Thoughts on BET Awards and Appropriation and being Yellow and Jesus

So, I just read, “Dear BET Awards, Why did you think it was okay to Appropriate Asian Culture?”  And to be completely honest, I didn’t watch the BET awards. I didn’t even watch the Jesse Williams’ speech that all my friends shared.  However, I clicked this letter while wondering if the blogger was just being “oversensitive.”
Then I read the letter. Then I watched the video.  Then I wondered about it means to “appropriate.”  Then I thought a lot of things.  I’m going to try to walk you through my thoughts because my ultimate point isn’t to point to hypocrisy or to even assume it was intentional, but to perhaps make connections between trends that both I see and others seem to be uncovering.
[[Ten Second Word Association Break:  APPROPRIATION: Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Blackface, Kimmy Schmidt Season 2, Oriental, Blackish, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Tiger Lily, Halloween, Awkward Black Girl]]
I’ve been listening to a lot of Hamilton and I just super admire Miranda’s choice to use minorities to represent the US “immigrant/minority”-founding fathers because it’s true – even though our founding fathers were white, the point is that their status was that of what an immigrant minority might be today. (I also love how he uses rap as the “new” language and traditional, harpsichord, musical-y singing for the British king.)
Rough US history that’s more or less accurate-ish (notice how noncommittal this title is)
  • Back then, the British looked down on the colonists.
  • Then the British-heritage Americans looked down on immigrants from other nations.
  • Then the white Americans looked down on black and brown Americans
  • Maybe now that Black/brown people have more of a voice, they look down on the yellow?
Is this intentional? I don’t think so. But perhaps it’s a lesson about sensitivity.
A friend of mine was saying how the racist Red Cross posters  that were trending yesterday seemed blown out of proportion.  I looked at it today, and I see it. Maybe because I study this. And I do believe that there are certain defaults that people do because of our history, our schooling, and our unconscious biases.
I think we notice things that are dear to us.  And I guess up to this point, most people would agree.  Then we’d split into the “It wasn’t malicious, move on!”-Camp or the “Blow the whistle and change!”-Camp.
And maybe because Asian people aren’t loud about offenses, because of the fact that we’re used to the way we’re portrayed, that it has been a “non-factor”. Or maybe because of the desire to “unite” and support other minorities, we turned a blind eye to the racism thrust at us.  (For example, I was never comfortable with how this Chinese girl was treated when she shared an anecdote of experiencing racism from a black person, but I felt that maybe it would distract from the rallying cause of blacks, and maybe it’s better to just wait…)
[[ Aside: This year, at one of my schools, one girl (who also just had many other issues), kept swearing at me (3 times) and referring to me as “Chinita.”  I asked for a conflict-res conversation , andwhen the adult who was supposed to moderate this for me came to “prep” me, he mainly explained how in latino culture, it’s normal to call Asians “Chinita” and that no offense was meant by it.  Then in our conversation, it was about how this girl “hurt my feelings” until I veered the conversation towards community and the message that it sends to other people when you call someone a “chinita.”  I mean honestly – I didn’t want a conflict-resolution because my feelings were hurt – it just shouldn’t be a non-issue that the one Asian teacher is being called this!]]

 

Okay, the point isn’t to point out grievances against Asians.  Nor is it to point out how other minorities are also racist, because let’s be real – even WITHIN races and ethnicities, there are prejudiced factions.  I guess it’s that.. if I assume positive intent (hur hur), the learning for  communities may be that many times, the more powerful group doesn’t intend racism – so we don’t need to jump down their throats when they make mistakes, and we should be patient, because… the same mistakes will probably happen again… and there are many ways to get your way – so think about how you want to go about getting it.

This doesn’t mean you have to just let it go by.  But perhaps it means being more gracious when you do point it out.  [[Here is where I erased a few pointed/snappish remarks. I don’t think they translate well into type but you can hear it from me in person if you’d like]].

[[Final Aside:// This reminded me of a sermon my pastor preached a few weeks back in Ephesians 2:11-13.    K, I know the verses seem super random and hard to get and the sermon itself is a 78-minute doozy, but let me briefly explain the context.  As Paul writes this letter, he’s reminding the people of Ephesus, the Gentiles (aka non-Jews) about their background.  This piece here also serves as a huge reminder of how basically, in one generation, the gap between the Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles/goyiim) – one that has historically been preserved since Israel was a nation and has definitely been hostile – was bridged by the gospel… and I think that’s what’s super interesting about a truly biblical church. You go in and the commonality isn’t in ethnicity, socio-economic status, or whatnot, but it’s in the commonality of Christ.]]

Basically… people! Understand that you might be oppressed. But that doesn’t mean you can’t also be an oppressor.  So, Be. Gracious. And… if need be, admit that you’re wrong.  I promise, it won’t make you look weak or lose ground.

(But then ultimately, what change can there be until our hearts are changed?)

#rockandahardplace #imout

 

 

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