A Few Reflections on “10 Things I Hate About Asians”

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.

Background

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.

About Sex

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.

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One response to “A Few Reflections on “10 Things I Hate About Asians”

  1. I just received a comment from someone writing under the name OrientalHater. I’m not going to post the comment verbatim. As the writer’s pen name suggests, the comment is quite hostile to Asians. As such, it does not seem compatible with the somewhat humor-oriented spirit underlying Onision’s video.

    I will, however, post a summary of the writer’s views as I understand them, along with some commentary on those views. I don’t mind squelching raw hostility, but I would rather not prevent the airing of different perspectives.

    Some of the writer’s comments seem uninformed. Combined with the hostility, I do wonder whether the writer is a troll — that is, someone who is not attempting to convey a sincerely held viewpoint, but is rather just trying to say offensive things in order to trigger debate. An example: comments about physical appearance. Some of the comments are just bizarre. They don’t seem to bear any relationship to physical reality.

    The writer suggests that when Asians “move into an American town they Take It Over . . . . often alienating and forcing the original residents Out!” This may have happened. I do not know of any actual examples. If the original writer is not, in fact, a troll, I encourage him/her to point me toward credible news reports supporting the claim that this often happens.

    The writer further says, “I’m sick and tired of Orientals being the latest and greatest let’s-kiss-up-to-them Minority in America… You see them in All the movies, shows, commercials. It’s almost Mandatory to see a token Asian! And, yes, they’re stereotyped as super-smart nerds, to boot!” There are several things to say about that:

    (1) I think it can be reasonable to dislike tokenism. I am no expert in the history of that phenomenon, but I have gathered that some members of a given minority may be uncomfortable with the idea that, for instance, they are expected to serve as representatives of people who may be completely unlike them, other than in skin color or appearance. To repeat a somewhat similar statement taken from another post in this blog, I would rather be represented in gender-related issues by a woman who understands various male perspectives than by a man who doesn’t.

    (2) Do Asians tend to be portrayed as the good guys or otherwise kissed-up to in the movies? Probably, but I haven’t seen any studies on it, and haven’t really looked. Here, again, I’m open to links to relevant research or informed commentary.

    (3) In society generally, I think it’s true that Asians tend to be stereotyped as super-smart nerds. I’ve encountered the occasional indication that Asian-Americans who are not especially smart, or who do not wish to be seen as such, may be particularly uncomfortable with this sort of assumption. Generally, though, I believe I’ve seen indications that Asians and/or Asian Americans enjoy better-than-average rates of success in various regards. I don’t have any at my fingertips, but I could go rooting around if that’s a point in debate.

    The writer says, “I have a problem with them hunting certain species to extinction, murdering their own daughters to ensure Male heirs, eating bugs, Poki-Mon, Anime, and that other overrated trash like Manga.” I share the reaction to species extinction, but of course the Asians aren’t alone in that. Whatever one’s views on abortion, a gender-specific focus on females seems wrong, but saying so could also invite debate on use of abortion to eliminate fetuses with birth defects or other unwanted traits. I’d eat bugs if that was all I could afford. I kind of like Anime, but to each his/her own. Generally, I think the writer’s perspective and experience are narrow and limited. Again, if these are sincerely held views, I’d suggest learning more about various kinds of Asians, and then trying again with more informed and targeted complaints.

    Finally, the writer inveighs against Asian small businesses (e.g., sushi restaurants, martial arts training centers). If Asian-run nail salons are “obvious sweat shops,” one possibility would be to notify authorities of violations of relevant laws. Or, again, point me toward articles on that, or write up your own report on the phenomenon if nobody else seems to be noticing it. As for the sushi restaurants and such, this is a free country. There are people who like this stuff. It doesn’t make sense to take it away from them just because the people providing it are Asian.

    There are billions of Asians in this world, and dozens of Asian cultures. It would be unrealistic to think that our little country of 300 million should or could remain lily-white in that setting. What’s remarkable is that we’ve remained as white as we are despite being so outnumbered.

    If we are being taken over by Asians — by Chinese, in particular — it surely is because we’ve sent them so much money in exchange for so much plastic trash. No offense to the Chinese; they’re just selling us what we want. The time to get serious about that particular threat was 20 years ago. Americans couldn’t be bothered. So now we owe them a lot of money. It’s a little late to say we didn’t mean it and we’d like a do-over. The world we inhabit now is, to a remarkable degree, the world we have built for ourselves. We no longer have (if we ever had) a choice of walling ourselves off from Asia.

    In our actual world, our choice is to find ways of getting along, competing, keeping ourselves safe, and advancing values better than the ones that brought us to this point. In those endeavors, hard-working Asian immigrants will be some of our best colleagues, employees, and businesspeople. Yes — to anticipate one concern — some of them could be spies. But spying knows no racial boundaries. There is always someone willing to go that extra mile for an extra buck. This is, again, the world we have built for ourselves.

    So, as I say, I don’t know whether OrientalHater is a troll. I have treated the comment as sincere even if it was not; it has expressed some views that others may share. Further commentary is welcome. If there’s much of it, I’ll move it to a new post.

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