April 28, 2008
Written by C.N.
One of the contradictions in being Asian American is the tension between emphasizing unity versus uniqueness. That is, on the one hand it’s frequently in our best interests to be a unified racial/ethnic community and to speak with one collective voice so that we are more likely to be heard.
On the other hand, in fighting against the stereotype that all Asians/Asian Americans are the same, we also want to point out the various ways in which our community has unique histories, characteristics, issues, and needs — ethnically, social class, politically, etc.
This tension between being united one day and being unique the next day can be very frustrating, especially for bloggers like myself who try to strike that balance and reconcile some of the contradictions that arise form this dichotomy as best as possible.
As one example of these tensions and contradictions, my blogging colleague Jenn Fang at Reappropriate.com recently wrote about her struggles in discussing issues of Asian American feminism and gender equality on her blog and how her posts on such issues frequently leads to more division than unity and the personal toll it takes on her:
I’ve found myself extremely angry and frustrated by the level of the debate. I’m weary of the arguing, frustrated by the tone, and disillusioned by the blog’s mission. My open comment policy has been misused over the past month, and I’ve had to ban several readers — undermining my disagreement in idea censorship and my belief in the power of democratic idea-building. . . .
I’m tired of discussions of sexism being misconstrued as male-bashing, I’m tired of people who don’t know feminism thinking they can define it, and above all, I am tired of the suspicion of my racial solidarity and my pride in the Asian American community because of my identification as a feminist and the choices in my personal life. . . .
I feel like I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall, and all I have to show for it is ostracization, derision, and occasionally ridicule from some Asian American men. I feel like the adage “working twice as hard to get half as far” is poignantly relevant to how hard I’ve struggled for the same acceptance in the APIA online community that some of my male colleagues enjoy almost innately. . . .
I need to remember that advances in APIA feminism is measured in inches, not miles, and that there is a silent majority of Asian American readers who also believe in that dream of a united, politicized Asian American community.
As I wrote to Jenn after reading her post, I found her points to be very genuine and moving. I admit that I don’t read her blog as much as I should and we probably don’t agree 100% on every single issue, but through our previous interactions, I have always admired and respected her work and writings.
Further, as Asian Americans, liberals, and academics, I told her that we have many more things in common than differences. I therefore wanted to post about the struggles she’s been going through as a way of showing my solidarity and highlighting the issues that still unfortunately divide our community.
There is no easy answer on how to address this contradiction between unity and uniqueness, between asserting our similarities versus our differences. But what I can say, and that I hope everyone will keep in mind, is that we can disagree with one another without resorting to personal attacks.
Anonymity on the internet and in blog comments does not give anyone the license to put aside basic norms of human civility and respect for others and to pretend that we’re back in kindergarten and that it’s perfectly fine to call each other names.
Ultimately, my hope is that regardless of our ethnic, political, or other differences, we can all agree to discuss and debate these issues in a calm and rational manner. This does not mean that we can’t be subjective or emotionally invested in our beliefs, just that we should express ourselves to each other fairly and respectfully.
I don’t think that’s asking for too much.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Struggling for Solidarity" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2008/04/struggling-for-solidarity/> ().
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