What Is Asian Love? An Inquiry into the Praxis of Radical Love – Part 4

Part 4 of 4 (12 min read time)

By Albert Joon-Ho Hur

[Edited by J]

LIBERTY IS NOT ABSOLUTE FREEDOM

I was tired of my lady, we’d been together too long
Like a worn-out recording, of a favorite song
So while she lay there sleeping, I read the paper in bed
And in the personals column, there was this letter I read

“If you like Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I´m the love that you´ve looked for, write to me, and escape”

I didn’t think about my lady, I know that sounds kind of mean
But me and my old lady, had fallen into the same old dull routine
So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad
And though I’m nobody’s poet, I thought it wasn’t half bad

“Yes, I like Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
I´m not much into health food, I am into champagne
I´ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape
At a bar called O’Malley’s, where we’ll plan our escape”

So I waited with high hopes, then she walked in the place
I knew her smile in an instant, I knew the curve of her face
It was my own lovely lady, and she said, “Oh, it’s you”
And we laughed for a moment, and I said, “I never knew”

“That you liked Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
You’re the love that I’ve looked for, come with me, and escape
— Rupert Holmes, Partners in Crime

The Devil: “Are we negotiating?”  Keanu Reeves: “Always.”
The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

ex
#ExAsianLove: In Las Vegas for my 29th birthday.  The tattoo on her back is of two crocodiles who share the same stomach, yet fight each other over food because both love the taste of it in their own mouths.  In Ghana, this is the symbol for Democracy.


In their article “Identity Versus Citizenship: Transformations in the Discourses and Practices of Citizenship” in Social & Legal Studies⁴⁸, Trevor Purvis and Alan Hunt posit that
Citizenship is “conceived as a matrix of rights and obligations governing the members of a political community.”  In other words, the very notion of the concept of allegiance is governed on one hand by a set of privileges and immunities and benefits from membership, and on the other by a set of moral duties and obligations to the political communities to which one belongs.  This is no less true of Asian Americans, and strikes to the heart of the Problematic for all feminisms.

For Asia, for America, and for Asian America, the political body to which we all belong, and to which we provide the forms of all content with our personal identities, decisions, and actions — to what degree do we define Agency, and to what degree to we define the Duties of Citizenship?  What about Duties towards other Women, Asian and non-Asian?  Duties towards Men, including the Yellow Man?

On one hand, the community itself has already made certain choices, and our decisions must be informed by them.  In Kevin Hsu’s January 2007 article “Empowerment, Discrimination, and the Façade of Leadership: Asian American Political Elites’ Failed Assimilationist Strategy” in the Asian American Law Journal, he outlines the lay of the land in the 2000s:

The perceived leadership, Asian American elites, has adopted an assimilationist discourse.  This leads to two problems: first, it undermines the empowerment value of pan-ethnic Asian American identity, leaving Asian American communities underserved; second, it leaves all Asian Americans vulnerable to recurring and predictable discrimination.

The “elites” of the Asian American community are individuals perceived to legitimately claim to represent or lead the community.  I argue that in the case of Asian American elites, perceptions of leadership have been conferred initially by external recognition, but that the failure of Asian American community activists – primarily those former Asian American Movement veterans inhabiting influential pulpits within academia – to critique the elites as possessing no more than a façade of representative value makes these activists complicit in the elites’ mistake.  By legitimizing Asian American elites, these veterans of the Asian American Movement have betrayed not only their legacy of pan-ethnic unity, but also the motto of the Movement to ‘serve the people’.”

It’s heartbreaking, but the evidence is all around us.  In these past few years, I have encountered many of these so-called “community leaders”, aka “Model Minorities”, as well as various Asian American writers and activists and media personalities (also very Model).  I’ve had dinners with Grace Yoo, former Executive Director of the Korean American Coalition, the largest Korean non-profit outside of Korea, as well as her friend Leslie from the Organization for Chinese Americans.  I’ve had Korean barbecue at Breakers with John Yi, the President of the Korean American Democratic Coalition, who calls me a “bomb thrower”.

graceyoo
Dinner with Grace Yoo


I’ve participated in local rallies and community mobilization, particularly the K-Town LA protests over the location of a homeless shelter and attempts at power grabs by Bangladesh Town, most likely backed by Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson: a man who Caroline Sim, a local organizer, tells me likes to use divide and rule.

ktownprotestcollage.png
Speaking for my people.


As far as media goes, I’ve done a 94-episode podcast with my co-host Teen, who goes by the pseudonym Mont Jiang and eventually started up an online Asian American interest publication known as Plan A Magazine (he initially asked me to write, but sadly I never ended up producing anything other than an anonymous guest article when the magazine first launched).  Before he lost his mind in cryptocurrencies, I spoke with Jay Caspian Kang about potentially doing a podcast. And finally, I’ve shot videos discussing Asian masculinity with Asian American YouTube personalities like Phil Wang from WongFu Productions and David Fung from the FungBros, as well as recent newcomers like Kevin Kreider from The Ugly Model documentary.  I also worked on my own YouTube series called “Not Your Asian Sidekick” with budding Korean American actress Paget Kagy, creator of the Asian American short romantic comedy series “Kat Loves LA.”

KACyoutubercollage.png
Top: Korean BBQ with John Yi from the KADC and Doug Kim; Bottom: shooting a video with David Fung from the FungBros and Phil Wang from Wong Fu Productions


And that’s not all!  I’ve gone to formal dinners at the K.W. Lee Center, courtesy of Kasie Lee, a Chinatown lawyer based out of San Francisco.  I’ve tossed back shots of soju at Gaam with World Series of Poker finalist and aspiring actor Doug Kim, who recently wrote an article in the Washington Post praising Crazy Rich Asians⁴⁹ (he knows how I feel about that).  And I get randomly recognized at the local Shell station and the JJ Bakery down the street by followers of mine from the early days of Reddit and Twitter, before I was banned thanks to the instigation of white racists and a slanderous, hateful mob of Asian American women furiously engaged in peddling their personal identities for maximum sympathy and profits, as opposed to participating in tangible political action to lift up their oppressed brothers and sisters here on Earth.

This crew of Asian American lapdogs led by an anonymous virtual coward who calls herself @jiugae_ on Twitter are firmly buoyed by a coalition of 18MillionRising writers, a raft of identity hustlers bearing a string of fraudulent gofundmes, sold out celebrities, and pseudo-intellectual academics in tow⁵⁰.  They have a long and documented history of spreading white supremacist imperialist propaganda, as well as harassing, hounding, making false accusations, and threatening the livelihoods, professions, and lives of anyone and everyone willing to shine a light upon the blatant complicity and collusion of Asian American women with white male supremacy.  Their targets have included Filipino American comic book creator Joshua Luna, president of the Pacific Sociological Association and feminist professor Karen Pyke, and of course, little ol’ me.

lunapyke

jiugae
Allow the “Dark Jesus” to remind you that the lowest circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno are reserved for false witnesses and traitors.


Nothing I’ve personally witnessed or experienced makes me doubt Kevin Hsu’s analysis.  For the most part, Yellow folks everywhere in America in 2018 are
still going all-in on assimilationist politics, despite the utter empirical failure of such approaches, mostly to make a quick buck.  This is particularly true of Asian American women like the ones above, who have always been offered a “preferential option for assimilation” in America by explicitly choosing to have a white male significant other or spouse.  This is borne out in citizenship laws like the Cable Act of 1922⁵¹, which essentially granted citizenship to Asian spouses of white American men, but specifically denied or revoked it for any woman, including Asian women, marrying an “alien”, i.e., an Asian man.

The starkest example of this is when Japanese American women with white men and half-Asian children were allowed to leave internment camps under the “mixed-marriage policy”⁵², which was literally designed to uphold the patriarchal prerogative of Caucasian men over Asian families and reinforce the color line between whites and non-whites. By cooperating and consenting to such boundaries without rebellion, these women abandoned both their fellow Yellow men and the Yellow women who loved them like Yuri Kochiyama⁵³  leaving them to languish behind barbed wire fences and die in suicide missions for the imperialist United States.  This was prior to anti-miscegenation laws being overturned by Loving v. Virginia, a clear demonstration that such laws were meant to privilege, protect, and preserve white womanhood for the White Man, and not to obstruct him from entering into interracial relationships with racially subordinated women whose countries the U.S. had destroyed, bombed, and set on fire.  After all, the average African American has 25% Caucasian blood in his genes, largely arising from the mass rapes of enslaved African American women by white American men.⁵⁴

In fact, this is a pattern across all of the old white colonizer nations, and is true for all minority women to greater or lesser extent⁵⁵:

Why have minority women in France made more strides than minority men in terms of gaining access to formal political power? Why have they become, in essence, the face of diversity in French politics at the elite national level? In this article, I propose that minority women’s rise to power has been anything but accidental and is the deliberate consequence of a system cognizant of the need to diversify politics, but institutionally and ideologically underprepared to do so.

Politicians have strategically opted to include minority women in greater numbers than minority men on national electoral party lists and Cabinets in order to satisfy the de facto requirement of minority representation in the “safest” way possible.

Politicians across the ideological spectrum often consider minority women ideal candidates specifically for their ability to serve a uniquely dual political purpose. On the one hand, minority women are visible enough to satisfy the basic need for minority descriptive representation. On the other hand, minority women are also deemed more “assimilable” than men and therefore not too “visible” to actively threaten Republican ideals or alienate conservative voters. Finally, if minority women are favored precisely because they promise not to dramatically rattle the status quo, this paper suggests that their increasing political presence will struggle to facilitate concomitant progress in the substantive representation of minorities in France.”
Amanda Garrett, “An Easy Concession or Meaningful Representation?  Minority women in French politics”

The situation appears to be the same in America, as demonstrated by the higher visibility and weight of the words of Asian women compared to Asian men⁵⁶, as well as recent emails surfaced by Wikileaks from John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign in 2016, which requested a token Asian, “preferably a woman”⁵⁷.  Asian American women have, for the most part, gone along with these assimilationist pressures alternately invoking “Agency” and “Helplessness” when their behavior is called out over and over and over again.

This behavior isn’t unique to Asian women.  In her analysis of white womanhood as portrayed in the film “Get Out”, Hannah Jameson describes how white women “indulge the misogynistic assumptions of men when it suits us, fighting to establish our agency one moment and then seeking to deny it the next.”⁵⁸  This seems to strike against the heart of true liberation politics, which preaches against fatalism and demands an active role in determining one’s own destiny and the collective futures of their fellow oppressed.


TRUE “RECONCILIASIAN”

“If your feminism doesn’t include me, that’s not real feminism. If your racial issue doesn’t include me, then it’s not about race.”
— M.I.A., from an interview with NOW Magazine

It’s instructive now to consider the very notion and concept of Duty, the counterweight to the dialectical force of Freedom:

“In the Analects of Confucius, one of the master’s disciples, Zigong proclaims, “I do not want others to impose on me, nor do I want to impose on others.”  Confucius replies, “Zigong, this is quite beyond your reach.” Now, Confucius does not seem to be saying here that this freedom from imposition is beyond the reach of Zigong in particular, but rather, when seen in the context of the master’s overall teachings in the Analects, it is beyond the reach of every one of us to live without imposing on others or having others impose on us.  Humans simply are the kinds of creatures who must impose on others and therefore must recognize as legitimate the imposition of others on them.  We are not solitary individuals who, like Zigong, can, or even should, want to live beyond the demands of others.”
— Paul Firenze, ‘They, Like the Child, Are Not Free’: An Ethical Defense of the Ones Who Remain in Omelas⁵⁹

Where do your allegiances lie?

At some point, even indecision becomes its own decision, and remaining neutral in situations of injustice, particularly towards Asian American men (or even contributing to their oppression!), means you have sworn allegiance to the oppressor.  Across the shifting boundaries of political definitions, every little decision, every little action you take, fits you into an overall, empirical profile of a soldier in this war or that war. What’s important is that as these boundaries and definitions are negotiated, that there is a discursive element between Asian American men and Asian American women, because, by the very fact of our physical and political constructions, there is no way we can ever escape our entwined fates.  

Racism will not go away, no matter how much a woman leans into the game of white male supremacist domination and its cocoon of protective “chivalry”.  In fact, research done by ASCEND⁶⁰ demonstrates that the “Asian” penalty is 3x worse than the “gender” penalty in the workplace when it comes to getting promotions, and that workplace harassment actually increases for women in powerful positions, unless there is a large enough cohort of them to normalize the look and feel of women as leaders⁶¹, free of white male dependence.  This suggests collective action is necessary in order to lift the oppression afflicting all Asian American women, and they cannot do it alone. So long as the Yellow Man is hated, reviled, spat at, killed, and subjected to torture and dying alone, the Yellow Woman can never be truly free.

Yet still, even if a mutual alliance were to be brokered between Asian American men and women in this dawn of a new millennium, it would only ever be as part of a continuous, ongoing process of dialogue and negotiation.  That is what equal partnership looks like.  Customs and Duties are always negotiations and penalties across borders, and that is the entire purpose of Discourse in Social Justice — to trade this for that, tit for tat, and ultimately come to a collective bargain over what we mutually will allow each other to say and do and promote.  That is the essence of Mutual Consent, and the foundation of the Social Contract, whether between consenting individuals, or individuals to a polity, or individuals to their race, culture, religion, and nationalities.

Here at ProAsianVoice, all we ask is that the dialogue be free and fair, with a mutual commitment to Radical Candor and Problem-Solving, while observing the overarching principle of “Liberty and Justice, For All”.  Isn’t that, after all, what a Democracy looks like? Isn’t that the Pledge of Allegiance in the United States of America?

“The universal pretensions of citizenship are forever destined to clash with the particular aspirations arising from the complex heterogeneity of civil society.  This is a paradox to which there is no permanent solution.  Nor should we seek such permanence, for it is precisely through the contest between these two that the boundaries of the political are contested and resolved.  In this paradox — in the struggle to achieve an always contestable equilibrium of compromise between universality and particularity — resides the very precondition of democracy.  If a solution to this paradox were to be found, this would render democracy, indeed politics, redundant.  ‘If democracy is possible, it is because the universal has no necessary body and no necessary content; different groups, instead, compete between themselves to temporarily give to their particularisms a function of universal representation’.  Democratic negotiations of the substantive content of citizenship are played out precisely upon this terrain.”
— Hunt and Purvis (1999)

So, what is Asian Love?  At its most basic, Asian Love is when an Asian Woman and Asian Man speak with and listen to each other — faithfully, honestly, fairly, and with compassion.  That is True Love. And as we saw in Latin America, True Love can radically change the world.


(Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)


Endnotes:

 

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