Orientalism still alive and kicking: UCLA girl, Macleans, and anti-Asian racism beyond The Big Bang Theory

15 May

Unfortunately, it turns out that my recent disappointment with The Big Bang Theory is only one small part of a much larger trend: anti-Asian racism in the West. This racism occurs in all media types, such as in newspapers (with these recent articles in the Canadian publications  The Toronto Star and Macleans magazine), Facebook (for example, this new Australian anti-Asian Facebook group), YouTube (as seen through the ramblings of the infamous “UCLA Girl“), and of course, hit sitcoms and films in America.

This racism is malignant and festering, and the scariest thing about it is that it doesn’t even try to be covert, as much of the discrimination in the West does. The killings of Indian students in Australia over the last year and the recent rape and murder of Asian university students Tosha Thakkar in Sydney, Australia, and Qian Liu in Toronto, Canada, expose how deep-seated this hatred is. And although I wish I could blog otherwise, this intense loathing is not limited to the sentiments of a few parochial rubes–it’s a dominant Western ideology.

The low-brow Facebook “like” titled “Trying to figure out if your [sic] in Asia or Australia when your [sic] in the city” managed to acquire over 12,000 members in a matter of days despite having a wall full of pro-colonial rhetoric and comments such as “we should shoot them on site,” while the counter-racist Facebook group “‘Too Asian’? TALK BACK” dwindles at just over 1,000 members. Meanwhile, little-miss-UCLA’s father revealed that her viral rambling was meant to be only one part of a series of vlogs that clearly neither he nor she saw anything wrong with. This isn’t even the first time that some of the most widely read Canadian publications have made gross generalizations about Asians. And despite the poor reviews for the blatantly Orientalist Sex and the City 2, the fact remains that it was still the highest grossing rom-com in 2010.

Edward Said, who coined the term “Orientalism” in his book of the same name, stresses that it is hardly a new development in Western thought. It dates back to the days of Marco Polo’s [alleged] travels to the exotic-but-inferior “East.” But nowadays, as the economies of China and India continue to expand, recent anti-Asian backlash from white-pride supporters is hitting the West hard. And this time it’s taking a different turn than back in the days of the Head Tax and the Komagata Maru.

As IT and outsourcing become the way of the future, closet white supremacists fear for their jobs, their social benefits, and what they see as their “loss of culture” as they slowly begin to realize, in terror, that due to the phenomenon of the birth dearth, our economies depend on immigrants to stay afloat. These small-minded lunatics resent every sushi restaurant they pass when they deign to make their way downtown. They grimace when they find that their walk-in doctor’s appointment is received by a olive-skinned face. They scowl when they hear fireworks on festival dates that are not known to them.

Anti-Asian racism has existed since the pre-Columbus era, but this particular wave of racism is different in one fundamental way: in these particular cases, Anti-Asian racism is almost exclusively targeting students. But unfortunately for the racists, our governments still need immigrants.

And the Western governments’ immigrants of choice? The professional, educated class.

This time, the wave of racism is tinged with a hint of not only fear of the unknown, but flat-out jealousy. Unlike stereotypes towards other racialized groups, it is the stereotype of the smart, over-achieving, academically-gifted-but-socially-stunted Asian that prevails in current media. So-called “credible” newspapers dish with condescension and mock-concern about the tribulations of the “unassimilated” Asian student while Asian actors struggle to get roles outside of “the smart one” or “the nerdy one.” Positive media representation of Asians is hard to come by, and this is only if Asian actors manage to find roles at all.

Yet even so, note the tone of envy in UCLA girl’s voice, as she rails about her annoyance at the amount of friends Asians have to call; the loud, weekly get-togethers which she’s neither been invited to nor had the privilege of holding herself; and the horrors of the Asian extended family system while she is left to “fend for herself”–something she claims Asians do not know how to do.

I don’t know, UCLA girl, with a professional class of diaspora living around the world, rapidly growing economies, and major world powers despite what you tactlessly dubbed “the tsunami thing,” Asia seems to be doing quite well for itself.

Globalization is unavoidable. Larger-scale interracial dating, Hakka restaurants, and cultural mixing are not only inevitable, but embraceable aspects of the future. Nationalism died with the 20th century. So get over it.

One Response to “Orientalism still alive and kicking: UCLA girl, Macleans, and anti-Asian racism beyond The Big Bang Theory”

  1. Ulysses Takebara September 30, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    doesn’t matter the way i see it the more they hate on asia the more it obvious they make it that they’re scared of how powerful our group has become. Come on cheer up! They call you some stupid racial slur out on the street? The yuan’s overtaking the dollar! They throw outdated and/or totally random and ridiculous stereotypes at you? All their jobs are being outsourced! They put more and more crappy anti-asian stuff in the media or on a tv show? Movies all across the globe are being influenced to promote asia now and have been for a few years. Check out Shanghai Calling an international film festival award winner.

    In a few years time all of this stuff won’t save them so why can’t we just be the bigger person and let them have their moment in the sun? Just laugh along and know that the real jokes on them.

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