Jeff Yang’s “Sharron Angle to Asians: I’m You”

Jeff Yang has written a great piece this week for his Asian Pop column for the San Francisco Chronicle on the racial over-simplification evidenced by Sharron Angle’s bizarre comments earlier this week. Here’s an excerpt:

The Angle campaign has struggled to dismiss the incident as trivial, and to place the blame on the media and the Reid campaign for blowing it out of proportion. And yes, it would be easy to put this incident in the box of what the French call le racisme ordinaire — petty, readily overlooked bits of insensitivity that reflect clumsiness rather than hate, ignorance rather than prejudice.

Angle wasn’t seeking to insult her audience by calling them Asian, nor did she imagine she’d offend Asians by claiming to be one herself.

But reducing race to simple signifiers can have terrifying consequences. The constant thrum of warning — to paraphrase UPS, “What will brown do to you?” — has made anyone whose natural skin color is in the darker range beyond beige a potential threat. You may be American-born and educated and patriotic to the core. But if you “look Latino” or “look Indian” or “look Arab,” you may as well be a thuggish illegal, a job-stealing visa parasite or a terrorist sleeper awaiting final instructions.

Meanwhile, with fear of China and North Korea at a contemporary peak, the flattening of Asian identity into a set of slanted eyes is similarly striking caution in the hearts of those who know how quickly the seeds of the schoolyard — “Can you even see through those things?”; “Wow, you could use dental floss as a blindfold!” — can blossom into full-fledged hate-mongering propaganda. The difference between the “chink face,” eye-corners pulled upward and outward, and the diabolical caricatures portrayed in 19th-century anti-immigrant broadsides, jingoist World War II posters and xenophobic editorial cartoons of Asians today is a just a matter of scale, not nature.

You can, and should, read the full article here: Sharron Angle to Asians: I’m You.

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