Silence is Journalism, Too: An open letter to Jeff Gerstmann and the men in my industry
This has been a hard week.
By now, nobody needs to be reminded of what’s going on. An ongoing campaign of harassment by the men of 4chan, reddit, and other sites has driven two women out of their homes and has targeted dozens more. The unacceptability of this has been stated by hundreds if not thousands of people, and doesn’t need to be reiterated. It’s more than unacceptable - it’s monstrous. It’s ridiculous. It’s worthy of nothing more than contempt.
So where is the contempt?
Asian Americans individually suffer from victimization similar to other races by both the majority and minority races. The most significant case for this community is the death of Vincent Chen. This case illustrates the “systematic devaluating” of Asian Americans to a “real” American” (Asian Nation, 2012). In June of 1982, Chen was brutally murdered with a baseball bat by two white men outside a bar the night before his wedding day (Kang, 1993; Wu, 2010). The most compelling part about this case is how his identity was mistaken twice for being Asian and assumed to have been Japanese even though he was of Chinese descent (Kang, 1993; Wu, 2010). Also, the legal action taken against these two suspects, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, were relatively minor for this racially motivated crime. The prosecutors for this case did not show up in court to defend the unjustifiable death of Chen and each offender received $3,000 fine and three years of probation (Kang, 1993; Wu, 2010). There are several other cases in the following years revealing the degree of crimes motivated against Asians, especially in circumstances where a perpetrator justifies their actions based on the assumption that “you [Asians] all look alike” (Wu, 2010, p. 20).
There are recent cases that have illustrated the victimization of Asian Americans throughout the United States. In New York, three black teenagers were charged with the robbery of Jin Ton Yuan in an elevator with a pistol at his head in May 2009 (Chen, 2009). Later in June, two of the same teenagers, Cory Azore and Chris Levy, sought out an Asian to steal money. They dragged, choked, and beat to death David Kao in the backseat of his car and dumped his body (Ibid.). In both cases police confirmed they were targeted for their race, but the prosecutor did not want to charge them for a hate crime (Ibid.). In California, the anti-Asian sentiments are still present in the bay area. San Francisco has been having problems with violent offenses in particularly with elderly Asian immigrants (Yu, 2010). In 2010, two young adult black males brutally beat 59-year old Yu and his 27 year-old son while shopping in Oakland. The older Yu died from the beating and the 27 year-old suffered severe injuries. In this case, the prosecutor declined to file hate crime charges against them (KTVU, 2010; Yu, 2010). Asian American adults are not the only ones facing harassment and assault; their children are suffering too. In the Philadelphia school system, Asian American students are subject to name-calling and verbal threats. It is so common that the “culture of violence against Asian immigrants” (Yu, 2010, p. 1) is an acceptable “part of life.”
This act changed the reporting methods of crimes by defining the difference between hate crimes and other crimes. According to National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), there were approximately 12,135,210 Asians and Pacific Islanders that are twelve years old and older in 2010 (Truman, 2011). The 2010 Uniform Crime Report states Asian and Pacific Islanders comprised of 5.1% of all known racial biased hate crimes committed (U.S. Department of Justice, 2011b). However, they are most likely to underreport crimes compared to other races (Chen, 2009; Kang, 1993). Christina Chen claimed the reasons why these crimes are underrepresented are because victims are not comfortable with reporting their experiences with officers who are not bilingual, they fear problems with their immigration status, mistrust with local police, and the disregard of hate crimes and civil rights protections (2009). The crime rate is also affected by how law enforcement officials measure them. They fail to record hate crimes by misidentifying the crime or not identifying it as a racially motivated crime (2009). A prime example is the classification of Asian women rape victims.
Asian women are subject to victimization because of their Asian descent. Their reputation as an Asian woman to be a sexual object of desire becomes a burden when they are purposely sought out for sex because of their race. Jaemin Kim, a female Korean American journalist, reported “… Asian women in particular remain vulnerable” (Kim, 2009). They are more prone to rape victims based on their race, but reporting it as a hate crime is difficult because police officials fail to recognize that it can be racially motivated. A secretary from an L.A. police department said, “rapes were ‘not a hate crime’” (Ibid, p. 3). This situation in itself should be considered a hate motivated sex crime because the serial rapist specifically sought out for Korean women, but police authorities ignored the possibility (Ibid.).
The entire Asian American community is affected. Erika Harrell claimed in her NCVS report that most anti-Asian crimes are done by strangers (Harrell, 2009). Interestingly, the offenders are predominantly African American in San Francisco. Similar to the non-Asian population, Asian males and youths between the ages of twelve through nineteen were more prone to victimization than females and those who are older (Yu, 2009). Also, Asian American children are more likely to be victimized by children from a different race than the older generation (Lawson & Henderson, 2009).
Slurs are not oppressive because they are offensive, they are oppressive because slurs by nature of being slurs draw upon certain power dynamics to remind their target of his/her/their vulnerability in a certain relation to power and as an extension of that, to threaten violence and exploitation of that vulnerability.
I find it interesting how society doesn’t care when the media sexualizes women, when men sexualizes women, when school and the government sexualizes women. But the second a woman is in control and sexualizes herself willingly it’s wrong and disgusting.
“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is a privilege, a sign of socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and co-sign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can bestow DWYL as career advice upon those covetous of her success.
If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves, what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.
a couple of other quotes from the article i really like:
According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace
Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life! Before succumbing to the intoxicating warmth of that promise, it’s critical to ask, “Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like nonwork?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?” In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. If we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.