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IBARW. Third verse. Same as the first. A little bit louder and a whole lot worse.

When faced with Asian-American accomplishment, there's nothing loads of white Americans like to do like dismiss it. Today, let's start out with a little bit about me.

I'm a writer. First and foremost, I'm a writer. I write fantasy, science fiction and horror: specifically, I most often write historically based fantasy set in 1820s England -- because the world needs more historical fantasy that takes the messed-up and oligarchic nature of European imperialism seriously rather than further celebrating how wonderful and clever it was to be rich and pretty and white and rich in the 19th century, and clever, and witty, and rich, and pretty. Also because I like cravats, otherworlds and Judeo-Christian myth. I love fantasy. I love comics: I love fantasy comics, DC's Vertigo imprint and many of its titles being near and dear to my heart. I'm a very budding artist (possibly an embryonic artist, or perhaps a zygote artist). In other words, creativity in some form or another is my passion and my life, and has been as long as I've been old enough to know what I want out of life. I participate in Yuletide every year, though I hope to God none of you go look my older fics up after this.

I've also had a school background of academic acceleration. And I'm Asian. And I'm good at languages, I'm good at math -- not wonderful at math, but good enough at it. I like logic puzzles. I try to take a reasonable approach to problem-solving, like any other person. I try to be level-headed, like any person trying to get by in this world.

As you can see, I devoted a whole rambling paragraph to talking about my creative interests, and I devoted a pretty short one to talking about -- let's say, to use a cringeworthily outdated and oversimplifying pop psychology term -- my "left-brained" interests.

And yet I come to the same discovery over and over again: people love to dismiss the academic and professional achievements of Asian-Americans of every shape and size, and people especially love to dismiss it with the word logical. Or hard-working. Or any number of other words, and they all boil down to the same thing -- automaton. Robot. Time and time again white people dismiss the intelligence, the talent, the creativity of Asian people with these words -- "pointing out" that "Asians are only good at math," or that Asians are only good at science, and the only reason why they're good at these things is that they're Vulcans hardwired to compute (which has drastically taken away from their other human capacities, of course) -- ignoring the economic reasons why immigrant Asian families might encourage their second-gen kids to study lucrative subjects, of course, ignoring the all-around high scores. It's robotics. No other explanation. They all do math, anyway. Just human calculators. Just automatons. Just Spock, with pocket protectors and SAT academies.

I point to this astoundingly atrocious CNN article, Why right-brainers will rule this century, for an example: In "A Whole New Mind," he explains that one of the trademarks of the Conceptual Age is the outsourcing of traditional white-collar jobs such as law, accounting, and engineering to less-expensive overseas workers, particularly in Asia. But as he points out, you can't outsource creativity. Not to Asians you can't! They ain't born with it!

As you can see, as soon as an Asian starts doing something, it becomes a robot job. Even if it's the practice of law. Even if it's engineering.

My last name is McLaughlin and I have brown hair, so I have the lucky privilege of more people being willing to believe that my accomplishments are my own, that my ideas are my own, that I might actually just be a smart human being. However, my mother's last name was Kwon and I have that unlucky old friend, the epicanthic fold, so I'm still faced with legions of people willing to self-justify themselves into believing that verbal acuity is just another form of Asian Spock -- for real. People who have the nerve to say, "well, writing isn't really art." People who have the nerve to say, "well, you don't play music as an artist." People who have the nerve to say, you scored that high because you're Asian -- you skipped those grades because you're Asian -- you're good at that because you're Asian -- well, you had an Asian parent (a slavedriver) -- your mom's a tough parent (a dragon lady) -- you're Asian -- you're a robot -- you're Asian, you're Asian --

Maybe that guy scored higher than you on the SAT because he wasn't raised with the complacent knowledge that he could get into a good old boys' club whether he was Einstein or dumb as a post. Maybe that Asian engineer won the Nobel because he had a great idea. Maybe that girl has better grades than you because she deserves them. And maybe, just maybe -- maybe it doesn't take a robot to kick your lazy, self-satisfied, entitled ass to the curb anyway.



( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 30th, 2009 01:49 am (UTC)
I would like to point whoever is assuming that we can't outsource our creativity to Asia to the bizarre new phenomena of really, really horrible American remakes of every brilliant Asian horror movie that comes out. Which generally make me cry. Or, you know, to the fact that translated manga is currently fucking CRUSHING American-made comic sales in this country.

Have people seriously told you WRITING ISN'T ART? What the fuck, do they think you are writing technical manuals or some shit? That reminds me of the dude who told my friend that "African art isn't really art unless it's in a museum with other African art." This is the same guy who told me comics weren't art, photography wasn't art, and children's picture books weren't art.
Jul. 30th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
that guy lives in a sad little world. o_O;
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
He did. Actually, he only drew the same picture over and over of a dude in a boat, fishing.

Same one. Over and over.

Then later I found out that he watched his father die in a fishing accident when he was a little boy. And all he did was draw his father fishing over and over for the rest of his life. It was sort of creepy.
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:07 am (UTC)
... see, i think most people would take that as a sign of needing at least one session with a therapist or something. eep.
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)
I feel tempted to use that in a story, except I think people would find it implausible.
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
Why would it have to be plausible? It's not like stories are, like, art or anything.
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
That is the kind of story that feels as though it should end, and then when he disappeared, I looked in the picture... and there was a smiling figure next to the father, fishing eternally!
Aug. 1st, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
It'd be creepier if the sudden appearing figure in the drawing was actually drawing :)
Aug. 1st, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
Curious, and yet even though he was drawing the same thing over and over again, -she-'s the automaton?
Jul. 30th, 2009 06:35 am (UTC)
Embryos have limb buds. :) Your great post has been linked in the IBARW Delicious account!
Jul. 30th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU FOR THIS POST (says the Chinese-American not-automaton)! &hearts &hearts &hearts
Jul. 31st, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
It actually really is difficult to outsource creativity to another country - there are the communication issues (generally language, certainly limited time for conversation due to timezones) and you don't get the checks and balances that you have when it's done in-house and there's an evolved relationship. The best way to do it, in my experience, is to take an antire job / subsystem / idea / whatever, and outsource that, checking in frequently letting the people in the other country deal with the communication etc among themselves.

But that's a problem with the nature of outsourcing, not the culture of the other country. The same problems would apply in outsourcing from China or India to the US.

One solution is to appreciate homegrown creativity in other countries; instead of saying, "Here's a tiny box; go be creative inside it", look at new ideas coming *out* of those countries. There's tons of creative ideas everything from the netbook computer (developed in Taiwan) to Bollywood movies, which are such a unique art and so different from Hollywood's products. Look at architecture: the three tallest buildings in the world are in Dubai, Taiwan and Shanghai, and all involved locals in some creative capacity (admittedly, I'm guessing from the people's names).
Aug. 3rd, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear. :/
Aug. 5th, 2009 09:26 am (UTC)
A particularly pernicious form of this seems to crop up a lot in reference to Asian musicians. "Oh, they're so technically proficient (they all come out of those music farms, you know, where they force kids to practice 10 hours a day) -- but their music lacks feeling."

Seriously, wtf. Do people really think that Asian musicians choose a career in music because we're robots who've been trained to become perfect music-playing machines -- rather than, say, being people who love music? People with actual, you know, feelings for it?
Aug. 10th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
McLaughlin, you aint no Asian Ameircan Robot
Excuse a brief moment. No doubt you are a genius. And no doubt you have an exceptional, gifted mind. Do not for a moment put yourself in the Asian Math stereo type. Yours is a much more limited grouping. You are a freak of intellect. And good for you. And good for the peoples you can and will benefit with your gifts. And may you be graced with the maturity to 'handle' that gift as it is as freakish to most as it exceptional.

Good luck.

larry b
Aug. 14th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
Ah, it's just white Americans who dismiss Asian accomplishments, huh
When faced with Asian-American accomplishment, there's nothing loads of white Americans like to do like dismiss it.

How do black Americans and brown Americans and red Americans feel about Asian accomplishment? Pretty much the same way, right? Except maybe even higher percentages of them stereotype Asians?

You're 19 so I understand that you have been taught by the school system since you began that white Americans - especially white men, and especially straight white men who are financially successful - are the primary cause of oppression and wrongdoing in the world.

But you seem smart so maybe you can outgrow that bigotry.

The Jane Austens out there writing fiction about 19th century English aristocracy were not celebrating whiteness. That was a given, because they were white and were writing about their people. Is that OK with you? If white people 200 years ago kind of thought there was nothing criminal about being white and just went ahead and wrote novels and didn't put in any stuff about how evil and imperialistic and banal white people are?

I'm assuming your father is a white man, given your last name and that you mention that your mother is Asian. Your attitude is a good example of what happens to the children of mixed-race couples: they end up expressing some level of contempt for the race of their white parent. Same things happens with the children of white mothers and black fathers.

Fact is that the stereotyping and racism is ten times worse in Asia than it is among white Americans. If you want some REAL stereotyping, check out Asians and their opinions of whites, blacks, or any other ethnic group - even their co-ethnics - or pretty much any other ethnic group in the world. But for some reason it's a particular sin if a white person, especially a white American, does it.

I'm sorry you apparently find yourself caught between two worlds and not feeling particularly appreciated or completely a part of either of them. That's one of the wonderful benefits of "diversity" - a generation of mixed-race children who feel unwelcome and thus develop resentment towards white society. Well, white people are not perfect but we're the most welcoming ethnic group on earth and the result does not seem to have been appreciation on the part of non-whites who have been welcomed into our countries in a way never before seen in history anywhere else, but instead a sort of withering contempt and a holding of us to a standard that no other group is held to.

I hope you will outgrow your resentment and appreciate what you have. I suggest you realize that you have it better here than you would anywhere else on earth, especially compared to Asian countries where you would be looked down upon as a half-breed.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )