Standing up and Fighting Ignorance & Racism

Please DIGG this post to show your support!

Being an entrepreneur isn’t usually easy.  You’re often fighting uphill battles to educate your market, build customer acceptance, overcome technical challenges, win over investors or other types of supporters, shape a great team and culture, and much more.  But for the most part, I feel so fortunate to have a mostly equal shot in our society to have the opportunity to work passionately and to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams.  

So with that as a backdrop, today I felt my temperature rise a bit when I saw Miley Cyrus and her “controversial” photo where she and her friends mocked Asian Pacific Americans by pulling their eyes back to “slant” them.

Here is the photo:


Gut reaction = upset: I have to admit that after seeing this I was a bit upset.  Seeing some kids doing dumb things isn’t so uncommon, though it did remind me of some not so pleasant grade school memories.  But the thing that really upset me was reading some of the commentary around the photo: I was shocked that there is SO MUCH DEBATE as to whether this photo is offensive or not.  Are you kidding me?  I’m reading commentary on the Interwebs from people who are saying, “Oh come now, this is nothing, it’s not offensive.”  

Excuse me but the “targeted audience” should ultimately be responsible for determining as to whether this is offensive.  Believe me, every Asian Pacific American, or more properly, every Korean American, Chinese American, Japanese American, etc. who has been taunted or made fun of in a similar fashion most definitely finds this incredibly offensive.  I don’t care if it’s Miley Cyrus or not so much as I care that people understand how offensive and demeaning this type of behavior is.

My personal experience is that racial taunting sucks: I grew up as one of the few non-Caucasian students in a upper middle class suburb of Pittsburgh, PA.  I have admit that for the most part, I had a pretty great upbringing.  Most of my classmates were good people and I got along with most everyone.  However, I did have some classmates, in addition to random strangers on the street or at the pool or at the park, who would make fun of “chinks” or make “ching chong” noises either about others or in front of me. The most ignorant would go so far as to make fun of me directly, calling me a “gook” or worse.

As a young person, I mostly tried to help these folks understand that I didn’t enjoy their taunts, and that they were being offensive.  When it got bad, I did sometimes react with anger, physically confronting the worst of these “people”.   But the first rule of fight club is that ‘we do not talk about fight club’ 🙂  And like any entrepreneur/person worth his salt, I realize that this type of physical confrontation is just not a reasonable or a “scalable solution.”

Racism is personal and offensive: Still today, I witness firsthand that racism is still prevalent and personal.  If I’m out at a bar with friends for example, depending on the bar, the time of night, and the location/city, there is probably a 1/7 shot that some drunk guy will say something racist around me or to me that will make me want to step up and put the guy in his place.  But again, I realize that this is not a scalable solution.  What is one to do?

My Caucasian buddies often tell me to ignore it.  Some have even gone so far as to say that I am overreacting.  But they admit that they have never experienced this type of offensive racist behavior.  It’s actually sort of hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes in this type of situation in America.  I realize that.  This lack of comprehension is exactly what is causing the debate about whether the photo above is offensive.  So please just trust me, unless you’ve experienced it, keep an open mind.  And please don’t tell me if I should be offended or not!

Debate over this photo demonstrates ignorance: Some responders have pointed out that there is a male in the photo who appears to be of Asian/Pacific descent in the photo and that this would seem to excuse the participants in the photo.  I am being blunt here but, are you kidding me?  I have friends who are African American, Israeli-American, or even Italian or Irish American whose parents and grandparents have described to me tales of how poorly they were treated in the past under various circumstance, and how they often had to “grin and bear” it when confronted by a large group of the “majority”.  Well, I’m not grinning and bearing it.  I can’t stand it frankly.  The ignorance must stop.  Some people even blame this guy for not standing up for himself.  Excuse me but is it really his fault that this photo was taken?  Come on!

Everyone is in their origins an immigrant to America.  That is what makes us the most innovative and entrepreneurial country (arguably) in the world.  But in that context, people every day call others spic or a wop or a kyke or a n*gger or whatever.  Is that we are about?  Is that any different than squinting your eyes and calling me a chink?   Is any of this acceptable?

Something more fundamental needs to change: I believe that the core issue is education and mainstream media adoption.  As an entrepreneur, you are constantly searching for patterns to study what has worked before and what could work in the future.  In this case, I look at examples of groups such as Jews, African American, Irish, and even woman that have become more and more accepted or at least well-represented over the years.  For example, in movies from as recently as 10-15 years ago, now-obviously offensive portrayals of Jews, Blacks, and other ethnic groups were commonplace.  But as Jews and Blacks in particular have achieved more and more prominence, with more political and media influence, their perspectives are at the least much more represented to (and hopefully understood) by mainstream people.  Can you believe there was a time when woman couldn’t vote?  Now, it seems to hard to remember, but in all honesty, we’re still in the “startup stages” when it comes to the understanding of other cultures.

Bottom line: Mainstream America’s understanding of Asian Pacific American culture and perspective is very far behind.

To see what I mean, here is another example of similarly offensive and racially insensitive behavior:


Meant to symbolize Peace? Do you remember this from the 2008 Summer Olympics?  This is the Spanish Men’s Basketball team posing to “honor” their sponsor, the Chinese Sports Apparel Company Li Ning.  What a show of sportsmanship and world unity!  To me, this was almost laughably horrible.  But there was relatively little public condemnation about this behavior, and Spain’s team issued no formal apology.  They mostly brushed it off saying, “we didn’t mean to offend.  It’s not a big deal.”  Unacceptable!!  See, but this is my whole point.  It was tremendously offensive to the millions of people of Asian and Pacific decent who were outraged at Spain’s cultural insensitivity and rudeness.  But there was no media or political call for a formal apology because the mainstream media does not understand the perspective of the Asian American minority.  

Cycle of Racism Repeats Itself: Asian Pacific Americans have only just begun to crack into the mainstream media and political consciousness.  We need to increase our social and media standing.  But people in general need to try to see the patterns of racism repeating themselves over and over every generation or so.  It’s always some group that gets subjugated only to gradually claw into the mainstream, leading to increased understanding over time.

In 40 years, will the perception of Asian Americans be different as the perception of African Americans has evolved?  I truly hope so.  Like any entrepreneur I’m filled with a disproportionate amount of optimism.  I’m hopeful that Asian Americans will be much more accurately represented as individuals, and family members, and neighbors, and friends, and lovers, and siblings, and mentors, and children.  That we will be judged based on “the content of our character” – and that more and more public examples will help mainstream America understand that that is what they need to try to do.  In 20 years, what kind of world will my son experience?  Will people call him a “gook”?  Will people still debate whether or not photos like these above are to be offensive to him??  

We need to take a stand against ignorance and closed-mindedness.  This insensitive and uneducated behavior and lack of understanding is the basis for conflict, strife and even war.  We truly cannot achieve peace without understanding.  As I an entrepreneur, I know that you have to carefully choose your battles.  To me, I feel that this one is too important for any of us people who HOPE to ignore it any more.

UPDATE: A friend of mine who is gay just emailed me to tell me that when he goes to a bar, the odds that someone says something homophobic is 1 in 2.  Yuck.

UPDATE: The OCA (Which is dedicated to embracing the hopes and aspirations of Asian Pacific Americans) and many other Asian American activist groups has demanded a formal apology from Ms. Cyrus.

UPDATE: Miley says she’s sorry that some people took her “goofy faces” out of context.  Groups like the OCA are understandably not satisfied.

UPDATE: Miley finally says she’s sorry.

UPDATE: Margaret Cho throws down over Miley.  Nice!

Please DIGG this post to show your support!


21 thoughts on “Standing up and Fighting Ignorance & Racism

  1. Brian I enjoyed your article, I don’t see many Asians openly talking about this issue, much less take your tone of wanting to do something about it. I don’t think you are being overly optimistic in thinking that Asians’ image will change over time. You are right on reflecting on the history of blacks, women, and other opressed groups. It wasn’t too long ago that racial segregation existed, but now our president is black(well, at least part). In a country that has an entertainment/sports industry dominated by black people, such as music, basketball, etc, it’s hard to believe black people were enslaved at one point in this country. Give it time, it’ll change.

  2. After looking at a handful of the blog articles on your website, I honestly appreciate your way of writing a blog.
    I added it to my bookmark website list and will
    be checking back soon. Please check out my website too and tell
    me how you feel.

  3. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  4. The broadest and ultra street fighter 4 download most important launch in history?

    The colors are a great product to be banned in Britain due what regulators called,
    Manhunt 2, for example, if you wish to copy
    games for multiple players. Net, an open discussion with our world.
    Since there’s very little effort. Just like in the prestigious medical ultra street fighter 4 download journal, Lancet.

    Actually, most people who come online try to avoid addiction. Wholesale prices can be.

  5. Hello it’s me, I am also visiting this website daily, this web site is really good and the viewers
    are truly sharing fastidious thoughts.

  6. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will
    eventually come back in the foreseeable future. I want to encourage continue your great posts,
    have a nice holiday weekend!

  7. Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I
    have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing in your feed and I’m hoping you write
    again very soon!

  8. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing
    the structure of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so
    people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only
    having one or two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

  9. Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the internet
    the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people consider worries that they just don’t know about.
    You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal.
    Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  10. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was wondering what all is needed to get setup?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty
    penny? I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% sure. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly
    appreciated. Appreciate it

  11. The first time I used the Shark Steam Mop, I was amazed (and somewhat appalled) by how dirty the microfiber
    pad got, and I had to use both pads to clean my kitchen and dining
    area. A common complaint I seen from unhappy consumers of this mop was that it left the
    floor too wet the first time they used it. Over the past ten years
    we have been inundated by the use of Steam Mops.

  12. Hi, i think that i noticed you visited my website so
    i got here to go back the choose?.I am attempting to find things to enhance my site!I suppose its good enough to use some of your

  13. Excellent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you
    amend your website, how can i subscribe for a blog website?
    The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit
    acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear concept

  14. Este incredibil de erotic pentru a vedea soțul dumneavoastră cu altcineva , chiar dacă acesta este
    ” nevinovat “, pentru a începe cu . Cu toate acestea , se indică , de asemenea, o experiență erotică , o femeie în roșu ?

  15. Many people have suggested that an important cause of rising inequality has been the increasing importance of winner-take-all markets in which a few top performers seem to be compensated at very much higher rates than other Aubrey

  16. There are actually a bunch of different things that you can do
    to take care of Mortgage Advice Manchester. Certain things, on
    the other hand, get in the way of the progress that you are able to
    make or even reverse it completely. Before you realize success, you have
    to be able to tell the two apart so do your best to master the differences between them
    and develop a great foundation of basics. Mortgage
    Advice Manchester comes with certain problems, but they can almost always be overcome with the proper outlook and actions.
    You need to monitor your results and if something doesn’t work the way you would like it to, you’ll want to change the tactic you’ve been using
    with it. There’s a plethora of information out there about this on the web and
    in case you have no idea where to go next, you need to start with

  17. You can talk about it in forums, twit about in using tweeter, or promote it among your friends on Facebook.
    This is because most of the US package forwarding services are
    based on the dimensional weight of the package. All these affirmations ‘enriched’ by emotion produced the expected outcome:
    created in our minds some patterns of thought and fixed the limiting believes we are
    talking about.

  18. They also have a fifty point bonus to Forage, allowing them to gather food and drink from their
    environment. The surprise sensation this year, brides are looking for more vibrant colours to match their sunny wedding themes.
    In order to have successful, continuing education outside of the classroom, the students must be motivated to constantly be
    observing and learning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s