Sunday, August 08, 2021

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

Minor Feelings is part memoir, part racial studies and part biography of a past figure. One thing that sticks out to me is that most works attempting to portray the life of an underappreciated minority are typically written from the viewpoint of somebody in a fairly "non-standard" position. The author grew up in a west-coast Korean family, studied art and writing in the midwest and became a published writer and poet. Her parents had a rag-to-riches story of hard-working immigrants. 

In the US, she gets lumped in with the Asian "model minority". This implies many characteristics. She sees white males get special "breaks" and be able to pass off crap as "inspirational" artwork. I find this to be more an indictment of the art establishment than of racism. Successful art is in the eye of the beholder. If something is deemed desirable, it may fetch millions and make the artist extremely wealthy. If not, they may remain starving. The "success" can be due to various whims. You may be able to say "this white cis-male artist" made it big, while these other brown females didn't until they were dead". However, you could also find plenty of white males that didn't make it. (Some of the biggest names in art today died poor.)

The lumping of Asians together is a big issue. There are billions of people from many different countries in a vast geographical area. The American immigration policy has encouraged the most educated and wealthy to come over, thus helping to contribute to the model minority myth. However, there remains a diverse population. (By the same token "white" is also a myth, representing another diverse group of people.) Asians can be stuck in an odd situation where they are not treated as a majority and not as a minority. 

One essay in the book covers the life of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, a Korean-American writer who was raped and murdered.

The author also talks about being offended at the "white tears" shed by a friend that was present when the author suffered from a racially-incited attack. This all gives me a mixed feeling. There were some injustices triggered by "looks" that were beyond her control. The response that people have (on all sides) can make the matters worse. Wokeness has led to another form of "negative relations" where people have hierarchies of offensibility and pandering. Is it possible for a mixed society to truly accept the unique abilities of different people? 

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