i dream of being possible

scattered thoughts on

#NotYourAsianSidekick was started by Suey Park on twitter as:

a conversation between a group of friends who had often found it difficult to find a place and a voice in existing conversations about justice in the Asian American community. Before long, thousands of people were Tweeting using the hashtag, making it trend globally for around 24 hours. Participants Tweeted about everything from media representation of Asian women to the way the prison industrial complex erases Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in its demographic tracking. source

All well and good, I suppose. This post isn”t really about this, inasmuch as two reactions to it that I”ve read by other Asians…


Case in point: the only harsh critiques I saw around Katy Perry’s yellowface were by Asian-American journalists and bloggers, whereas Julianne Hough’s blackface Halloween costume was roundly denounced. source

This? Is not only factually incorrect but anti-Black. I”ve seen harsh critiques of katy perry”s yellowface from non-Black Asians. Worse yet, is using ~yet again~ Black people and their struggles as the litmus test for ‘bad.” This essentially asserts that “zomg! ppl care more about Black people than us! how dare u!”.

This is not a good look. It also retreads old ground of Asians enviously pointing towards the hypervisibility of Black people and whining “why won”t anyone seeeeeeee me!?”. One might note that dispite all this allegede media attention to incidents of Blackface, Blackface remains one of the most common types of minstrelsy (the category it defines). Not only that, but this assertion also, ridiculously, invokes that ways that other marginalized non-Black groups like to piggyback (read: coopt) Black discourse and words to draw attention to our own struggles.

Asian-American feminists have been battling these issues for generations, activist scholar Mari Matsuda tweeted yesterday: “We theorized #NotYourAsianSidekick ideas since the 70′s but kids gotta learn it from a damn hashtag. Still no Asian Am Studies at most U’s.” ibid

My mind is trying to work its way through the sheer amount of, well, contempt that this ~activist scholar~ has for not only youth-led initiatives but also, well, poor people or people who otherwise might not even be able to attend these theoretical ‘Asians Am Studies” at universities…

Look, lady, perhaps the reason that your 70s era ideas haven”t made a lasting impact is because you fucking locked them up behind inaccessible jargon, paywalls, and the fucking ivory tower. You know what isn”t free? Univeristy. You know what is free? Twitter.

R u mad that women like Suey Park can express what you couldn”t in a 140 characters or less?

And way to miss the fucking point. 1) Not everyone goes to university 2) these ideas should be taught in places beyond the academy 3) i come from an pin@y immigrant family at literally no point would my dad or any of my titos or titas have encouraged me or my cousins to major in something as unprofitable as ~Asian American studies~. 4) ur placing the burden of ‘getting educated” on the oppressed rather than focusing on the oppressor and the ways that orientalism in the academy, even in places with Asian Studies, actively prevents liberatory knowledge.

Matsuda, who like Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs, has a strong history of activism — actual picketing and taking to the streets — and her point was a good one. One of the reasons we are marginalized is because battles hard-fought by activists like Matsuda are undernourished. ibid

What. Or right. In case anyone was missing their daily dose of ‘ur clicktivism isn”t really activism,” here it is.

And that last sentence…. is just victim-blaming bullshit. Absolutely none of the reasons why we are marginalized is because of irrelevant ‘hard-fought” battles of ye olde golden age are undernourished. There is but one reason why we are oppressed:


Suggesting anything else is victim blaming.


And what that past generations of Asian Americans have created and handed down as a legacy to future ones is, as Matsuda mentions, Asian American Studies. It was literally the first thing that the Asian American students who rose up in protest over the poverty, inequality and social injustice they saw and experienced in their communities demanded back in the late Sixties and early Seventies. They understood that lasting change would require a long-term view and an organizing principle. They saw Asian American Studies as a tool for developing new generations of leaders, while exposing and exploring the threads that weave our tales together, the chains that link our struggles, and the shared river of memory that courses through our souls. source

This is some seriously ellitist bullshit. Access to university is wildly unequal amongst Asian ethnicities (I mean, just look at the highschool dropout rates for certain SE Asian ethnicities: 40% Hmong, 38% Laotian, 35% Cambodian. Or the fact that only 14% of Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have a bachelors). So is access to wealth. I”m seriously unsurprised that all the people peddling this line are East Asians.

It also suggests that the 70s era activists seriously thought that only the most privileged within ~Asian americans~ ought to be future generations of leaders, if this is why they wanted Asian american studies.

Furthermore, any notion of liberation that hinges on receiving recognition or legitamcy from our oppressors is doomed to fail. If any Asians are wondering why these programs are ‘under assualt,” this is why. The white surpremacist and Orientalist academy (and larger yet, the government) has literally zero interest in maintaining such programs when it becomes inconvenient or hard.

So forgive us youngin”s for failing to care about your flawed and failing projects.

But I do find it super intriguing that your approach here is ‘y u don”t support failing projects” and victim blaming instead of, um, looking towards white supremacy.</p>