The Alt-Rights Asian Fetish – The New York Times

It exists at the intersection of two popular racial myths. First is the idea of the model minority, in which Asian-Americans are painted as all hard-working, high-achieving and sufficiently well-behaved to assimilate. If Asians are the model minority if that is how nonwhites can find acceptance in white America then perhaps that opens the door to acceptance from white supremacists.

The second myth is that of the subservient, hypersexual Asian woman. The white-supremacist fetish combines those ideas and highlights a tension within the project of white supremacism as America grows more diverse a reality that white nationalists condemn as white genocide. The new, ugly truth? Maintaining white power may require some compromises on white purity.

Was Tila Tequila at that white supremacist dinner just attempting, in some twisted way, to assimilate? Or to rebel against what was expected of her? I cringe at her antics, at her trying to be just one of the white-supremacist bros.

But the photo also conjured up my memories of being a 14-year-old Asian girl in an overwhelmingly white school who wanted to be interesting, self-possessed and liked. Instinctively, I knew it meant distancing myself from the other Asian kids, especially the nerdy and studious ones. I knew I had succeeded when a friend remarked that I wasnt really Asian, I was white, because youre cool.

As I skipped classes to smoke in the courtyard, read Baudelaire to seem the interesting kind of smart and attempted to distance myself from the stereotypes, I didnt know that the idea I wanted to run from of Asians as civilized, advanced and highly intelligent had roots in white supremacy. But between the white supremacist Chris Cantwells tattoo of a Japanese character and the Charleston shooter Dylann Roofs speculations that Asians could be great allies of the white race, there are echoes of historys most infamous white nationalist.

I have never regarded the Chinese or the Japanese as being inferior to ourselves, Adolf Hitler said in 1945. They belong to ancient civilizations, and I admit freely that their past history is superior to our own.

In the United States, the model-minority myth grew from Asian-Americans mid-20th-century efforts to win civil rights, as the scholar Ellen D. Wu recounts in The Color of Success. Previously, Asian-Americans, many with humble roots in rural China, were considered degenerate, subject to lynchings, and forced to live in segregated neighborhoods and attend segregated schools under a regime of discriminatory laws and practices she has called a cousin to Jim Crow.

But, according to Professor Wus research, Chinese-Americans promoted themselves as hard-working, obedient, family-oriented and able to easily assimilate into American life traits that are not uncommon in poor immigrant communities, where many have made enormous sacrifices to move to a foreign place.

By the height of the civil rights movement, America was already giving preferential treatment to educated, professional Asian immigrants, reinforcing the idea of Asians as pliable and studious. White politicians co-opted the myth, pointing to Asian-Americans as proof that the right kind of minority group could achieve the American dream.

Professor Wu found that just months before the release of the 1965 Moynihan Report, the widely influential policy paper that attributed black poverty to a degenerate black culture, its author, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, spoke at a gathering of intellectuals and policymakers about how Japanese- and Chinese-Americans, considered colored just 25 years earlier, were rather astonishing. Am I wrong that they have ceased to be colored? he asked.

In reality, Asians are rarely considered white, and the model-minority myth obscures the vast differences among Asian-Americans. Whats more, the myth helped to strengthen Americas white liberal order, which claims to uphold diversity while also being anti-black. It legitimizes white Americas power to determine who is good and to offer basic dignity and equal rights.

The model-minority myth exists alongside another dangerous and limiting idea one that is consistent with the alt-rights misogyny and core anti-feminist values. The main problem with white women, as many alt-right Asian fetishists have noted, is theyve become too feminist. By contrast, Asian women are seen as naturally inclined to serve men sexually and are also thought of as slim, light-skinned and small, in adherence to Western norms of femininity.

These stereotypes have roots in Americas postwar military incursions into Asia. In Japan, a network of brothels permitted by American officials opened as United States troops began arriving in August 1945. The brothels employed tens of thousands of women until Gen. Douglas MacArthur declared them off limits in 1946.

In South Korea, an estimated 300,000 women were working in the sex trade by 1958 (after the end of the Korean War), with more than half employed in the camptowns around the American bases. Vietnams sex industry, centered largely on American bars, thrived during the Vietnam War. And the stereotype of docile Asian women persists. Nowhere is this more explicit than in sex ads and online pornography.

Tila Tequila Playboy model, reality show star, aspiring rapper and one of a handful of female Asian-American celebrities is often seen through this trope. Does she resent being typecast as the hot, horny Asian as much as I resented being seen as a model minority?

Yet after I was called white at age 14, it felt, paradoxically, like a compliment to be nicknamed Geisha Girl by another friend, a well-meaning gay white boy. This was not because I was delicate. But the nickname became our inside joke, and it symbolized the kind of femininity that attracted the boys I liked, but that I have never really possessed. Being in on the joke meant I was accepted. Since then, I have acted out in all manner of ways to dispel the model minority image. Still, I have never fully extinguished the belief that racking up an impressive lineup of achievements is the only way to gain respect.

The stereotypes that feed the Asian-woman fetish are not exclusive to the far right. They exist across the political spectrum and infect every aspect of life not just the bedroom and manifest themselves in figures as distant from America as the blond-haired, blue-eyed heroes and hypersexualized heroines of Japanese anime.

This fun-house mirror asks me to be smarter, nicer, prettier and more accomplished than my white counterparts for the same amount of respect, then floods my dating app inbox with messages that reek of Asian fetish. Thankfully, Im not required to care or let it define me; for what its worth, I am even entitled to play up the stereotypes if I see something to be gained. Maybe this is where the Asian girlfriends of alt-right men stand. But none of us can escape the truth that the fun-house was built to justify systematic exploitation of everyone in this country who isnt white. Thats important context. Otherwise, Richard Spencers comments could almost sound nice.

There is something about the Asian girls, he once said to Mother Jones. They are cute. They are smart. They have a kind of thing going on.

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The Alt-Rights Asian Fetish – The New York Times

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January 13, 2018   Posted in: Alt-right |

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