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Author Topic: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?  (Read 2896 times)

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Offline Sho

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #25 on: February 07, 2014, 05:38:20 PM »
You're speaking like this is a thing of the past; it isn't. Ask some female friends of your ethnic group if they've ever had a white guy who hit on them/wanted to date them because of their race. I will be surprised if the overwhelming majority don't have multiple stories to regale you with.

You'd actually be surprised. There's this idea that white girls are someone 'typical' and thus not exoticized…buuuuut, they are. There are plenty of men who will only date white women (I've met quite a few of them at my country club, and while I disapprove of it, it certainly proves that it's true). Another example would be a black friend of mine becoming inordinately excited when he started dating a white girl. Not because she was any better than his previous girlfriends, but he perceived it as a sort of status symbol (his words, not mine). Finally, if you're a white girl who travels anywhere in Asia, be prepared to be exoticized and harassed in ways that you wouldn't believe.

Beyond that, though, you've definitely made some interesting points - I suppose where I become somewhat annoyed with the idea is the assumption that the white people of today aren't allowed to find any culture other than their own sexy. If they do so, they're pulling on their imperialist past (as per what Vekseid said), and are somehow racist…which I disagree with. I'm always surprised when people find it unacceptable to dress up as a geisha, but acceptable to dress up as a German barmaid or Viking warrior. I wouldn't particularly consider any of those costumes racist (the cross-bleeding of Chinese elements into Japanese elements of the costume being a different topic completely), but the geisha costume would raise eyebrows while the others would not.

All of this being said…I understand that many people are sensitive to these topics, so I just keep my mouth shut and try to err on the side of caution, generally. I do think it's a bit unfortunate, though; white people literally cannot draw inspiration of any sort (sexy or otherwise) from Asian or African cultures without being 100% accurate (even if they're stretching the design for their own purposes rather than from ignorance), or even at all, without being considered racist.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #26 on: February 07, 2014, 06:02:06 PM »
I'm not saying it never happens to white girls - but that tends not to be where a lot of it (I'd say probably the majority) gets directed, and that matters. I'd also hazard a guess that a lot of the men you're referring to are themselves white - and yes, that's racist, but the racism is still focused outward in those cases, if that makes sense. As to white girls in Asia... well, yeah. That's straight-up role-reversal. Exoticising the other happens all over the place; that doesn't make it okay when we do it, and it doesn't mean we shouldn't be mindful of the context when we're interacting with traditionally-oppressed people.

I would say that, yes, finding another culture sexy is probably racism. Why? Because it's indicative of some pretty extreme ignorance. It's possible to find certain elements of a culture sexy, sure - but if you assign that label to the culture as a whole, you're treating it as more monolithic than it deserves and glossing over a lot.

Costumes in particular can be problematic for reasons that are hard to explain, but... well, the short version is that they're very often used to showcase incredibly shallow stereotypical crap and pretend to be of a culture, without ever having to deal with any of the downsides. (Ask some Native people who take their cultural heritage seriously about Halloween sometime.) The geisha costume in particular is likely to raise eyebrows because it's not just doing that, it's pandering to a specific stereotype which has been hugely problematic and the basis for a lot of racism in the past.

It's not impossible to appreciate other cultures respectfully. But... it's important to err on the side of caution. If you have to ask if something is racist, I'd say that's probably a good indicator on its own that the action in question is at the least problematic - and I would absolutely try to seek out the opinion of someone from the culture in question, someone who can't just take off the costume when it gets uncomfortable. (Important note, though: Be cautions and respectful in your approach, and be prepared to take "I don't want to talk about this." as an answer - being expected to speak for your entire culture is a problem, too.)


Offline Valthazar

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #27 on: February 07, 2014, 06:17:01 PM »
I would say that, yes, finding another culture sexy is probably racism. Why? Because it's indicative of some pretty extreme ignorance. It's possible to find certain elements of a culture sexy, sure - but if you assign that label to the culture as a whole, you're treating it as more monolithic than it deserves and glossing over a lot.

I'll write more when I get home, but how is it racist to find another culture sexy?  I've only ever dated Caucasian women, and I find it hot when they get all excited about dressing up in saris and all for events lol.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #28 on: February 07, 2014, 06:20:36 PM »
I'll write more when I get home, but how is it racist to find another culture sexy?  I've only ever dated Caucasian women, and I find it hot when they get all excited about dressing up in saris and all for events lol.
To find all of a culture sexy is to have an incredibly shallow view of that culture - you pretty much have to gloss over some ugly or unpleasant or just plain boring bits to get there. Which means you're not showing that culture proper respect, and brings us close to the 'costume' issue I described in that post - you appreciate it as something you can take when it's convenient or attractive to you without ever having to deal with the downsides.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #29 on: February 07, 2014, 06:21:21 PM »
I'll write more when I get home, but how is it racist to find another culture sexy?  I've only ever dated Caucasian women, and I find it hot when they get all excited about dressing up in saris and all for events lol.

Ephiral's point is that saris are a subset of South Asian culture, not its entirety.  Finding saris sexy is fine, extending that to read "I think saris are sexy therefore I find South Asian culture sexy" is what she's objecting to.

Ninja'd

Offline Vekseid

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #30 on: February 07, 2014, 06:35:01 PM »
I know exactly what you're talking about without checking recent news. And yes, 'atrocity' barely even begins to cover it, and Japan's handling of it since then is nothing short of disgraceful. But... does that make it right to accept and enshrine racist attitudes and behaviour toward them in return? Where does that stop? Progress, to me, is not just being better than the worst, but striving to better ourselves.

I'm not tying to equate 'white' with 'oppressor', and I'm sorry I came across that way. It's entirely possible to be a white European without being actively racist or oppressive - that's my heritage, in fact. I was addressing a very specific topic - the generalization of white European culture to include everyone. It is possible to freely and respectfully share of your culture and partake of others'. But... violent enforcement of Western culture as not just the norm but the only acceptable culture? It's not even history. I can point to examples as recent as 1996 of the top of my head. This context matters when it comes to the question of why minority cultures need to be handled carefully, even if nobody you know is actively oppressing minorities right now.

The discussion is about risk of cultural appropriation. Of one of the world's largest ethnic groups.

I mean, we can discuss the appropriation and extinguishing of cultures in general - but it's a bit off-topic. Japan is one of the world's most powerful countries. Major neighboring powers (and these days, everyone is) tend to blend cultures. Japan's economic might and historic legacy are major factors in why there is interest in them. Not one person who is willing and aware enough to put on a Kimono is going to put on a "Gods Must be Crazy" display of cultural ignorance.

One might as well ask whether the people of India should be offended that the entire planet has appropriated their numeric system.

I'm not claiming that racism towards Japanese or other Asian communities doesn't exist, or isn't a problem. We're referring to the genuine appreciation of a single, major culture's art, here, not e.g. sexualization.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #31 on: February 07, 2014, 06:58:19 PM »
The discussion is about risk of cultural appropriation. Of one of the world's largest ethnic groups.
I must be misunderstanding this. It... seems like you're trying to say it's impossible to have your culture appropriated if you're the majority somewhere.

I mean, we can discuss the appropriation and extinguishing of cultures in general - but it's a bit off-topic. Japan is one of the world's most powerful countries. Major neighboring powers (and these days, everyone is) tend to blend cultures. Japan's economic might and historic legacy are major factors in why there is interest in them. Not one person who is willing and aware enough to put on a Kimono is going to put on a "Gods Must be Crazy" display of cultural ignorance.

One might as well ask whether the people of India should be offended that the entire planet has appropriated their numeric system.
I'd say the topic seems to have ventured a little further than this one specific case. Valthazar was asking why white European culture can be participated in by 'outsiders',m which is where the statements you took offense to came from. Sho specifically asked what was racist about a clear-cut example of exoticization and sexualization. The specific case jouzinka mentioned in the OP? I would say not racist, but I'd also say that's not carte blanche to do it that way in every case - context is of vital importance, which has been the core of most of what I've been trying to say.

Offline lilhobbit37

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #32 on: February 07, 2014, 08:06:36 PM »
Seems to me this saying says how I feel best: What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

If other cultures can dress up in silly European culture stereotypes and laugh about it, then why shouldn't it work the other way as well?

Someone brought up the Irish.

The Irish came to America and were treated worse than even the recently freed African Americans of the time. They slept 12 to a room in the worst housing in the worst places of the cities. Many jobs told them they were not even welcome to apply.

Yet no one has any problem laughing about Irish culture, stereotyping them all as one generic type of people.

And no one calls those people racist.

Yet if that Irish person who just watched everyone laugh about her heritage then dons a kimono for a picture, she is a racist?

Because she isn't asian so she has no right?

To me, the world has lost focus of what racism really is, and practices racism constantly on European cultures.

Keep in mind, while people get so worked up about mashing all Asians into one category, all Caucasians in america are lumped similarly.

I work with death certificates and we have separate origin boxes for each Asian race, each African race, each Spanish race.

But white is white. Not french, not Irish, not English, not dutch. Just Caucasian/white.

Why is it that we are expected to be able to tell the different cultures of every race except white?

Offline Vekseid

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #33 on: February 07, 2014, 08:13:55 PM »
I must be misunderstanding this. It... seems like you're trying to say it's impossible to have your culture appropriated if you're the majority somewhere.

I am saying that 'appropriation' of the sort by someone whose interest in Japan holds more depth than a vocabulary that could be summed up as: 'bushido, katana, kawaii, baka, samurai, ninja' does not pose a danger to Japanese cultural identity, and can be respectfully and tastefully done by 'outsiders'.

With more marginalized cultures, there is a much greater risk of issue:



Offline Kythia

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #34 on: February 07, 2014, 08:19:45 PM »
I work with death certificates and we have separate origin boxes for each Asian race, each African race, each Spanish race.

But white is white. Not french, not Irish, not English, not dutch. Just Caucasian/white.

Why is it that we are expected to be able to tell the different cultures of every race except white?

I'm a little confused by your question.  French, English, Dutch etc. aren't races, they're nationalities.  Do the non-white boxes list nationalities - countries of origin - or do they list ethnicities?

Offline Vekseid

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #35 on: February 07, 2014, 08:31:07 PM »
It would be quite something if those boxes included Catalan but not Occitan/Frankish/Norman/Breton.

I think there is a lot to be said for the idea that Europe is some monolith.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #36 on: February 07, 2014, 08:35:38 PM »
I'm not saying it never happens to white girls - but that tends not to be where a lot of it (I'd say probably the majority) gets directed, and that matters. I'd also hazard a guess that a lot of the men you're referring to are themselves white - and yes, that's racist, but the racism is still focused outward in those cases, if that makes sense.

With all due respect, this isn't the case.  If you go to Asia, I guarantee you that Caucasian women are almost every man's fantasy - purely because she's white.  I hate to say this, but it's dangerous for a Caucasian woman to walk around by herself in India, for example, because of how dangerously prevalent this race-based ideology is.  I just get the impression that you are naive to the fact that racism is often perpetrated by other races on a much larger scale than by Caucasians.  If you want to have a discussion about cultural appropriation though, realize to how much of a greater degree it takes place in Asia in many cases.

Most people in Asia know Caucasians by what they see in Hollywood movies.  Many of them have zero understanding about European values, heritage, way-of-life, etc.  And yet, they feel perfectly fine using blonde-haired, blue-eyed actresses nowadays in Bollywood movies as a status symbol.  Why aren't you criticizing this and singularly finding fault with segments of Europeans?

Asians readily adopt western style of clothes, for example, because they've managed to sexualize white culture to such a large degree.  Why is it cultural appropriation though, when a Caucasian woman adopts Asian practices because she finds that culture inherently sexy?

Offline Kythia

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #37 on: February 07, 2014, 08:44:05 PM »
It would be quite something if those boxes included Catalan but not Occitan/Frankish/Norman/Breton.

I was skipping over that and assuming "Hispanic" rather than "Spanish"

Quote
I think there is a lot to be said for the idea that Europe is some monolith.

Yeah.  The geographic place I grew up has been, in vague order, Northumbrian, English, Scottish, English, Danish, Norwegian, English, British.  Pinning down an ethnicity for a native seems like more of an exercise in politics than fact.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #38 on: February 07, 2014, 08:45:36 PM »
Valthazar, you might want to read the rest of that paragraph, where I specifically address what you're talking about. Yes, Caucasians are the other in Asian countries and get exoticized there. And that is every bit as wrong. The solution isn't to ignore it, but to call it out everywhere.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #39 on: February 07, 2014, 08:47:04 PM »
Valthazar, you might want to read the rest of that paragraph, where I specifically address what you're talking about. Yes, Caucasians are the other in Asian countries and get exoticized there. And that is every bit as wrong. The solution isn't to ignore it, but to call it out everywhere.

Or to just accept that it's okay to have fun and explore other cultures, be attracted to other ways of life, and not worry about every little thing being construed as racism.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #40 on: February 07, 2014, 08:59:54 PM »
Thanks for the clarification, Veks. Makes sense now.

I tend to worry more about the potential for real harm to real people than about how much fun I'm having. And on that note, I think I'm done here.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 09:00:56 PM by Ephiral »

Offline lilhobbit37

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #41 on: February 07, 2014, 09:15:04 PM »
I'm a little confused by your question.  French, English, Dutch etc. aren't races, they're nationalities.  Do the non-white boxes list nationalities - countries of origin - or do they list ethnicities?

How is French, Irish, English any less an ethnicity?

Each have their own set of characteristics, their own cultures.

And they list both technically.

Asian is broken up into vietnamese, chinese, japenese, or other asian (which is then broken up much farther but there are limited numbers of check boxes.

I'm not sure what part of this is any different than separating europeans similarly.

Edit: And the category for Spanish is Hispanic/Spanish, which has categories based on place of origin aka Cuban, Mexican, etc etc. The funny part is Spain is not a choice.

Even though Spain would technically be the original Spaniard aka Hispanic, would it not?

But it is in Europe aka white aka caucasian.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 09:20:26 PM by lilhobbit37 »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #42 on: February 07, 2014, 09:30:23 PM »
How is French, Irish, English any less an ethnicity?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnicity#Ethnicity_and_nationality

Many reasons, but two stand out.  First, over a thousand years of warfare between those three countries perhaps in particular have meant that boundaries have changed so often as to make separating them out pointless.  Look at central France or Eire on this map.  Defining "English" (say) as an ethnicity requires you to claim that people in Aquitaine (say) changed ethnicity several times during the course of a lifetime.

Second, when I'm at my parent's house we speak predominantly Urdu because my mother's second husband is of Pakistani descent, although he was born over here.  My boyfriend, until he met me, didn't know any who had left London.  Claiming "English" as an ethnicity begs the question of what we have in common other than living within a set of borders that have, as I mentioned above, changed numerous times.

Offline lilhobbit37

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #43 on: February 07, 2014, 09:39:00 PM »
By English I meant specifically England/United Kingdom NOT english-speaking just to clarify.

But my original point still stands that stereotyping european cultures is acceptable to all, yet stereotyping any other cultures from other continents is frowned upon.

It should be all or nothing.

And none of that should even touch upon something as simple as a model dressing in classic Japanese garb when she isn't Japanese. What she is doing isn't meant offensively or stereotypically. She is doing nothing to demean the culture. She is simply a non-Japanese in Japanese garb.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #44 on: February 07, 2014, 09:46:07 PM »
But my original point still stands that stereotyping european cultures is acceptable to all, yet stereotyping any other cultures from other continents is frowned upon.

Europe is quickly becoming multicultural and national boundaries are quickly eroding due to the strengthening of the EU.  You'll see more ethnic mixing in Europe, and less ethnic distinction in each country in the upcoming decades.

Whether or not this is a good thing is debatable.  Personally, I do not think it is.

Offline Blythe

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #45 on: February 07, 2014, 09:59:02 PM »
I am a makeup artist and I have a problem.  ;D

A clothing designer student friend of mine got recently assigned to design and sew a kimono (of all things). For her graduation she needs to have it photographed for archives and this is where my problem is. We have a very Caucasian model, who has recently dyed her super-short hair peroxide blonde.

Yet, I would like to mask her as if she were a performer of the traditional Kabuki theatre.

Am I crossing the line?

It was mentioned in the thread there isn't a model of the appropriate ethnicity to use? Well, that is not your fault. Do the best you can. Research your subject (in this case, Kabuki), and endeavor to portray it in a tasteful manner. Try to be as accurate as you can. Acknowledge that the portrayal will probably not be spot on, but you are working with what and who you have.

Ultimately, you are helping someone work on an academic project. Your intent is not to culturally appropriate, nor is it to exoticize the "other." Your intent appears to be academic and in good faith, and ultimately, not racist. You do not appear to be crossing a line, at least to me.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #46 on: February 07, 2014, 10:00:36 PM »
By English I meant specifically England/United Kingdom NOT english-speaking just to clarify.


England and the UK are emphatically not the same thing. 

But my point two wasn't strictly about languages spoken, it was about the problems defining "English" as an ethnicity given that all that combines is belonging to the same nation.  The word for that is "nationality".  I think part of the problem is that you seem to be using race, culture, ethnicity and nationality interchangeably or, at least, I haven't picked up on the differences you mean by them

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #47 on: February 07, 2014, 10:03:36 PM »
But my point two wasn't strictly about languages spoken, it was about the problems defining "English" as an ethnicity given that all that combines is belonging to the same nation.  The word for that is "nationality".  I think part of the problem is that you seem to be using race, culture, ethnicity and nationality interchangeably or, at least, I haven't picked up on the differences you mean by them

He's referring to the existing populations of those countries for several generations, prior to the recent waves of immigration over the past half-century.  In other words, "white-British" or "white-French" - even though those white populations themselves derive their origins from multiple regions of Europe, if you look far back enough.

Offline lilhobbit37

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #48 on: February 07, 2014, 11:44:58 PM »
England and the UK are emphatically not the same thing. 

But my point two wasn't strictly about languages spoken, it was about the problems defining "English" as an ethnicity given that all that combines is belonging to the same nation.  The word for that is "nationality".  I think part of the problem is that you seem to be using race, culture, ethnicity and nationality interchangeably or, at least, I haven't picked up on the differences you mean by them

I'm aware that they are not the same thing, but england is a part of the united kingdom and I wasn't sure if it was more appropriate to call it England (which for the point of this discussion explained my point) or the U.K. (which it technically is now).

My point is Irish vs. French for example are as different as Chinese vs. Japanese.

Both have distinct ethnic backgrounds which ARE different, both races have distinct features which are different, yet as a whole are lumped together because both have the same skin tone, similar to people lumping all asians together.

Offline Vekseid

Re: Calling all Asians: How racist is this idea?
« Reply #49 on: February 08, 2014, 12:08:40 AM »
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnicity#Ethnicity_and_nationality

Many reasons, but two stand out.  First, over a thousand years of warfare between those three countries perhaps in particular have meant that boundaries have changed so often as to make separating them out pointless.  Look at central France or Eire on this map.  Defining "English" (say) as an ethnicity requires you to claim that people in Aquitaine (say) changed ethnicity several times during the course of a lifetime.

Second, when I'm at my parent's house we speak predominantly Urdu because my mother's second husband is of Pakistani descent, although he was born over here.  My boyfriend, until he met me, didn't know any who had left London.  Claiming "English" as an ethnicity begs the question of what we have in common other than living within a set of borders that have, as I mentioned above, changed numerous times.

"English" Is the ethnicity that refers to Anglo-Saxon descendants of the British Isles who adopted portions of Norman language and customs after William the Bastard became William the Conqueror. The borders of what makes up 'the English people' have changed relatively slowly, absorbing Cumbrish, Cornish, and portions of Welsh lands as those cultures have been completely annihilated, mostly absorbed, or largely marginalized, respectively.

It's much less visible now than it was three centuries ago, but it's not invalid. The Celts and Anglo-Saxons are distinct cultural groups.