Monday, June 06, 2011

Wesley Yang Replies -- The Korean's Short Reply, and Some Observations

Wesley Yang wrote a reply to my post about his New York Magazine article. Here is the link. I have a brief response, and some observations.

First, the response:

Asian Americans are unfairly stereotyped. That, I agree wholeheartedly. But what sets me apart from Yang is (as he correctly noted in his reply) that Yang dares to find a causal link "between those stereotypes and the reality of the way Asians behave," in an attempt to have a "balanced view."

I will present such "balanced view" in a different area to give some perspective as to why I find it so objectionable:
There is a dynamic relationship between rapes and the behaviors in which the rape victims engaged prior to being raped. We should acknowledge that relationship. Police records show ample objective indications of how rape victims behaved prior to being raped. They show that the rape victims seen by their rapists as unchaste, sexually promiscuous and inviting random sexual encounters. These rapists, I'm sure, were governed partly by their stereotypes about women who dress suggestively, drink profusely and dance provocatively. They were also, I'm sure, observing things that were really happening in the actual behavior of their victims. 
Is this "balanced," or odious?

To be perfectly clear: I do not believe at all that "Asian values" lead to timidity, passivity and all the other characteristics with which we are stereotyped. It is not true, for all the reasons I stated previously. But I do recognize that there is a reasonable doubt as to my position. It is not a bad idea to examine whether there indeed is a causal link between "Asian values" and the stereotypes held against Asian Americans. After all, I would certainly want my daughter to dress conservatively, drink moderately and avoid unsafe neighborhoods.

But if one wanted to discuss the relationship between (1) a social ill, and (2) the behavior of the victims of that social ill, one should make it blindingly clear that the fault wholly lies with the fuckers who cause the social ill. Rapists are not supposed to rape, regardless of the victim's behavior. Mainstream America is not supposed to stereotype, regardless of what some Asian Americans do. If indeed Wesley Yang's NY Mag article was dealing with unfair stereotypes that Asian Americans face as Yang claims in his reply, the article should have started with this moral message and interspersed the message throughout the story -- instead of slipping it in the middle of the reply to a lesser-known blogger made on his personal blog.

In my favorite part of his reply, Yang wrote:
But you know what? During all that time, I was nevertheless always a strong, healthy, well-educated, well-spoken, variously talented man in the prime of my adulthood, and dudes like that, if they are white, even if they are total losers, or assholes, or drunks, or drug-addicts, or on a half-dozen psychotropic drugs, always have some girl wiling to bed them in this city where I live in and everyone knows it.
I see where you are coming from, Wesley. Why didn't you write that in New York Magazine?

Some observations, after the jump.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.



Now, several observations.

Observation 1

The short version of my take on Yang's article is this: "Yang's article is about himself, not a larger social message. But the article will be inevitably taken as a social commentary. To the extent it will be, I disagree with that social commentary." By setting up my post that way, I actually gave Yang exactly what he craved from America -- being treated like an individual who tells his own story.

Yang's reply clarifies his intention -- he actually wanted to make a social commentary through his life story. That makes him a kind of an anti-Amy Chua. Amy Chua wanted to tell her own story, and that was all. But because of her minority status, she is being held as the stereotypically obsessive and abusive Asian mother. Now she needs to go around the world and defend the book that she never wrote. In contrast, Wesley Yang did not just write his own story. He wants his life story to be an archetype -- stereotype -- applicable to other Asian Americans.

Both Amy Chua and Wesley Yang faced the charges that they were feeding the stereotypes. But only one of them deserves that criticism.

Observation 2

On a lighter note: isn't the over-representation of Asian Americans in pick-up classes a victory for Asian values? The attendees of those classes correctly identified a challenge in their lives, and they are doing something about it despite potential for massive humiliation. Men, ask yourselves -- would you go to one of these classes if you were going through a dry spell in your dating life? I wouldn't. I would rather die alone. To me, Asian Playboy is not a creep at all -- he's a hero.

Observation 3

Different opinions are often the product of different assessment of reality. And the key difference between those who felt more in line with me (let's call them "Team TK" for short) and those who felt more in line with Wesley Yang ("Team WY" for short) is over just what "Asian value" is. It is the different assessment of the reality of "Asian value" that leads to the different opinions for Team TK and Team WY.

I have met many Asian Americans in my life in different areas of America. I have also met many more through this blog. And I find that Team TK and Team WY have certain recognizable membership profiles. Team TK is more likely to be 1.5 generation, bilingual, have regular exposure to (both traditional and modern popular) culture from Asia and grew up in the West Coast. Team WY is more likely to be second generation, monolingual, have little exposure to Asian culture and grew up in the East Coast, Midwest or the South. (I probably shouldn't have to say that this is a huge over-generalization, but out of abundance of caution I will.) This difference in experience leads to a different perception of Asian values. Team TK sees Asian value as complex and multidimensional; Team WY sees Asian value as flat and unidimensional.

For example, Wesley Yang speaks in his reply of deference to authority, a commonly given example of Asian value. But the rarely discussed flip side of that Asian value is how the lower-ranked person in a hierarchy can still get the boss to do what she wants while maintaining the appearance of the deference to authority. Yang sets up risk-taking and brashness as opposite of Asian values, but I see plenty of risk-taking in the immigrants' decision to come to America, and plenty of brashness in the Korean shopkeepers in Los Angeles swap meets. Even Yang recognizes in his reply: "Something that all people who think Asians are nerds and weaklings that they can pick on with impunity sometimes discover to their detriment is that Korean men, in particular, are angry, violent people who will fight and fight dirty." Our willingness to fuck up who dares to cross us is just as Asian as our willingness to listen to our parents and teachers.

The main fault line that divides the members of Team TK and Team WY (and their respective archetypes, The Korean and Wesley Yang) is the depth of engagement in Asian values. When one grows up in areas with relatively few other Asian Americans and speaks little Asian language, one's image of Asian values is thin and monochromatic. The stereotypes about Asian values seem more convincing, because the superficiality of such stereotypes corresponds well with the superficiality of one's knowledge of Asian values. On the other hand, when one grows up in areas with huge numbers of diverse Asian Americans and constantly interacts with Asia in some for or another, one's image of Asian values becomes dense and robust. The stereotypes about Asian values seem laughable, because the superficiality of such stereotypes obviously fails to correspond with the depths of one's understanding about Asian values.

I don't doubt that the feelings of marginalization and alienation felt by Team WY are genuine. It is not as if Team TK does not go through those feelings. But when it comes to worldview, which one is truer -- one that is based on more knowledge, or less?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

20 comments:

  1. I don't doubt that the feelings of marginalization and alienation felt by Team WY are genuine. It is not as if Team TK does not go through those feelings. But when it comes to worldview, which one is truer -- one that is based on more knowledge, or less?

    "Team TK" does not have more knowledge. They have more knowledge of the breadth of Asian values, but less knowledge about how white people act on Asian stereotypes. So, no, "Team TK"'s worldview is not necessarily truer.

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  2. (I did grow up in an Asian-scarce community, but not having read the original piece, I can't say I'm necessarily on "Team WY.")

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  3. My demographics would put me squarely in Team WY, but I actually lean a bit more to Team TK's POV. That said, I disagree with Jim, as I think every Asian person that lives in the US, at least, should have a similar understanding of how white people act on Asian stereotypes.

    Everyone is inundated with the white POV thanks to their dominance in media, government, business, etc. Not saying that Team TK's viewpoint is truer, but that everyone's going to have a reasonable understanding of the majority viewpoint. Some will internalize it and accept it and others will resist it and point out its limitations and narrow view. I think that's one of the strengths of being a minority in this country--you're more likely able to see outside of your own viewpoint, because you likely grow up conscious of the majority viewpoint at all times, regardless of whether you adopt it as your own or not.

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  4. It's really difficult to "take sides" with this argument. I feel like both Team TK and Team WY have good points.

    I guess my situation would be closer to Team TK, but I can see where Team WY is coming from. Yes, Team TK does have more knowledge in terms of worldview. But worldview alone can't help you get through life, especially in the US where Asians are still a racial minority of sorts and the white man's "Asian stereotype" dominates the general psyche.

    I agree with the Korean that "the fault wholly lies with the fuckers who cause the social ill", but even so, I don't know if I can equate racism with rape - yes, they're both bad, but one can go unnnoticed while the other can't. Sometimes racism occurs without knowing you are racist, as discrimination towards the "other" will happen to some degree within any tightly-knit homogenous community, whether you like it or not. I doubt you can be a rapist without realizing you aren't one. Sexual harrassment might have been a better analogy choice.

    I don't think it's a good idea to either inadvertently perpetuate the pervailing Asian stereotype or try to look the other way by only focusing on those who made it through with "Asian values". There are those who made it in the social ladder either because of or despite of Asian values, and there are those who are lost, again, because of or despite of them. Somehow I don't think this works on a dichotomy... it's more like a spectrum. And blaming the values of a culture for the successes and failures of a race seems much too simplistic and overlooking of other factors that may have caused the statistics.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that values ingrained into your life is important and you should by all means follow and cherish them, but in a manner that makes you a better person. This does not translate into blindly following it nor abandoning it. It cannot and will not work the same for everyone, even if they're all Asians with more or less similar cultural upbrinings, and you have to go through life trying to find the right balance between them.

    I just view the whole traditional values (Asian or otherwise) as a double-edged sword: when used correctly it makes you a better person, but when it doesn't, well, you end up hurting yourself. And not everyone is a master swordsman, so you need to practice and learn how to use the sword right. It doesn't have to be (and I just don't believe it to be) TK vs. WY, or East vs. West, or any sort of dichotomy.

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  5. With the whole "being perceived in a certain way because of stereotypes" issue, you can also subvert that notion both ways - you can either show others that despite having the stereotypical qualities, there is merit to it and makes you a better person, or if you dislike being marginalized in such a way and it doesn't describe you, well, show that it doesn't apply to you, and learn to get used to the "oh, you're x for a y" thing - you won't make it the entire day if you constantly fixate on how others perceive you.

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  6. Just adding on to what refresh-daemon said. I guess I qualify as a member of Team TK. The description fit me pretty well actually (though I'm not as fluent in Korean as I would like).

    My closest friends (who are mostly Asian men and women) and I are very aware of how "white people act on Asian stereotypes." Most of us work in situations in which Whites are obviously the majority. Also, like refresh_daemon said, we've lived all or most of our lives here in the U.S. It's kinda hard to miss that kinda stuff.

    So for me, at least, there was absolutely nothing in Wesley Yang's article and blog post that was new. This leads to my next point:

    I would even argue that Team TK might even be more aware of "how white people act on Asian stereotypes." My friends and I, for instance, talk about these issues a great deal, in particular, our experiences at work, dating, Asian media portrayals, etc. Team WY, otoh, may not have the opportunity nor the desire to share and learn from other Asian Americans.

    Sorry, don't mean to make this into a divisive thing.

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  7. Obviously there is the point that Asian values do not always work well within American culture. But that point is confusing to me, as an American who was not raised Asian, but who has come to work and live in Asia and who hasn't had too much trouble cracking on to the way things are done here. I have no bias in my background that should make me 'get' the way things are done here more easily -- if anything, by this argument, I should have a bias against understanding it -- yet, it's not that difficult to see how Koreans are ultimately human beings, and if I respond to the way that my seniors at work handle me, as an American with roots so far back that they can't even be traced, then shouldn't other Americans respond to those same techniques, ultimately?

    But I'm a junior in almost every situation. And maybe it's easier to deal with the workplace value differences from my position, than it is to see and respect those same aspects in subordinates in the workplace within American culture. I don't know. I do know that I don't think I, as a very "American" American, would probably not have much trouble working out that a subordinate displaying stereotypical Asian values within their way of going about things in the workplace would be worth their salt. Unless, maybe, they were actually physically Asian. And I decided that that meant a whole slew of other things, based on the stereotypes I had about Asians, which are in and of themselves generally a huge misunderstanding of Asian culture.

    The problem is, I feel like Yang is not really dealing with American culture -- he is dealing with white male American culture. Which is the dominate culture, but is not American culture. And should not be defined as such. And working on that definition should be, in my opinion, the ultimate goal.

    Just as a woman who asserts herself as vigilantly in the workplace as a male counterpart is an aggressive bitch, and one who keeps her head down and her mouth shut is judged as too passive to succeed, Asian men are kind of damned if they do and damned if they don't. Certainly damned if they don't. A white man who kept his head down, worked hard, preserved the group atmosphere, and answered positively to his seniors would be seen as a humble and hard worker, who deserved to be promoted. At the very least, he would be seen just as one "type" of employee, instead of just tossed into his corresponding category. Especially, I guess, if he was over six feet tall. But we (minorities in the work environment) are not judged the same way that they are. And that is not our fault. And it's not the fault of the values we've been raised with, either.

    That is a problem with American values within American culture. That is a failure of white Americans to adjust to their own culture (one that consists of many different kinds of people from many different backgrounds). Not the other way around.

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  8. I actually tried to post response to your first response to WY's article but lost what I wrote because Blogger was down

    I can sort of be labeled under "writers of angst" you wrote about. Yes, there is a lot of writing that sounds like complaining when one writes from a racial standpoint. This label of angst can be attributed to any writer of race and gets thrown around a lot in an accusatory tone in this post-race society.

    I agree that Asians have a special kind of annoying angst in that "yeah, but" clause, the whole the-American-dream-isn't-quite-as-good-as-you-thought-it-was trope that commonly pervades Asian American literature, even though many Asians are enjoying the American Dream, and enjoying it on a mass cultural level moreso than blacks or Latinos. Asians have it pretty good and WY neglected to mention it enough.

    But this is where I think I divide myself on no-man's land between Team TK and Team WY. I do agree the cultural stereotypes about Asians do exist and do harm: the passive, quiet, poker-face, never-can-date-white-women, step-all-over-in-the-corporate-world. Of course, this does not excuse loser attitudes: stereotypes don't have to control anyone.

    But the stereotypes for Asian-Americans in question are in prevalent circulation and, I think, see little to no stopping in the near future.

    Let's take for example the African-American image. Everyone knows about slavery, the black-monster, etc--all the negative imagery that has been piled up over the decades is staggering and terrible. And they still persist today in the "ghetto" black image that remains pervasive in the media.

    However, (and this remains a hotly debatable topic), there are now many positive and prominent black figures. and the "black image" is changing with the times. We can now say there is a mass cultural attitude change about African-Americans in the past 100 years (the degree is debatable-the point is the conversation has shifted back and forth).

    How did this happen? There are a number of factors, but the one I think is most relevant to the discussion is the white-minority cultural conversation. Obviously, the black-white conversation is a hot one--the accusations of being "opposite", the dichotomies, etc

    But the white-Asian one? That one has been subjected to the long-standing forgetfulness of American culture. From the Yellow Scares of the early 1900s to the WWII everyone-mistaking-all-Asians-for-the-Japanese, the white-Asian conversation has always been one built on silence, on foreign-ness, of "Orientalism." All races have a unique relationship with each other, and the Asian-white conversation has remained stagnant for decades.

    My evidence stems from the fact that Asian-jabs in movies like "Failure to Launch" or "Up in the Air" or TV shows like "Family Guy" (these are just the one I could think off the top of my head) are deemed okay and funny in mainstream media. It's the same old tropes and stereotypes that get perpetuated are that Asians are strange people: ducks hanging in shop windows, kung fu fighters, nerds who study eight hours a day. Why are these still being used in mainstream media? It’s because the white-Asian conversation persists as an estrangement of exotic opposites. That’s why Amy Chua and Wesley Yang get sensationalized: their speaking-up really only sparks up the media's hungry eye that likes anything that says yes, Asians are strange beings.

    So how does the conversation about Asian-American perceptions begin to change? I think they do, in some twisted sense, begin with the Amy Chuas and the Wesley Yangs. "Angst" as you so call it, is necessary. As Gandhi once said, healthy discontent is the first step to progress. Even if Asians' lives are "pretty good", it does not excuse injustice or racism wherever it may exist, whether it be the Bamboo Ceiling or the unflattering and dearth-ly portrayal of Asian men's sexuality in the media.

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  9. Having grown up in Southern Cal & surrounded by many different asian friends, as well as hispanic, I never really thought about how they were different from me. They were my friends. We listenend to music, complained about our parents, went boy crazy & gave serious consideration to ditching school, several times a day. :)

    I am now planted in the midwest w/ my hubby & kids, one of my fears, living in an area that is predominantly white, is that my kids will get a skewed perception of different cutlures, beliefs &/or lifestyles.

    My husband & I have talked about it seriously with each of our kids, at least the ones old enough to understand. To make sure they understand that the color of skin or religious beliefs or culture, while important & help to form the individual, isn't anywhere near as important as to whether that individual is a good person at heart. The heart of a human being is what really matters. All the other things are superficial & do not matter to either of us.

    That by spending time with people of all nationalities, beliefs etc...will only help to strengthen our human experience which is why we are all here to begin with, imho. I guess having grown up in my demo, I fall under the guideline for 'Team TK' but I would hope that we all remember, that no matter where you grew up, no human being is flat or one dimensional.

    That, in fact, all human animals are complicated & diverse no matter their background or family. Personally, I grew up in a traditional Irish/Portugese devout Catholic household & when I was 13 converted to Mormonism, the only member of my family to do so. I took a lot of flack for this decision but it was what I believed, & still do believe in, as the right thing for me to do. However being a more right wing/democratic Mormon than my friends or my in laws has never been easy. I hope that people will remember that despite our differences or maybe because of them we can be better people.

    Maybe we haven't gotten past the prejudices of the generations before but it is our duty to continue to teach the generations that are coming to love one another. Not to be blind to our differences but to instead embrace them...too much of any one thing is boring & does not help to further our learning.

    I have enjoyed reading your blog & your insights. I think Wesley Yang must be a very tiring person to be with...maybe he should see if he can find anyone he'd like to listen more than he likes listening to himself. Steppng off my soap box now. Happy blogging.

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  10. It has been very entertaining reading both you and WY. Well written stuff.

    When you end your reply with:

    "But when it comes to worldview, which one is truer -- one that is based on more knowledge, or less?"

    I take it that you are suggesting that 1.5ers (or perhaps you, yourself) are better positioned to comment on Korean values. I don't think the logic is necessarily true , hence the rationale for consultants making business suggestions to mega-corporations. Though the corp "knows itself" better, it can often defend policies/practices because they take it personally -- such attacks go to their character.

    In the same way, I think we all have blind spots and are no more or no less objective to the nuances of our values, because we want to defend them. They go to our character.

    I think it's pretty clear that our deferential attitude towards authority, in general, makes for more passive workers. I've worked at Samsung and from my observations, employees religiously tow the corporate line. You just do as they say, you do what your peers do (everyone wore the same jacket and watch) and you rise to the top if your boss likes you and you play your role well.

    In the States, you keep your mouth shut and no one will notice you.
    While I'm a big fan of yours and follow your blog regularly, I side with WY that our culture does not encourage alpha-male behavior, which is generally a hindrance to climbing the western corporate ladder.

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  11. It seems like there are two things generally being overlooked.

    First, the inclusion of Yang’s introspections in the original piece is just there to help orient the reader. It makes a narrative arc. But the piece is definitely not about him. The autobiographical content is infinitesimal. The bulk of Yang’s piece is based on reviewing existing research as well as interviews with other Asian Americans. It’s far more about other people than it is about Yang. His piece is a critical examination of the experience of Asian American stereotypes in American society. He included enough concessions, including first person and autobiographical detail, that it should have been obvious he wasn’t speaking in universal terms.

    Second, Yang is talking about stereotypes of values. When discussing the concept of success in both the original piece and reply, Yang attributes it in part to personal discipline. However, he does not limit success to meritocratic concepts. Nor does he categorize discipline as a strictly Asian value. Instead, Yang points out that both discipline and social skills contribute to success. And that Asian Americans, as a minority, face specific challenges regarding the latter because of stereotypes about their behavior based on stereotypes of Asian values. So when Yang does mention Asian values it should be clear that he’s talking about the general (mis)perception of what constitutes those values.

    Nothing about Yang’s writing has suggested a “fuck Asian values” attitude. He basically says discipline and hard work are good. But they are not strictly Asian. And they are not enough on their own. Yang is suggesting that Asian Americans think hard about how others see them and their interactions with them so that Asian Americans can exercise more control regarding those views. Because being stereotypically seen as “hard working but lacking in social skills” can have both positive and negative impacts. And not enough critical attention has been given to those negative repercussions. Where do the stereotypes come from? What influences them? How can they be changed? Why should anyone care? Those are the questions Yang is highlighting.

    If anything, the message of his original piece is a pretty straightforward, “Fuck stereotypes.”

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  12. First, the inclusion of Yang’s introspections in the original piece is just there to help orient the reader. It makes a narrative arc. But the piece is definitely not about him. The autobiographical content is infinitesimal.

    People may have their own opinions, but this is just too far removed from reality. I don't know what your definition of "infinitesimal" is, but taking up four pages out of eleven and essentially starting and finishing the essay with autobiographical content is the opposite of infinitesimal.

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  13. Nothing about Yang’s writing has suggested a “fuck Asian values” attitude.

    Uh...except for the part where he literally does say, "fuck Asian values"?

    I think TK nails it on the head when he points out that Yang's "balanced" argument is basically a version of victim-blaming. I'd disagree that it's an imperfect analogy because there are in fact plenty of cases where the rapists deny that what they did was rape (e.g. date rapes).

    I'm a lot more cynical about TK when it comes to the "American Dream" and I do think there is something useful to be said about exploring the racism and xenophobia against Asian-American immigrants. But the story I want to hear isn't Wesley Yang's relatively privileged, assimilated, self-hating perspective. We've already had enough of that in Amy Tan. In fact, I'd argue that the 1.5-gen perspective that TK represents here is underrepresented in Asian-American literature, regardless of whether they are successes or failures: where are the bilingual stories with codeswitching, where are the immigrant communities with their support networks in these stories, where are the memoirs about growing up listening to H.O.T. and learning to breakdance and collecting Morning Glory stationery? There's a whole culture there that doesn't get written or published, and I wish there was more of it.

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  14. I definitely fit the Team WY archetype created by TK.

    The other Asian friends I grew up with on the East Coast are the same way. I brought up this discussion with one of them, and his response was simply "I don't identify as Asian. Race means nothing to me. I identify more with white people who are similarly interested in math as me." Another Asian friend hadn't seemed to think about race deeply at all either. His thoughts amounted to, "Yeah, I totally understand that it's more comfortable in Asia when you see faces that look like you. But that's the sacrifice that you have to make to live in this country. As long as it doesn't affect my career I don't care. " When I tried to bring up stereotyping/racism and how it could affect his career, he just shrugged me off.

    The point is, my East Coast Asian friends don't identify as "Asian." They are aware of Asian values to varying extents, and were raised with them to varying extents, but have neither a vested interest in defending/promoting them or criticizing/rejecting them. Up to a certain point they are simply apathetic to the whole discussion.

    I, too, might have ended up on the same path, if not for the fact that I fit all the Asian stereotypes with a vengeance. To me, these stereotypes are what define being Asian. And so I am drawn into a discussion of "Asianness". So I feel that maybe the discussion TK is having is actually a completely different discussion than the parts of what WY wrote that I relate to. And yet they are still related. And neither discussion is inherently more valid than the other, because they both revolve around concrete experiences.

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  15. Sorry for the second post, but I wish people would stop bringing up "The Joy Luck Club" as a reason why something has been "covered" (this really isn't mean to call out anyone in particular, I've seen this brought up so many times).

    The Asian American community is basically only 40-50 years old or so and it changes dramatically every decade. So a book published in 1989 simply isn't going to be relevant to anyone not of that (baby boomer) generation that Amy Tan is speaking of. It's like pointing to John Hughes movies as an example of the American teenage experience today. The only reason this book is even mentioned is because representations of Asian Americans are so sparse to begin with, we have to turn to a 20 year old book to find identifiable postmarkings.

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  16. What comes to mind for me is one of my favorite lines from work, “Look I do not deal with should-bes, in order to do my job I have to deal with what is.” Since what I had to supervise a team to do something from start to finish and did not have the luxury of putting something off, if a problem came up I had to try to jimmy something together to make sure we could get done. The need to finish the job trumped should what should be.

    I myself would much rather spend my time hanging out with team TK, my guess is that team WY would leave me with a headache. I just think that team TK misses the point regarding the problem of WY. Saying “fuck Asian values” really makes me role my eyes. From the follow up piece, I feel it means something than what I originally thought it meant. It was more of a “fuck off” than a “fuck you.”I'm sure when TK says he has a truer worldview than WY, I get the feeling of a fight with a spouse that ends with a “you right, you win.” But to read in between the lines it really means, yeah you won a fight, but you didn't win THE fight. Go your own way, your just to thick headed to understand. Its better to give up on you.

    From the very start it seemed to me WY jumped around here to there, and really seemed to lack coherency. Yes team WY may really be one dimensional in their view of Asian values. It probably doesn't help that they are one sided on American values too. They are never really Asian enough for Asians, and they are never really American enough for Americans. Even their marginalization isn't taken seriously. Stereotypes are one thing, but to be pegged someone who you are not is another.

    I'm sure there is another frustration if you seemed to be given a path to follow get the grades, go to a great school, and you'll have a great life. I'm sorry, first in school does not mean first in life. If your going to be given the job of managing people, just being a great technician isn't going to cut it. How you are perceived is important. As a matter what you perceive is important for decisions you make too. In the end if you cannot figure something out, you'll fall back to stereotypes. If you say it shouldn't be that way, I say it doesn't matter, if that's what will happen that's what you have to deal with. To account for that is one step in stacking the deck in your direction.

    It seems to me the real problem of team WY is lack of identity. To have some grasp of who you are, can give you foundation on which to build. I guess it is like the point of the bilingual posting. If you can use one language as a meta-language it can help you. If that language isn't really in any state to act as that meta-language both languages could just turn into a pile of crap, and you could really have a hard time communicating anything. Having nothing to turn to but flat one-dimensional value systems is a major hindrance. I could see someone saying fuck this and fuck that, and then look around and say I have no where to turn to. I'm sure WY does have some contentment where he is at now though.

    I guess when it comes to unfair stereotypes I would just say you can say they shouldn't happen, but murder shouldn't happen either. Maybe one day we will progress, I doubt it. In the lack of information people will fall back to stereotypes. We can look at the racial-micro-politics in the workplace, but the workplace was always full of politics. The more you can communicate and learn to resonate with others, the more you can stack the deck in your favor. The more you can find key people you can trust and become allies with, the more you will be able to understand the unwritten rules you can and cannot break.

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  17. Precisely, J Man. There is no such thing as a "truer" experience, all experiences are true. And there are a lot of us out here in team WY. But we are not all that easily defined either. We are rooted in neither American culture nor Asian culture. We have a partial experience in both but a full experience in neither. Thus it is really up to us to find our own way and identity. I know WY already has or is well on his way to doing so. One day I hope to be as successful as him.

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  18. I won't go into my own thoughts re: Wesley Yang, except to say I agree with TK on the whole.

    oranges, you might be interested in this article about Amy Tan: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deanna-fei/i-called-amy-tan-a-dirty_b_611782.html

    I know that -- for myself, at least -- it sums up how I feel as an Asian-American about the Joy Luck Club.

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  19. oranges,

    I, too, might have ended up on the same path, if not for the fact that I fit all the Asian stereotypes with a vengeance. To me, these stereotypes are what define being Asian.

    It really breaks my heart when I hear that. I know you did not mean it that way, but I hope you know that we are not our stereotypes.

    I was at a wedding last weekend, and sat with a good friend of mine -- a Korean Am, went to the same law school with me, worked at the same firm as I and now moved onto a very good position at a big bank. We were discussing the Wesley Yang article and he said, "But don't you think it is true that Asians lack social skills?" I replied: "Do you lack social skills? Buddy, you are one of the most socially smooth people I know, and I know you became that way because your dad is also very socially smooth. You are just as Asian as anyone, and you turned out fine."

    That's the odious thing about stereotypes -- all you need is one example, and the feedback loop goes into drive. Here is a man who, to me, exemplifies how Asian values lead to success. But he himself is oblivious to that fact, and instead relegates "Asian values" to the caricature that mainstream America presents to us.

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  20. I think The Korean is in danger of stereotyping 2nd generation East coast Asians! But maybe there is something in it...Stereotypes generally have some basis in fact, even if distorted.

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