Tag, You’re Racist! Does Asian Poet Over React?
“The critique of culture is confronted with the last stage in the dialectic of culture and barbarism: to write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric, and that corrodes also the knowledge which expresses why it has become impossible to write poetry today.” Theodore Adorno
“Giving offense and taking offense is the price of honest diversity.” – Irshad Manji
Racism Is an Important Issue: But too often we have this, A Man Slams Down a Bigoted Question so Hard He Brings Down the House. The “man,” poet Alex Dang, evidently was asked,”What kind of Asian are you?” He ended up playing “Tag, You’re Racist!”
“No suspension necessary for Cooper and no punishment from the NFL, despite its new interest in policing our use of the N-word on the field.” – Richard Sherman
Katy Perry: These days racial outrage manifests in Katy Perry Accused of Racism for Dressing as a Geisha, or the NFL is thinking of banning the “N” word. What the Capital F is going on? Racism is the belief one race is inferior to another, a belief that is both untrue and a root of great evil. But does over sensitivity distract by creating fruitless ping-pong accusations?
Chink Floyd: I was born in Taiwan. As an adult I lived five years in Asia, mainly in South Korea and Taiwan. I speak Chinese and a bit of Korean. In the picture above I’m wearing black, the guy on my right, Somjait, Thai, raised in Chicago, married my sister. He used to play in a garage band called Chink Floyd. The guy on my left, Sanjay, Indian, married my wife’s sister, and is the king of anti-PC. The point?
Not all Asians are as oversensitive as Alex Dang. But many are. One time I played b-ball with this guy with a Korean flag on his shirt. I said, “Cho-ai-yo, na-nun cho-kum han-kuk mal-ul hal chul am-nida” (Cool, I can speak a little Korean). He flipped me the bird. I explained. Turned out he was Korean but couldn’t speak a word.
I’m part Persian (my dad was born in Lebanon), someone speaks Farsi, I’m not going ape. In South Korea I lived far away from Seoul, where Koreans would state how they were against miscegenation, not just with white, but Japanese or Chinese. One ESL teacher in our group dated a woman for a year, they never went out in public, and she never told her family. Koreans had odd views about foreigners. You roll with it and look for opportunities to face people one on one. Yet some of the ESL teachers would receive overt prejudice and say bullshit like,”Now I know what it feels like to be black.” To claim victimhood, you must be a victim, and none of us ESL teachers were. And, from Alex Dang’s rant, neither is he.
“Cultural relativism has no place when women’s rights are being abused.”– Nazanin Afshin-Jam (Honor Diaries)
Adorno’s Last Stage: On the other end, overseas I was culturally ignorant, and I appreciated when people forgave my blunders and explained their culture without hostility. We are ignorant of cultures, and how could we not be? Cultures are complex and capable of progress. In the U.S. slavery was eradicated. And a culture without slavery is superior to a culture of slavery. A culture that denies votes or driving privileges to women, also, is inferior. Too often we judge as racist what is a view of culture, this suggests we’re nearing Adorno’s “last stage.” The sooner we realize this the better.
As for Alex Dang, his poem makes good points, but does he misuse his right to be offended? Had a skinhead threatened, “Get the hell back to Asia or I’ll fuck you up,” then his outrage might have merit.
Frank Meeink ex-White Supremacist: White supremacy equals racism. A few years ago I interviewed an ex-skinhead who ended up in state prison in Indiana for felony assault. Frank Meeink, author of Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead, the basis of American History X, reformed and now speaks up for racial harmony. Alex Dang, how about we tackle racism instead of cultural missteps and stop playing the perpetual game of “Tag, You’re Racist?”
Related: They play “Tag! You’re Racist!” in England, too, Ariane Sherine at the Guardian wrote: It may not be racist, but it’s a question I’m tired of hearing….
Irshad Manji offers her view on Global Civilization, Diversity, and Multiculturalism.
Herbert Marcus: Repressive Tolerance.
Al Jazeera: Asian Americans and Race Complicity