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209 pages, Hardcover
First published February 25, 2020
’Minor feelings are also the emotions we are accused of having when we decide to be difficult—in other words, when we decide to be honest. When minor feelings are finally externalized, they are interpreted as hostile, ungrateful, jealous, depressing, and belligerent, affects ascribed to racialized behavior that whites consider out of line. Our feelings are overreactions because our lived experiences of structural inequity are not commensurate with their deluded reality.’
‘Suddenly Americans feel self-conscious of their white identity and this self-consciousness misleads them into thinking their identity is under threat. In feeling wrong, they feel wronged. In being asked to be made aware of racial oppression, they feel oppressed.’
’“When I hear the phrase “Asians are next in line to be white,” I replace the word “white” with “disappear.” Asians are next in line to disappear. We are reputed to be so accomplished, and so law-abiding, we will disappear into this country’s amnesiac fog. We will not be the power but become absorbed by power, not share the power of whites but be stooges to a white ideology that exploited our ancestors. This country insists that our racial identity is beside the point’
’Back then, only select professionals from Asia were granted visas to the United States: doctors, engineers, and mechanics. This screening process, by the way, is how the whole model minority quackery began: the U.S. government only allowed the most educated and highly trained Asians in and then took all the credit for their success. See! Anyone can live the American Dream! they’d say about a doctor who came into the country already a doctor.’
‘The avant-garde genealogy could be tracked through stories of bad-boy white artists who “got away with it...The problem is that history has to recognize the artist’s transgressions as “art,” which is then dependent on the artist’s access to power. A female artist rarely “gets away with it.” A black artist rarely “gets away with it.”...The bad-boy artist can do whatever he wants because of who he is. Transgressive bad-boy art is, in fact, the most risk-averse, an endless loop of warmed-over stunts for an audience of one: the banker collector.’
Can I write honestly? Not only about how much I’ve been hurt but how I have hurt others? And can I do it without steeping myself in guilt, since guilt demands absolution and is therefore self-serving? In other words, can I apologize without demanding your forgiveness? Where do I begin?
White boys will always be boys but black boys are ten times more likely to be tried as adults and sentenced to life without parole.
When I heard that Helen drank a bottle of whiskey and shaved off all her hair, I thought, This is it. She’s going to kill herself. But of course I underestimated Helen. Stronger than her will to die was her will to endure, especially when she thought she was being tested. This was the most Korean trait about her, her intense desire to die and survive at the same time, drives that didn’t cancel each other out but stood in confluence, which made her hell to be around, lashing out at Erin and me, saying how this was God’s design telling her she shouldn’t be an artist.
My shame is not cultural but political. It is being painfully aware of the power dynamic that pulls at the levers of social interactions and the cringing indignity of where I am in that order either as the afflicted—or as the afflicter. I am a dog cone of shame. I am a urinal cake of shame. This feeling eats away at my identity until my body is hollowed out and I am nothing but pure incinerating shame.
"America's great and possibly catastrophic failure is its failure to imagine what it means to live together." - Jess Row
Rather than "speaking about" a culture outside of your experience, the filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha suggests we "speak nearby" ... in other words, to leave the space of representation open so that, although you're very close to your subject, you're also not committed to speaking on their behalf, in their place or on top of them.
Since the late sixties, when Asian American activists protested with the Black Panthers, there hasn't been a mass movement we can call our own. Will "we," a pronoun I use cautiously, solidify into a common collective, or will we remain splintered, so that some of us remain "foreign" or "brown" while others, through wealth or intermarriage, "pass" into whiteness?
I was so privileged I was acquiring the most useless graduate degree imaginable. ... the poet's audience is the [academic] institution. ... I've been raised and educated to please white people and this desire to please had become ingrained into my consciousness.
I have to address whiteness because Asian Americans have yet to truly reckon with where we stand in the capitalist white supremacist hierarchy of this country. We are so far from reckoning with it that some Asians think that race has no bearing on their lives, that it doesn't "come up," which is as misguided as white people saying the same thing about themselves, not only because of discrimination we have faced but because of the entitlements we've been granted due to our racial identity.
When you decide to speak nearby, rather than speak about, the first thing you need to do is to acknowledge the possible gap between you and those who populate your film: in other words, to leave the space of representation open so that, although you’re very close to your subject, you’re also committed to not speaking on their behalf, in their place or on top of them. You can only speak nearby, in proximity (whether they other is physically present or absent), which requires that you deliberately suspend meaning, preventing it from merely closing and hence leaving a gap in the formation process. This allows the other person to come in and fill that space as they wish…(102-103)