By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
This month, I write a lot of stuff about pro athletes, even though my understanding of sports is like how it feels when you’re lactose intolerant and splurge on an ice cream binge because it’s your birthday!
Jeremy Lin sports controversial hair, appropriation or appreciation?
It’s a tale as old as time. Boy starts sporting dreadlocks. Other boy comes at first boy, accusing first boy of wanting to be Black. First boy pens lengthy and thoughtful piece around his hair.
In videos he released of himself talking (which have since been deleted from his account), former Nets power forward Kenyon Martin made it clear he did not think Jeremy Lin’s dreadlocks are a good look. Martin stated, “Do I need to remind this damn boy his last name is Lin? Like, come on, man. Let’s stop it with these people. […] Come on man, somebody needs to tell him, like, ‘all right bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’ Like, we get it. But your last name is Lin.”
Hey, have you guys seen “Get Out” yet? Okay, well I hope so because the movie is great, and I’m about to unleash massive spoilers.
“Get Out” is a 2017 horror film by Jordan Peele about a Black man who goes to meet his white girlfriend’s family for the first time — only to realize that there is something deeply wrong with the situation. (Massive spoiler #1: They are out to kill him!)
The film is political, timely, and gripping — I was literally gripping my seat while watching because I have never been so invested in whether a fictional character lives or not. The premise was exaggerated, but felt so plausible and real.
Massive spoiler #2: At one point, a slave auction essentially takes place. During the lead up, I was like, grabbing my movie buddy and going, “Oh snap! This is happening!” all impressed with Peele’s cojones and his refusal to pull punches.
And then it stung. In a sea of allegorical white people, a rich Japanese businessman stood up, asked the protagonist, “Is the African American experience an advantage or disadvantage?”
Immediately, I felt it was an indictment Asians and Asian Americans and how we are complicit in anti-Blackness. (Spoiler #3: Later, that feeling was cemented when the Japanese businessman bought himself his very own Black person.)
In “The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans,” Claire Jean Kim, a professor at UC Irvine, stated that Asian and Black conflict is rooted in the mid-1800s as a vehicle to maintain white superiority. At the time — and today — white positioned Asians immigrants as (economically and educationally) superior to Blacks but (socially) ostracized compared to Blacks. Asians are perma-foreigners, whereas Blacks have social capital (aka seen as Americans) but not necessarily economic and education capital.
This conflict was designed so that while two racial groups are busy fighting each other for limited resources and trying to work within the constraints of how they are stereotyped, white Americans stay in power.
I think we see traces of this historical racial resentment from Martin, though he played it off like he was joking.
It like, triggers me hard when I see anyone not-Japanese wearing kimono-like shirts. There was a period in the early 2000s when people were putting chopsticks in their hair, and I did not like it.
And that’s soft stuff. It must stir up some emotion for a Black man to see an Asian man adopt (or co-opt, depending on who you’re asking) a hairstyle that has been so closely associated with one and only one racial group. (All those dudes on reddit trying to convince me that dreads originated in India or with Celts can sit down. I don’t buy that as a valid argument for what we are talking about.)
SPOILER: Michelle Yeoh dies. (Onscreen! Don’t panic!)
“Star Trek: Discovery” is a new series on CBS. And Michelle Yeoh was in it being a badass. Well, Captain Philippa Georgio died in the second episode. I feel okay spoiling that for you because it’s all over the internet.
Viewers were legit so distraught over this. I was distraught, and I don’t even watch Star Trek. I think the outpour of grief was so unexpected and so palpable that Yeoh had to show up at a New York Comic Con panel to assure the audience. “I’m not going to let them kill me, okay?”
Dude. What does that even mean? Isn’t she already dead?
I feel like this is an empty ploy to trick people into watching this show, even though our favorite person is no longer on it. Good try, Michelle. Good try.
Gigi Hadid kinda-innocently mimics a cookie and gets a lot of ish for it
Gigi Hadid, 22, is a model and also Zayn Malik’s girlfriend. (Malik is formerly of One Direction, duh. I can’t believe I had to explain that to you. Malik is also British Pakistani.) Many months ago, Hadid posted a video on Instagram. She was holding a small Buddha shaped cookie and she was squinting her eyes, probably imitating the Buddha. In September, Victoria’s Secret announced that it was holding its annual fashion show in China for the very first time on Nov. 28.
After the announcement, a bunch of industrious Chinese social media users unearthed Hadid’s Buddha cookie video and told her she was racist and to not bother showing her racist face in China.
LOLOL. I am frankly impressed by the passion and fervor of these Chinese netizens.
After Matt Damon and the Great Wall thing, I think I erroneously started thinking Chinese people were maybe just okay with racial tomfoolery. But guess what? They are not.
Hadid took to China’s Weibo platform to say, “It hurts me to hurt anyone, and I want you all to know that it was never my intent to offend anyone through my actions and I sincerely apologize to those who were hurt or felt let down by me. […] I have learned to be very careful of how my actions can come off or be portrayed, and I’m hopeful you’ll accept my apology.”
Pro athletes Guilherme Clezar and Robert Kenedy Nunes Nascimento try to convince world their racist actions/words are just them being cute
Guys, professional athletes (and their most ardent fans!) tend to have this problem. Maybe it’s the hypercompetitive and clannishness of sports. But I feel like it’s a little silly that many people haven’t made the correlation that overt racism is only cool when you’re around other racists who like racist stuff. Also, if you’re gonna be racist on Snapchat, lock that friends list down. Best practices and all that.
In September, during a Davis Cup match against Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, Brazil’s Guilherme Clezar, 24, challenged a line call and then stretched his eyes at a line judge, also Japanese. Clezar ended up being fined $1,500 for “unsportsmanlike conduct.”
In response, the tennis player issued a standard apology and also said he “never had the slightest intention to be aggressive, racist, prejudiced.”
It’s been years since someone’s thrown this gesture my way — so I’m overdue — but when it happens again, I will try to remember that sometimes it can convey benign open-mindedness and affection.
Chelsea Football Club’s Robert Kenedy Nunes Nascimento, aka “Kenedy,” posted a few Snapchat posts in Portuguese, “Porra china 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 ” that basically amounted to “F*** China 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 ” or “Screw China 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 ”
Chelsea was so pissed that it sent Kenedy, 21, home. And it also issued a long, PR-sanctioned apology. Kenedy, for whom English is not a native language, apologized like this:
“Hello my friends, just wanna say sorry if someone was sad because I used the expression ‘porra’, was no racism, just an expression…big hug.”
That apology is way whack, and he totally missed the point. Like, we all know that porra was not the racist part. It was the combination, the synergy of porra + China that was like, the racist part.
But the apology was also kind of cute because it was ridic, right?
Wes Anderson gets way meta. And I don’t think he’s doing this on purpose.
Wes Anderson made a really cute-looking stop motion movie about dogs that is set in Japan, only 20 years from now. Twenty years from now, Japan gets way whiter, I guess. I dunno. I haven’t seen the movie yet.
While Anderson did cast a number of Japanese actors to voice characters in “Isle of Dogs,” he also cast Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, both of whom were recently at the center of whitewashing accusations with their films, “Ghost in the Shell” and “Doctor Strange.”
Like Mr. Anderson, with respect, Emma Stone needs a job, too.
Hollywood hates Asian people — everyone says so, and I believe them!
Last month, nonfiction author Michael Lewis, who wrote books that went on to become critically acclaimed movies, such as “Moneyball” and “The Big Short,” said that his book, “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt,” is not getting the big screen treatment any time soon because its lead is Asian and a real person, IEX cofounder Bradley Katsuyama. And no one wants to watch an Asian play around with money in a controversial way because it forces us to suspend our disbelief too much. No, I’m joking. I made that up. Just kidding, it’s true.
Speaking at a book festival last month, Lewis said that the Sony hack unearthed emails that showed Hollywood found it impossible to make a movie with an Asian lead.
“They’ve gotten to the point where they’re nervous about making an Asian guy a white guy,” said Lewis. “Decades ago, they weren’t. They would have just done that. But they don’t think there’s a well-enough known Asian male actor. Which I think is crazy.”
Also last month, Paste Magazine quoted sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen, who remembers talking to an unnamed Hollywood casting agent who allegedly said, “I work with a lot of different people and Asians are a challenge to cast because most casting directors feel as though they’re not very expressive […] They’re very shut down in their emotions … If it’s a look thing for business where they come in, they’re at a computer or if they’re like a scientist or something like that, they’ll do that; but if it’s something [where] they really have to act and get some kind of performance out of, it’s a challenge.”
This naturally resulted in a deluge of internet memes — basically pictures of Asians being expressive AF.
Someone tattled to Angelina Jolie. Jolie is a woman who has had to put up with a lot of crappy comments from Americans about why she has to adopt a million children from dire circumstances and impoverished environments and not like, good ol’ stateside white children. Jolie is also the director and cowriter of “First They Killed My Father,” about a Cambodian child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime. The cast of her film is solely Asian.
“Who said that? What’s wrong with them?” Jolie said to The Hollywood Reporter, reminding us all that she is beautiful, inside and out. “I hadn’t heard that, but it just sounds completely ignorant. Wow, it’s just insane.”
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.