Fuck centrism

If you say you love this country, then you must understand that America has always been like this — it was founded on white supremacy [1], and it will continue slouching toward its violent white supremacist ends unless we use all of our power to destroy it.

If you say you love this country, then use your love to imagine a wholly different world — one where we work together to dismantle not only white supremacy, but also the white supremacist imperialist capitalist ableist cisheteropatriarchy. [2]

Not sure what these words mean? Not sure if they are actual, real problems? Google them. Read this. Before you draw false equivalences, propagate strawman arguments, and swallow the myths of American exceptionalism, do your homework. All of the research has already been conducted, all the literature has already been written, and all the conversations have already been had. [3] Go read them, and inform yourself. Before we learn to imagine the new, we must unlearn the old. [4]

Not comfortable with these words because they are too “extreme”? Oppose Trump, yet prefer a more “centrist, moderate” approach? Then be honest with yourself about what you are willing to stand against, and what you are willing to tolerate.

Look. Centrism protects the status quo. Centrism is an accomplice to oppression. Centrism sticks its head in the sand and pretends that oppressors and oppressed wield the same power. Centrism equates destruction of property with destruction of human life. Centrism sends one police unit to protect KKK/Nazi “protesters” and another to open fire on Black/Brown/Indigenous protesters. Centrism mourns the death of a single white woman more than the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Black and Brown people.[5] Centrism says, “Be patient. You haven’t suffered enough yet.”

Fuck centrism. [6]

If you say you love this country, then understand that “justice is what love looks like in public.” [7] If you want to learn more about what justice looks like, start here (literally click anywhere).

We are now at a precipice. One day, when you are old and grey, will you look back upon your life knowing that you did not speak up when it mattered — because it was easier to stay silent, because centrism was more comfortable, more convenient?

Or will you be at peace knowing that you helped write new laws, save lives, and build a new social order — that you helped alter the course of your country forever? [8]

————-
[1] See, e.g., Indigenous genocide, Indigenous land theft, slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, prison exception to 13th amendment, Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment, U.S. covert/overt interference in other democratic regimes. This is obviously a non-exhaustive list. Also, by “America,” I mean “the United States of America” because America is the name of 2 continents.

[2] See bell hooks, Understanding Patriarchy. Note: there are many other -isms I have omitted.

[3] Scott Woods, “A Conversation On Race Is A Horrible Goal” (Nov 11, 2015), (“A conversation is a horrible goal. I’m not interested in having your version of a race conversation. . . . I want your race activism. . . . I don’t want to have any more conversations as goals. All of the necessary conversations have been happening. We published the conversations. We recorded the conversations on video. We turned the conversations into poems and memes and songs and TV shows. We gave the conversations away for free. We put the conversations in all of your libraries​. .​ . . We codified the conversations and made them classes and presentations and conferences. . . . All you got to do is sit down and listen.”).​

​[4] Nancy Scheibner, “The Art of Making Possible” (“And the purpose of history is to provide a receptacle / For all those myths and oddments / Which oddly we have acquired / And from which we would become unburdened / To create a newer world / To transform the future into the present.”).

[5] See, e.g., Hari Ziyad, “Heather Heyer and the white ‘allies’ who have ‘done more’ than us for our own liberation” (Aug 15, 2017).

[6] See Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (Apr 16, 1963) (“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.'”).

[7] Cornel West, “Justice Is What Love Looks Like in Public.”

[8] Audre Lorde, “Your Silence Will Not Protect You” (“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. . . . Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.”).

Stop white supremacy

A lot of Black and Brown and Muslim people were murdered recently.

Stop white supremacists. Stop anti-Blackness. Stop Islamophobia. Stop xenophobia. Stop the police. Don’t stop reading yet —

1. If you’re not an alt-right white supremacist, why are you mad? I wasn’t talking about you.

2. Wait no, I was talking about you. I was talking about all of us. This isn’t just about white people (even though it often is). Anti-Blackness is everywhere. The police officer and self-appointed vigilante who killed Philando Castile and Trayvon Martin, respectively, are Hispanic. The police officer who killed Akai Gurley is Asian American. Three of the six police officers who killed Freddie Gray are black. (None of them are in prison.)

3. We are all complicit.

When we talk about “bad/sketchy/ghetto” neighborhoods, but we just mean “not white.” When we “don’t see color” but all of our friends are white or light-skinned. When “some of our best friends” are Black/Brown/Muslim/gay/bi/trans, but we wouldn’t want to fuck them. When we would want to fuck them, but we wouldn’t want to marry them.

When we smoke pot on the weekends and take molly at Coachella but also think unarmed Black men are dangerous for selling pot or cigars. When everything in our IG and Snap is #lit, goals, bae, and YASSSS, but Black people who speak African American Vernacular English are “uneducated.”

When we change our Facebook photo to stand with Paris but not with Beirut or Baghdad. When we pull our #DicksOutForHarambe and want #JusticeforCecil but don’t know about #FinsburyPark or #NabraHassanen or #CharleenaLyles. When animal deaths make us sad but not human deaths.

When we love that new expensive white-owned “fusion” restaurant, but don’t want to pay more than $7 at an immigrant-owned Chinese/Mexican/Arab/etc. restaurant.

When we think Arab mass murderers are “terrorists,” but white mass murderers are “gunmen” and “van drivers” with “mental illnesses” in no way radicalized by fundamentalist Christianity / Reddit / Breitbart.

When we think it’s okay to bomb Syria to protect its children from chemical weapons but that’s definitely not the same thing as Syria hypothetically bombing us to protect our children from being chemically poisoned by elected officials in Flint, MI, or to protect Indigenous people from being gassed by police officers at Standing Rock.

When we say Islam oppresses women with the hijab and the driving ban, but we love celebrities who rape, beat, and sexually harass women like Kobe Bryant, Casey Affleck, and Bill Clinton (don’t fight me on this, just google it please).

When we talk about how Democrats have alienated the “working class,” when we really mean the “white working class,” as if Black and Brown people and immigrants aren’t part of the working class.

When we say we don’t like “identity politics” or “silly bathroom bills” and would rather focus on the “real issues,” like “the economy,” as if the white working class isn’t an “identity.” As if police brutality and vigilante violence aren’t “real issues.” As if safety for transgender people in bathrooms without fear of being murdered by transphobic people isn’t a “real issue.” As if loss of income and wealth from employment discrimination and housing discrimination aren’t “economic issues.”

When we heap praise on white / non-Black / non-Muslim, etc. people for allyship but don’t give the same credit to Black and Brown mostly women and LGBTQ folks who have been saying the same thing for decades and centuries.

When we say MLKJ would have wanted protesters to be “more peaceful,” even though Dr. King was considered a radical in his day. Even though he said the greatest threat to racial equality was not the KKK but “the white moderate” who agrees with your goals but not with your methods/tone. (The same Dr. King who called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”)

4. If you agree with my post but think I’m being “too aggressive,” I will refer you back to what MLKJ said about moderates. Don’t create a false equivalence between criticism of violence and actual violence.

I wish I could also say that I don’t care if you think I’m being an aggressive anti-white/anti-male bitch/etc. I care a lot, but fuck it because as the brilliant Nayyirah Waheed wrote:

‘no’
might make them angry,
but
it will make you free.
– if no one has ever told you, your freedom is more important than their anger.

5. If you want to learn more, I can recommend some great insta accounts to follow. DM me 🙂

If you would like to put your money where your hashtags are, consider donating to the families of Nabra Hassanen, Charleena Lyles, and Philando Castille.

If you would like the system to change, please VOTE in every election, not just the presidential one. Your state and local officials are often the ones legislating (and adjudicating) on policing, education, housing, etc.

6. Nothing I said here is original — thank you to the brilliant and tireless advocates (almost all of whom are Black women, NB women of color, and LGBTQ women of color) who educate and inspire me every day on FB and IG.

The “model minority” speaks out

This open letter on Anti-Asian discrimination was sent to the Wharton community in October 2016. See accompanying workshop slides.

Dear Wharton,

We were disappointed to hear that Peter Linneman, Emeritus Professor of Real Estate at Wharton, recently made discriminatory remarks about Chinese men at a public real estate conference in New York (see WSJ article). At Wharton, we understand that discrimination against any member of our community is an affront to all members of our community. Professor Linneman’s comments contravene our school’s ongoing commitment to promote diversity and inclusion—they do not reflect the views of the Wharton community.

There is a long history of discrimination and violence against Asians and Asian Americans in the United States. From 1882 to 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned all Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S.—the only ethnic immigration ban in this nation’s history. The U.S. also bears responsibility for Executive Order 9066 (and Korematsu v. United States), which authorized (and later constitutionalized) the incarceration of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Many other examples abound.

Today, anti-Asian discrimination continues to manifest itself through both microaggressions and hate crimes, including murder and mass murder. These acts are fueled by a variety of harmful cultural narratives, including the model minority myth, the perpetual foreigner myth, the hypersexualization of Asian women, and the desexualization of Asian men. Discriminatory statements that rely on these stereotypes also help to perpetuate the bamboo ceiling—the systemic exclusion of Asians and Asian Americans from top leadership positions in business, political, and social organizations.

A growing body of research confirms that business leaders must be competent on issues of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in order to be truly effective leaders.

To that end, we have been inspired to see our fellow classmates recognizing the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion through events, rallies, and open letters. For example, in the wake of recent acts of violence and discrimination against the Black, LGBTQ, and Muslim communities in America, student affinity groups brought Wharton together to learn about these different types of oppression and to express solidarity with the affected communities.

As a part of the ongoing student dialogue on diversity and inclusion, we invite you to attend a panel and open forum (see workshop slides) on Thursday, November 10 to explore the unique challenges faced by the Asian and Asian American communities in the United States. This event, which is sponsored by the Greater China Club (GCC), the Wharton Asian American Association of MBAs (WAAAM), Wharton Asia Club, and Return on Equality (ROE), is part of International Week (November 7-10), an annual initiative organized by the Wharton Graduate Association (WGA) to learn about the unique perspectives of our international classmates.

We also applaud the Wharton administration’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion among the student body. For example, we commend administration-driven initiatives like the mandatory workshop for first-year students, the Return on Equality Fund for student-led events, and the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force for student programming. At the same time, systemic changes are necessary to enhance the culture and norms of our school—not only among students, but also among faculty and staff members.

In particular, we urge the Wharton administration to implement mandatory training on diversity and inclusion for all faculty and staff members. This training is critical to ensuring that our faculty and staff members continue to be effective educators—for our increasingly diverse student body, and against the backdrop of an increasingly diverse business environment. In taking the lead on this very important issue, Wharton would affirm its place as a leader among our business school peers.

Maintaining an inclusive community requires ongoing and active participation from all of us. We value the efforts that students, faculty, and staff have invested in promoting diversity and inclusion at Wharton, and we look forward to continued collaboration toward our vision of a more fully inclusive One Wharton.

Wharton Greater China Club (GCC)
Wharton Asian American Association of MBAs (WAAAM)
Wharton Asia Club
Return on Equality (ROE)
Wharton Graduate Association (WGA)

Yellow peril supports Black lives

As an Asian American, I am aware that my community does not engage nearly enough on issues of racial justice in America. We tend to embrace our status as the model minority and seek to dissociate ourselves from other communities of color. As immigrants and perpetual foreigners, we are constantly reaching for whiteness in the hopes that securing white privilege will signify that we have finally realized the American Dream.

And sometimes, America lets us in. We are praised for being hardworking and good at math. And we have been largely spared from the systemic violence faced by Black America for the past four centuries through slavery, segregation, redlining, mass incarceration, and police brutality.

But our access to white privilege is both temporary and conditional. The power to confer and revoke that privilege has never belonged to us. They can let us in, and they can shut us out. The U.S. once banned all Chinese immigrants from entering the country for more than 60 years and incarcerated more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during WWII (but not a single German American).

Our access to white privilege is incomplete. We are stereotyped as workers and middle managers, not CEOs (we’re just not natural leaders). Our women are hypersexualized (relax, it’s a compliment), and our men are desexualized (relax, it’s just a joke). Sometimes we even get to be sidekicks on TV shows.

Most critically, our access to white privilege is bounded by a zero-sum game that pits the Asian American community against other communities of color. Today, Asian Americans are a pawn in the campaign against affirmative action, a legal remedy that seeks to reverse the effects of institutional racism against Black and Brown America. We are told that affirmative action benefits underrepresented minorities at our expense. We are not told that affirmative action policies are designed to preserve the white majority (or plurality) at our expense — redistributing a minority of seats between Asian Americans and other people of color. This zero-sum game is critical because it keeps us occupied with hostility toward other communities of color, distracting us from challenging white supremacist institutions.

And so we use our political energies to protest the wrong things. It was shameful that thousands of Asian Americans protested the conviction of NYPD officer Peter Liang for killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man. Instead of being angry at the fact that Liang was (rightfully) convicted of manslaughter, we should have been angry at the fact that almost no other police officers have been indicted — much less convicted — for killing unarmed Black people in this country.

Asian America has an important role to play in #BlackLivesMatter. But first we must decolonize our minds and reject the anti-Blackness we have internalized from our Asian and American cultures. We must learn to see ourselves as people of color (without reductively equating our experiences with those of all people of color). And we must acknowledge the many ways in which we are complicit in upholding the white supremacist structures of this country — in our selective sexual desires, our disdain for melanin, our antipathy toward affirmative action, and our fear of and contempt for low-income Black and Brown communities.

Asian Americans have so much power in our collective voice. We have the power to mobilize and advocate on issues that uniquely affect the Asian American community. And we have the power to stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown sisters and brothers to advocate on issues that matter to all people of color. We can join together to work toward our common goal of an American Dream that opens its doors for everyone.