What’s the problem?
Chinese are afraid of standing up for themselves and their fellow Chinese. This can play out so extremely that they go the other way and go against the common good of fellow Chinese to show they’re not trying to give special treatment to Chinese. This is racist and wrong, and needs to change now.
Problem Example 1
I went to a panel discussion on Diversity in Tech. At the panel, one of the Black panel members was talking about how he promotes Black people and encourages hiring of more Black people at his companies and at every event he can. During the Q&A period of the panel, I asked how they were increasing diversity by having more Chinese in leadership positions. The Black panel member replied that Black people have had it worse and therefore the focus is on them. Then a Chinese panel member replied with
“I’m Chinese American so I can speak on this. Diversity isn’t about having more of people who look like me”…”encouraging Black and Hispanic people”.
Like seriously? That was incredibly offensive and hypocritical for two reasons:
1) It’s offensive because her fellow panel member spoke about increasing opportunities for Black people for a large part of the evening, and she didn’t tell him it’s not about getting more people who look like him. But when I said Chinese people, she tried to shut that down. Is she that afraid of standing up for Chinese? Or is she trying that hard to curry favor with other ethnicities? She was being racist, and yes some Chinese can be racist towards other Chinese.
2) Just because she’s Chinese doesn’t mean she speaks for all Chinese. If a Black person said all Black people were stupid, does that make it true? No? Then it doesn’t apply when it’s Chinese as well.
Comment from Reddit user:
This is conformity at its worst. If that individual’s goal is to receive the most social approbation esp. by the peers in his “political faction” than he succeeded. If goal is to be an independent thinker who does what’s right or moral, then he or she failed. We all know the “prevailing” sentiment of the populace is that only blacks/Hispanics suffer from workplace discrimination. This is only because Asians haven’t stood up strongly enough to voice our side of the story (which has to be done even more so given our smaller numbers) — a large part of this is individual Asians who are cowed in the face of the “conventional wisdom” and conform to it, rather than challenge it. They would rather be a “good team member” and fall in line.
It’s why Asian Identity in its nature of standing in opposition to prevailing accepted wisdom, and defiance towards both parties, in style is the right practice for Asians. People mindlessly call us a hate group because we refuse to kneel before their perception of us and the accepted narratives. Enduring this criticism and continuing anyway is the basis of the rebelliousness we need to break through this groupthink that supposed “Asian activists” have kneeled before.
Problem Example 2
Affirmative action. It’s another name for (currently) legalized institutional racism that favors certain ethnicities. For example, some schools use affirmative action to reduce the number of qualified Chinese attending their schools. This means that a Chinese student with a SAT score in the 90th percentile may be rejected in favor of a Black student with a SAT score in the 60th percentile. This is racist and wrong.
Here’s an example of the effects. The California Institute of Technology, which bases admission strictly on academics, saw the share of Asian students grow from 25 percent in 1992 to 43 percent in 2013. However it decreased at Harvard from 19 percent to 18 percent. This means that while there are an increasing number of well qualified Asian/Chinese students, racist policies like affirmative action is keeping Chinese students away from the education they deserve.
What’s worse is that some groups claiming to represent Asians and Chinese, actively work against Asian and Chinese interests by defending racist affirmative action policies. Some of these groups are even led by misguided Chinese. Their reasons for this evil is likely due to their fear of standing up for their community, and tries to rack up political correctness points by advancing other ethnicities at the expense of their own.
Chinese and Shame
Chinese culture places a lot of importance on the opinions of others. I love Chinese culture and I love Chinese people, but this is something I readily admit and hope will change into the future.
As Confucius states in Analects,
Lead the people with administrative injunctions and put them in their place with penal law, and they will avoid punishments but will be without a sense of shame. Lead them with excellence and put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they will order themselves harmoniously.
In a Shame Society, the primary device for gaining control over people and maintaining social order is the inculcation of shame and the complementary threat of ostracism.
Chinese are afraid of shame. These fears and avoidances unfortunately play out quite negatively.
Fear of Standing Out
Many Chinese I encounter in America refer to themselves as Asian-American. Not Chinese, not Chinese-American, but Asian-American.
Why this fear of standing out? I once suggested to a Chinese friend why he didn’t focus on Chinese issues in his student club. He defensively replied “Why Chinese? Why not Vietnamese or Indian?”.
While there are good parts in many cultures, including Asian culture, in statistics we focus grouping on homogeneity. This means we want to group like things together. The culture and issues in China are very different from the culture and issues in Pakistan. By grouping everyone together as Asians, it dilutes the focus.
Examples of groups who are unwilling to focus on Chinese issues include Asian American Writers’ Workshop and Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence.
Fear of being Racist
When I first decided to become an activist for Chinese rights I was very worried about how people would view me. I was scared that people would call me racist for standing up for Chinese rights and inclusion. How does this work? If Black people can stand up for Black rights, why are Chinese people afraid of being called racist for standing up for Chinese rights? How did American society get so warped that protesting against racism be called racism?
Standing up for Chinese rights and promoting Chinese advancement is no more racist than NAACP or other organizations that seek to promote a specific minority group. We need to recognize that, and be proud of helping Chinese.
Fear of Standing up for Ourselves
I’ve noticed many Chinese afraid of standing up for fellow Chinese. Reasons they’ve stated include not wanting to seem like they’re trying to help Chinese only (see Fear of Shame and Problem Example 1 above).
Take for example, David Dao and the United Airlines incident. There was a large outpouring of support, but a lot of backlash against people who suggested the reason might have been racism. If the same incident occurred but the victim was Muslim or Black, many people and the media would instantly cry racism. Why did this not happen in this situation? The statistics support it (majority non-Chinese flight, but half of the people targeted were Chinese).
Why are Chinese unwilling to stand up for themselves or even fellow Chinese? They’re worried that standing up for Chinese might get them viewed as being out for themselves and are embarrassed about it. I know that when I first decided to become an activist for Chinese rights I was very worried about how people would view me. I was scared that people would call me racist for standing up for Chinese rights and inclusion. I don’t blame people for their fear, but wish they would work through it to do what’s right.
Solutions and Next Steps
Hispanics advocate for Hispanics.
Blacks advocate for Blacks.
Women advocate for women.
Let’s see more Chinese advocating for Chinese.
Avoid the lumping of “Asian” or “Asian American” groups. That dilutes the focus. That’s why you see more Muslim groups but not “Muslim and Hindu” groups or “Hindu and Jewish American” organizations.
Keep the focus on Chinese issues. Keep the focus on advancing Chinese people into leadership.
Let’s see a Chinese president in our lifetime.
And most importantly it’s the need to get started. Societal conditioning can be hard to change. People and thoughts, especially about sensitive topics like race and ethnicity, can be resistant to change. But the longest journey starts with the first step. Start today. Even if just a little, every bit helps.
1) Share this article
2) Talk to your friends
3) Talk to everyone you can
4) Be willing to promote Chinese people and culture
What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below and share with your friends to get the discussion going.