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January 10, 2011 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Hey, Metafilter. Why did this conversation about Amy Chua's book excerpt go so badly?

I was pretty surprised by the sheer number of weirdly ethnocentric, blithely stereotyping comments that implied some pretty ugly stuff.

There was some discussion in-thread about why this kind of generalizing and stereotyping is problematic. And I've noticed this kind of stuff popping up across the site with some frequency; I don't *think* it's malicious, but it sort of sucks. What's up with that?
posted by peachfuzz to MetaFilter-Related at 4:39 PM (253 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Color me unsurprised that there was racial stereotyping going on in a discussion about an article about a racial stereotype.
posted by phunniemee at 4:42 PM on January 10, 2011 [21 favorites]


I think it's a case of everyone is a parent or had a parent and therefore has an opinion on parenting... and oh hey I knew some Asians too once so LET ME TELL YOU
posted by desjardins at 4:43 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


The article was a weird fit for the WSJ to begin with and had a fairly leading and irritating headline that the author didn't even like. Plus it basically begged for people to provide anecdata and/or poorly thought out racial/cultural stereotypes and offense at same. As these threads go, that one to my mind wasn't as bad as many others.

MetaFilter isn't really a great site for complicated race discussions generally. We have a large number of people who both have the "liberal arts racism-is-about-power" viewpoint or the "it's just as bad for black people to make cracks about white people" viewpoint. These two factions, among others, tend to clash in threads like these. Plus the thread was about education, a topic that almost everyone has experience with and therefore opinions on.

And honeslty, I'm surprised a thread that started with that title and that leading pullquote didn't turn into even more of a disaster.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:44 PM on January 10, 2011 [15 favorites]


...what sort of ugly stuff is being implied, exactly?
posted by griphus at 4:44 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your "blithely stereotyping" linked comments are actually more thoughtful responses than your thread or that article deserves.

Honestly, I can't believe you expected any better in posting this.
posted by hermitosis at 4:46 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, my *pops popcorn* comment at the top of the thread got deleted, so I can't look all prescient now, so I'll quote what I sent in memail to the op when she asked me about it:
if there's one thing mefi does not do well it's a: talking about race and b: talking about parenting.

Wait, that's two things.

Either way. That thread is going to be a hot mess."
posted by empath at 4:47 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:49 PM on January 10, 2011


peachfuzz: " Why did this conversation about Amy Chua's book excerpt go so badly? "

The first sentence of the post is "A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids." so the rest is sort of left as an excercise for the reader.
posted by boo_radley at 4:50 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Chinese moms parent like this, other moms parent like this.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:50 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


"I am in disbelief after reading this article.”
—James Post
posted by fixedgear at 4:52 PM on January 10, 2011


Could some of your disbelief be coming from a misreading of people referring to "parents like these"? Because in none of those comments did I get the idea that people were referring specifically to Chinese parents. Just super insane-o strict parents.
posted by hermitosis at 4:52 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


If it had been raised properly that thread could have been PERFECT.
posted by Artw at 4:53 PM on January 10, 2011 [42 favorites]


You put those kind of expectations on a thread and it'll probably end up acting out just to spite you.
posted by Babblesort at 5:00 PM on January 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


Amy Chua appears to be a world-class troll. Garbage in, garbage out.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:02 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


That thread actually went really well.
posted by grobstein at 5:02 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chunking express put it best when he wrote:

Thanks to all the White people who told me about your Asian friend. I learned a lot.
posted by chunking express at 8:00 PM on January 9 [13 favorites]

posted by anniecat at 5:05 PM on January 10, 2011 [20 favorites]


hermitosis: I didn't post the article to the front page. Unless you meant this thread?

One of the comments you refer to talks about how the commenter lost touch with all these people and then goes on to say, I mean, what?

griphus: there's a lot of talk about robots, inability to be creative or innovate, secret unhappiness, inability to "properly socialize with the rest of the Western world". WTF?

My issue here is with people painting broad generalizations about their peers of Asian descent based on an anecdote about the studious, awkward Asian kid they knew growing up. Not great.

The article was pretty stupid, but I'm a little creeped out by the attitude around here that it's exposed.
posted by peachfuzz at 5:09 PM on January 10, 2011 [14 favorites]


I didn't know any Asian people until I went to nerd camp in 7th grade and was BFF3weeks with a girl named Jessica Chin. She introduced me to Smash Mouth and Set. She also borrowed a shirt from me for when she played a violin piece in the camp talent show. There were a lot of violin pieces. Do I get a cookie?
posted by phunniemee at 5:15 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I knew some non asian kids that did really well in school, got in to good colleges, got jobs at investments banks. It now occurs to me that those kids were probably secretly asian.

but I do know that Wharton girl ended up going there and getting a high-paying job at Goldman Sachs. The funny thing was, though, that was as far as she had ever planned. Once she got the job, she had no idea what to do with her life

Good thing about non asians is that we might not get the high paying jobs but at least we know what to do with out lives!
posted by Ad hominem at 5:15 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


peachfuzz: "I didn't post the article to the front page. Unless you meant this thread?"

No, the expectations are yours. He's not attaching the FPP to you.
posted by boo_radley at 5:18 PM on January 10, 2011


Here in Korea, it is possible to trace a great deal of what is successful and good about society to general attitudes towards education, and it is also possible to trace a huge number of things that are wrong, broken, self-defeating and worrisome.

I will say that the underlying assumption that the kind of destructive monomania the thread is talking about is somehow unique to Chinese parents, and to Chinese mothers in particular, is annoying.

Oh shit, I feel another essay coming on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks to all the White people who told me about your Asian friend. I learned a lot.

My filipino friend's stereotyped ability is invulnerability to all bullet calibres under .45 when in "Amok mode". Can we have an FPP about that?
posted by Artw at 5:23 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


there's a lot of talk about robots, inability to be creative or innovate, secret unhappiness, inability to "properly socialize with the rest of the Western world." WTF?

WTF indeed. There is a lot of implication that "Asian parenting" causes Asians to grow up and make lots of money, but become otherwise soulless. Nearly every single portrayal of an Asian person in that thread treads along that description. I see it as an assault on academics as well, with the implication that if a child is raised to excel in academics and music, they cannot excel at life. It's an unfair way to paint an entire swath of American culture, and it's ugly.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:23 PM on January 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


Also that people who work in finance are souless, which might be true.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:25 PM on January 10, 2011


Agreed, but you don't have to be Asian to work in finance.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:28 PM on January 10, 2011


I mean, what?

Where specifically in that quote do you see anyone "painting broad generalizations about their peers of Asian descent"?
posted by hermitosis at 5:28 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


The article was pretty stupid, but I'm a little creeped out by the attitude around here that it's exposed.

peachfuzz, I completely agree with you. It was jarring. I hadn't realized that, even in defending us from stereotypes with variations on stereotypes (like phunniemee just did by saying that she learned about cool bands from an Asian girl--oh how shocking, we listen to music), the majority culture still sees us as alien and other, even though they try to provide anecdotes about how they themselves know better.

Phunniemee, I don't mean to pick on you, and I don't know if other Indians, Koreans, and Chinese feel this way, but what you said, even though there are good intentions in it, still may cause feelings of alienation for Asians you might tell this story to, even if it's in defense of Asians.

After all, would you say "Oh, I know a Mexican girl in school and she hates burritos" as though it were some proof that you have learned that there is more variations in a person's preferences and behavior than what a stereotype of their culture would indicate and therefore it makes you are race-and colorblind? I should hope not. Because it's weird.

It would be like me saying, "I know this girl from West Virginia and her parents aren't cousins." Or "I know this Irish family and the parents aren't drunks." Or "I know this fat woman but she runs everyday" or "I know this white guy who wants to be a kindergarten teacher but he's not a pedophile."

I'm not an expert at describing rhetorical devices, I don't know if I can do a half decent job of making my point clear, but basically, it's just weird and alienating.
posted by anniecat at 5:39 PM on January 10, 2011 [16 favorites]


I know this place that has the best Go So Badly!
posted by staggernation at 5:42 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think all of your examples really jell, anniecat. If someone is from a different place or culture, then pointing out things you learn about from them -- such as some cool bands -- is not really the same as exclaiming surprise that a person doesn't conform to a certain stereotype.

Acknowledging someone's otherness does not necessarily alienate them.
posted by hermitosis at 5:43 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


There have been hundreds of generations. I love how each one seems to be pretty much convinced it's raising children the right way, whether it's not sparing the rod or the getting Jane into that goddamn best pre-pre-preschool Park Slope can offer.

It would help a lot if we all just admit life is totally bizarre and none of know what the fuck we're doing.
posted by milarepa at 5:44 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


none of us
posted by milarepa at 5:45 PM on January 10, 2011


I had to FIAMO. It bugged me... not really sure why but it pushed some little parenting family buttons I didn't know I had. The way people were raised and the way they raise their children can be a very touchy subject for people. When you include people making assumptions on how others were or were not raised based on their race, well, that's just a recipe for disaster. I went back and reread, and felt that people were being much more logical and levelheaded than I could have been or expected.
posted by Night_owl at 5:46 PM on January 10, 2011


Acknowledging someone's otherness does not necessarily alienate them.


I am not an other.
posted by anniecat at 5:51 PM on January 10, 2011 [17 favorites]


While we're talking about what went wrong, I would like to give some props for what went right, which was the fact that Sticherbeast, as ever, was entirely excellent at both serious analysis and hilarious levity in re the article's asininity. Dude is like that big round stone from the beginning of Raiders of The Lost Ark, can't hardly stop him, can't even outrun it.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:52 PM on January 10, 2011


I am not an other.

Everyone is to someone.
posted by hermitosis at 5:57 PM on January 10, 2011 [16 favorites]


I am not an other.

Either you're a solipsist or you're not entirely sure what "other" means. If you can be compared by someone to themselves in terms of difference, you are an other in their context.
posted by griphus at 5:59 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why does this AskMe attribute this practice (of making the fruit jam for yogurt from inedible wood chips) to the Japanese? Admittedly, at second hand; I'm not accusing the OP of racism. But this stuff is floating around. In my comment to this post, I note that there's a similar urban legend about Chinese makers of soy sauce.

I wish people would note a few things about the Chinese that aren't utter projection.
posted by bad grammar at 6:02 PM on January 10, 2011


Seriously, this is what you're a little creeped out about? Out of everything, everything, this is what you're wringing your hands about?
posted by kbanas at 6:02 PM on January 10, 2011


I always recommend this book.
posted by clavdivs at 6:06 PM on January 10, 2011


pg 64
posted by clavdivs at 6:09 PM on January 10, 2011


Why does this AskMe attribute this practice (of making the fruit jam for yogurt from inedible wood chips) to the Japanese?

My guess is because that's how they heard it and so they're trying to figure out where it came from. If the question is "Is there a Japanese patent?" It's a lot easier to say "No, doesn't look like it, after searching Japanese patents." than "Is this weird thing happening anywhere in the world?" Sometimes a geographical subdivision is just a geographical subdivision.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:10 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Trust me, there is nowhere, online or off, that the conversation around that book excerpt is going well. Starting with "very specific parenting style nicknamed as "(racial group) mothering" is the best way to make outstanding members of society" is pretty much guaranteed to be polarizing. Great way to garner publicity and sell books, terrible way to start helpful discussion.
posted by gingerest at 6:15 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


The original article is what I call 'link bait' since the publisher's intent is to invite recreational outrage around the blogosphere and other link farms (like MeFi).
posted by Ardiril at 6:23 PM on January 10, 2011


I love how each one seems to be pretty much convinced it's raising children the right way
...and yet none of them have been since the Spartans.
posted by Abiezer at 6:27 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


A few dots can be connected amongst different classes of conversations which, among other things, bring out peoples insecurities.

We all know that this overacheiver 'Asian' stereotype (I love how that's like 3 billion people) exists, and is even based on a degree of superficial reality. Now for those capable of it having an intelligent discussion on it, it's valuable to pick these stereotypes and observations apart.

But I always get the feeling that when people have to explain why hard workers haven't really lived life or whatever, the Other isn't relevant here, but only the fact that they feel they don't measure up. These defence mechanisms (robot people vs full lifers) come up in threads about prodigies and overachievers in general.

I think a lot of the wrong minded people in that thread are more guilty of insecurity and narcissism than racism.
posted by Alex404 at 6:30 PM on January 10, 2011


Spartans? Those lily-livers couldn't stand up to a unarmed Klingon. I mean, literally, a Klingon sans one arm.
posted by griphus at 6:31 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


My issue here is with people painting broad generalizations about their peers of Asian descent based on an anecdote about the studious, awkward Asian kid they knew growing up. Not great.


I don't really understand this. In the article, the author says that there are some (Western-born) Chinese mothers that do not behave the same way as the traditional Chinese mother, but that all the rest of them do. My issue is with the article painting a broad generalization about all non-Western and some Western Chinese mothers having the exact same ridiculous parenting style. How is it that her generalizations are acceptable but the generalizations made in response to that aren't?
posted by kro at 6:36 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no such thing as an unarmed Klingon.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:38 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Worf wouldn't have got his butt kicked so often if his parents had forced him to spend more hours each day practicing.
posted by Drastic at 6:44 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


The best I can put it is that it is generally ok to be inclusive "we drive like this" usually not ok to be exclusive "they drive like this this". Of course there a million exceptions and I agree with all of them.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:45 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of otherness and racial stereotyping, I just realized that Word being on the bridge in TNG is the equivalent of Chekov being on the bridge in TOS. Never saw that before.
posted by griphus at 6:48 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite part of that thread was when anniecat called us all racists because people were sharing anecdotes related to the FPP, which was framed around race to begin with.

Oh, wait, we're talking about why that discussion went bad.
posted by girih knot at 6:48 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hey, I'm the OP. I posted the article. Well, not originally since it was posted once before, but I thought it deserved another shot. I didn't know it was a double until mefi's magic caught it. Seeing the deletion reason, I hit 'go'. Basically, as I said to empath in memail, was that I was hopeful of some good conversation. And truth be told, I thought the thread went okay. Certainly, I could've imagined far worse.

The point-of-view of the article is indeed provocative. I, personally, was horrified by it. However, I was more horrified by the article's subjects than the racial generalizations in the thread. In spite of, or perhaps because I am Chinese Canadian, I don't know. What I do know is that that I am interested in provocative material and how people respond to it. Even when they respond with generalizations, whether I agree with them or not.

In the end, I regret using the WSJ's framing as the framing of the post. That, absolutely, was laziness on my part and very likely contributed to the angle of the thread. So, sorry about that. More context could have led us down a better road.
posted by typewriter at 6:55 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]




My favorite part of that thread was when anniecat called us all racists because people were sharing anecdotes related to the FPP, which was framed around race to begin with.


I'm racist. You probably are too. I believe that most white people in the U.S. are. It is entirely possible to be called racist and to acknowledge that one is racist without behaving as though you've been slapped across the face and challenged to a duel or somehow insulted to your core. But you can accept it as a challenge to do anti-racist, anti-privilege work in your own life. See also: Tim Wise and Peggy McIntosh.
posted by liketitanic at 6:56 PM on January 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


like phunniemee just did by saying that she learned about cool bands from an Asian girl

No, she said she learned about Smash Mouth.
posted by chococat at 7:02 PM on January 10, 2011 [27 favorites]


I'm racist. You probably are too. I believe that most white people in the U.S. are.

Assuming that someone is unaware of the privilege they have in being white American is pretty, uh, racist. Or something. Wait, you admitted to that already. Blast!

Anyway my point is that making an accusation like that against the entire [Western] userbase, even to prove some point about generalizations, doesn't elevate the discourse. When people say stupid, racist things, address those things. It does nothing for the conversation to go "I can't believe how racist you all are!" Tell us how we are being racist so that in the future we may be less racist.

typewriter: Yeah, when I referred to the framing of the FPP, I misspoke, I meant the way the article was framed. I don't think there's any way you could have framed that article without it turning into the discussion it did.
posted by girih knot at 7:03 PM on January 10, 2011


It is entirely possible to be called racist and to acknowledge that one is racist without behaving as though you've been slapped across the face and challenged to a duel or somehow insulted to your core.

I agree with you. At the same time, in a site this large, with such a diverse overthinky and irritable population, that sort of statement is what I would call "fighting words."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:04 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Either you're a solipsist or you're not entirely sure what "other" means. If you can be compared by someone to themselves in terms of difference, you are an other in their context.

My favorite part of that thread was when anniecat called us all racists because people were sharing anecdotes related to the FPP, which was framed around race to begin with.

I don't appreciate this at all.

I'm bowing out because I'm tired of this. I'm not going to fight with you people. It's an unsafe environment, unsafe topic, and I don't want to get bullied any more than I already have been on this topic. I exchanged MeMails with a few other Asian and South Asian Mefites and I'm glad we're not alone or at least alone in this together. I'm glad I can talk to them. They tried, I tried, but ultimately we'll get shouted down by the white people with unhappy asian friends who apparently prove their point.

I know this topic isn't one I'm going to discuss or revisit again with non-Asian Mefites. I was always told that America is a racist country, I thought maybe not so among the educated, but I see there are people who just don't get it.
posted by anniecat at 7:10 PM on January 10, 2011 [18 favorites]


hermitosis, I have long admired your comments from lurkerdom, but this feels like it needs a privilege check. It's not the best idea to respond when someone says, "I feel othered by this thing you're saying with regards to my ethnicity," with what is basically "that's an invalid way to feel!"

I walked away from that thread early because I could hear a ticking noise. I don't want to kick the bomb, but some of the stuff in here smacks of dismissive. Amy Chua saying aversive things is not free pass for floodgates open on "Asian parents."*

*rider: not everyone did this! it was cool!
posted by monster truck weekend at 7:14 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh good...I wasn't going to post in the FPP about my opinion on Chua's true intentions in the article—it didn't seem very constructive to the conversation—but I have no problem posting it in MetaTalk.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:16 PM on January 10, 2011


I suspect its because MetaFilter remains for the most part really White. All of these threads seem to end up with people talking about their friend from high school who was XYZ just like ABC. It gets tired. I imagine Victorian antropologists when I read what some people write. I more or less knew exactly how that thread was going to be once I saw it had 100+ comments.

Also that thread makes me want to beat any future children I have out of spite.
posted by chunking express at 7:17 PM on January 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


There's some great signal amongst the noise there - wuwei and russilwvong in particular.
posted by zamboni at 7:19 PM on January 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wait, wait, wait. I missed the part where annicat called you racist. Guilty conscience much?

The problem isn't criticism of Chua. Nobody's defending what sge describes in the article. The problem is when people start bashing Asian kids that were supposedly brought up with this stereotypical Chinese Mothering style. Here, I'll make it plain: fuck you for thinking we're weird just because we're smart and Asian.

Those are fighting words.

Full disclosure: I'm half White, half Filipino, and did not have a Chua-like mom.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:23 PM on January 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't appreciate this at all.

Didn't expect you to. You get what you give, though. If you're going to make a fighty accusation like that, expect to be called out for it.

Seriously, there were some dumb things being said in that thread (no original music from Asia? wth?) but as I said in-thread, a charitable read of the thread suggests that we do all know that the stories being shared are all anecdotal, and very few people were claiming that "THIS IS THE WAY CHINESE PEOPLE ALL ARE." You're reading any comment about someone's cultural differences as racism. It's not. Everyone is different, and some of those differences stem from culture, and it enriches us all to know the experiences of other people.
posted by girih knot at 7:27 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's some great signal amongst the noise there - wuwei and russilwvong in particular.

Seconding both of those. I also enjoyed perspectives like raw sugar's. And there was an opportunity missed to discuss community-based parenting which I totally missed because I was off finding salsa for my corn tapas.
posted by monster truck weekend at 7:29 PM on January 10, 2011


so, like, what was so ugly about my stuff. break it down for me because as someone who has blogged about the intersections of class, race and ethnicity for well over 10 years, am curious as to what exactly is so ugly about the point am making.
posted by liza at 7:34 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


btw @anniecat: as someone who is wanton to slapping down MeFites on issues of race IN A HEARTBEAT, i have to disagree with your assessment of everybody on that thread. you're painting people with an incredibly wide brush.

be specific and itemize the people who upset you. there's a lot of really great contributions on that thread and am boggled by your idea that somehow all "westerners" with there were just a gang of bigots.

i really, truly hope you ponder that one a bit.
posted by liza at 7:43 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was always told that America is a racist country, I thought maybe not so among the educated, but I see there are people who just don't get it.

Hey, she did it again!
posted by yellowcandy at 7:47 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was weirded out by the way that thread went too, and was reluctant to participate. Because at the time, I just didn't have it in me--to invest effort in a conversation that would have cost me increased aggravation. Because I knew the response would likely be dismissive & alienating. And this wouldn't be out of malice, or racism (whatever that is). But it would be depleting all the same.

Being the minority, the other, whatever you want to call it, teaches you that you have to walk away from a lot of frustration, or else be exhausted. We all know there are things you can talk about successfully with a small group of friends that you can't with the world at large. I think what peachfuzz, anniecat are expressing is that they hoped MeFi could function more like that small group of friends.

Oh and to save you the trouble of clicking on my name I am Asian.
posted by danny the boy at 7:47 PM on January 10, 2011 [16 favorites]


Wait, wait, wait. I missed the part where annicat called you racist. Guilty conscience much?

Well, I'm a Western Mefite. And I don't have any anecdotes about smart Asians or their upbringing. I'm not outright offended by other people's anecdotes about the Asian family down the street, though. In general, you could probably point out to people that they really don't know what it's like to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, and that it's stupid to assume things about someone based on what you perceive their background to be. But, you know, I have a lot of respect for this community, so I assume they know that already.

Racism is about hatred or superiority inherent to a race. I don't hate anyone based on their race. I don't think I'm superior to anyone based on any racial or cultural difference. Chua's article presents an extreme [on purpose] that a lot of people are going to find unpalatable. But the nature of it is going to bring about that kind of biased observation that says "hey, yeah, this kid I knew had an upbringing like that," or "grar that's so WRONG to raise kids like that!" I don't think it's racism. If it is, I don't think it's hateful, and it would be more helpful to discuss the contentious issues than shut down conversation by calling everyone racist and leaving in a huff.

I really am genuinely sorry if the things people have said in this thread have made people feel like MetaFilter is unsafe.
posted by girih knot at 8:01 PM on January 10, 2011


Why does this AskMe attribute this practice (of making the fruit jam for yogurt from inedible wood chips) to the Japanese?

Well, they do make beer out of corn and peas. OUT OF CORN AND PEAS.
posted by Hoopo at 8:10 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's the first thread where I've deliberately chosen not to post in on this site, mostly because I have enough trouble articulating issues of race/racism in person without having the additional filter of a computer screen on top of it.

Reading through all that was... really, really uncomfortable, because I've had a good 90% of those assumptions (being a robot, supposedly good at math, I'm supposed to be a complete brand-whore, etc, etc) leveled at me to my face, and reading all those on here was not pleasant. I can remember parts of my life where I did what people would consider 'stereotypical' Asian things, and it's kind of weird to think someone would've noticed it and later trot it out in an anecdote to support a theory or stereotype.

For me, the generalisations/anecdotes posted in that thread were problematic because mostly, everyone was aiming criticism at 'Chinese culture' and Chua's 'Chinese' method of parenting, and it seemed sort of universally agreed on that this 'Chinese method' is incorrect.

What the hell that 'Chinese culture' supposed to mean in this context? Actual Chinese people, Han Chinese people, living in China right now? Han Chinese people living a few dynasties ago? Chinese expats overseas? The Chinese minority in the Philippines or Malaysia? Mainland Chinese in modern Mandarin culture or Cantonese-speaking Chinese in Hong Kong? Or maybe the indigenous ethnic groups residing within Chinese borders but with their own languages and cultural memory. Chinese-Americans? Chinese-Canadians? British Chinese?

We are not a monolithic singular entity. We do not have a singular, easily generalised culture. We probably share aspects of what the world generalises as 'Chinese culture', but where we are raised, born and live influences what we experience and how we interact with and deal with that culture. At the heart of it, you can be ethnically Chinese and culturally not of modern Chinese culture - or even ancient Chinese culture.

So when I read anecdotes saying, 'this one time, at my high school, I knew a bunch of Chinese people like that, they were so sad' in a thread framed around how this one Chinese mom is doing her interpretation of 'Chinese parenting' (and Chua, seriously, thanks for wrapping up and Orientalising your parenting style to sell your book, that's totally helpful, thanks), it stings. Maybe you're not being a racist person by saying, 'white people are so much better at parenting than chinese people hurr', but when you're throwing out a story about people you maybe didn't know very well to illustrate Chua's point of raising 'successful' kids when she's emphasising the 'Chineseness' of it all, you're perpetuating the stereotype, even if you don't mean to. Look at that comment of The White Hat's - 130 favorites on an anecdote talking about 'a lot of these kids'. No individual information. No background history. No personal motivations. We know nothing of 'these kids' in the story besides the implication that 'these kids' were Chinese, went and did everything they were supposed to because that was what was expected of them. (The White Hat, I'm not calling you out - I know you later stated that you didn't mean for your comment to be focused on race, except in the context of the thread and read without your later addition, it reads as though it is.) Was White Hat being deliberately, maliciously, truly and deviously racist? Like he said later on, he wasn't, and I believe him. But it still comes across as unconsciously supporting the stereotype, and that's the problem. Intent doesn't matter - it's already been said, it's already been done.

Someone's going to tell me I'm being too sensitive, that race or these race-grounded generalisations aren't something I should be so concerned about, that everyone of course KNOWS that all these stories are anecdotal and that of COURSE everyone knows that those are generalisations, that we're living in a society that's slowly beginning to become race-blind. And I'd like to believe that, except for most of the planet, the first things another person is going to see about me is that I'm Chinese and I'm female, and both these physical traits carry with them years upon years of assumptions and generalisations: I'm weak. I'm exotic. I speak English with an accent. I'm good at math. I'm docile. I'm passive. I'm delicate. Out of all of these, I'm exactly none of them, but seriously, I get this crap all the time. When you put up a story like that and say, I know I'm generalising, but - you're still stripping away unseen amounts of personal history that made that person in your story who they were to focus in on the part that you yourself think is important, except - how can you judge what's important or not? Isn't that the confirmation bias in action? Correlation is never causation, and even if we all KNOW that this isn't true for EVERYONE, you're still saying this is true for the majority because the ones that aren't true are the exceptions to the rule and... and why do you get to be the one to set the rule? What gives you the authority?

Am I saying 'butt out if you're white'? No. I'm saying that those kids you - the person telling the story - saw in high school (and here, assuming that these kids everyone's talking about are Asian-American or Asians in the Western sphere), the kids you saw grow up and who were unhappy, the kids in your anecdotes: you don't know their motivations, their history, how they grew up dealing with being Asian in a white world and you don't know how they internalised it. You don't know the exact percentage of how being Asian influenced their life choices or how being Asian caused their parents to bring them up. You observed them from the outside. It doesn't tell you anything about how they were inside, and bringing stories like that into a conversation on how draconian Chinese parenting is like you yourself have a learned authority merely by observing this singular time in their lives is disingenuous at best.

I'm saying - there's more to someone with different skin than just their culture. Me being Chinese - I observe Chinese New Year. I celebrate the Midautumn. Cool: it's not the driving force in my life. I don't do something because I'm Chinese, I do it because I want to.

I'm rambling. I'm not good at talking about this stuff because it's tiring, takes forever and I'm really sick of being told to lighten up. I don't want to argue. I suck at arguing. I'm seriously not as smart or as intelligent as you guys - I see a plate of beans, I eat it. All I know is, I feel how I feel, talking about the intersections of race, culture and racism is exhausting and I spent an hour typing all this crap up and I still want to delete it and just walk away from my computer because for all I know, the next comment right after this directed at me is going to tell me to be quiet and that I'm wrong, and maybe I am. But I'm really sick of being quiet and if I didn't pay five bucks to be mouthy and loud, why did I? (To ask a question about pose running in the beginning, actually, but... wow, I just derailed my own comment. Ten points, me.)
posted by zennish at 8:21 PM on January 10, 2011 [74 favorites]


I studied Southeast Asian history at Uni. We had a history professor who came and lectured about Asian gangs and violence in America concerning media stereotypes. A brilliant man, and I was the only “white” to approach him and ask questions about his data and how it could be applied to the African-American community. I had seen the exact same racism the professor was proving in a magazine and wanted to share it with him as it re-enforced his hypothesis. I told him of the article…he paused and said “Hustler …huh” He seemed puzzled yet understood. Felt a little weird but what followed horrified me, another history prof was hovering near by, I said to him “interesting lecture” and he responded: “Asian hordes” and I felt like in-between something I could not understand. Were lies common ground. My point is that the whole surreal event was arbitrary, it lay outside myself, outside history and I could not broach these two minds if I tried. I came to understand that empty feeling. What I bring to this discussion is the luxury I had to afford such an empty feeling. I discussed this with my Japanese history prof , a man who I adore and respect, a man who set up e-mails in early 1995 between some folks in Michigan and folks in Japan. From those e-mails I was offered an invitation to stay in Japan for a year and my prof set me on a course to apply for university sponsorship. But I had a slight breakdown, Japan had an earthquake and my father was in his last months of life. I decided to go to my father. My father was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked, it took him a life time to banish the demon of racism he held but he told me to never capitalize upon my decision, never to use my decision to lament the past. Change can be momentary and last a life time.
posted by clavdivs at 8:24 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just got off a plane, sorry for ditching the thread!

Look, I'm not trying to deny anybody the ability to note cultural differences or draw on their personal experiences. I'm asking if we can talk about making the environment feel inclusive rather than exclusive. Yes, I realize that everyone's an other to someone. Yes, I realize there's a majority population here. but it feels like the majority poulation doesn't realize - or feel its important - that not everyone ia coming from thé same place. In fact, that's probably a good quick sniff test. Would you say "Asian parenting raises kids that follow instructions well but who lack creativity" to a group at a party that included a person of Asian descent? probably not. Or say, "all the asian kids I knew growing up are badly socialized and unhappy...no empathy there"? Of course not. It would be hurtful, and you'd get called on your bullshit.

On metafilter, we're in the room.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:25 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


The 'Hustler' was a friends she readily gave it up in the pursuit of truth.
posted by clavdivs at 8:31 PM on January 10, 2011


Assuming that someone is unaware of the privilege they have in being white American is pretty, uh, racist.

Oh come on. That isn't the slightest bit racist. Just like it's sexist when we assume that some men are not perfectly aware of the privilege they have in being male? Because I'm pretty sure that assumption is not generally considered sexist around here. I'm also pretty shocked to see people telling anniecat that she should just get used to being an "other", I thought we didn't really do that here (and no, the semantics about "everyone's an other" don't help - that's pretty condescending and dismissive, actually).

As long as we're weighing in, I was uncomfortable with the "just us white (western, maybe?) folks sitting around the dinner table shootin' the shit about the Asians" vibe of the whole discussion. If the thread had been about gay parenting, just for example, I am willing to bet that more people would have been concerned about the presentation and/or relevance of some of the lovely anecdotes that people just had to share, stuff like "yeah, I knew a couple of smart Asians, they were miserable all the time and had no friends," or whatever.

On preview, peachfuzz said it better than I did, and zennish, I'm really glad you posted.
posted by dialetheia at 8:37 PM on January 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm 50% Jewish. Ask me about what to do with 50% of your money.
posted by orville sash at 8:37 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


2bucksplus: "After reading articles like this or yesterday's on Chinese parenting I always feel a strong inclination to call up my parents and thank them for not being dogmatic nutcases."

See this is what I am talking about. I can't even avoid it because doesn't stay in its own thread. I don't know if that was 2bucksplus' takeaway, or he brought that into the discussion with him. But god damn.
posted by danny the boy at 8:39 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


zennish: Thank you, really, for sharing that. I think you're better at talking about it than you think.

dialetheia: I was joking. I'm sorry that wasn't clear.
posted by girih knot at 8:42 PM on January 10, 2011


Money nothing: what should I do with all the chocolate coins?
posted by boo_radley at 8:48 PM on January 10, 2011


* these
posted by boo_radley at 8:49 PM on January 10, 2011


hermitosis, I have long admired your comments from lurkerdom, but this feels like it needs a privilege check. It's not the best idea to respond when someone says, "I feel othered by this thing you're saying with regards to my ethnicity," with what is basically "that's an invalid way to feel!"

All I was saying is that there's a lot of neutral language in the comments that seems to relate to strict parenting styles completely independent of ethnicity. And that I think it was being misread as blanket statements about Chinese people because those were the examples provided by the post. In a lot of the "offending" comments, no reference to any ethnicity is given, it just seems like mefites trying to relate to the subject matter based on their own first- or second-hand experiences.

It's invalid to feel hurt by something someone is saying in regards to your ethnicity if they haven't said anything at all in regards to your ethnicity.

I think this was a bad post for MetaFilter, in no small part because the poster was looking for "interesting conversation" instead of sharing something of real distinction.
posted by hermitosis at 8:52 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


just us white (western, maybe?) folks sitting around the dinner table shootin' the shit

...then we all went to McDonalds for after-dinner Supersized Big Mac Meals and hot apple pies.
posted by Hoopo at 8:53 PM on January 10, 2011


I'm saying that those kids you - the person telling the story - saw in high school (and here, assuming that these kids everyone's talking about are Asian-American or Asians in the Western sphere), the kids you saw grow up and who were unhappy

See, this -- this is what I mean. When I read these anecdotes, I didn't assume that, because it wasn't specified. It seemed to me that people were just referring to unhappy kids with intensely strict parents, full stop.

If there is some sort of privilege-algorithm I need to adjust because of that, so be it. But I think people who were already on edge (understandably, bad post) were projecting a teensy bit too much and reading things that weren't there.
posted by hermitosis at 8:56 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It now occurs to me that those kids were probably secretly asian.

One time for Halloween we didn't have costumes. So I went as secret south asian man, another friend when as secret asian man, and yet another as secret caucasian man. The people loved it, they loved it. We didn't win the costume contest however.
posted by juiceCake at 8:57 PM on January 10, 2011


I don't think the thread went badly at all. Sure, some people got upset but really they strike me as the kind of people that actively seek out these kinds of threads just to whine and show how superior and non-racist they are. I actually feel kind of bad for them. I wonder what these people would do if they ever encountered real racism, y'know, the kind that actually hurts people. Some comments in that thread were a little ignorant, but that's to be expected. MeFi is a large and diverse community. If something was really outright racist and offensive I'm sure the mods would take care of it.

Seriously, if the comments linked to in the OP are offending you then you really don't know racism. Period. I bet black people raised in the south in the pre-Civil Rights era (and maybe even after it) could tell you all about what REAL racism is like. You are doing a disservice to all minority groups by crying wolf like this.

But hey I'm white so I just can't possibly know what it's like to be a minority
posted by MattMangels at 9:03 PM on January 10, 2011


But this discussion doesn't happen in a vacuum, hermitosis. You may be talking about generic strict parents, but it's on a thread about an article that equates strictness with Chineseness. And a lot of the accusations (about unhappiness, about lack of creativity, about lack of empathy) are ones that are leveled pretty frequently against Asian-Americans and that Asian-American (/Asian-Canadian/ Asian-whatever-Western-country) participants in this discussion may have had to confront in their actual lives. I don't think in that context that it makes sense to say "we're just talking about strict parents, not about race." Race is all over that discussion, whether you want it to be there or not.
posted by craichead at 9:08 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't think the thread went badly at all. Sure, some people got upset but really they strike me as the kind of people that actively seek out these kinds of threads just to whine and show how superior and non-racist they are.
That's a total asshole thing to say. And it's in Derailing for Dummies and everything!
posted by craichead at 9:11 PM on January 10, 2011 [12 favorites]


this discussion doesn't happen in a vacuum

That's valid, and the confusion was probably inevitable because of the surrounding material, but it's a big deal to call out individual mefites in MeTa, and link to their comments, and accuse them of ethnic stereotyping, when some of the instances are actually pretty vague. It's a terrible way to start a dialogue about what's wrong.
posted by hermitosis at 9:17 PM on January 10, 2011


That whole excerpt was (obviously) based on stereotypes. I'm not sure why anyone would expect a thread coming from it that didn't include responses such as:
1) that article has a lot of horseshit stereotypes;
2) I've known kids like that who have fit that stereotype exactly and turned out great;
3) I've known kids like that who have turned out horribly.

Which is what we got.

I think it's always touchy when people who are "other" respond to someone within a certain band of culture describing what it's like there. But in fairness it should be acknowledged that the posters in that thread were responding to someone claiming to speak for Chinese motherhood. It is a cultural conversation, I mean, and one started by Chua (presumably on purpose).

And related to that, did anyone else read Chua's excerpt as intending to be comical, somewhat like, for example, Anne Lamott's books? It has some serious points, but it's still tongue-in-cheek. I mean, these bits are not 100% serious:

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

...Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it's probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children. (And it's true that Chinese mothers get in the trenches, putting in long grueling hours personally tutoring, training, interrogating and spying on their kids.) Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

[Disagreeing with her husband]: "Kids don't owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids." This strikes me as a terrible deal for the Western parent.


The humor here relies on people being able to recognize the stereotype. It doesn't mean she ever literally said to her daughter that she was "lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic." It does mean she's pointing out certain cultural differences and making some points about those differences. I guess I've read enough books about parenting from various perspectives that this doesn't strike me as offensive; it also doesn't seem offensive for people to respond to the stereotypes put up for discussion.
posted by torticat at 9:22 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter doesn't do race well.

(I also was irritated by the phrasing of the question here, but pretty much think I'm better off just not engaging with race issues here.)
posted by bluedaisy at 9:31 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Come on craichead (nice name btw). Is it so hard to see that some people really do enjoy being offended? How else do you explain anniecat's posts in this thread? I don't mean to sound like an asshole, but this practice of looking for racism in places that it doesn't exist in just bugs the hell out of me. There is so much real racism out there that needs attention drawn to it (our nation's drug laws come to mind, for one). It reminds me of those feminists that look everywhere, and I mean everywhere for female subjugation. It just makes too angry to argue about this rationally. Go get mad about something real.

Look at it this way: yeah it sucks to be stereotyped, I'm Irish, I know. But Asians are one of the few groups, in the USA anyway, who have a positive stereotype, i.e. that they are motivated achievers and very, very smart (as opposed to say, "black people can't swim" or "Irish can't do anything but drink").
posted by MattMangels at 9:34 PM on January 10, 2011


Strongly favoriting zennish's comment.
posted by naju at 9:34 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh dear.
posted by hermitosis at 9:35 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Seriously, if the comments linked to in the OP are offending you then you really don't know racism. Period. I bet black people raised in the south in the pre-Civil Rights era (and maybe even after it) could tell you all about what REAL racism is like.

Ah, yes, a white man to tell us what counts as "real" racism.

Oh, hey, look, black people raised in pre-Civil Rights era talk about racism and how white folks tell them it's not as bad as it used to be and if they just patiently wait, it'll all get better.

Is this like saying "Oh, don't be upset they called you a bitch, I mean, you could be stoned to death like in the Bible, that's real sexism!"?
posted by yeloson at 9:42 PM on January 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeloson, what I'm saying is that some people here have clearly failed or dropped out of Picking Your Battles 101.

For instance, anniecat wrote: What you're saying sounds eerily like "Why don't minorities just come back where they came from? Why do they stay?"

This was prompted by people sharing their anecdotes about Asians they know. It's people like her that make it hard for MeFi to have rational, sane discussions about race. It's not the fault of the people that merely point this out.
posted by MattMangels at 9:49 PM on January 10, 2011


That's a total asshole thing to say. And it's in Derailing for Dummies and everything!

Did you just pull a fucking bingo card?
posted by Artw at 9:49 PM on January 10, 2011


What kind of currency should the US use, MattMangles? I'm tring to calibrate here.
posted by boo_radley at 9:54 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I also was irritated by the phrasing of the question here, but pretty much think I'm better off just not engaging with race issues here.)

See, just like hermitosis is talking about, a different perspective leads to different understandings. I never in a million years would have associated that question with race. What really bothered me about anniecat's comments in the thread was that I felt she was assuming everyone was just being a terrible racist, but people were largely unaware of any racism they were committing.

To have open discourse so that humanity can move past things like racism as a whole, we need to strive to take things other people are saying in good faith and explain our own points of view dispassionately, so that we can all learn and grow from each other instead of getting defensive and putting up walls.
posted by girih knot at 9:54 PM on January 10, 2011


The thread went sour for the usual reasons race threads go sour.

1. The white people who actually believe Chua's bizarre article is true, and going on about it. (See also: all white people burn crosses and have plastic Jesus on their dashboard! Trufax!)

2. The white people who don't believe it, but suffering usual white privilege, only know how to talk about the situation through unintentionally patronizing anecdotes ("I once had an asian friend who wasn't like this! It's true, I, a fellow white person can verify! So you know it's real!")

3. The asian people in the thread, get drowned out about their actual experiences, or, you know, concerns about problematic language (Robots! Seriously?).

4. Then comes the misreading! The difference between, liza's comments about the ways in which people DO play to the color hierarchy and model minority myth (Chua's article especially smacked of this), and the rewards people get for playing to stereotypes. (Oh, but wait, suddenly it's "schooling= whiteness" which is totally not what was being argued.

Mind you, I don't expect better from Metafilter - which isn't a condemnation of Metafilter as much as a realistic expectation of what you can get outside of spaces that are actively anti-racist.

(though, it would be nice if I didn't see a hell of a lot of people chiming in to say "Wow, how weird and robotic those asian people are!" as the dehumanization crutch to deal with people.)
posted by yeloson at 9:55 PM on January 10, 2011 [22 favorites]


Thanks to all the White people who told me about your Asian friend. I learned a lot.

Me too. And I do appreciate the continued use of my entire race as a sloppy shorthand for economic and social supremacy, especially as contrasted with the extreme plight of upper-class Asians - the viola practice, the hyper-competitive yawning lessons, the cultivation of the perfect Oxford sniff...
posted by kid ichorous at 9:56 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bears repeating:

I'm saying that those kids you - the person telling the story - saw in high school (and here, assuming that these kids everyone's talking about are Asian-American or Asians in the Western sphere), the kids you saw grow up and who were unhappy, the kids in your anecdotes: you don't know their motivations, their history, how they grew up dealing with being Asian in a white world and you don't know how they internalised it. You don't know the exact percentage of how being Asian influenced their life choices or how being Asian caused their parents to bring them up. You observed them from the outside. It doesn't tell you anything about how they were inside, and bringing stories like that into a conversation on how draconian Chinese parenting is like you yourself have a learned authority merely by observing this singular time in their lives is disingenuous at best.

Thanks, zennish.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:58 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's people like her that make it hard for MeFi to have rational, sane discussions about race

Ah, it's Those People.

Also, thanks for telling us what battles we should pick. Did you check out the link I left? Because it's all about white folks telling other people what battles they should pick.

(You know, "real" racism)
posted by yeloson at 9:58 PM on January 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


Matt, I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you mean well. Do you know of Tim Wise? He's got a great essay which has a local angle for you. It's my personal recommendation for you.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:00 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


To have open discourse so that humanity can move past things like racism as a whole, we need to strive to take things other people are saying in good faith and explain our own points of view dispassionately, so that we can all learn and grow from each other instead of getting defensive and putting up walls.

It's really hard to be dispassionate when something is not just academic, but is the life you lead. I am unable to talk dispassionately about the racism my children have suffered. Could you really expect a parent to do otherwise?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:02 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


bluedaisy: I don't have any expectations of how a parent should behave. But this is why I use "dispassionately": it read like there was passion in what you just said, and it makes it impossible for me to make any comment without coming across like an asshole. No one should have to endure racism. But I really, really believe everyone here means well, and my hope would be that we can discuss stereotypes in a way that would enlighten the people who have the privilege of not enduring racism.
posted by girih knot at 10:13 PM on January 10, 2011


I'm 50% Jewish. Ask me about what to do with 50% of your money.
posted by orville sash at 8:37 PM on January 10 [1 favorite +] [!]


I think this was aimed at me? I think it was supposed to be self-deprecating on orville sash's part, but I can't help but think that it's meant to minimize the fact that I only have one Asian parent? So that means that I'm, you know, only half-qualified to talk about being hurt by Asian stereotypes?

Sorry for the uptalk, I tend to talk that way when I try to figure out if somebody's insulted me. Being half is a whole other set of stereotypes that nobody seems to know how to deal with, and which are much more personal to me. It's no fun having to be stereotyped by both halves of your heritage to the point of being stuck in a cultural no man's land. Just keep in mind that Chua's kids are also half.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:15 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


jabberjaw, I'm pretty sure it was just a joke, not aimed at anyone. At least, that's how I read it.
posted by girih knot at 10:18 PM on January 10, 2011


In what sorts of ways are white folks allowed to talk about race?

These threads always make me feel like anything I could possibly say would end up being considered racist by someone. It frustrates me because it seems that I am disallowed from having any sort of discussion about the topic, which means that I don't really make any progress or learn anything.
posted by that girl at 10:21 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


that girl: That is because when anti-racism activists say "conversation" they mean "shut up and listen".
posted by Ardiril at 10:24 PM on January 10, 2011


Ah, it's Those People.

Ok, I'm done here. It's clear you have no interest in arguing with me and just want to make me look like a racist, ignorant white person. In addition to failing Picking Your Battles 101 at least one MeFite here has failed Clue Acquisition 101.

Bluedaisy, I'm reading your article but I don't see the evidence of SF being extremely racist, other than flimsy anecdotes. I haven't finished yet, but it seems like the usual Slate-perfected nonsense contrarianism. I could be wrong though.
posted by MattMangels at 10:24 PM on January 10, 2011


Hey anniecat: to be clear, I wasn't recounting my "cool band" interaction with an Asian girl to talk about how that Asian girl was the same as or different than other Asian people.

I was simply stating that I met my first Asian person EVER at age 13, which (considering that I now live in Chicago and am friends with all different kinds of people) is weird and sad. I didn't even know THAT there were stereotypes about Asian people until I got to college, because no one I ever knew growing up knew any Asian people either. We heard a lot from people in the original thread who did grow up knowing Asian people, and I wanted to show everyone what a special little snowflake I was.

But most importantly, I also wanted a cookie, damnit.

So congratulations on assuming that my little anecdote about one person--one named friend, at that--was meant as anything even close to a reflection on Asian people as a whole. Projecting much?
posted by phunniemee at 10:26 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


In what sorts of ways are white folks allowed to talk about race?

From what I've gathered, you're supposed to apologize for secretly ruling the known universe from your trailer park, kiss an icon of KRS-One (93 era), and then set your keyboard ablaze.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:38 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


In what sorts of ways are white folks allowed to talk about race?

These threads always make me feel like anything I could possibly say would end up being considered racist by someone. It frustrates me because it seems that I am disallowed from having any sort of discussion about the topic, which means that I don't really make any progress or learn anything.


To (hopefully) sum up the two things that bothered people the most about comments in the thread:

1) Comments that explicitly or implicitly generalize huge groups of people ("Chinese culture", Asian immigrant parenting) based on anecdotes / what you think you understand about a few people you knew in high school

2) Comments that prop up unfair, unaccurate stereotypes about these groups of people, specifically based on the harmful "robot Asians" narrative that often pops up in relation to the model minority myth.

I would think every other comment should be okay. I personally think this particular subject is really hard to talk about in a way that doesn't offend, because 1) the strict parent thing has some basis in reality, for example I grew up like this, but 2) any acknowledgement of this seems to fuel the "robot Asians" stuff, which I find to be annoying bullshit.
posted by naju at 10:38 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Matt, I'm glad you're reading it. My point wasn't at all that SF is racist (though it concerns me you are so quick to dismiss anecdotes when earlier you mentioned asking black people about the South--and, as a Portlander, I can say that if SF is anything like Portland, then we both live in towns with a bunch of white liberals who think that because their town is liberal, there's no racism. I hear West Coasters saying things all the time like, "Hey, this isn't the South; there's no racism here." Which is just wrong.). I thought the article had some other good, interesting stuff if you're open to it. The SF comment was truly just a quick comment.

Girih, I don't think you're coming across as an asshole. I meant that asking folks to speak dispassionately about something that has hurt them deeply is a tall order. We wouldn't expect victims of crime to speak without emotion about the crime. Same goes for people who have suffered racism.

That girl, I'm a white person who has worked hard to become more comfortable talking about race. But when speaking with people of color, I try to listen first. I'm not saying you aren't doing that. But we stumble a lot when learning new things. This is all part of unpacking white privilege. If you want to browse a great blog about race and pop culture, I recommend Racialicious. Tim Wise is also a great antiracist activist and writer.

And, everyone, you've now succeeded in harassing anniecat away. Can you back off a bit now?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:40 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


though, it would be nice if I didn't see a hell of a lot of people chiming in to say "Wow, how weird and robotic those asian people are!"

yeloson, I ask this sincerely, would you mind posting links to what you're seeing here?

I really didn't see a "hell of a lot of people" saying anything like this. Again, sincerely, I'd like to know if I just missed it.
posted by torticat at 10:40 PM on January 10, 2011


Oh, and now that I'm all riled up, wanna hear something about people making assumptions?

Try having an Asian name and not actually being Asian. I can't tell you how many people I've met first online or on paper--professors, prospective employers, friends, etc--who meet me in person and are let down (yes, you can read the flicker of disappointment on their faces) to see a white kid standing in front of them rather than the Jennifer Lee they were promised. Like I was lying to them or something. Like somehow I'm less smart or less driven because my parents' parents are from Indiana.

So it works both ways, bro.

And NO, Tracy Kwon, I am not going to buy insurance from you just because you send me the State Farm mailers written in Korean. Thanks but no thanks.
posted by phunniemee at 10:42 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holy crap, I just realized how cool it would be to actually be half-robot instead of half-Asian.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:43 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


In what sorts of ways are white folks allowed to talk about race?

I don't think it's a question of being "allowed", but in this case the minority dynamic is important, which white people often don't really have in a North American context. I'm white and have been part of a very small minority, but only for a year and a half and then came back home to Canada. I experienced plenty of racism in that time for sure, but because it was for such a short time I don't think I could speak with any authority on what it's like to live as a member of a minority. I had the luxury of just laughing it off as novel for the most part, like when my friend's mom told me I was a "good" white guy because I didn't smell like a dog when I got wet. Or when women at the local bar would comment on how it was so great how I wasn't a loud violent pervert like most white guys. Some of my co-workers who had been there 10 years or more didn't find it so funny when people made these sorts of comments.

That said, the conversation seems to be more about upbringing than race here, and in a North American context it's important to realize "white" and "Western" can be fairly meaningless in that respect. That is a visible difference that has no bearing on how you were raised. Growing up, when I'd go to the homes of even my white friends, their parents wouldn't be speaking English and if they were they didn't have the same accent as my parents. We didn't celebrate the same holidays the same way or eat the same foods at the same times. Most people I know even now are first generation Canadians whose parents immigrated here, and so am I. It would be a gross generalization to think that white people or "Western" people are all raised the same way and share common values and experiences and had similar upbringings. The privilege we enjoy may be shared, but not the background.
posted by Hoopo at 10:51 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


^That is because when anti-racism activists say "conversation" they mean "shut up and listen".
Eh. I don't buy that. I think that when anti-racism activists say "conversation" they mean "discussion where people who are marginalized by the racist power structure are given a voice that may, at this one place and time, be protected, and may actually be permitted to be louder than the voices of the dominant majority in that structure."

But that's really unwieldy, isn't it?
posted by gingerest at 10:59 PM on January 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


Mind you, I don't expect better from Metafilter - which isn't a condemnation of Metafilter as much as a realistic expectation of what you can get outside of spaces that are actively anti-racist.

Dear god, I hate to think what rabid holes of back-biting and in-fighting those are.
posted by Artw at 11:12 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


The anecdote thing is one of the things that really trips me up--anecdotes/stories from friends and acquaintances seem to be one of the few ways that white people have of thinking about race and how it can make things different for people of other races.

I can see why "I knew 2 Asian kids in high school and I hear they're miserable now, so all Asians must be miserable" is a crap generalization and rather offensive. But it does seem that scholarship appears to have been given much more importance in Korea and China as compared to western nations (given information I have read about civil service exams and other exams required for prestigious work in these countries). I might want to posit there seems to be a continued stress on education in these countries and for descendants of people from these countries. Is this offensive?

Also I would like to know more about why the "robot Asian" stereotype is particularly harmful. I can understand getting personally irritated/offended at being called something non-human, but I'm curious about how the stereotype is harmful in the general case. For the case of black people being called sub-human I get the feeling of why this is bad--it is claiming (among other things) that they are incapable of rational logical thought and can't really take care of themselves, but robots are held as the example of logical rational thought, so that doesn't quite seem to apply. I have found it harder to find examples of how stereotypes have adversely affected Asians.
posted by that girl at 11:15 PM on January 10, 2011


And NO, Tracy Kwon, I am not going to buy insurance from you just because you send me the State Farm mailers written in Korean. Thanks but no thanks.

That's nothing, I got a pamphlet in the mail from a plastic surgeon trying to sell me blepharoplasty. See you don't really understand what it's like to get Asian junk mail!

(I'm kidding, in case you didn't get that.)

posted by girlhacker at 11:17 PM on January 10, 2011


That girl, the blog I mentioned earlier, Racialicious, discusses this very issue--the model minority problem--in their blog post about the original Wall Street Journal article.

For a more strongly worded reaction to the original article and the issue of the model minority, check out this post on Resist Racism.

Also, this Wikipedia entry on model minority gives a helpful overview.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:27 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know, i'm not clear that people are on the same page about what a 'good' conversation around 'difficult' topics would look like. That seems to get in the way of having one.

I remember a labor mediator once told me something like, "As long as neither side comes to physical blows, it's a good conversation", and I believe it. Personally, both of these posts are interesting conversations. For example, I think it's totally interesting that there is this thread of a white vs. minority perspectives, as in my experience, some minorities - or whatever term you prefer - exhibit racist behavior, (and would make fabulous Klan members, if only the KKK had a diversity initiative). I just figure that everyone does and doesn't exhibit a little racist behavior, depending on what your definition of racist is - which is part of the problem - folks have different definitions of what qualifies as racist behavior. While I find it difficult to have a dispassionate conversation about anything that affects me personally and is meaningful to me, I take the issue of intention seriously. If the person's sincere intention is not to offend, then I have to manage my own reaction of feeling offended. It doesn't strike me that anyone's initial statements in either thread were meant to offend, though they might have.

...the effort to offend often seems to show up in the later comments - after a person felt attacked, and given a choice, struck back. I think that's where we start gong down the rabbit hole. All the language around "you people", "those people", general comments (excluding people's personal stories) around X people "white people", "Asian people", etc., phrases like "project much?", the phrase "Fuck you", etc. Those just strike me as trying to hurt because the person felt hurt themselves.

The last thing that labor guy told me was that you always have that moment in a discussion or mediation, when there is a perceived or actual slight, where one can either respond by escalating or de-escalating. Escalating will always feel immediately physically and emotionally more rewarding, but it doesn't lead to greater understanding, or results where each person gains. But even in the face of escalating comments, at least people aren't coming to blows, and as long as everyone is still talking, there are changes for positive outcomes. So that's why I always read the contentious threads like these, because they might be contentious, but there is hope for positive outcomes.
posted by anitanita at 11:36 PM on January 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


Whup, one more thing to say, because this was referring back to me and then I've got to get going:

I'm saying that those kids you - the person telling the story - saw in high school (and here, assuming that these kids everyone's talking about are Asian-American or Asians in the Western sphere), the kids you saw grow up and who were unhappy

See, this -- this is what I mean. When I read these anecdotes, I didn't assume that, because it wasn't specified. It seemed to me that people were just referring to unhappy kids with intensely strict parents, full stop.


Those anecdotes were put in a thread specifically talking about Chinese parenting, in a thread that was already heading down the road of the majority saying, 'that's messed up'. If those anecdotes were placed in another thread framed around merely strict parenting geared towards your offspring's success without mentioning ethnicity/race, I would agree with you. But this thread was about a WSJ article with some subtitle about 'superior Chinese mothers' talking about a Chinese woman espousing her method of Chinese parenting and about how this Chinese parenting is so much different/better/whatever than Western parenting with so much bleeding emphasis on the Chinese bit. Like it or not, framed within that context and added with the already largely-known stereotype that Asian students = hardworking, uncreative, success-driven little automatons that do whatever their parents want - those anecdotes take on the framing they're posted in, and that frame was about Chinese parenting (and Chinese kids).

And if you're referring to me in the rest of your comment: I genuinely don't think I was 'on edge' and I tried very hard to be as polite as possible - I didn't even participate in the original thread because I tune into Metafilter for the cool posts and awesome flash games, not huge posts dealing with contentious race issues. Believe it or not, this stuff - deal with it every day. At work: if I bring in sushi, someone points out that I'm being Asian that day. If I (who happens to really, really suck at math) manage to add two numbers one day, someone (usually the same person) says something about my Asian genes kicking in. I can't be 'on edge' about this stuff any more. I'm too tired for it. I can manage snark some days, but for the rest of the days - you know, that's what scotch is for.
posted by zennish at 11:46 PM on January 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


Actually--from what I said above--"I knew 2 Asian kids in high school and I hear they're miserable now, so all Asians must be miserable" is offensive, but is just "I knew 2 Asian kids in high school and I hear they're miserable now" always also offensive? What about "I knew 2 Asian kids in high school and I hear they're miserable now, so there are certainly some Asians have suffered under strict education-focused parenting"?

bluedaisy: I read that article and I saw their argument, but I am still a little confused because the points often still seemed more race-internal than external. For one example, this quote: "First and foremost, they say “model minority” pressure — the pressure some Asian-American families put on children to be high achievers at school and professionally — helps explain the problem." Does this mean that if white Americans didn't think of Asians as having general higher educational achievement that they would be free to slack off without repercussions? The wikipedia article has some better examples about how the stereotype can be externally harmful (stricter teachers, neglect from social services agencies).
posted by that girl at 11:54 PM on January 10, 2011


We just can't have conversations about people as if they aren't in the room.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:22 AM on January 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


I couldn't agree more with Amy Chua. Self-esteem comes from being good at stuff, and being good at stuff comes from working hard. The "violin and piano only" model isn't exactly my cuppa, but the general gist, that confidence and self-esteem (as well as, of course, valuable competency) comes from early acquisition of the ability to sit down and do work, is absofuckinglutely correct.

I've been teaching the smartest kids in Korea for four years, and many of the smartest Korean kids at US boarding schools for eight.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:26 AM on January 11, 2011


In all honesty, all the Chinese kid I went to school with was smart and very hardworking.

And yet we only got bronze in the 3rd grade science fair. Fuck was up with that, Steven?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:54 AM on January 11, 2011


^Racism is about hatred or superiority inherent to a race. I don't hate anyone based on their race. I don't think I'm superior to anyone based on any racial or cultural difference.

^Also I would like to know more about why the "robot Asian" stereotype is particularly harmful. I can understand getting personally irritated/offended at being called something non-human, but I'm curious about how the stereotype is harmful in the general case.


No, racism is about stereotyping people based on their race. If you look at a person and you draw conclusions about them solely based on their race, that is racist, whether they are "good" conclusions or not.

There is a great TED talk given by Chimamanda Adichie called The danger of the single story -- if you've got 19 minutes to spare, have a listen, but for me the money quote is this:
And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story....

I've always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.
So if you are really interested in the whole truth of a person, there is just no point in entertaining stereotypes of any sort. Every time you apply them to a person, you dismiss that person's individuality. And to be dismissed like that constantly is not cool, even if all they're calling you is Math Whiz.
posted by emeiji at 1:00 AM on January 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


D'oh. I borked that link.
The danger of the single story
posted by emeiji at 1:02 AM on January 11, 2011


but robots are held as the example of logical rational thought,

Ask a few tall guys who hate basketball about "positive stereotypes." Or gay guys who don't give a shit about interior decoration, fashion, or listening to straight women complain about their boyfriends.

No, racism is about stereotyping people based on their race.

Except, apparently, white people. Well, that's what Metafilter has taught me.
posted by rodgerd at 1:21 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]



And, everyone, you've now succeeded in harassing anniecat away. Can you back off a bit now?


Woah now, you've just spent thousands of words telling people not to generalise and stereotype and then accused everyone in the thread of bullying? I think that's a bit rough, and certainly not doing anything to defuse a fairly fraught topic.
posted by smoke at 1:30 AM on January 11, 2011


Disclaimer: This comment is based on the first half of the original thread, because that's all I've read so far. I may have missed something.

Please don't hurt me.

hermitosis: It seemed to me that people were just referring to unhappy kids with intensely strict parents, full stop.

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but that was also my take on things.

zennish: Those anecdotes were put in a thread specifically talking about Chinese parenting, in a thread that was already heading down the road of the majority saying, 'that's messed up'. If those anecdotes were placed in another thread framed around merely strict parenting geared towards your offspring's success without mentioning ethnicity/race, I would agree with you. But this thread was about a WSJ article with some subtitle about 'superior Chinese mothers' talking about a Chinese woman espousing her method of Chinese parenting and about how this Chinese parenting is so much different/better/whatever than Western parenting with so much bleeding emphasis on the Chinese bit. Like it or not, framed within that context and added with the already largely-known stereotype that Asian students = hardworking, uncreative, success-driven little automatons that do whatever their parents want - those anecdotes take on the framing they're posted in, and that frame was about Chinese parenting (and Chinese kids)."

Hm. Well. Chua did admit that she was using both "Chinese mother" and "Western parents" in the loosest sense possible:

"I’m using the term 'Chinese mother' loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term 'Western parents' loosely. Western parents come in all varieties."

Although reading this the first time gave me a bit of a violent tic (if a phrase can be so loosely applied, I think you should maybe find something a little less problematic), I figured the responses in the thread were just adopting her terminology rather than actually referring specifically to Chinese or Asian parents. I read it as lazy shorthand for something like "overbearing / controlling / borderline abusive parents with absurdly high standards," not something intentionally malicious aimed at a particular minority. This part of anitanita's excellent comment comes to mind:

"While I find it difficult to have a dispassionate conversation about anything that affects me personally and is meaningful to me, I take the issue of intention seriously. If the person's sincere intention is not to offend, then I have to manage my own reaction of feeling offended. It doesn't strike me that anyone's initial statements in either thread were meant to offend, though they might have."

I felt that commenters' intentions seemed sincere (and nonoffensive) as well.*** If I have a problem with anyone, it's with Chua for using that sort of divisive "Chinese mother" versus "Western parents" language in the first place.

*** It's possible that I've become desensitized to casual comments about "Asian" or "Chinese" parenting. I went to a highly competitive high school where tongue-in-cheek phrases like "Asian fail" (less than a 90 or 95 out of 100; I forget which) were a part of the vernacular and used regularly by people of all ethnicities. (2010 demographics in case you're curious: 69.3% Asian, 25.7% Caucasian, 1.7% African American, 2.9% Hispanic.)
posted by junques at 2:04 AM on January 11, 2011


MattMangels: Look at it this way: yeah it sucks to be stereotyped, I'm Irish, I know. But Asians are one of the few groups, in the USA anyway, who have a positive stereotype, i.e. that they are motivated achievers and very, very smart (as opposed to say, 'black people can't swim' or 'Irish can't do anything but drink').

Okay. I hope you don't feel like I'm singling you out or anything, but I feel like I need to respond to this. Not exactly to your comment, but to the idea that there are positive stereotypes.

(Not a fan of stereotypes, assumptions, generalizations, etc. They get me all riled up.)

(Yes I know I just made my own blanket statement. Words are hard.)

When I was in middle school (and sometimes even now, when I've had a bad enough day) these "positive" stereotypes would drive me up the wall. I was one of the only Asian kids in the class and yeah, I did get good grades, but I would find it annoying to no end whenever someone casually said something like "Oh, well, of course you passed the test." Maybe I should've been less susceptible to the expectations of others or something, I don't know, but their "praise" didn't make me feel good or proud or whatever. Instead, it made me feel like I *had* to do well. If I received a low grade (or god forbid, failed) then something was wrong with me. I dreaded the comments that would come should I get anything less than a 90 on an assignment. I wished that people would acknowledge that I could fail, that I was the same as everyone else, instead of constantly implying that failure was out of the question.

This made me paranoid about my grades. Paranoid enough to ignore someone when they asked what I got on an assignment (which was almost always--it was just that [irritating] Thing People Did, being nosy about grades). I didn't want to hear the dismissive (supposedly complimentary) remarks if I did well, or the snide, mock-horror "Wow, you got an [insert less-than-perfect-A grade here]?" (Or even worse, what if someone did better than me? Oh god, the gloating. As if I should be the standard against which all others are measured. I didn't want that kind of attention. I didn't want to be known as "the smart kid" or whatever-the-fuck.)

Long story short (because I'm getting sidetracked by bad memories now): I tried to hide my grades as soon as I got them and everyone thought I was mean and weird. Middle school kinda sucked (and that's even without getting into all the other stereotypes I had to endure).

Sometimes I wondered (still wonder) if I was being too sensitive, but there ya go. That's my two cents.

Um. Where was I again?

Oh right. Stereotypes = bad.

They may seem easy or casual or innocent, but to someone who may have been subjected to them for their entire lives, they hold a lot of weight.

Again: not trying to call you out or make you feel bad or anything. Just trying to show how ostensibly positive stereotypes can be potentially harmful.


... and now I feel like I should explain the difference between my reactions to the middle school "You must have gotten an A" and the high school "Asian fail." On the surface, both are examples of the casual "Asians are smart / always get good grades" stereotype. However, I never felt like my high school peers expected something from me. The "Asian fail" comments were usually used to refer to themselves in a jokey, self-deprecating manner. It didn't seem so much an extension of the stereotype so much as shorthand for "my grade was below a 90 and this is unacceptable because I expect more from myself and yes, I realize this might sound a little extreme or ridiculous so I'm going to describe it using this silly phrase." Although it was expressed poorly, the generalization being made was about a particular mindset, not a particular minority.

Conversely, the middle school comments always felt like they were targeted toward me or my race. "You're Asian, you must be smart." "You're junques, you must have gotten the top grade." "You're Asian, no wonder you have glasses and are good at math." Etc etc.

And yes, I know that there are countries in Asia other than China / Korea / Japan / Vietnam / [something I'm probably forgetting because I'm tired and my geography is terrible], which are what people usually mean when they say "Asian." This is another example of lazy shorthand, one which I haven't found a way around yet. For what it's worth, I usually try to avoid it by not making such broad statements in the first place. Apologies for using it so often here.

I'm not sure if I'm making sense. Time for bed.
posted by junques at 2:19 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, racism is about stereotyping people based on their race.

OK, fair enough. But in the interest of everyone understanding each other, you have to admit that "racism" carries with it the baggage of being based in either hate or belief of superiority/inferiority.

Let me write up a hypothetical scenario:

Susan says something that's a stereotype of {race}. This statement is fueled by ignorance but not hatred, and Susan says it not thinking that it's a quality that makes the race inferior or superior. George is offended, and accuses Susan of racism. However, Susan equates racism with hatred or accusations of superiority, and becomes offended at George's accusation. George takes this as further proof of Susan's racism. Conversation breaks down on both sides.

Here's another scenario:

Susan reads an op-ed piece claiming that members of {race} do {thing}. Susan wonders if this is true, and thinks back to when she knew a member of {race} that did or did not do {thing}. It has not occurred to her that every member of {race} really does thing, but her mind is searching for a way to connect the information she's read to what she knows. George is offended, and accuses Susan of racism. Conversation breaks down on both sides.

I think we all agree that racism is bad, here, and I'd hope that if someone were actually championing it they would be banned. When someone says something stereotypical, they should be corrected. But jumping to conclusions about how racist everyone is being solves nothing.
posted by girih knot at 2:33 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damn. If I had it to do over I'd start my post with "I wonder if this is why the Wong brothers..." Sorry if I offended anyone. I grew up on a 20-house court in California with Mexican-Americans (like myself), African-Americans, English people (from England!), Iranian-Americans, Korean-Americans and Polynesian-Americans and the Chinese-American Wong brothers were the only kids who never came out to play with us. It was strange to me then then and it's strange now. Seriously, a street full of kids from so many different backgrounds, all within a few years of each other in age, and only the Chinese-American kids didn't come out to play.

I'm kinda pissed that my wondering if perhaps a similar parenting style to Ms. Chua's could have been the reason behind us never getting to know the Wong brothers has been taken as insensitive, because that was not my intention. I am absolutely NOT a racist. My family is made up of all colors of the human rainbow. My best friends in middle and high school were Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Japanese-Americans and Filipino-Americans for fuck's sake. And I LOVED, L-O-V-E-D my friends' Asian mothers to pieces. What great ladies.

I don't care how people raise their kids so long as they're not abusing them. While Ms. Chua's style isn't the norm in my community (I'm the only kid in my extended family to graduate from college so take from that what you will), I can't fault her for doing what she sees fit for her kids. I see her parenting skills as a bit more strict than they probably have to be (something she apparently concluded herself), but not abusive. I'm sure her girls will turn out great, more because of the privileged lives they've been fortunate to lead than because they're Chinese-American. Who wouldn't want all the advantages these kids have had?

I was fortunate to have parents who always said things like, "You can do anything you set your mind to" and "Don't give up" and "Just be a good person." They never pushed me to do anything. As a first born, I always pushed myself. I was always super competitive, which ended up being the thing that helped me most in life. I would have worked hard no matter what because that's the kind of person I am. Of course having parents who make you feel like a Superkid helps. My parents fostered my curiosities but didn't smother me (like some of my aunts and uncles did to my cousins). They didn't force me to excel, but they gave me all to tools I needed to excel. They knew the value of an education and sent me to private school, the only private school in town at the time. They also paid my way through college. I had a wonderful childhood and I appreciate everything my parents did for me, as I assume Ms. Chua's daughters will.
posted by wherever, whatever at 2:56 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and to clarify, the valedictorian who tried to kill himself at Harvard was caucasian, not Asian.
posted by wherever, whatever at 2:59 AM on January 11, 2011


Holy shit, this MeTa is a damn sight more racist than the original thread. As a non-Asian woman, this is reading a lot like the sexism threads except for the fact that there are more women on the site, so our voices seem to be heard better. Hrm.
posted by gaspode at 3:10 AM on January 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


I think that when anti-racism activists say "conversation" they mean "discussion where people who are marginalized by the racist power structure are given a voice that may, at this one place and time, be protected, and may actually be permitted to be louder than the voices of the dominant majority in that structure."

But individual White people are no more the heads of some Lernaean power structure than individual Asians are the posh, petty caricatures that Prof Chua sets before us. If we going to prefer real, flesh-and-bone humans to the paper giants offered us by (let's face it, fairly cheap) punditry, we might as well have this preference both ways. Some examples of recurrent assumptions in anti-racism; none are intended as callouts on any particular proponent of anti-racism here. But:

White people are not here to be the anti-racist’s Privilege Incarnate; we are not a thing to be unpacked, at anyone’s insistence, for the public good, like a bag check on a subway train. We do not, no matter how many cute, cargo-cult, Gedankenexperiement privilege lists anyone makes up, carry a cypher that you somehow get to fill; a bag of recriminations, a burden, a body-on-the-back. We needn’t lament our race simply because is not ever spoken of as a thing to be proud of. We do not need to be eyeballed for entitlement or old money, no matter how poor we grew up, no matter what circumstances we raised ourselves from. We do not have to accept the proposition that watching - powerlessly - a classmate get his head laid wide open by a gang, or having a knife or gun leveled in our direction, is an experience we must downplay or disown simply because Stuff White People Like doesn’t make it so far into the realm of common human experience as powerlessness.

We don’t need to be maneuvered into the no-win that to have listened to a “Person of Color” in the past is merely to invent a story about a “friend,” and that what we really must do is just agree with this other Person of Color, right now. We don’t need to be held accountable for the igneous forces that create a Prof Chua; nor, every time she rants on about the deficiencies of us gawi lo, are we to be held as beneficiaries of the racism that keeps her rich and insufferable. We don’t need little teaching moments about how when People of Color discuss their ethnicities, they’re bonding; but when we inquire, we’re prying and quite possibly othering. As if we have no color of our own, no covalence; frisk us and feel just power structure, vectors of white supremacy.

And white supremacy is a really odd and untimely colossus to be talking about right now. For the anti-racist, it’s like the only game in town, the singular agent by which race interactions are mediated. Every racist act somehow serves it; every anti-racist act somehow diminishes it. But in practice, white supremacy is a last refuge of the rural poor, installs itself in trailer parks and tornado alleys, scourges itself with old religions. It marks its time with signs and indicators that we as a majority consider ugly and de classe. Its star, the swastika, is sunk. In the redneck it even provides us with an able and most sayable 'nigger.' It controls not much of privilege in its most common, cold, quantifiable state of e pluribus unum. And it very much resents the people that do.

I can only imagine how an Asian-American who grew up working-class and not completely insane would feel if forced to take ownership of Prof Chua and her picture of the nuclear family in meltdown, the whole thing, in toto, without having a say. I can tell you that for at least some working-class White people who wander into the anti-racism fringe, it is simply a matter of becoming the effigy, the picture, piece by piece, that you are told you are; and all flowered over, of course, with some of the crankiest and most forceful pseudo-intellectualisms this side of pomo French philosophy. Hell, the power structure could sprout wings tomorrow and turn into a klepto-intersectional-kyriarchy or somesuch, just because some famous crank wrote another book. And Prof Chua could publish a round two, or ten. And it still has zilch to do with me or anyone I know.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:51 AM on January 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


You americans never cease to amaze me.

Yes. ALL OF YOU.
posted by Sourisnoire at 4:15 AM on January 11, 2011


rogerd: Your two analogies don't really help me see how the stereotype can harm Asians.
posted by that girl at 4:17 AM on January 11, 2011


It was all worth it for Sticherbeast's comment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:38 AM on January 11, 2011


Western perspective: playing a keyboard instrument better is only "better" if it's become one's personal life-goal. Hovering parents are no substitute for said life-goal. It used to be different in the 19th century, with all the scale-drilling and whatnot, but relativism has won in modern times.

(Bottom line: I find it unnecessary to be that strict to a kid only for a few black and white keys, and I turned away from that post in disgruntlement.

Second bottom line: there is nothing wrong with true dedication, making the things you already engage in your main thing, and working hard for making them truly worthwhile. See the awesome DVD Rhythm Is It, and here especially the initiative and philosophy of the dance pedagogue Royston Maldoom. Ultimately, I don't even believe that there ought to be so much differences between approaches. Wishy-washy sucks no matter what. The problem here: to simply assume that some standardized skills - like best-in-class, best-at-piano - are good, and to state that not arriving at these levels is bad is pretty wishy-washy to me. One would wish to ask the same standards of excellence of those parents: excellence in analyzing what exactly is necessary for the well-being and ultimate success of their kids, and in understanding why this is so. The longer I think about this the more the cultural confrontation seems a red herring to me.

Third bottom line: the German speaking countries especially, but not exclusively, are still suffering from the after-effects of what has been called black pedagogy of the late 18th and entire 19th centuries. In a cultural-historical perspective, Westerners seem to be - of my own observation of pedagogical trends in my country since the late 1960s - stuck in a post-non-strict phase with a lot of insecurity about what's "right" for your kid as a result. It seems to me best to observe, from that vantage point, what's happening around us, instead of getting furious all over the place. Just sayin'.)
posted by Namlit at 4:42 AM on January 11, 2011


Does the average MeTa beanplater ever have real conversations with, you know, real people?
posted by proj at 5:20 AM on January 11, 2011


I think the problem can be summarised thus:

Post: "Hey, look at this child-dominating, dictatorial asshole of a parent! Also, she's Chinese!"

Mefite A: "Christ, what an asshole! It's got nothing to do with her being Chinese, though!"

Mefite B: "Well, actually, it might have something to do with her ethnicity because I am/I know/ Chinese people who very much had to..."

Omnes: GRAAAAAAAARRRR!

Can't really see how else it could have gone.
posted by Decani at 5:25 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I want to apologize for my comment that has stirred up all kinds of shit. I wrote it in haste and regretted it immediately after I hit post. It was really not my intention to paint everybody with a wide brush.

I feel that I usually try very hard to avoid sweeping generalizations. I come from a mixed racial background and fail to fit in to just about any racial or cultural stereotype you can think of, so it pains me when people try to lump me into a category - I try to give everyone else the same benefit. I was honestly only trying to provide some stories about the people I personally knew, and if I had given it a bit more thought I could have included all of the stoners, the rich kids of divorced parents going to Atlantic City with fake IDs every weekend, and the band nerds that I hung out with.

Again, I apologize, and I hope that I have not brought the level of discourse down too much.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:36 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it's probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children. (And it's true that Chinese mothers get in the trenches, putting in long grueling hours personally tutoring, training, interrogating and spying on their kids.) Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

I didn't take this as an exaggeration, as someone did upthread. I took it as the god's honest truth. It was certainly what my mother did, and we're white.

I was honestly a little baffled by the generalizations in the original thread, because I've met an awful lot of people who had parents like that and only a few of them were Chinese. To me it's an expression of a certain kind of parenting, not a genetic/cultural birthright. We can all be screwed-up overachievers who mistake praise for affection! Let us unite in a pan-racial neurotic breakdown!

The woman who wrote the original article phrased it in such a way that I suspect unless you a) actually grew up in a house like hers or b) are super-careful to specify it's the parenting and not the ethnicity, your comment is going to convey annoying stereotypical overtones.
posted by winna at 5:48 AM on January 11, 2011


It was Chua who chose to frame "I'm a monster to my kids" against "because I'm Chinese." If she had written the same article on how to parent without ever mentioning her ethnicity she'd be ripe for a visit by Child Protective Services. That she wrote such an article while her children are still in high school really shows off her hubris. She makes Julian Assange look like a shrinking violet.

To anyone who thinks she is not 100% serious about any of the items on her parenting bullet list: You're wrong. My parents were a lot like her (posted about it on the thread). I've known others who were worse. It has nothing to do with being Chinese and everything to do with being control freak assholes. It doesn't look crazy because it's meant to be funny, it looks crazy because it's crazy.

I do agree that she's a world class troll in that she probably intended to start exactly this kind of shitstorm. You got my crappy parenting in your racism! You got your racism in my crappy parenting! Two great trolls that go great together!
posted by localroger at 5:56 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, racism is about stereotyping people based on their race.

That's prejudice, not racism. Racism implies power relationship, which to be frank, isn't present in this conversation. It's like noting that overbearing Italian mothers make their sons into overachiever mama's boys by sending them to super-strict catholic schools. It's unfair and absolutely untrue for the majority of Italian families, but discussing how the stereotype came to be is absolutely fair game for reasonable discussion.

We can talk about prejudice and stereotypes, but this is not something that will lead to forced marginalization, like the Anti-Chinese Societies of the old west or Japanese Internment in WWII, so this is not racism.

You can have a frank and honest discussion of the difference in ethnic cultures without dropping the "r" bomb.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:01 AM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why did this conversation about Amy Chua's book excerpt go so badly?

Because you are garbage!
posted by Stereotypical Chinese Mother at all your life you hear this
posted by orthogonality at 6:18 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also I would like to know more about why the "robot Asian" stereotype is particularly harmful. I can understand getting personally irritated/offended at being called something non-human, but I'm curious about how the stereotype is harmful in the general case.
It actually has practical, real-world implications for things like how kids are treated by teachers, how they do in college admissions, and what kind of jobs they can get when they're adults. American society values creativity, well-roundedness and individuality a lot. Elite private colleges, for instance, have "holistic admissions," where they look not just at grades and test scores, but also at personal essays, recommendations, and extra-curricular activities, which are supposed to tell admissions committees what kind of person the applicant is. Asian-American kids can be subtly disadvantaged in this process, because there's an (often unspoken) assumption that they're not creative, well-rounded or individualistic enough.

It's actually a little similar to the discourse surrounding American Jews in the early 20th century. The idea then was that the very fact that (some) Jews worked so hard to achieve success showed that they were grasping strivers who only valued success, unlike civilized upper-class WASPs, who never broke a sweat. And you wouldn't want to hire a grasping striver to work at your bank or law firm. They would be really unpleasant to play golf with, and how would they be with clients? The very things that were required for Jewish people to be successful were used to justify excluding them from the highest rewards that society had to offer. And, as with Asian-Americans today, that had the benefit of reserving those rewards for the kind of people who already had access to them.

That's not the only reason that it's a problem, but it's a reason.
posted by craichead at 6:38 AM on January 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


gingerest: "Trust me, there is nowhere, online or off, that the conversation around that book excerpt is going well."

This is definitely true. That being said, comments in the thread along the lines of "This lady's totally crazy for using her own personal anecdotes to remark on all Chinese parents, not all Chinese parents are like that, except these one Chinese people I knew once..." are part of the problem, not part of the solution, and anniecat is right to call them out. I've got one of those "strict Chinese parents" stories from high school too, and I didn't tell it in the thread because the plural of anecdote isn't data, and because even some cursory soul-searching would produce a stack of counter-examples.

The extent to which one is racist towards a particular group is probably a function of how threatened one feels by them. To the extent that anti-black racism exists among poor whites, it exists because some poor whites feel economically threatened by black people. MeFites, who are generally middle or upper class whites and would find anti-black racism of a similar tenor unconscionable, are less likely to perceive anti-Asian racism in a similar light if they have the (false) sense that Asians are empowered in this society and free of other forms of racism.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:54 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think the thread went badly at all. Sure, some people got upset but really they strike me as the kind of people that actively seek out these kinds of threads just to whine and show how superior and non-racist they are. I actually feel kind of bad for them. I wonder what these people would do if they ever encountered real racism, y'know, the kind that actually hurts people. Some comments in that thread were a little ignorant, but that's to be expected. MeFi is a large and diverse community. If something was really outright racist and offensive I'm sure the mods would take care of it.

Seriously, if the comments linked to in the OP are offending you then you really don't know racism. Period. I bet black people raised in the south in the pre-Civil Rights era (and maybe even after it) could tell you all about what REAL racism is like. You are doing a disservice to all minority groups by crying wolf like this.

But hey I'm white so I just can't
possibly know what it's like to be a minority


White people can certainly imagine what it's like to be a minority, but it does take a certain capacity for empathy and thoughtful reflection. So no, you can't possibly.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:45 AM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


God damn people: are you trying to parody the original thread?
posted by chunking express at 7:46 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


But hey I'm white so I just can't possibly know what it's like to be a minority.

Do you know what it's like to be a minority? Please, tell me more.
posted by chunking express at 7:46 AM on January 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


>> "Look at that comment of The White Hat's - 130 favorites on an anecdote talking about 'a lot of these kids'. No individual information. No background history. No personal motivations. We know nothing of 'these kids' in the story besides the implication that 'these kids' were Chinese, went and did everything they were supposed to because that was what was expected of them. ....Was White Hat being deliberately, maliciously, truly and deviously racist? Like he said later on, he wasn't, and I believe him. But it still comes across as unconsciously supporting the stereotype, and that's the problem. Intent doesn't matter - it's already been said, it's already been done."

As someone who favorited the comment, I'd just like to say that my motivation was certainly not to applaud a racist comment about Chinese kids, but to bookmark a remark that accurately describes many of the high-achieving, uber-success-driven kids that I grew up with, and with whom my child is growing up—regardless of their skin color. SATs, then admissions letters, then magna cum laude, then hedge fund offer letters, are their driving goals in life. The point about how these kids don't go into nonprofit work or public service rings especially true in my experience. And it's every skin color of the rainbow.

The White Hat may have been stereotyping Asians. I just wanted to remember the description as it applied to a much broader swath of parenting styles (due in no small part to the American capitalism culture, in my opinion).

FAVORITES AREN'T APPLAUSE, PEOPLE. Here is a beautifully demonstrated example of Problem #1 with calling them "favorites".

Because now, I can't bookmark a comment generally held to be racist without being implicitly in favor of it. Ergo, a racist.
posted by pineapple at 7:50 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


so, like, what was so ugly about my stuff. break it down for me because as someone who has blogged about the intersections of class, race and ethnicity for well over 10 years, am curious as to what exactly is so ugly about the point am making.
posted by liza at 7:34 PM on January 10 [3 favorites +] [!]


I'm going to be charitable and just assume that you happened to miss oneirodynia's comment.
posted by Anything at 7:50 AM on January 11, 2011


Do you know what it's like to be a minority? Please, tell me more.
posted by chunking express at 3:46 PM on January 11


There are more ways to be part of a minority than to be part of a racial minority, you know.
posted by Decani at 7:57 AM on January 11, 2011


Oh, and on the "favourites" issue - who cares what people assume? Seriously, why care if some random internet person stupidly forms an incorrect view of you?

Personally I almost always favourite comments because I like or agree with them. Sometimes I favourite comments I don't agree with but which are expressed in such an interesting/articulate/amusing way that I like them for that reason. But more generally it should be obvious that this is simply the easiest way to bookmark, here.
posted by Decani at 8:06 AM on January 11, 2011


No doubt. That's why I don't try and presume to talk about the plight of the Gay man despite knowing some.
posted by chunking express at 8:09 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks for making this post, peachfuzz. I read that thread and wasn't comfortable with a lot of the comments. I'll admit that I had the impulse to tell anecdotes at first before deciding against it. The uncomfortableness with the thread definitely made me examine that initial impulse. Obviously this is a conversation mefi needs to have!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:22 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The threads about race and other hot-button topics bring to mind the Joan Scott article "Experience," which deconstructs the idea that personal experience serves as a valid position from which to lay claim to a position about society. It's been ages since I read that piece but it has always stuck with me.

Anyway, on a site like Metafilter, that attracts many smart people with lots of interesting experiences under our belts, it's easy for us to fall into using our own experiences as evidence of greater "truths" about race, gender, religion and other topics that "metafilter doesn't do well." Topics that people say metafilter doesn't do well often are the same topics that you just can't use personal experience as the primary evidence for a position or view.

There's so much more that goes into understanding race and other complicated social phenomenon than reflecting on one's experience-- understanding history, the power struggles that constitute the players in any given situation, the stake people have in a given position. I think Scott would say something like that.

I'm probably distorting her position, but I believe in what I just said. Experience alone is great for sharing, but conversations go awry when we try to build greater positions based on our experiences alone or others that resemble them.

I wish that we'd give experience less precedence in our understanding of the world. Many of us are widely read and have expertise in many areas. But it is always strange to see in threads on topics like race, religion and gender the assumption played out that experience alone qualifies one as an authority on these very complicated issues. Of course we all live these phenomena in one way or another, but we need to put experience in perspective. It's just one piece of a larger puzzle.
posted by vincele at 8:29 AM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


what was so ugly about my stuff.

I think what's possibly ugly about it - not specifically you, but a number of posters - is that it represents a failure to deliver on the empathy you ask from the other side. Some posters seem to have not much of an idea about what it's like for any number of other people to be White, and they're okay with that, because they only require an ersatz Whiteness that provides grist for their choice of political consciousness or humor. And see, by the very parameters set for these discussions, leavening it with the testimony of any number of your rich White "friends," Tim Wise or otherwise, all "spokespeople for their race," well, doesn't cut it. It's still facile. It's still insulting.

If you're okay with a White-people-this, White-people-that shorthand and yet feel yourself turn ten shades of uncomfortable as soon as a pathological non-White twit becomes the face in the stockade, well, maybe you're really not okay with it.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2011


This is surreal. Every single person of the group in question agrees. All the voices are saying the same thing: "Here's a problem we see, Majority Population, about the way you discuss us. Can we make it more comfortable in the future? Best, Minority Population." And the response almost across the board is "Nope, not a problem. Why are you so sensitive? Love, Majority Population."

I didn't hurl accusations of racism. I said from the get go that I didn't believe it was malicious. I raised a point to discuss, fairly gently and with some real thought given to avoiding hurting people's feelings. Commenters have had problems with the way I framed this, but how else are you supposed to cite specific comments and attitudes that are questionable?

I don't get the need to defend the right to be ignorant. It doesn't, like diminish you as a person or anything to say "Hmmmm. Maybe that's something to think about; maybe it's possible that even if I meant no harm, my words might be harmful." Me, I probably read that thread with too critical of an eye after the tenor of the first few comments, and should think about my own abilities to read charitably and give people the benefit of the doubt. See? It's not so hard.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:35 AM on January 11, 2011 [32 favorites]


It's challenging to have a conversation about an article premised anecdata without resorting to anecdata of one's own. This is compounded when the claimed anecdata in the article is an assocation of parenting style (touchy subject A) with ethnicity (touchy subject B).

If the article had been written simply as "here's how I raise my kids" without claiming that it was the "Chinese style", the conversation might have gone a little smoother. Of course, the article wouldn't have got as many hits that way, and probably never would have been posted here.
posted by modernnomad at 8:43 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wish that we'd give experience less precedence in our understanding of the world

Is it bad if I kinda wish the opposite? I mean, I'd hope people would try to experience as much as possible in this life to develop a greater understanding of the world.
posted by Hoopo at 8:52 AM on January 11, 2011



Do you know what it's like to be a minority? Please, tell me more.

It wasn't asked of (white) me, but sure.

I've lived in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
posted by ambient2 at 9:01 AM on January 11, 2011


Peachfuzz, as sorry as I am that people have been hurt by this, I still can't work up any criticism for anyone but the person who posted that article to the front page. The only possible reaction/discussion anyone could expect to arise from that post (aside from disdain for the article) is the usual thoughtful mefite response of "I am sympathetic/interested enough to want to share my (however tangential) experience with this subject..." And it is exactly that kind of response that has come under attack here.

I don't think that I personally have defended anyone's right to ignorance. And as a gay I have participated in many teachable moments here on the site, many of which spiraled way out of control because people's hurt, angry feelings eclipsed their ability to understand what other people were actually saying (see dirtynumbangelboy flameouts A through T).

For example, your reduction of the sitewide response as: "And the response almost across the board is 'Nope, not a problem. Why are you so sensitive? Love, Majority Population,'" when actually there has been a whole spectrum of response. Trying to paint your struggle in this thread in such broad strokes undermines anything you've actually already accomplished here. And if what you're after is a black/white "WE'RE RIGHT, YOU'RE WRONG" concensus, then you are wasting your time on MeTa.
posted by hermitosis at 9:05 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The only possible reaction/discussion anyone could expect to arise from that post (aside from disdain for the article) is the usual thoughtful mefite response of "I am sympathetic/interested enough to want to share my (however tangential) experience with this subject..." And it is exactly that kind of response that has come under attack here.

Think of it this way: what if it had been "I knew a few African-American kids in high school and in my experience, they really were great at sports, though they didn't get the best grades."

Compare with this: "I knew a few Chinese-American kids in high school and in my experience, they really did study hard, though they were losers with no social life."

Neither is helpful, right? Both use anecdata to support "positive" stereotypes about an entire group that are offensive to that group and have negative connotations below the surface.
posted by naju at 9:26 AM on January 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


How about, "I knew a few kids in high school who really did study hard, though they were losers with no social life, so I can imagine how parenting techniques like these might be damaging." Still anecdata, though not specifically tied to any ethnicity.

I concede to those pointing out that these comments still reverberate in a heavily-charged conversation, in which it is difficult to tell exactly when Chineseness itself is being referred to. But you know, taking a step back and looking at something from all sides is something I have gotten pretty used to (largely because of MeTa threads like these) and there is something to be said for trying to read people's comments charitably whenever possible.

There are plenty of comments (especially in THIS thread) that I think come from an unfortunate position of ignorance and/or privilege. But trying to characterize white people, mefites, or certain other users this way strikes me as throwing a lot of (ethnically diverse) babies out with the bathwater.
posted by hermitosis at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2011


Thanks to all the White people who told me about your Asian friend. I learned a lot.

My filipino friend's stereotyped ability is invulnerability to all bullet calibres under .45 when in "Amok mode". Can we have an FPP about that?


Are you refering to my comment here? Because, if so, I'd really really like to know what was racist or condescending about it.

My point is that, although stereotypically, Asian parents will encourage their kids to play classical music, in my friend's case, his parents' let him choose his own music wound up helping him make friends and get through school.

It's a true story, and I don't understand how I was in the wrong by relating it. I never said "all Asians are good at music" or anything stupid like that.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:51 AM on January 11, 2011


(let should be letting)
posted by Afroblanco at 9:52 AM on January 11, 2011


No, I am referring to the Spanish American War and the Philippine insurrection that followed.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Are you refering to my comment here? Because, if so, I'd really really like to know what was racist or condescending about it.

"The U.S. Cavalry had been buying and testing various handguns in the late 1890s and early 20th century. The .45 Colt Single Action Army had largely been replaced, even by some double action versions of the same. The Cavalry had fielded some double action revolvers in .38 Long Colt. They determined that the .38-caliber round was significantly less effective against determined opponents, such as the warriors encountered in the Moro Rebellion of the Philippine–American War, than the .45 Colt. The current issue rifle at the time, the .30-40 Krag, had also failed to stop Moro warriors effectively; the British had similar issues switching to the .303 British, which resulted in the development of the Dum-dum bullet. This experience, and the Thompson-LaGarde Tests of 1904 led the Army and the Cavalry to decide that a minimum of .45-caliber was required in the new handgun."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:56 AM on January 11, 2011


>> Seriously, why care if some random internet person stupidly forms an incorrect view of you?

I can only assume this is tongue-in-cheek.

>> But more generally it should be obvious that this is simply the easiest way to bookmark, here.

It should be, yes. And yet right here, in this thread, today, someone implies that 130+ favorites to The White Hat's remark is 130 votes of support.

There are many topics for which I don't care what opinion others hold of me. Racism isn't one of those. So this seemed as good an opportunity as any other to reiterate my feeling that the act of bookmarking at MetaFilter shouldn't be left so open to interpretation by others.
posted by pineapple at 9:57 AM on January 11, 2011


Artw -- are you joking or what? If you think I'm being a racist, please explain why.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:00 AM on January 11, 2011


I don't know why I bother.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:04 AM on January 11, 2011


peachfuzz, you did not set this up as some sort of humble expression of how the other thread and the kinds of things said in it made you feel, attempting to persuade others to see it from your point of view; you answered your own question and flat-out asserted that people were being ignorant, ethnocentric, stereotyping, and saying ugly things, with a fairly broad brush. Broad enough that a number of people have looked at some of the comments you've linked to and said that they didn't even think the posters were talking about Asians.

But look how you reacted: you've said you read too critically - but not so far that you think you were wrong about people being ignorant or dismissive, is what it sounds like. People are, on average, pushing back on what you're saying in the same way that you're pushing back on what others are saying.

There's definitely some racism going on here and some people are displaying a bizarre inability to see things from another's point of view (You can say anything you want as long as it's not explicit hate or negative stereotypes? WTF?) but you should not expect the approach you took to have produced a thoughtful, introspective and contemplative discussion. It may well have been the best approach that could be taken given how well we deal with this sort of issue, but I don't think you've been as gently persuasive as you seem to think you were.
posted by XMLicious at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2011


Oops -- just saw your post, Alvy. So ... Artw was just making an obscure historical reference?

For the record, I did see some stuff in the original thread that smelled like racism -- but it was difficult to tell if people were actually being racist or if they were just responding to a trollish article.

Actually, my favorite comment in the thread was eschabesche's here. I mean, it's like nobody here's ever read Portnoy's complaint.

Bottom line : overly-strict parenting has some predictable results, but there's nothing particularly Chinese about it.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:13 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Afro, are we parodying the thread yet? If so, give me the signal, I want in on Alvy's fun.

(No, but seriously, I don't think anyone is calling you a racist. I think, though you'll ahve to get confirmation from him, that Artw was making what is commonly called a joke, wholly unrelated to your comment about your Filipino friend.)
posted by jng at 10:18 AM on January 11, 2011


Props for the following summaries:

Ad hominem  We just can't have conversations about people as if they aren't in the room.

zennish  the kids you saw grow up and who were unhappy, the kids in your anecdotes: you don't know their motivations, their history, how they grew up dealing with being Asian in a white world and you don't know how they internalised it.

to which I'd add that with some exceptions, you don't really know much about their present inner lives or their daily private lives either, making this kind of hyperbole troubling:

The White Hat  The brightest minds I had the pleasure of knowing hold tight to their collection of brass rings and shop online for the next status symbol. They do not read because they do not have any more essays to write. They do not vote because they have not thought about Civics since 10th grade. They do not volunteer because they do not have any more boxes to fill with their volunteer experiences.

Our issues with self-congratulation, stereotyping, and ungenerous speculation are more about tribe than about race, though. Wait for the next thread about rich people.
posted by hat at 10:40 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm just disappointed that no one commented on my Russell Peters link.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:44 AM on January 11, 2011


I read the whole thread and this whole meta, and frankly the most racist language was in Amy Chua's article. The whole thing is phrased as "Chinese mothers do this" and "Western mothers do that" with a few weak statements implying well, maybe not all of them but most of them. I doubt that most of the people who commented with anecdotes about Asian-American kids they knew would have even brought it up if the original article wasn't determined to create us vs. them-type fightiness and generalization.

Having said that, it sucks that we made people feel scared or unwelcome. I wish the post had just been about parenting styles, because the topic is interesting.

Amy Chua started it. "Hi I am a member of ethnic/societal group x and we do things better than group y, so there. And here's why - it's because we're all really strict and domineering and mean!"
posted by freecellwizard at 10:46 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Things would go a lot better if people stopped interpreting the mean of a parameter as having zero variance and, further, if people stopped interpreting membership in one set as being mutually exclusive of membership in another set and vice versa.
posted by proj at 10:49 AM on January 11, 2011


Sorry, editing messed that up. I meant to say as interpreting a parameter as having zero variance. I originally said the mean and realized that was incorrect.
posted by proj at 10:55 AM on January 11, 2011


That girl - The key is that by talking about those two Asian girls you knew in high school you're making the only important fact about them the fact that they are Asian. You (probably) wouldn't say "these two white guys I knew in high school" because the only thing about them isn't their whiteness. Not to mention that lumping an entire continent's worth of people under "Asian" is problematic in of itself.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:58 AM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I agree with this callout 100%.

if you didn't see racism in that thread (Westerners invent stuff!) then maybe you should get your detector calibrated.

I remember a thread a while back where I flipped my shit because of all the anecdotes about how Mexicans don't value education blah blah. To which the counter is "people want to share their experiences because they're sensitive!" Well, it's not really your god-given right to share anecdotes that play to harmful stereotypes.

The tone bullshit in here is getting old.

that girl, google "asian stereotypes harmful". Maybe that will help.

I am half white and not at all offended on behalf of white people.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:08 AM on January 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Just because Amy Chua said something inflammatory* does not give folks license to make gross generalizations without being called out on it. I think folks should stop blaming the article for their bad behavior and subsequent hurt feelings when folks pointed out their errors. People were trying to be helpful and it was heartening to see folks who acknowledged this--which is the whole point of having these discussions. Others did not. Frankly, that doesn't surprise me nor does it sadden me. These threads remind us that not everyone here is exactly like us. There is a cross-section of people here and that we should all be more aware and cognizant of others if we want to engage in civil discussion. If we don't, then that's ok, you can ignore that and repeat some of what took place in that thread.

But overall, I'm glad that discussion and this follow-up took place. I think it was a net-positive to have it out and I appreciated the chance it gave me to take a good hard look at myself. I know I'll certainly be more aware of others when I comment/post next here (and hopefully in real life as well)!

*She did this to to sell books! We, however, are not. Our agenda, in theory, is supposed to be in engaging in thoughtful discussion.
posted by jng at 11:35 AM on January 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yikes, I need to give myself an electric shock the next time I write the word folkzzzzzzzzzzz.....
posted by jng at 11:38 AM on January 11, 2011


The key is that by talking about those two Asian girls you knew in high school you're making the only important fact about them the fact that they are Asian. You (probably) wouldn't say "these two white guys I knew in high school" because the only thing about them isn't their whiteness.

Well, the context is important here. If the article was titled "Why White Mothers Are (something something)", you'd probably find people using the "white" qualifier.

Not to mention that lumping an entire continent's worth of people under "Asian" is problematic in of itself.

True. This article was specifically about Chinese (or Chinese-American?) mothers. But it's also problematic lumping all white people together. Hell, the history of my country is largely defined by a cultural conflict between English and French-speaking whiteys that has at times descended into war, terrorism, and the War Measures Act. Try telling a Franco-Canadian from the heart of Quebec that they don't know what it's like to be in the minority. It's problematic, for example, to imply that "white people", as a group that would encompass most of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia for example, necessarily have no experience as a minority because they're privileged members of a visible majority in North America. My best friend's older brother didn't really get accepted to the club growing up in rural New Brunswick as an immigrant from Czechoslovakia named Boris during the Cold War with English as his second language. Being treated as "other" goes way beyond skin color.
posted by Hoopo at 12:10 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, the context is important here. If the article was titled "Why White Mothers Are (something something)", you'd probably find people using the "white" qualifier.

Really? I find it highly unlikely that people would go ahead and use it as an occasion to discuss in general how all white (or any other grouping of your choosing) kids grew up a certain way. And if they did, they shouldn't be absolved just because the article framed it in that context.
posted by jng at 12:37 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And having seen a few of those discussions go down, people strenuously object when people lump all white people together. No one likes being lumped together in a group that they only superficially belong to but doesn't really describe them. That's the entire point people are trying to get across. It's not that it would be OK if we were talking about white people. It still wouldn't be. It's that it happens a lot more often when a minority is discussed and when people call it out they get chided for it.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:05 PM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


it's not really your god-given right to share anecdotes that play to harmful stereotypes.

Luckily God's pretty slack about the 'acceptable anecdotes' thing, he more or less gives a pass to stories that are true as long as your intensions are good and you aren't just piling on.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:48 PM on January 11, 2011


Intent doesn't mitigate impact.
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:12 PM on January 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


^I think we all agree that racism is bad, here, and I'd hope that if someone were actually championing it they would be banned. When someone says something stereotypical, they should be corrected. But jumping to conclusions about how racist everyone is being solves nothing.

Sure. Anyone can blunder into unintentionally saying something racist now and then, especially through lack of experience. This doesn't mean you're* evil or a bad person. It happens to everyone. It happens to the best of us. And I know it's no fun being told that the thing you just said is racist. But like you said, people need to be told, and they need to accept in order to know better. Does avoiding the r-bomb really do anyone any favours? (Look, we even bust out the euphemisms!) How can we properly discuss a thing if we refuse to speak its name? Is the onus really on me to tiptoe around people's feelings? You can appreciate how this could be galling, tiring.

Sigh.

If only we were all Asian Robots so we could discuss racism dispassionately. I call dibs on Voltron.

*I don't mean you personally.
posted by emeiji at 2:22 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does conflating prejudice and racism actually add anything to the conversation?
posted by hermitosis at 2:50 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think we all agree that racism is bad, here

I dunno, after any conversation with Metafilters anti-racism patrol it starts looking pretty good actually. What are the downsides again?
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Downsides include having to play on other websites and not this one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:53 PM on January 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Dear god, I hate to think what rabid holes of back-biting and in-fighting those are.

Actually, most of the ones I've seen are pretty awesome.

You know, sort of like going to a restaurant where people don't shit on the floor.

A common social contract can make wonders.
posted by yeloson at 2:56 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thank you for the explanation and detail, craichead.
posted by that girl at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2011


No one likes being lumped together in a group that they only superficially belong to but doesn't really describe them. That's the entire point people are trying to get across.

That's the point I'm trying to get across too. I responded to that second part because there were certain comments earlier in this thread that seemed to be going the "white people can't know what it's like" way, which is different from "you don't know what it's like just because you went to school with an Asian kid" way. The issue I took with the article (and your example) was the framing, when the terms are set as "Chinese mothers do this", or to borrow the example I was commenting on, "white mothers do this" you're going to get a discussion in general terms, painted in broad strokes.

Really? I find it highly unlikely that people would go ahead and use it as an occasion to discuss in general how all white (or any other grouping of your choosing) kids grew up a certain way

If the article was called "Why White/Mexican/Dutch Mothers are Superior" and went on about how white/Mexican/Dutch people stereotypically raised their kids, you find it unlikely that anyone would share anecdotes that refer specifically to how the upbringing of white/Mexican/Dutch people they know fits into the narrative? I'm not sure I understand what other discussion could come out of an article like that. It's pretty much set the terms of the conversation just with the choice of a title.

Anyways, I'm dropping out of this now. I've experienced both sides of this issue and one is a lot easier than the other, I don't even know why I'm arguing.
posted by Hoopo at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2011


I really didn't see a "hell of a lot of people" saying anything like this. Again, sincerely, I'd like to know if I just missed it.

As people pointed out the talking as if folks are not in the room. "Wow, but look at how driven and awesome and miserable and blah, blah blah, they are". Which, made up like 75% of that thread.

For comparison, look at this thread where a bunch of guys "correct" women on what women's experiences are like.

Here's the thing: there is levels of high pressure parenting in asian culture- BUT - it's a range and Chua's article is on the crazy end of the scale, just as much as there's issues of high pressure parenting of a different type when say, we're talking about Bible Belt Christianity- but since folks ARE familiar with that, they generally know it ranges from "eh, minor point" to "ZOMG, you locked your daughter in the basement!" stuff.

And the kicker is that you can't actually talk about what's -really- going on, when the actual people who have lived through those experiences are being drowned out by people who haven't.

When that happens, the message, intended or not, is not, "We'd like to have you in the conversation" as much as, "We like to use you as a topic of conversation, even if it's completely wrong and misguided."
posted by yeloson at 3:04 PM on January 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hermitosis, I'm afraid I'm not sure what you're referencing, exactly.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:04 PM on January 11, 2011


If only we were all Asian Robots so we could discuss racism dispassionately. I call dibs on Voltron.

Paging Comrade_robot!

dancer (robot) >>> human

Throughout middle school, high school, and the first few years of university my constant wish was to be more robotic and less emotional. No lie.

If only I was more robot then I could deal with going to school in a hostile environment instead of being all girlish about it and stressing out.
If only I was more robot then I could repress issues with my parents MORE but at least we'll have some nice family dinners.
If only I was more robot then I could be all FACT LAZER! INFO DUMP CANNON! COHERENT ANALYSIS BEAM! STRUCTURAL OPPRESSION EXPLAIN-O-COPTER! and not ragequit, fume for hours, get weepy. /womp

Yep. Years and years of therapy to look forward to.

My back up icon is still the exploding dog it's not love robot.

AND THAT'S WHAT STEREOTYPING DOES TO PEOPLE!

won't say no to an internet implant though
posted by dustyasymptotes at 3:21 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, I'm done here. It's clear you have no interest in arguing with me and just want to make me look like a racist, ignorant white person

You are correct that I have no interested in arguing with you. You dismissed everyone's concern, attempted to lay claim to authority over deciding what is and isn't "rational discourse" and couldn't be bothered to read Martin Luther King or even ask a tl;dr question?

Metafilter is a place where I can go learn about shit I don't have any clue about. Hopefully it does the same for others. But when people act in a way that makes it hostile for a group of people, you lose those people, and all that they could have brought.

I paid my $5, I try to link things I think are neat, and I think I get a right to say when and why behavior is getting ugly and pushing people away. Doesn't give me authority or the power to make that decision, but I get a say.

Just as much as I don't get to tell women what battles to pick against sexism, or queer folks what battles to pick in equality, you don't get to tell us what battles to pick, either.
posted by yeloson at 3:25 PM on January 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hermitosis, I'm afraid I'm not sure what you're referencing, exactly.

Perhaps Hermitosis is referring to emeiji saying that the distinction between prejudice and racism doesn't matter. I suspect that a lot of frustration you see in this thread is because people are blurring this distinction (intentionally or not) to give their argument rhetorical weight.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:27 PM on January 11, 2011


racism: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:05 PM on January 11, 2011


oops, cut off first part of definition: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:08 PM on January 11, 2011


That's the old fashioned definition of racism, nobody is talking about that here. In fact believing in that definition of racism is the kind of thing white people do, and is therefore racist.
posted by Artw at 4:13 PM on January 11, 2011


Look at some of the unflattering stereotypes/sweeping generalizations repeated in that thread and tell me how that isn't racist by definition?

I'm not here to argue about existence of racism in other contexts. This conversation is specifically about the casually racist comments about Asians that people feel free to make on metafilter.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:20 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's the old fashioned definition of racism, nobody is talking about that here. In fact believing in that definition of racism is the kind of thing white people do, and is therefore racist.

Please don't. Really.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:29 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am going to bow out of this conversation, but SpacemanStix basically articulated what I meant. As satisfying as it can be to invoke the hard-R, applying it so liberally negates any pretense of the possibility of nuanced conversation.

Peace, homies.
posted by hermitosis at 4:34 PM on January 11, 2011

As satisfying as it can be to invoke the hard-R, applying it so liberally negates any pretense of the possibility of nuanced conversation.
Maybe. But it seems to me that fixating on this point is a pretty effective way to ensure that the OP's issues never get addressed. Instead of being a thread about how the original discussion marginalized and stereotyped Asian people, it becomes a thread about the hurt feelings and outraged sensibilities of the people who may have participated in that stereotyping and marginalization. And that strikes me as kind of fucked up. You really can't ignore your hurt feelings and outraged sensibilities for one minute to try to figure out why some people were so upset by that discussion?

There's a certain predictability to these discussions, and it's depressing.
posted by craichead at 4:47 PM on January 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


And then someone tries to explain the tone argument, and that's about when I step out of the thread. Although, I have to say, this seems to be going marginally better than a few of these that I can recall. Tiny itty bitty steps in the right direction are still in the right direction. It's just, unfortunately, really exhausting for the people involved.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:00 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the article was called "Why White/Mexican/Dutch Mothers are Superior" and went on about how white/Mexican/Dutch people stereotypically raised their kids, you find it unlikely that anyone would share anecdotes that refer specifically to how the upbringing of white/Mexican/Dutch people they know fits into the narrative? I'm not sure I understand what other discussion could come out of an article like that. It's pretty much set the terms of the conversation just with the choice of a title.

Hoopo: I'm sorry the comments here drove you away. I realize this is a frustrating discussion for everyone, but I hope you come away from this for the better (as I have). Yes, I find it highly unlikely that people would respond with those kinds of anecdotes because once they started typing the words "You know, I once grew up with some White/Mexican/Dutch kids and you know what, it just confirmed for me that they were so sad and repressed. Thank god I wasn't raised by White/Mexican/Dutch parents..."* they would hopefully shake their heads and realize how ignorant that sounded. Even if the article was baiting us to make these kinds of cognitive leaps, we shouldn't get upset when people come back and say, "Hey, you might want to rethink that statement. It rubs some folks the wrong way. Here's why..." You're welcome to make those statements and hold those beliefs (though others might disagree with me here on that point), but please don't be upset when others express their displeasure.

(I personally wasn't as offended by the actual comments in thread as much as some of the defensive 'You're being too sensitive! Get over it!' type meta-comments that followed. I actually thought the topic had potential before it devolved into the hot mess it became. It's a shame wuwei's and russilwvong's comments, and all their fascinating discussion points, were buried in there. I almost wish we could hit the restart button and have had them closer to the top. Maybe the discussion would've turned out better.)

*What some of the comments sounded like to folks (though there were a few that actually did say this kind of stuff), even if one didn't intend for them
posted by jng at 5:29 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


If only we were all Asian Robots so we could discuss racism dispassionately. I call dibs on Voltron.

Paging Comrade_robot!

posted by dustyasymptotes at 6:21 PM on January 11 [+] [!]


Who is it in the crowd that calls upon me? Comrade_robot has turned to hear!

I am willing to use my Asian robot powers to dispassionately judge the racism in each one of you. But there can be no argument with my decisions.

(Kidding, kidding...)
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does avoiding the r-bomb really do anyone any favours?

Yes. Calling someone racist is inflammatory, and if you ARE going to do it, have specific reasons. If I have implied at all that people should not be called out on stupid stereotypical remarks, I apologize for not making myself more clear. I appreciated jng's callouts.

(I personally wasn't as offended by the actual comments in thread as much as some of the defensive 'You're being too sensitive! Get over it!' type meta-comments that followed.

A quick ctrl+f of that thread doesn't show anyone using the words "too sensitive", and the word "sensitive" comes up only twice in different contexts. I genuinely apologize if the remark I made seemed like I was saying that anyone was being too sensitive, or if any of the comments I've made here have seemed that way. The point I've been fumbling to make this entire time is just that accusing people of racism without telling them why, when they mean well to begin with, just shuts down the dialogue that would inform people of why they're being racist in the first place. Racism is insulting. Calling someone racist is insulting. People get defensive when they feel they're unjustly insulted.

I specifically called out anniecat earlier in this thread not to bully her, but to specify the fact that it was her comments that I had a problem with. Like I said earlier, everyone here thinks racism is bad. If someone is saying or doing something that is offensive, we should be able to openly discuss it, and not hurl accusations and point out how this just demonstrates how racist America is.

I am sorry if I've offended anyone and I'll stop driving this topic into the ground.
posted by girih knot at 6:03 PM on January 11, 2011


This thread and the FPP both got pretty ugly. I regret posting in the FPP when I asked anniecat why she sticks around on MeFi if she truly believes, as she posted in-thread, that all Western MeFites are "unapologetic racists who can't be trusted." I regret it because it got spun as me basically telling anniecat to "go back where she came from". And what I meant was, "dude, if you hate the people here, why stay?" To me, it would be like spending all my internet time on freerepublic. Participating in a community full of people I have mentally categorized as hateful and untrustworthy would be the hugest waste of time.

Anyway, if I could take back that post, I would. I wish I could say that I sympathize with the non-white MeFites who have shared their experiences in this thread and the FPP, and that on a certain level I understand their perspective. But, unfortunately, I am white, and as we have already seen in this thread, when white people try to say things like that, it goes badly. I guess I'm supposed to get nice and comfy in the unapologetic racist role that I've been cast in, because I won't be allowed to be anything else.

Funny how that's not racist, too. Isn't it.
posted by palomar at 6:08 PM on January 11, 2011


argh, my kingdom for an editpony. I meant to say that if I could take back that post, I would, because all it did was engender bad feelings and provide a further platform for name-calling and finger-pointing. So on and so forth.
posted by palomar at 6:11 PM on January 11, 2011


the comment that was supposed to link on "I" was actually this one addressed at palomar.
posted by girih knot at 6:14 PM on January 11, 2011


Funny how that's not racist, too. Isn't it.

This goes back to what I was saying earlier about whether you believe that racism is primarily about power inequality or racism is primarily about prejudice. There are large factions of people on both side of that argument here on MetaFilter who often talk past each other as if there's one definition of what racism is and if we can just explain it convincingly enough, we can get other people to agree with us.

Usually if you're trying to make a sincere apology or expression of regret, it's a good idea to not get too tangled up in starting a new argument at the tail end of it, is my suggestion. I've been trying to mainly stfu in this thread and it's been useful for me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:21 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You people are nuts.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:25 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


mostly just trying to clarify, jessamyn. i don't really feel like i said anything in that thread that earned me the racist label, but i regret posting in the thread nevertheless, and i hate seeing the way this has gone. but i guess it's better if i shut up.
posted by palomar at 6:26 PM on January 11, 2011


Palomar, your apology is great (it seems sincere), but I take issue with this:

But, unfortunately, I am white, and as we have already seen in this thread, when white people try to say things like that, it goes badly. I guess I'm supposed to get nice and comfy in the unapologetic racist role that I've been cast in, because I won't be allowed to be anything else.

I say hogwash. I'm white, and am involved in communities with people of color, anti-racist communities, in fact, and I've found that if I'm willing to listen and understand people's experiences, people are very welcoming. Your comment sounds like sour grapes to me.

I have a lot of problems with the way people on Metafilter deal with race, but I stick around because I find value in other discussions. It's like how you might go home for Christmas even thought you racist uncle will make his typical comments.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:33 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


actually, bluedaisy, i'm pretty neck-deep in color. i feel accepted in my real life communities and am able to say to my friends of color, "i know how you feel," when they talk about this stuff, and we're able to share our experiences and learn from each other.

i do not feel comfortable attempting to do that here at metafilter. i can read everyone's comments and learn from them, but as a white person, it is inappropriate for me to try to liken any kind of experience i've had in being discriminated against, or stereotyped, to the experience of a person of color who has been discriminated against or stereotyped. that's what i take from discussions about race at metafilter. i don't want to make anyone uncomfortable or be labeled a racist, so i don't participate. i made a mistake by even posting in the FPP at all, now some members here think i am a racist (and others don't think i specifically am a racist, but that as a whole all the white folks here are super racist so i guess i'm a not-racist racist?), and i don't even want to be a mefi member anymore, at least not for the rest of the day, so i'm going to go now. take care.
posted by palomar at 6:49 PM on January 11, 2011


I'm white. I participate in race threads all the time. I've never been accused of racism that I recall. It's pretty easy, really. Just don't make general statements about 'races'. Even if you think you are being complementary. Even if your best friend is black or whatever. Even if every Asian person you have ever met has been exactly 'that way'.

Just don't do it. Everybody is different in some ways and the same in ither ways, and races are socially constructed fictions.
posted by empath at 7:03 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, while I'm here, much love to this follow-up explanation from White Hat. In my response to it, I must have have had blurred vision from other intervening comments and didn't read his response correctly, or read it too cynically. Whatever it was, I definitely did not respond fairly and critically to him. So apologies and much thanks to him for replying so thoughtfully and civilly. (But I have to admit that WH's first comment in the thread still feels like a sharp stick in the eye sitting there unlinked to his qualifications later on. I hope most folks who applauded the comment made it down to his follow-up, or were smarter than me and already deduced that he was not just directing his ire at Asians.) Ok, I think I'm all commented out on this topic... So I'll see you guys in another one of these same time, what, next year? [I kid, I kid.]
posted by jng at 7:24 PM on January 11, 2011


I've mostly been trying to stay out of this thread, but the inaccurate representations of what anniecat said about racist MeFites are killing me. Here is the exact exchange, starting with the bit she quoted from Dasein:

"Generalizations are necessary and valid, including when discussing cultures, as long as people realize that they are just that - generalizations - and that there are always nuances and exceptions. I don't think anyone here thinks any differently."

Okay, since we all have an understanding, then it must be okay for me to say Western Mefites, even the ones who have a diverse group of friends, are racist. They'll tell you they aren't, they'll argue they're calling a spade a spade, they'll say they can't help it, but in the end, you're just a bunch of unapologetic racists who can't be trusted.


It's a counterfactual. Anniecat's saying that it's NOT okay to say that Western Mefites are racist, to make the point that not everyone thinks generalizations about culture are necessary and valid.

On another point, as long as I'm wading in, going waaaaay back to the rest of what Dasein said in the quoted post, I want to take issue with this one tiny bit, because I think it's really important:
"I await the day that a non-white Mefite recuses herself from a discussion about middle class white American because she wasn't raised in that culture."
The thing is that people of all backgrounds in the US are steeped in middle class white American culture, no matter what their personal heritage, because it's America's dominant culture and it saturates every institution in our society. (There are even those who feel that it dominates world culture, at this point, partly because transnational corporations are very heavily influenced by American business philosophies, and partly because global media are shaped by American business and political interests, and American public figures.) A second-generation Chinese-American is raised in American culture in a way that a middle-class German-Scots-Irish-Italian-American whose family has been resident in the US for three or more generations cannot be said to be raised in any other culture. It's an asymmetric relationship.
posted by gingerest at 7:45 PM on January 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm sorry the comments here drove you away

it wasn't the comments, it was that I didn't feel it was worth continuing on my tangent since I wasn't articulating well and wasn't contributing anything new or substantial to this MeTa. I stayed out of the thread on the Blue and only jumped in here because I'd similarly heard so many random stereotypes about myself during my brief 16-month stint as a visible minority, then got caught in the middle of a fight. I should probably learn to shut up more.
posted by Hoopo at 8:12 PM on January 11, 2011


Usually I'm able to skip ahead to my comments and comments about me by hitting ctrl-F and searching for "White". Not so in this thread or the other one.

I feel pretty bad about how this whole thing went and I dislike the attention my anecdote is getting with all the favoriting. Outside the context of my downthread apologia the words could come off as hateful and bigoted, and while that kind of thinking was the farthest from my mind as I wrote, their current setting is unacceptable to me. I will flag and move on.
posted by The White Hat at 8:32 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey what do you know. After all the people who made sure their opinions were heard over and over again left the thread, we actually have some really nuanced and insightful comments at the end of the thread.

I wish there was a way to skip step 2.
posted by danny the boy at 10:19 PM on January 11, 2011


The thing is that people of all backgrounds in the US are steeped in middle class white American culture, no matter what their personal heritage, because it's America's dominant culture [...] It's an asymmetric relationship.

It's also a blueprint for conversations where White people can offer no input on any other culture, where men can have no purchase on the interior experiences of women, but where everyone else somehow carries an implicit doctorate in crackerology because they've seen us shirtless on Cops or naked on Sex in the City or wholly deconstructed on Racialicious. It seems to express a fierce preference for something like emic vs etic cultural accounts, and then plays rather freely with those such that White culture is something that can be wholly accessed and defined by the non-White - as a walking code for "economic privilege," among other things - while Asian-ness is not.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:36 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I await the day that a non-white Mefite recuses herself from a discussion about middle class white American because she wasn't raised in that culture."

is this a preclusion?
and if so, prejudicial to discussion?
posted by clavdivs at 10:46 PM on January 11, 2011


what is "White culture"
posted by clavdivs at 10:48 PM on January 11, 2011


I wish there was a way to skip step 2.
Is this really your wish.
posted by clavdivs at 10:49 PM on January 11, 2011


what is "White culture"?

黄蜂
posted by juiceCake at 11:25 PM on January 11, 2011


(GAH I had a comment all typed up and it died on me. Hopefully this is coherent; it's late. It's not aimed at anyone in particular.)

Just as drawing conclusions from anecdotes is silly, drawing conclusions about who is and who is not a racist from a handful of vague comments is silly. I don't know you and you don't know me, and there is nothing we can say definitively about each other from what we can gather here. But I can tell you if the COMMENT you make (a) hurts me; and (b) has racist connotations.

So for instance, it was not until pretty recently that I found out about the whole African-Americans and watermelons stereotype (I don't know how any non-American would ever suspect this was contentious). But if someone makes the decision to tell you "Hey, that comment of yours sounds racist," the thing to do first of all is stop. Not come up with more anecdotes about how you knew a guy who ate watermelons every day. The next thing to do is to apologise and then listen, if that person is willing to explain. Not get defensive about the use of the word 'racist'.

I think it's important to include this word 'racist' in these discussions. Avoiding it to me feels like a refusal to acknowledge the root cause of the hurt, a refusal to validating my objections. Understand that however well-meaning you are, your words can trigger whatever racist badness has already befallen your audience. For every time such comments are made innocently, there are surely just as many when we've heard them made with intent to hurt, belittle, or ridicule. Sometimes we can tell the difference between them but oftentimes we can't help but flinch at that trigger. And if you unwittingly find yourself wielding these words, please acknowledge and take responsibility for the damage you inflict.

So in that spirit, I sincerely apologise to those I have offended. I love you all.
posted by emeiji at 11:51 PM on January 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Heh.
posted by msittig at 1:20 AM on January 12, 2011


The article, and the ensuing metafilter discussion just made me feel dirty, like I needed a good bath.

I mean really people. Ew!
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:16 AM on January 12, 2011


worst discussion ever. FTT
posted by clavdivs at 9:25 AM on January 12, 2011


Race is a red herring in this issue too! There must be Caucasian immigrants who experience similar parenting. Where are the European-American first generation immigrants? What are your stories?
posted by Apocryphon at 10:35 AM on January 12, 2011


really prefer if you not speak for POC herrings apocryphon
posted by grobstein at 2:55 PM on January 12, 2011


No one thinks that white people have nothing to contribute to discussions of race, that men have nothing to contribute to discussions of sexism, that straight people have nothing to contribute to discussions of homophobia. No one thinks that. No one's said that. Some people, myself included, get annoyed when people say that this is what people are saying, because no one is saying that, and so the whole conversation now becomes about assuring white/male/straight people in the conversation that they're valued. So, ok: white/male/straight people, you're incredibly valuable, I like having you around, I like hearing what you have to say.

I know what it's like to live in a white culture, specifically US-centric ones on the coasts and in the South, to some degree. I have no idea what it's like to live in a French US culture, or a German one, or an English one. I have no idea what it's like to be white in a white culture, and not only have I never claimed that I do, I spend a fair amount of time asking people about those experiences and trying to join them in theirs. I am Asian, but I have no idea what it's like to live in Thailand, so when Thai-habitating MeFites tell me about living there, I try not to interrupt them with this story I heard one time or with my Indian family's opinions of Thai cuisine. My friends know what it's like to be over at my family's house, but they don't really know what it's like to live there, nor I what their homes are like.

The "shut up and listen" social justice meme is phrased, to my mind, especially badly, but what it means is this: in the thread, there are people talking about their experiences with this type of parenting culture, and then there are people talking about people they saw at the bus stop for a couple years who seemed kind of stressed out. There's a reason that hearsay is inadmissible in US courts, and that's because what you think you heard someone else say they saw isn't testimony. Direct experience is valuable, and witnessing that testimony is valuable, and both contributions are necessary for the conversation to continue.

But it's important to note that listening is also contributing, even if it doesn't seem like it. Talking about what you think you heard someone else say can also be contributing. But when it's placed on the same rhetorical level and given the same weight as someone else's direct experience, that becomes untenable because, if for no other reason than, what one person experiences, ten people can observe from afar. Now there are eleven stories about a single experience that only one person can reasonably speak to.

Questions are important, wondering about this thing that happened and looking for a lens of understanding is really important, and we could all do better at it, including minorities who believe they know all there is to know about the white American middle-class experience. Third-hand anecdotes are not as important, and they shouldn't be allowed to overshadow the real stories that real people have, who are trying to talk to us and tell us about them.

We all want to be part of the conversation, that's understandable, and commendable because these are important conversations. But part of being a good conversationalist is knowing when it's a good idea to step back and let someone else talk for a bit. So now I'll take my own advice.
posted by Errant at 2:57 PM on January 12, 2011 [21 favorites]


I'm not speaking on behalf of anyone. I'm just pointing out that this is a story about cultures, not race. Sometimes culture just might be color-coded.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:06 PM on January 12, 2011


I'm british born chinese and I haven't participated in this discussion yet, whilst I did find some of the comments in the original thread a bit insulting these seemed to be one offs and I did not find the tone racist in general. What I do find strange is that a commentator like wuwei has found unanimous support in their opinion on such broad topics like 'elite performance', parenting style and citizenship - saying those things which are supposedly unsayable coming from a white person. I'm not knocking wuwei, I favourited his comment just like many others did, but he is citing news sources and things-his-chinese-friends-have-told-him, just like everyone else is, and yet no one is taking him to town for this:

So what, they don't become world renown painters or CEOs of disruptive tech companies-- at the very best they can probably become investment bankers or lawyers at white shoe transactional law firms. Their inner life may be empty and full of desperation, but that's a lot better than starving on the streets in a world that increasingly looks like the dystopian science fiction role playing games I used to play as a teenager in the 90s. If they kill themselves because they can't take the strain, by this logic, then that's an acceptable risk because if they _don't_ make it to the ever deteriorating middle class, the alternative is a life of privation and misery anyway. Better off dead.

Now unless I'm missreading it, this is an implicit confirmation that yes, this type of parenting stunts creativity and personal insight and leads to possibly fatal pressure. Why can wuwei make these broad statements citing similar sources and not a white person?
posted by doobiedoo at 6:57 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


No. Wuwei doesn't get away with saying stuff like that.

But that's not what wuwei was saying. I think you are misreading it. That statement comes from the perspective of a stereotypical Chinese Parent; a person who would rather play it safe for their kids, ensuring a lucrative albeit dull career, than take the risk of letting their child follow their dreams. wuwei was attempting to portray the reasoning behind the harsh parenting styles, and to show that the intentions behind it are actually in the best interests of the child. I don't believe wuwei was condoning this perspective.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:56 PM on January 13, 2011


The OP seems to be reaching conclusions that I didn't really see. I think you demean a lot of people by implying they're racist for talking about how high pressure parenting doesn't always work.

It's tiring when people just decide that because you're white that you cannot offer any substantial opinion on anything to do with race. The argument that a white person has no real understanding of what life is like as a minority is both partially correct and wrong. Obviously a white person isn't a minority in America, but there is a great wealth of literature written about the subject that one can make a learned opinion from.

Maybe I too am not really suited to express an opinion on the matter since I'm only half asian as were both my parents. I never really encountered any racism growing up, so how can I know what it's like to be a minority, even though statistically my racial group is much lower than most other minorities.

I think what got lost in the discussion has more to do with culture. I knew a few asian kids who grew up with this type of high pressure parenting as well as a few white kids. One got into Harvard and another burned out in high school. I think the only real lesson that you can take from it is that all things are done best in moderation and leave it at that.

So to summarize I really don't think anyone posting in this thread or the one this was made in reply to are racist. Some people made some sweeping generalizations, but others then countered them with their own as well. To make a comment stating that the majority of the white people in this site are basically talking out of their asses is just wrong.

If you see racism in things like that then you probably spend a lot of time being shocked at daily displays of racism as you go out. Maybe it's better just to realize that people born from different cultures are never going to be able to truly understand one each other so you have to accept a bit of friction in all things. I've always believed that I'm less my race and more my culture, so that might be why I have a different opinion on these threads.
posted by Allan Gordon at 8:45 PM on January 14, 2011


One of the big Chinese 'net portals has done a feature on the book in question - the up-voted comments are all slating 'Chinese-style' education, in a colourful style that will allow language learners to pick up some good swear words.
posted by Abiezer at 8:59 PM on January 16, 2011


So this was all a very long time ago now, but it was recently brought to my attention that one of my posts in the relevant thread was called out in the OP above as "ugly"/"implying some pretty ugly stuff".

My comment did not mention race, ethnicity, or national origin in any way. The children I was referring to in my comment were by no means all, or even mostly, Asian-American (let alone Chinese). Many of them were white, in fact. Just want to set the record straight on that.

So, yeah. Reading comprehension. Mmmkay?
posted by Sara C. at 12:47 PM on January 22, 2011


You really know how to make people like you. Maybe mix in some not being smug. Mmmkay?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:38 AM on January 23, 2011


Keep it classy.
posted by chunking express at 9:32 AM on January 23, 2011


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