Ian H.







Understanding the situation of race as a matter of economic context has to be an Asian-American experience, does it not? Most of the consequences of the racism you might face for being different are economic and socioeconomic, after all. Especially if you’re Asian in America, the notion of race is used to exclude you from certain economic arrangements. The exclusion has to do with the American need to understand the philosophy of Asia and the manner of governing Asians.

Asia is the cradle of philosophy. If not for the difference in language it could supplant the modern forms of nihilism. I still maintain the similarities between modern continental philosophy and ancient Chinese philosophy are vast and striking. It all describes the great fundamentals.

For example: there is this folk wisdom about the melon farmers of Xinjiang; how there’s a sort of scaffolding upon which to erect the study of technique, and it’s not unlike Foucault. It is no mistake that the traditional area of this folk story is along the way of the ancient Silk Road and how the Near East and China were connected in the ancient past. In other words, one aspect of Asia has brought the whole world into an accord on the dignity of man and that is the rationality of statecraft. Man as the microcosm of the state: this is the essence of all ancient philosophy. Asia is no exception.

With Asian philosophy there is no ardent need for nihilism. The many aspects of governing have their basis in experience. Asia is a big place and Asia is full of particularities – it’s important to note from what particular outlook on Asia you come from to understand the experience of being Asian American in its particularity to you. For me that place is Taiwan.

The broad strokes of history encompass Taiwan as the outpost of a democratic China; the political possibilities of democracy in Asia are there among the ancient philosophies of yesteryear. We argue, even among the quiescence of the rest of Asia. There is hope for a future in the world that is solidly democratic, soundly argumentative, etc.

But the experience of being Taiwanese-American is not always an easy one. There are those who would have us be excluded still from the consideration of American freedoms and privileges.

The liberatory strategy for Asian-Americans is thus to create alternative economic arrangements. Whether that be unions or other progressive arrangements, they are the solution to the outcomes facing those who are the victims of racism.

The history of Asians in America is one of exclusion and eventual opening up. The welcome you will get from your country is always tempered with an air of mystique halfway between respect and mockery. The pride in your thousand-year history is put to the test of whether you believe in it or not, and, fair or not you will be judged by the standard of whether you live up to the mystique while also being “American”. They are basically three ways this bar is cleared by Asian-Americans. The first is through food, the second is through riches, and the third is through the long road of literary sensibility. There are significant advantages for any Asian to pursue a literary career, but any one of these will suffice.

To analyze in this way is not to mock people nor make light of racism. And any one of these paths to being welcomed by America is worthy of the promises of the American Dream. But any Asian knows that this high bar exists for them alone of all the other people from other corners of the globe in America: entrance means excellence. The world is not fair to demand this but it does.

For all minorities the only thing keeping you from knowing the discrimination your own people have faced is lack of knowledge about your history. You can’t rely on schools to teach you about Vincent Chin and you can’t rely on the popular press to inform you about the Atlanta murders and it’s up to you to find and support the popular movements that support you.

These popular movements like “Stop AAPI Hate“ exist because people need to know about what they are not being taught or told. This system exists the way it does because the voices for justice and equality have ever been in the minority and consequently the only way to make change is to inspire the masses to outrage and indignation. Although they have ever been in the minority, great and insightful minds have ever been on the side of the disenfranchised and downtrodden with able hand and ready pen, to inspire the masses to an outcry against the injustices of the world. The world has never been entirely fair to minorities but in the minority have always been those who could right the wrongs of the world if only they had the power.

The history of Chinese people in America is a category of analysis that is completely legalistic in character. This is the legacy of state oppression. The statutory limitations on immigration that excluded people during certain periods, and lasted up until the middle of the last century, have left scars and made our history in America a matter of legal interpretation. This is the injustice done to us, that our ethnic particularity has been judged by the courts.

We should embrace our freedom to voice our frustration with this system, but also do so while being aware of how we are limited by the very circumstance of our protest. The consciousness of history I am imbued with here only fully revealed itself to the public in a publication of an experimental novel by an Asian American author who had worked in the courts. Would we know what even to protest without the very system that produces the oppression?

This is why protest has to be part of the system. The system only works when certain brave voices are raised against the injustices of the system within its very workings. The progress that has been made in the past has come about through courageous defense against the excesses of the system. But defense is part of the system that everyone is entitled to. So to correct the system takes supporting a part of the system that has always existed to oppose the system from within. The person who can carry his flag in this arena of intellectual contestation has more than an analysis of race at his disposal; he has a philosophy of human nature. This is where the Asian American viewpoint lends itself to productive endeavor because the connection between identity politics and economics is so clear to us.