Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What Is This?

It's been a while since I've written in my blog. I've been thinking about it quite a bit and even started a post last week, which, for some reason I can't recall, I decided to stop. I think two things about that 1) I am not in the mood to discuss anything of any significance to me or otherwise. A lot has been going on lately in the world, and I have a list of topics that I have wanted to post entries about. But, physically and mentally, I haven't been in the mood; and 2) I was trying to be good with regards to school. I was trying to complete more assignments, attend more class. It worked, kind of, for about a week. Now I am back behind--probably more behind now than I have ever been in law school.

Sometimes, I enlist other people to help me stall. Today--well, Tuesday--I called my mother, and we talked for hours. For some reason, I don't mind the discussions about society with her, but I do mind--for right now--writing these thoughts in my blog. Anyway, I talked to my father also...after talking to her for hours. And then my mother said to him (concluded on her own) that I am trying to get out of doing my work. Basically, it was kind of true. I have a problem with reading everything for a week, then turning around the next week and doing the same. I run out of steam. I can't consistently be good.

I remember that the post I started last week was somewhat about Angel. Even though I can't come write in my own blog, I have been checking my ex-friend Jen's blog--excuse me, journal--every day and reading her entries, which are long like mine but in a much more personal way. Her journal is very interesting, even though she and I are entirely different people. It's an escape. There's nothing academic in it; it's all about these different guys she's juggling. I like that it's mindless like that, whereas I usually don't want to read other people's personal stuff unless it somehow relates to something about race, sexuality, sex/gender...i.e. identity in society and how that affects someone. But then, her journal is also not mindless because it's her way of working out her personal romantic issues and her thoughts/feelings.

I guess that's part of what made me think about Angel. And I think another reason I stopped writing that post is because I can't articulate those thoughts. I stop now and try to think of what I feel, and I can't exactly put my finger on it. I guess I'm confused about how I feel about her and what our relationship is. I'm also really hesitant to share any thoughts I do have. For the second time, I just wrote something and took it back. Bottom line, we're friends and I'm really happy we are, and I don't want that to change. But she's not like my other friends are to me, and I can't figure out exactly why. I feel like there's something(s) weird about us, not to say between us--we've always felt really comfortable with each other. It gets me confused every time.

One thing I did want to mention, though, and I'm glad I remembered--so, she has always been there for me, even when we barely knew each other. Sometimes, I wonder how much that has had to do with race. By that, I mean I have wondered if one of the reasons she took an interest in me is because I'm black and she knows what the legal profession is like for "women of color." Now, the racial question is not what is weird to me about us. I think there should be more people in the legal field like her, if this is, in fact, one of the reasons why she became my support system, and then law firms wouldn't have to have meetings about why they can't retain black associates and why they don't have black partners. Plus, I know we also clicked early on for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with race. We just naturally like each other.

It's just interesting--normally, I'm watching people "click" with each other right away. Usually, they are both--or if there are more people, all--white, and I'm the one left out. This summer, I got to have that. Other people were left out. I know there were other people at work that Angel considered to be her friends, or maybe just one other person in particular. But there wasn't anyone else there who understood her like I do, and vice versa. You see, Angel decided she doesn't want to be a lawyer anymore. If you're one of these lawyers in an office full of lawyers who are happy with what they do...well, no, no one else there gets it. If you read my blog, you know I get it. I haven't practiced law yet--and would like to never practice it--but she didn't have to tell me why she didn't want to practice law anymore. We did talk about it some, but as soon as she said she was leaving the practice...I knew...and it didn't take that much for her to realize I knew. I think that was when we first started finishing each other's sentences, and then every time we talked to each other...we were finishing each other's sentences...and she had first told me about quitting, I think, the first week I started work. I guess the support system hasn't just been one-way.

I also guess one of the reasons why our relationship is so confusing to me is because it didn't take long for there to be so many levels of it, so much complexity. Everything went fast, and I don't know how to figure out what it all means. You know, you think that it takes time to build up certain elements of any kind of relationship. But, with us, it feels like all those elements just came with the relationship. For example, I don't trust people, but I would bet my life on her and would have even a few months which point we'd only known each other for a few months. And when you've been hurt really badly, not even that long ago, you don't know how to tell good people from bad people, which makes you act a certain way. You have your guard up. And yet, I never had any question in my mind that Angel wasn't LA Girl. She is the anti-LA Girl. If we're just friends and if we're always just friends, that friendship is more than anything else I've ever had with anyone else.

And that's about as clear as I can make this.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Different Story

I believe that when it comes to comparing the achievements of various racial groups, you hear the same stories and arguments over and over again. You know what they are, I think. Asians work harder, and blacks should be more like Asians. The failure of blacks is their fault--just look at Asians. Better grades, better test scores, better colleges, better jobs, better incomes. Asians do as well as, and in many cases, better than whites. So other minorities can do it, too. And I realized that my story growing up doesn't look anything like these stories and arguments. The following is, I think, why I've never really bought into the idea that Asians are smarter than anybody else:

I grew up mainly attending racially mixed schools, which I think is the best you can give any minority kid. However, my schools never really had that many Asian students until I reached high school. The funniest thing about that is high school was the first time during my education in which I attended schools where there were more than seemingly a few Asians and Latinos there, but it was predominantly a "rich" white high school in a "rich" white area. The other schools I attended were not in that area.

Thinking back, high school was the first time in which I had friends from all races, though not really Latino friends--I knew Latino kids, but we weren't really friends. I had Asian friends, one of them being my best friend I mentioned in this post. I didn't care much about race then, and that was probably the last time I could say anything like "I don't see race." So here I am, realizing things now that I never thought about or realized back then.

For one thing, I've been thinking about all those advanced classes I took. I was essentially one of those kids who was in Honors and AP everything. I woke up this morning, thinking about the racial demographics of those classes. To understand what they mean, you need to understand what the demographics of the school were. Now, the school was a white school, but with a decent percentage of minorities. Blacks probably made up the largest minority group, then Asians. There were enough blacks and Asians in the school for neither group to really feel alienated. If a black or Asian only wanted black or Asian friends, they could easily have that--indeed, many did--and didn't feel like it was out of necessity, racism or feel they were lacking in the number of black or Asian friends available to them. But those Honors and AP classes, however...let's just say that any Asian in any of those classes was definitely having that "I was the only Asian in the class" experience. In fact, you could find more black kids in those classes than Asian kids. At the very least, I was usually able to say there was one other black kid in the class besides me.

Asian kids generally couldn't say that. As a matter of fact, Asian kids were almost completely absent from those advanced classes. This morning, I tried to count the Asian kids I could remember in my classes through all 4 years of high school...I came up with 5. And four of those kids were in more than one of my advanced classes, but never in more than two. So that means that when I saw Asians in my advanced courses, it was basically the same 4 Asians. To be fair, I must admit that there was a Korean girl in my freshman Honors Biology class...but she moved to Texas during the school year. And then there were three other Asians I can recall who took advanced classes, but just happened to never end up in any of mine--two of them weren't in my graduating class in school. An interesting fact is that, except for one, the Asians in my classes were Asian females (out of all the Asians I remember in advanced classes, two were male). And the one Asian male only showed up in advanced classes after transferring to our high school from another school. He was very open about having a 2.9 GPA.

Everyone else in these advanced classes tended to be white kids. There were two advanced classes I had in which Asians weren't having "I was the only one" experiences. If you remember, I mentioned in this post a story about these two Asians whom I asked where they were from when we were in high school. We had AP US History together, and it was just the two of them until the Asian male mentioned above transferred to our school and landed in our class. Well, one of those Asians--the one whom the other Asian and I both questioned about her ethnicity--also happened to be a transfer student that year. She stood out to me on the first day, and I think she did because I wasn't seeing Asians in my advanced classes. I was the first one to speak to her, admittedly because I thought she was really pretty, but also because I could tell she was new. The only minorities in the class, originally, were me and this one black girl, plus those two Asian girls...and the four of us became friends. Then the pretty Asian girl and the Asian male showed up in AP Economics with me, which also included my best friend who was Korean, a black female friend I had made in Honors Spanish and a black male.

Every other advanced class I took, the Asians in them were the only ones. I was friends with this one Chinese girl, whom I met in Honors Spanish. She and I ended up in AP European History together the next year--we were the only minorities in that class. I don't think she ever felt out of place, but who knows? Our high school never really felt like that kind of environment, though--where we felt racially out of place. And this with it being the South. But AP European History was kind of awkward for me, though, because it was the only class, other than Honors Biology--which was also awkward--in which I was the only black person. In AP US History, the pretty Asian girl and I had the lowest grades in the class for a while, and everyone knew it--that was awkward, too, but she and I kind of bonded over that.

And that's the other thing I have been thinking about--while my Asian friends had parents who were relatively strict and, for lack of a better word, pushy...they didn't really seem like the kind of Asian parents you hear about, i.e. they "weren't that bad." So, the Asian guy did have a 2.9, and the pretty Asian girl was a bit of an underachiever. And I didn't think much of it. It wasn't like, "Wait--they're Asian. They're supposed to be doing better...?!?!" I probably knew what Asian parents could be like more intimately through my Korean friend. Her grades were good but not 4.0, and that didn't seem to be a huge problem. There wasn't really pressure about what kind of college to attend, but she knew that she was only allowed to study areas such as business or medicine. Although she never wanted to say it, I could tell I wasn't really allowed at her house...but a white classmate would have been. I knew that the pretty Asian girl had a lot of responsibilities after school and couldn't even so much as talk on the phone without doing it behind her parents' back.

My Chinese friend and her brother were under a lot of pressure, and I don't know how much of it came from their family. I always had the feeling that she didn't feel smart enough and that making the grades she did in her Honors classes was the result of a lot of hard work. One of our white classmates in AP European History was basically tutoring her in Honors Algebra II. She seemed stressed a lot of the time and got meaner as time progressed. Her brother was stressed out because he was earning a 'D' in AP Biology. His career choice was doctor, as was their older sister. But my friend, not having the aptitude for that, was thinking law...which never made sense to me given her personality.

Dude, I just remembered that I used to make fun of her last name to her face. Holy crap, I was one of these people these Asian college students complain about in these stories I've been reading! Noooooo...I didn't really do that!!!!! But...yeah...I really did. But I've also been remembering other racist "jokes" a white friend of mine and I had about Asians and Latinos. I can only speak for myself in saying I didn't know what the hell I was saying--it's the kind of stuff that it takes age or someone telling you to understand what's wrong with it. Ugh, and I'd been all proud of myself, thinking that I'd never said anything racist to Asians. Another thing I did--my white friend and I--is called the Chinese girl an airhead all the time.

This brings me to another thing. I've said that I don't get the harm in the "smart" stereotype about Asians. But that's not true--I do and I don't. I get the pressure it brings, and, obviously, the Chinese girl was under a lot of pressure...and being called names by us probably wasn't helping if she really did already feel overwhelmed and insecure. What I figured out that I don't understand is why allow it to be pressure. Why does it matter if white people label you smarter than everyone else? Why does that mean you have to work hard to live up to that? It's one thing when your parents are pushing you. It's another thing when it's society. And I've pretty much always just been kind of like, "f*ck society." Still am. Heck, with law school, I'm like, "f*ck parents," too, especially since they're not even paying for law school. I don't want all 'A's anymore (my mother acts like I should be getting all 'A's, which just goes to show how little she knows about law school), and I'm not going to work hard for them anymore. Once again, this is a case in which there's a part of me that gets why what society thinks matters, especially after doing some of the readings I've done, and then another part that still feels like Asians should be able to just let that go.

And speaking of working hard...although some of the Asians I knew worked hard in school, some of them didn't. And I don't know why I said "anymore" in reference to myself, because I've never worked hard in school. I was always one of those kids who simply got good grades, even in college, and that's just not how law school works. I made the conscious choice that law school wasn't worth my working hard. Since everyone loves to point to Asians and say they work hard, then point to blacks and say they don't...let me just say that I believe in working hard when it's necessary and not working hard when it's not. I don't think it's necessary in law school for me to work hard, being that I'm at a top 10 school and I don't really even want to be a lawyer but can still find a job in the legal profession with the kind of grades I have. Had I needed to work harder in high school or college to make the kind of grades I did, maybe I would have. I did find it necessary for me to work hard to achieve the kind of LSAT score I wanted, and I have never worked harder academically in my life. And after that was done, I gave my absolute all to putting together the kind of application packages necessary for getting admitted to the best law schools in the nation. It's in me, and I pulled it out when I needed to--and that paid off better than I expected.

You can call it whatever you want, but I call it efficiency. If you work hard all the time, even when it's not necessary...a little something called burnout happens. You can also lose your mind from hard work. Stay with me on this. I think this is a side effect of the whole "smart" thing with Asians. Some commit suicide because of the pressure or the embarrassment they feel they've caused their parents. According to my mother, some completely freak out and have breakdowns, not to say that students of other backgrounds don't do this. But my mother does work at a university, and she has apparently seen this more in Asian students than others. To me, it's not worth it. Keep your sanity; you can still make it just fine in this life.

Honestly, the point of this post is not to totally disprove people's ideas about Asians--it's to take away some of the universality of their applications. I'm actually wondering if a regional difference exists in the US among Asians, in combination with the other differences such as ethnic background and immigration vs American-born status. I don't think that the Asians I knew growing up nor the ones I met in college were pushed that much more than other kids, and pretty much none of them were gunning for top schools. Indeed, very people from my high school went on to anything better than local schools as opposed to Ivies and UC-system schools that everyone seems to think Asians attend or are ready to commit suicide over if they can't get admitted. And some of them could have gone off to those schools but didn't and, in general, didn't even apply to those kinds of schools. Off the top of my head, everyone who did go on to top colleges from my high school...was black...although I'm sure there are some white kids I'm forgetting. But they generally weren't Asian.

Next to last point--I get tired of hearing about how black kids allegedly get picked on by other black kids for doing well in school. I don't know where these schools exist, or if this might be another possible regional--or maybe even urban v suburban--difference...but my doing well in school and being enrolled in all advanced courses was one of the reasons why I ended up popular in high school. I'm mentioning this because on one of the Asian websites I checked out a few hours ago, one Asian was telling this same old story about how blacks allegedly get picked on for working hard and valuing education. Some people might tell those kinds of stories in an effort to be helpful or sympathetic towards the gap between blacks and Asians in achievements, but really what it does--other than unfairly generalizes and oversimplifies--is fuels the racist argument by many and the racial war between Asians and blacks that, look at blacks, they don't care about education and don't work hard but Asians do. And yet, I don't think I've ever met a black person who has gotten picked on because they performed well in school. Because they didn't have enough black friends, spoke a certain way or lived in a certain area--yes. Academics? No.

And speaking of the racial war between Asians and blacks--I've been detecting some Asian supremacy comments on the net. Like I said, Asians and blacks could be friends where I grew up. Just because some blacks in some places attack Asians doesn't make that cause for Asians to feel it's okay to hate blacks and write as much online. And these blacks who attack Asians don't go to show that blacks are jealous that Asians are "smarter" and make better grades and don't need handouts and all this nonsense. Maybe those particular blacks are, and maybe they're not. But it doesn't apply to all or even most blacks. Most blacks I know would be with me in arguing that, hey, Asians aren't smarter than anybody else. Rather, there are some Asians who are smart and some who are not, just like you have in any race. There are some who work hard and some who don't. Some go to Harvard and Berkeley, and some don't go to college at all. And, apparently, you have some Asians who grow up in the kind of environment that Americans, particularly whites, tend to attribute to and praise Asians for and some...not so much.

And these are environments that, incidentally, a lot of Asian kids grew up resenting and still, as adults, while understanding some of it a lot better and even valuing some of it, would totally reject some of it and wouldn't apply some of it to their own kids. As this happens more and more, will we see a decline in Asian success? And, if so, what will racist whites and racist Asians have to say about that? If not, will these people finally have to admit that Asian success is not just about Asians being the "model minority" but maybe also somewhat about light vs dark, fighting to assimilate vs fighting to maintain non-white identity, variations in the degree of racism experienced by various groups, having the choice to come to America precisely to achieve for self/family vs being forced to come to America so that someone else can achieve and then being "stuck" here because you know no other land...and so on?

Monday, October 8, 2007


I promise to get back to my discussion on interracial dating beyond the racial binary soon, but a detour for now--I finally want to talk about the class I'm taking this semester on queer minorities.

I read something interesting last night--something about how law students experience more emotional stress than even medical students...which is interesting, considering I figure medical school is a lot more difficult, time-consuming and stressful, hands down...not to mention the fact that the white kids in law school--particularly the white males--seem to enjoy it, on some sick level. But whatever. Anyway, the article, at some point, mentioned how some students become "disengaged" from law school, as if that's a bad thing or as if that leads to their unhappiness or increases it.

Something hit me with that. "Disengaged." Totally me. You know, this summer helped me a lot. Even though I didn't like my job, I ended up feeling happier than I've felt in a long time, and I knew that was because I was away from law school and because I'd met my friend Angel. And I think one of the reasons I really dreaded coming back here--to the point of nearly completely putting off getting my class schedule together and waiting until after everyone else had moved back to campus to come back myself, and so on--was because I feared that all the progress I'd made this summer in my demeanor would turn around...and it has. If I hadn't met Angel and we weren't e-mailing each other on a regular basis, then I think that right now I'd feel incredibly similar to how I felt last semester--super depressed.

But, in all honesty, I find my disengagement from school--i.e. skipped classes, not caring about the material, not having enough credits right now to possibly graduate at the end of next semester like I'm supposed to and all those kinds of things--to be a coping mechanism.

What does all this have to do with that queer class? Well, I thought that getting away from the law school and taking classes outside of this program would help. What this class has cleared up for me is I'm not solely disenchanted with law school. I'm fed up with school, period. I'm tired of academia. And I find myself wondering if attending a "less prestigious" school, perhaps where the kids aren't quite as nerdy and hyper-into the material, would have made a difference. I mean, because that's really what I'm tired of. I'm tired of being around people whom I need a dictionary or thesaurus, or have to think really hard, to understand them. I'm tired of reading assignments that are like that. I'm tired of people wanting to talk about ideas that relate to whatever their field of choice is incessantly.

And, you know, I don't want to be insulting towards people who have these passions and this intellect by calling them "nerds." I understand that what's really going on is I'm lost right now and don't have the passion for anything. I know that my greatest wish is to be somewhere on a deserted island, not thinking, not analyzing, not researching, not having intellectual discussions. I just want to be. Those works by famous GLBT writers of color seem so overrated to me right now. I'm not in the frame of mind to read works that are written the way they write them. I mean, Audre Lorde is okay...and they all make points that I agree with, when I have the strength to have the desire to even understand the points they are trying to make. But I'm just tired of this kind of stuff. I'm tired of reading stuff that goes as if these people feel a strong need to prove how intelligent they are when they write. Not saying Audre Lorde reads like that, and that's honestly one of the reasons why I can even say she's okay.

And you know what else about all this? I remember I wrote months ago somewhere in this blog that when it comes to issues of race and sexuality...I just, for whatever reason, care more about race than I do about sexual orientation. And I so feel that right now. And the works in this class always seem to bring up how some people "rank oppression" and there's this tone with it as if that's completely wrong. But I just don't think it can be helped, or that it's always done mindfully.

I remember writing in the post about animal rights activists that some people just have their issues that they care about over others. And that's me. And I thought about it last night, and I think that's because race has always mattered in my life but sexual orientation has almost never mattered in my life. These "I felt like something was wrong with me" sob stories are not mine, because my story is really different--I never felt like that, even when I was well aware that I liked a girl romantically and sexually. It has always been a non-issue for me, until the past couple years. Thus, issues surrounding sexuality are just not my passion. Of course, not much right now is my passion. I'm all out of passion, and I do think that is, in large part, thanks to law school. But if I had to say anything was of interest to me, it'd be race.

In this class, being that it's about queers of color, sure, we deal with race. I think the problems are, for me, that of 1) tell me something I don't already know, and 2) why can't you just write this in English? Don't tell figurative stories. Don't write poems. As bad as this may sound, don't intertwine your native language with English, especially if you're, in some sense, trying to educate "others." Don't use field-specific or academic words. I mean, you want "others" to understand you better, but you throw up all these road blocks along the way. Just spit it out and get right to it in a way that even the most lay layperson could get.

I think maybe I've simply been in school too long. I also know I have a bit of a free-spirited nature. And school is too controlling, especially considering that we're now in our 20s and 30s. They want to insist you attend class, assign you seats, force you to participate and all that junk. I'm tired of that, too. And it's like the more a professor begs us to come to class, the more class I miss. I'm rebellious like that all of a sudden.

Then there's the fact that I have this sneaky suspicion that the majority of the people in my class aren't queer. I certainly don't feel like the majority of them are "of color." And, yes, there is something very disappointing about both of those things. It's like you can't win for losing at white universities. You can't go anywhere and have the majority of the people who show up be minorities. Now. I realize that this is one of those times when race is playing tricks on me. I know that there are people in that class who "look white" but identify as some ethnic minority, such as Latino. Still, that's not comforting all the time, is it? Sometimes you want to look around and see other shades of brown besides yours. I don't get that from this class.

And there's always something irritating to me anytime you have people from the privileged group speaking "knowledgeably" about groups to which they don't belong, especially when the group is nearly composed of all privileged people--not to say that everyone is either privileged or they aren't; there's definite overlap, but go with me on this. Here, I'm not really talking about race/ethnicity so much as queerness. Either way, it's like you're having a discussion about people, saying what they're like and what they go through, and those people aren't even there. They aren't included. To me, there's something poignant about that. Just think--it's a white university, naturally, a hetero university. You're talking about the invisibility and the alienation of queers and minorities, and especially queer minorities. And look around--the fact that they aren't around just kind of proves the point, especially in a class that is about them.

Needless to say--and although this may disappoint some of you, because it further maintains invisibility and alienation--I am rather disengaged when it comes to this class, as well. And that's the thing. I am so disengaged that I can no longer care at all about how my actions or inactions affect the whole picture, i.e. serving to make blacks look lazy, unintelligent, or keeping black queers invisible. Not that I ever cared that much, but the thoughts do cross my mind sometimes when I'm, for example, doing my very nearly daily mental coaxing for why I need to get out of bed and head to class.

And I'm also tired of everywhere you go in academic environments, there's all this cliqueyness. Everybody knows everybody else, nobody makes the effort with the ones they don't know. And when you're as disengaged as I am, you're not going to make the effort with those cliquey people. Like I said, mentally, I'm on my own island far away from school. Since I'm far from the only person in law school--even my law school--who is like this, I suggested to a friend that this should be an organization at our school. Those of us who are just not feeling this should identify each other and get together. Eff all that cliqueyness. Eff all the nerdy convos and the "what are you doing after graduation"s and crap. Let's get together and talk about nonsense and pretend we're a lot less intelligent than we actually are.

I need well-roundedness and balance in my life, and that is what I'm not getting--and that's what makes me fight for it by disengaging myself. Those people in the program that the queer minorities class is offered in are even more hardcore than the law students, too, it seems. So there's no escaping around here. There's like this really big shift, it seems, between the way students are in undergrad and the way they are in grad school. And for a lot of these people, they went straight through. So what the hell happened?!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Blast From The Past

Although I have an AIM screen name, I try not to be on it that much these days. I have enough to do, what, with all these season premieres on TV, the novelty not having quite worn off on the "new" mp3 player I bought a few months ago back in Chicago, this blog, my cultural reading...oh, and school, of course. Plus, the biggy--I've kind of been trying to avoid Nikki.

Well, I signed on today when I woke up. The majority of my list is people I don't talk to and haven't in a long time. One such person is a "woman" (I don't really think, nowadays, "woman" is the correct term for any 20something, just based on how the majority of us seem to act) who used to be my best friend in high school and most of college. Guess her background? That's right--Asian. Korean. Or Korean American, if you're into that (and some other time, I will explain why I am against attaching "American" to our identities, and even why I deplore the labels "African American," "Asian American," and so on). Interestingly enough, I've been thinking about her quite a bit lately. In fact, just last night, I was. And, admittedly, I've been fighting the impulse to send her an e-mail or IM, just out of curiosity.

Well, now I know I don't need to do that. The version of AIM I have lets you know when anyone on your buddy list has updated their profile or journal. No matter who it is, I click to see what those updates are. Turns former best friend has a journal. Total opposite of mine. Reminded me exactly why we stopped being friends.

You could make a TV show out of where I grew up. It's a place where you think you know people but you really don't. Well-off, religious, Republican, seemingly wholesome and intelligent people with a lot of secrets that, once revealed, indicate that these people are not who you thought they were at all. That's one of the things that came between--I'll just call her--Jenny and I. In high school, Jenny seemed like this awkward, insecure nerd. And not because she was Asian, but just because that was how she was, at least on the surface. And then we got to college, and she started telling me more and more things that I never knew about from high school...and started showing more of who she really is.

Long story short--and not to be mean--Jen Jen's a whore and was in high school, too. I mean, she just is. And her journal--wow. It's all about guys and her sexual escapades, to put it very mildly. Every entry is about a different guy.

To be clear, we didn't end our friendship because of her hypersexuality or the fact that she talked about guys all...the...time, although it wasn't as if I wasn't judging her in my mind nor totally sick of hearing about white guys and sex. I ended it because along with the revealing of her true self came judgment of me for being how I was. There was always this "you should do this" and "you need to do that." And it started getting out of hand--everything from how I looked to the career choices I was considering. And so I finally was just like...I told her what was bothering me, which is something girls just don't do--but you know I'm not the typical girl--and then made it clear that our friendship was done. She apologized and said she didn't want our friendship to end. But I stood firm, because I was tired of it. That was the beginning of me not putting up with certain kinds of people, namely, those who think I'm supposed to be a certain way because I'm a woman or because I'm in my 20s.

Jenny, after reading her journal, is probably a typical white 26-year old female. And that was another thing that always irritated me about her, even though back then I was too young and lacked the knowledge to be able to put my finger on that. She's "Korean American," but she's too white. All she liked was white guys. And it seems like that's still the case. Culturally, it seemed like she always wanted to fit in with whites, and it seems that now she does. And she seems very comfortable with that. But after reading some of her entries, I have questions that relate to the issues I've been discussing recently in my blog.

Again, not to be mean. First of all, I've noticed that when someone says they have a preference for a particular race or that when they say something such as "Asians are attractive," people interpret that as if you mean to exclude everyone else or as if you think all Asians are hot/exotic. And if you've been reading my blog lately, you know that I've said I find Asians attractive. Okay--Jenny is not attractive. At all. And no matter how "white" she tries to look, it's just not happening. I've seen plenty of gorgeous Asians, and she just is not one of them. Yet, she attracts the attention of so many white males. And she seems to think this is simply because she's now got it goin' on. Now, I know that physical attraction is an individual thing. But. Let's just say that if Halle Berry weren't a celebrity and was just like you and me and out in public...she wouldn't get anywhere near as much attention from white or black men as Jenny or probably other Asian women do, I don't think. All I'm saying is I'm suspicious, and I wonder if Jenny has sense enough to be, too.

And let's go back to her seemingly exclusive interest in white guys, because it flips the script on what I've been writing about. People wonder more and more nowadays what's up with white guys and Asian women? Well, how about what's up with Asian women and white guys? Because the attraction does actually seem to be mutual. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of Asian women I've known who haven't "preferred" white guys (and to be honest with you, I think those chicks are sketch, too, i.e. I wonder if they are being honest about that. And I would say the same is probably true in Asian queer females). Thinking about that, I wonder if that's some of the reason why I don't hear more outrage from Asian women over how white guys think of/describe them or the fact that there can be an endless stream of white guys approaching them.

And this is not something that got my attention just now with Jenny. At my school, the Asian friend I mentioned in my last post--the one who was asking me questions about being black in the South--always has white guys following her around. And, frankly, it makes me laugh, because the white guys are so obvious about their interest. One time in particular actually made me stop, stare at the scene and laugh out loud--this being after a very depressing final in a law course, too--because immediately after the exam...Karen found herself surrounded by white guys trying to talk to her. Now, this woman, Karen, really is gorgeous. But, um...these same white guys that I see following Karen? I see them following other Asian women around the law school also. Doesn't that just make Karen--or Hari or Kim or any of the others of them--stop and think? Do they even notice? Or maybe they do and are not only fine with it, but embrace it? Last I talked to Karen, she had a boyfriend, whom I'm pretty sure is white. Nothing wrong with liking a white guy, but...

See, I have a test that anybody, regardless of race--but especially those who are non-black--must pass before I seriously consider them dateworthy. It's a racial test. They don't have to know anything like when Dr. King was murdered or the "I Have A Dream" speech by heart. They don't need to have read "Malcolm X." Even if I liked white guys predominantly, imagining myself as an Asian female, he just couldn't be any ole cute white guy who gives me the time of day. He has to be a white guy who isn't stereotyping me and just looking to be with an Asian woman sexually--which I also thought about with Jenny after reading her posts about having "friends with benefits"-type relationships with white males. Psssh!

My test gets at these kinds of things, and I have eliminated many a white guy in the past...usually because they all seemed to have this exclusive thing for mixed or light black females. Mixed or light black females...hmmm. White but not too white, black but not too black. And negative stereotypes abounding about white women, and "real" black women not being all that attractive. Now, I'm racist and all, just like everybody else in the US, but there are certain manifestations of racism that I simply won't put up with. The "you're lighter and, therefore, prettier than other black women" is definitely high on the list. That's a false positive.

And Asians should know all about false positives. I mean, so many of the stereotypes about them are false positives, according to the stuff I've been reading. I'm still not sure I see completely what's wrong with people assuming you're smart, even if you're not--I get that one all the time and I just roll with it--but some of these other "compliments" you just have to learn to see right through, such as the one about Asian women being nicer than white women (and, therefore, nicer than black women, too). This is why I like my Asian chicas out there who kick @ss...literally. See, in men-speak, "nice" means you keep your mouth shut, you don't challenge men, basically do as you're told and what they want. It should instantly be like, "You don't know me, yet you're so sure I'm nice. Interesting." Click-uh.

I was going to write something more--I think I had another story to tell--but I just can't remember. I'll save it for later, perhaps. But, look, I do want to mention that this blog is not shifting away from its larger focus and, no, I'm not developing an obsession with Asians. Since it's harder for me to write now, I figure that when there's an issue on my mind and I have some thoughts about it, it's better to come write about it than leave my blog post-less. Incidentally, I would love to write more about "other" GLBTs of color, but I don't know a lot about them.

This is why I ordered this one book about Asian GLBTs, which I have not had much time to look at yet--but the bit that I have has been a little disappointing. In fact, pretty much all the Asian books I have right now are disappointing--the books I read about Latinos were a lot better in terms of explaining various Latino mentalities when it comes to race in general and race as it affects their existence. With the Asian books, there seems to be a lot of "I got called names" and "I wanted to be just like everyone else" with "everyone else" always meaning "white." Asian stories are pretty much exclusively vis-a-vis white people, just like blacks do a lot of the time--blacks talk about the US in terms of black and white, and Asians seem to talk about it in terms of Asian and white. I guess I get to see what it's like to always be left out of a racial discussion, as if your race just doesn't exist or just really isn't even worthy of a mention,'s really hard to understand Asians or identify with them, much more so than with the Latino stories I've read, because their difficulties don't resonate with me nor do they include me.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Where Are You Really From?

I just saw this video on YouTube that I must comment on. Actually, it goes well with something I just read, as well...or, rather, some of the points that, if I remember correctly, were made in this blog post. As always, when I'm sitting here reading blogs and searching for cultural insight on the net, there's "homework" that's getting neglected. Still, I had to stop and discuss this here.

About 6:30 mins into the video, the guy starts talking about how Asians get asked where they are from and expressed his dislike for this question. He mentions this in relation to this book he was reading for class by Frank Wu, which is actually a book that about a week or two ago I was looking at ordering online. Many Asians interpret this question as their being seen as the "perpetual foreigner." And this is actually exactly what I was thinking of when I wrote in my post about my attraction to Asians and Latinos that Asians don't appreciate being thought of as different.

Now, to tell another side of the story...this is definitely something I've done before. And it's the response I've gotten from the Asians I've asked--or have witnessed from Asians when they've been asked by others, even including other Asians--that has taught me 1) not to ask that question again, in any form, and 2) many Asians in the US just want to be thought of as and approached as Americans. My thing was...when I've asked this question, I think it was always while I was in high school. So I was asking something like "Where are you from?" most likely and really meant "what is your ethnicity?" but at that age didn't really have the words for that. (Edit: And a lot of people who don't really know the difference between things such as race, ethnicity, nationality...nor what any of those aside from race mean...still don't have the words for that. I do think when people ask "where are you from?" they mean "what is your ethnicity?")

And every Asian I've ever asked't want to answer the question and wouldn't just give me a straight answer. Even in high school. One was obviously irritated that I wanted to know and asked why I wanted to know. Another one was like, "Where do you think I'm from?" Interestingly enough, the Asian who was irritated that I was asking her about her background was actually with me in wanting to know what this second Asian's background was and was trying to figure it out, as well.

See, I don't think the question is generally asked to single Asians out or imply they aren't really Americans, although I have no doubt that Asians aren't really thought of as Americans. I just don't totally think raising the question is an example of how the rest of us tend not to think of Asians as "real" Americans. Whenever I've wanted to know an Asian's ethnicity, it wasn't an example. I just think it's interesting that there are so many people from different backgrounds here and would rather not be one of those people who calls all Asians "Chinese." I know there are different ethnicities among Asians, and I simply like to know about people's backgrounds--and not just with Asians. I don't mean to make it seem like I'm exoticizing Asians. The thing is I wouldn't come right out and ask most white people what their ethnic mix is, because I know most white people don't value anything but whiteness and American-ness. If you asked them, they'd think you were crazy. Furthermore, there's a better chance that a white person wouldn't even know what their ethnic mix is.

When I realized that many Asians would also think you are crazy, though, and that some value American-ness over being Asian (not to say that all Asians who hate the question are like this), that didn't take away the desire to know, nor the attempts to figure out "what they are." And I'm not saying all this to make it seem like they are objects or spectacles to me, because from some of the books I've been reading on Asians and mixed-race people...this is how they take questions such as "where are you from?" and "what are you?" even though I've never taken these questions when directed at me in these ways. The following is going to sound ridiculous, but I'm telling it just to illustrate how much we all care about race and categories and knowing.

When I realized Asians didn't like the question, I stopped asking it. Instead, I did what I do with white people. I learned what kind of names signal which ethnic group. I learned to match certain physical features with certain Asian ethnicities. If they didn't want to answer the question, that wasn't going to stop me. This hasn't changed, either. When I realized my friend and former boss Angel was part-Asian, I was dying--and I mean dying--to talk to her about it. We still haven't talked about it. And probably the first thing I really wanted to let come out of my mouth is "what are you?" or "what kind of Asian are you?" But I'd learned my lesson, so...with her being biracial and my not having ever heard her last name before...I did the only other thing I knew to do. I looked it up online. Yes, I really did do that. I really wanted to know just that bad.

And what for? I just...did. And I do the same thing with many "white" surnames. There's just some strange, inexplicable comfort I get from knowing "what" people are. And then I have also been fighting the desire to do something else that I also know is "wrong"--ask her questions about what it has been like growing up part-Asian, especially in the 70s and 80s. It's "wrong" because so many minorities don't like to "teach" or get tired of the expectation that they are supposed to be "teachers" when it comes to their backgrounds and cultures. Instead, I'm supposed to do the work myself to learn something...which is fine and understandable. But sometimes I just want to hear people's individual stories, too, and compare what a real person says to what a book says. And I honestly hate that there are boundaries about this kind of thing, especially since I don't care when people do any of these things to me. I actually enjoy it.

People have asked me where I'm from, which of my parents is white, how I identify culturally and how much I know about being French, how did my parents even meet, and so on. I know, as far as the "where are you from?" question, it's kind of different when a light-skinned black person is asked that. It's not as if anyone is seriously thinking I'm from Africa, although there are light blacks there. Essentially, even though blacks are not considered American, either, we don't have to wonder if we're being thought of as "perpetual foreigners" if that question is put to us. But, for me, the question still has always been asked with the assumption that I am from another country. One guy thought I was from an Asian Indian nation. Latinos have told me that I look Latina. One of my professors asked me after I said a French word with a French accent, and I told him that, yes, I am part-French but, no, I'm really from the states.

I remember when I first started law school. This Asian female approached me and started talking to me. We hadn't known each other for even 30 minutes before she started asking me questions about growing up black in the South. I thought--AWESOME!!!! I still think that woman is awesome! Those are the kinds of conversations I like to have with people, especially when we've just met--not the same boring getting-to-know-you questions. With Angel, I feel like, okay, I have to wait this out. I have to wait until we're better friends before we talk about these things. And I just think that's so boring. Especially since she's one of the few biracial people I've ever been friends with. Finding out she is biracial almost instantly brought up so many questions, not really because she's biracial or part-Asian and, therefore, a spectacle...but because, hell, I'm biracial. This could be a good bonding point for us, not to mention some very interesting conversations for us to have and an opportunity to learn something.

I just see this so differently than so many people. I think the questions I've mentioned here, questions that many people hate to be me, it's another way in which our society just closes down when it comes to race when talking about it could actually do a lot of good...and, in fact, sometimes the questions are asked in a good way to begin with. Instead, I'm in a position where I have to balance making sure that someone knows they are my friend and I like talking to them because they are awesome vs. their possibly thinking I'm interested in them because of race or am trying to objectify/alienate them in some way.

Then again, I'm someone who doesn't at all just want to be American or just thought of as American. I have never had the desire to just be "like everyone else." Maybe I always knew I never could be that. I'm just so happy to be different, and I don't understand why no one else seems to agree with me on that. Why do we always have to act as if everyone is the same? Rather, why do we always have to say everyone is the same and then do things that indicate that's not really what we think--such as, as the guy discusses in the first half of his video, segregate our friendships? Why can't we just be real about this?

Another Thread

This thread raises a point that I usually find myself trying to make to people about interracial dating. What I find interesting here is it looks like 1) a white woman is raising this point, and 2) a lot of non-blacks (which, I noticed blacks are most often left out of dating preferences whenever I look at profiles online) agree. It's a great thing to point out because people seem to take any interracial dating today as a sign of progress, that everyone is looking past race in general and that because someone will date one race that differs from their own they are open to all races different from their own. It's incredibly naive.

Anyway, this fits in with the discussion topic I've been having on my blog lately about some men's "preference" for Asian women. Especially note the comments by Asian users, such as "LittleBeachDream" and "SadRider." The discussion makes so many points I countered when I discussed my interest in Asians and Latinos, such as the innate attraction theory (see comments by "taldarhan") and applying general "positive" stereotypes/impressions of a group of people to individuals (see comments by "moxie2185"). I must say, I find "girlwonder67" brilliant. Her responses are pretty much exactly how I would respond.