My [Ashkenazi Jewish American] father [married to my Han Chinese American mother] emailed me about representation of Asians in media, including the current furor over Matt Damon starring in the upcoming "The Great Wall." I decided to post my response to him here for posterity.

There's been a lot of awareness on Twitter recently of the (old) trend of whitewashing Asian actors/characters and replacing them with white ones instead, under the hashtag #whitewashedOUT.

However, I am in the minority among Asian Americans regarding Matt Damon starring in "The Great Wall," in that I support the film. While I think it's unfortunate that a white actor was cast as the star and I would have liked to see more progressive (non-white) casting, I think that being angry about it is blaming the victim, and is minimizing the progress that the film does represent. The film has a Chinese director (Zhang Yimou), is produced by a Hong Kong-based production company (Legendary East, though admittedly a subsidiary company of the American Legendary Entertainment), and is financially backed by a Chinese TV company (LeEco). From the trailers it looks like the vast majority of the extras are Asian, two of the five stars are Chinese, and all of the other named cast members are Asian (I didn't take the time to check if Chinese or other Asian). Yes, it'd be better if all five of the stars were Chinese, but this is amazing progress IMO and we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. This film will increase the visibility of Chinese actors and directors, and it's amazing that a Chinese film is going to reach a wide Western audience.

The other thing that I feel like Wu (and others critical of the whitewashing of the film) fail to take into account is that as a Chinese film, American ideas of race and racism do not apply. Race is a social construct, so it has different meaning when removed from that original social context and placed into a different one. Once you start looking at media outside the USA, it's important to acknowledge the near-worship of American celebrity in many other countries. For example, there was a bizarre Chinese ad for an online video game, Call of Duty Online, released last year, which featured Chris Evans (better known as the [white] actor behind Captain America) as the only white English-speaking person while everyone else spoke Chinese. This ad was banking on the celebrity and deification of American actors because they are American - note that it's the actor who plays Captain America. If Captain America were played by Anthony Mackie (an African American, who plays another Marvel character who in the comic books later becomes Captain America), then I have no doubt that this Call of Duty Online ad would have starred Mackie instead. Similarly, the casting of not only [white] Matt Damon, but also [white] Willem Dafoe and Chilean American Pedro Pascal (better known from Game of Thrones) is actually a major coup for a Chinese film.

In idolizing American celebrity in this way, yes the makers of this film are perpetuating whitewashing, however I feel that they're more victims of racism in Hollywood than perpetrators themselves. (Much like black cops can perpetrate racist actions against African Americans, but I blame the systemic racism in policing more than I do those individual cops. And similarly, a businesswoman who is harsher towards women employees is herself a victim of internalized misogyny.) While it definitely isn't okay for this film to be perpetuating racism in the form of whitewashing, I think my energy is better spent fighting films that are creations of Hollywood directors and production companies, than fighting films that actually are Chinese in origin.

Feel free to share this with others if you like, but it's worth pointing out again that I am in the minority among Asian Americans on this.
One of the PostSecrets this week was from a multiracial person who is embarrassed when she(?) passes as white. This of course resonated with me greatly due to that being my own life story (well, I wouldn't say "embarrassed", but there definitely are non-positive emotions associated with it when I stop to reflect).

This led to two very interesting threads in the PostSecret LJ syndicate: this one starts with the post card itself, and this one also. I admit I speak a lot in those threads; what people have to say there is really interesting to me, from the POC, the (assumed) whites, and the other multiracial people.

ETA: If you haven't seen it, here's a post I wrote a while ago listing things that monoracial people take for granted. Some of them are more applicable to white monoracial people than monoracial POC.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.
Reading over a list of things that people with white privilege take for granted, I am reminded of how I feel every time I am told to "check only one box." This list is things that people of only one race take for granted.
  1. You can check only one box.
  2. You won't have complete strangers walk up to you and ask you what you are (as if maybe you're not human, after all).
  3. You can answer "where are you from" with the place where your house is located, or where the hospital in which you were born is located.
  4. You can answer "where are you from" in under ten minutes, without any follow-up questions.
  5. You don't have to worry if someone is hitting on you because you look "exotic". 
  6. You don't have to wonder if the person you're talking to would treat you differently if they knew what you "really" were. 
  7. You don't have to correct people when they describe you. 
  8. You can talk about white privilege or racism without having people give you funny looks.  ("How would she know?")
  9. You don't feel constantly torn in two directions about common cultural norms and values.
  10. You don't have to think about whether the clothing, jewelry, or make-up you're wearing makes you look too much like race X.
  11. You can wear hand-me-downs without worrying if they're too "ethnic". 
  12. You don't have people turn to you as a representative of either/all of your particular races/cultures.
  13. You don't have to check only one box (multicultural) that lumps you in with people of entirely different backgrounds.  (Tiger Woods and Obama would check that multicultural box, but their experiences are nothing like mine.)
  14. You can nod and agree when someone says to you "I'm multicultural: Italian and German!" 
  15. People don't expect you to laugh at jokes that slander your own background. 
  16. You don't have to feel simultaneously guilty about your advantages and angry about your disadvantages.
Time to run to work.  Got any more I can add?
For a film that opens with a heavy-handed exposition about how society has moved past all racism and sexism, the makers of the movie sure display a lot of stereotypes and biases. Don't watch this movie if you're looking for a world free of sexism (all the female surrogates wear heels all the time!), racism (there are two characters that are black only to make a statement, and a third dark-skinned individual because the actor happens to be so himself), bias against particular religious groups (there is a group that has aspects of evangelism, and they're not the good guys), age-ism (many characters use younger appearing surrogates), fat-ism (one of the more beautiful surrogate is revealed to have a fat operator, and when the characters meet a fat person they immediately ask him why he's not using a surrogate), or socio-economic/US-centric bias (the intro exposition says that in 19 years from now, 98% of the world is using surrogates, totally ignoring the fact that there are nations other than the US, or that they are poorer than the US). Do watch it if you're looking for an action flick that pretends to be intellectual. I wouldn't say I *liked* the movie, but I didn't regret watching it.
I just reread Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (first read in high school). The edition I had included two afterwords, one of which discusses some letters he received from readers in this and other books of his. A number of these letters, he says, criticize his treatment (or lack thereof) of blacks and women. Bradbury harshly rebuts that this is the first step of censorship, and that changing his works to appease the many different minorities present in a large and populous society such as ours would be changing the essence of his pieces and would destroy his artistic creation. Unfortunately the afterword is still under copyright so I'm not easily finding the relevant text - anyone happen to have a link?

I'm disappointed by this attitude. Bradbury lumps underprivleged minorities (such as blacks and women) with privileged or neutral "minorities" such as dog lovers. He doesn't show understanding of the distinction between elective special interest groups, and minority status imposed upon one by society, and he also doesn't show understanding of the privilege/status/power involved in the involuntary minority statuses. He also doesn't show any interest in increased inclusivism in future works, applying the criticisms only to past completed works - altering completed works wouldn't be right IMO, but I do feel it is worthwhile to portray a more ideal society in pieces one writes in the future, without as many boundary lines of privilege between different members of society.
And more K-12 too. An elementary school mural w/ faces of black and latino kids who attend the school, is going to have the children repainted as white "to avoid controversy".

Way to teach the controversy, conservative dudes.


Jun. 4th, 2010 09:52 am
asterroc: (xkcd - Fuck the Cosine)
In case you missed it the first time, Arizona education is going down the drain, and now there's a second reason. I worry for the baby of a couple friends of mine who live in Arizona.

1) K-12 teachers with "accents" will be "removed" from the classroom. This is based on a misinterpretation of federal law requiring teachers to be "fluent" in English.

2) A new law bans ethnic studies classes, claiming they "promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, [and] promote resentment of a particular race or class of people".

I'm looking forward to visiting Arizona in the future, where I'm sure the children will be learning proper British English due to removing all teachers with American accents, and where their minds will not have been sullied by all those White Studies classes. </bitter>
As if Arizona's immigration law weren't bad enough, now they're removing K-12 teachers with foreign accents. First reported by Fox, of all places, though that article apparently has some errors (like the date of NCLB).
Edit: I have received a response, and it seems good.

LJ is now requiring new users to specify "male" or "female" on new account creation. If you don't like this,

  1. Edit your profile and select Unspecified for your gender option.

  2. Give feedback to LJ about this, see sample below.

  3. Send an email to Anjelika, GM of US operations,, again see sample below.

More info here. You have until this Thursday (12/17) to make your voice heard.

sample text )


Dec. 27th, 2007 09:18 pm
Found on a friend's friendslist...

Though technically, in the second panel it should read "hypothesis" everywhere it says "theory"... :-P



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