In a previous post, I critiqued a certain failure in higher education, having to do with education about race. That post discussed two college students’ race-related video commentaries. Since then, I have encountered another video, called “10 Things I Hate About Asians.” This post presents a few observations from that video.
Some might take the “10 Things” video at face value, as a presentation of complaints about Asians. In that regard, some views expressed in that previous post seem relevant — that, for example, it is not racist to use reasonable (e.g., non-insulting) terms to convey defensible perceptions about divergent tendencies among races. For instance, one can appropriately observe that Asians rarely become bull riders in the rodeo. The problem with racism is not that it involves recognition and articulation of realities. It is that it promotes illogical inferences with harmful effect. It would be racist to reject a specific Asian individual, applying to perform in your rodeo, merely because s/he is Asian (though the intensity of the racism would depend upon circumstances — if, for instance, you rejected hordes of applicants for half-baked reasons simply because you did not have time even to properly screen them all, as distinct from being determined to flatly reject Asians in any case).
It goes without saying that, to avoid a charge of racism, the realities being reasonably articulated should be realities indeed. This does not mean that they have to be supported by gold-standard research. They can be supported by one’s own experience, though of course personal experience will tend to be trumped by good research. Is Onision (creator of “10 Things I Hate About Asians”) correct in, say, his assertions that Asians are smarter than everyone else, or that they are lousy drivers? I don’t know. I haven’t seen research on such matters. There has been some recent work on the Tiger Mom parenting style, but I can’t say how applicable that parenting style, or that recent research, may be to the bulk of East and South Asians living in Asia or in the U.S.
Then again, a focus on research is pretty clearly beside the point. Like comedians of various races (e.g., Russell Peters), Onision seems to have gone out of his way to come up with putatively racial differences that are insignificant enough to support a laugh. That is, “10 Things I Hate About Asians” does not dwell upon differences that most people would be inclined to take seriously. Here is Onision’s list:
1. Asians greet each other very awkwardly.
2. They are better at cosplay.
3. They often act like they’re embarrassed for the way you live.
4. They get offended when you guess their nationality wrong.
5. They are awful drivers.
6. They freak out when you assume they know kung fu.
7. They’re obviously smarter than every other group of people on this planet.
8. I feel like they methodically mispronounce words just to make us feel dumb.
9. They tend to have a fubar sense of humor.
10. Unless I miscounted, he doesn’t get through this one uninterrupted. Which may have been the point.
In this regard, Onision treads a path different from that chosen by Samuel Hendrickson, in a video discussed in the previous post. Hendrickson’s non-comedic presentation started with “Most Asians look alike,” and continued with remarks about “sweatshops” and the belief that, “If I was an Asian man, I would probably be with an Asian woman, and . . . I don’t find Asian women attractive.” Despite his apparent (albeit virtually inconceivable) mild intentions, Hendrickson achieves a degree of ignorance and offensiveness that simply does not exist in Onision’s piece.
One thing I find interesting is that, as of this writing, none of the commenters on the webpage for Onision’s video have registered any objection to the persistent racial abuse heaped upon him by the Asian (or, I think, Asian-American) woman in the video. It starts with “stupid f*cking cracker” and continues with “snowman” and other epithets. A luxury of being a white person in a predominantly white country is that, like other commenters, I enjoy latitude to find these hilarious. She’s a good actress. The point remains, however, that if someone is inclined to take umbrage at racism, and to take particular umbrage at this lighthearted video, her gratuitous attacks would be the obvious place to start.
The foregoing remarks have to do with race, and this is ultimately not a post about race. It has seemed advisable to lay a rather elaborate foundation, given the sensitivity of race; but this is a post about sex. As just noted, virtually every scene in this video portrays a woman abusing a man. She threatens physical violence, employs prolific verbal abuse, plays head games, and generally has the nice-guy actor completely under her thumb. Judging, again, by the comments to date, nobody seems to notice. They surely would, if the Asian pulling out a sword were a male.
It is revealing that the large majority of Onision’s viewers appear to share my impression that this video is very funny. The key seems to lie in the careful selection of someone to serve as the butt of jokes. In this case, the big white guy can take it. Possibly this is a secret of humor in an all-too-humorless world: one’s joke can safely target the dictator, the lawyer, or whoever it is that is seen as symbolizing power or dominance within one’s culture. Of course, there can also be a point at which the perceived dominance is overstated — at which it is no longer funny, when a rawer hostility becomes evident.
As discussed in another post, it is not that threats of physical violence by women are amusing by dint of being completely unrealistic. Onision’s illustrations are obviously over the top. Yet I have known women who have beaten their mates, and one who seemed to think she had facilitated her husband’s suicide; I know one highly educated Asian woman who reportedly put a knife to her fiancé’s throat, and another who broke a beer bottle over her boyfriend’s head. I cannot say what Onision may have intended, but I have wondered whether he was deliberately employing the smokescreen of race in a test of selective attention, to see how much reverse discrimination and female violence the public would tolerate in the name of diversity-mindedness.
An implicit message within “10 Things I Hate About Asians” seems to be that negotiations between partners, mentioned in that other post, can yield dangerous and otherwise seemingly undesirable outcomes. In this video, the nice guy seems to be getting all the abuse. Then again, it is his video camera. His video does not really seem to be about Asians in general. It is more of a (sincere or merely comedic) statement of complaints about his girlfriend, with little effort to demonstrate that any other Asians share her weirdness. One might not be surprised if a real-world couple of this nature had arrived at something of a counterbalance, not shown in the video, in which his own passive-aggressiveness, drug addiction, or other maladies and dysfunctionalities tended to offset her comedically extreme behavior.
Basically, there tends to be a reason why people put up with stuff. Without denying the sometime necessity of hamfisted criminalization and other legislation, there is much to be said for education, research, counseling, and other opportunities for outsiders to learn about and beneficially influence what transpires within seriously flawed relationships, and for couples themselves to achieve superior outcomes. Notwithstanding the often racist and sexist propensities of many social work faculty members, the best solution will probably be to understand and work with people as valid individuals, rather than labeling and attacking them as members of a real or imagined group. In this sense, treating Onision’s piece as primarily about race would not only overlook too much; it would also overemphasize a macro approach to a highly intimate setting.