it. And you can get why horizontal hostility is a problem. These conversations have almost always been productive and worth having.

Weird how that goes, huh?

Tags: ,
December 12, 2011

Blue eyes

So I read this post at What Tami Said. It was just the kick in the bum I needed to write this blog post. It refers to this announcement that a doctor has figured out a way to make brown eyes, blue.

This post was gonna be about the beginning of my project to decolonize my mind and body. It is a project of radical self-acceptance. It is me wanting, at long last, to get to a place where I can love and appreciate my body for what it is. And I decided to start this project with my eyes. And their colour. Because I do think they are boring. That they are ugly. Just because they are brown.

And I’ve utterly stalled out on this. The article helps me a lot about an issue I’ve been struggling with, because I would *not* pay $5000 dollars for plastic surgery to change my eye colour. Maybe this is because I’m a student and simply don’t have that kind of money. Would I pay $500? How about $50? Maybe $5? This scares me, because I might pay $5. Except that I shouldn’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for taking whatever actions you feel you need to in order to be comfortable in your body.

This is different because I dislike my eyes because we live in a white supremacist world. Because I grew up in a culture that told me that white skin and blue/green eyes are beautiful. Because you can read things like that article that say:

“A blue eye is not opaque, you can see deeply into it, and a brown eye is very opaque. I think there is something very meaningful about this idea of having open windows to the soul.”

This is the sort of thing people think and believe about brown/black eyes. This quotation especially disgusts me for the ways that it reenforces the stereotype of the inscrutable Asian. Perhaps this is why people still treat us as if we have no souls. Like we are mindless drones, lacking individuality, and only live to study, work, and be exploited for cheap labour.

I want to decolonize my mind. I want to look into the mirror, in my eyes, and see that they are beautiful. I want to see the warm, almost amber-like, hue and think, gosh your eyes are beautiful. I want to stop joking with people that my eyes are poo-brown.

Decolonization is extremely important for creating a just world. But people often only speak of it in terms of physical space or society as a whole. These are important places for decolonization. But are the smaller scale, individual level. Because I will never be able to see myself as truly free or equal if I think my eyes are poo-brown. As long as I’m trapped by the invisible prisons that whiteness constructs for POC, I’ll never be truly free.

But decolonizing my mind and body, unfortunately, is *hard*. It is hard to shake off a lifetime of oppression. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight. But I’m committed to it. Because I do want to be liberated and live in a world free of the pernicious effects of colonialism.