November 8, 2010

Obama's view of Asians

With the President visiting his old home, Indonesia, it's worth noting that one of the funnier themes in Dreams from My Father (granted, I'm using "funny" pretty relativistically here) is how little attention Obama pays to Asians in his book's black-white conceptual framework, despite having lived amidst many Asians in Hawaii, Indonesia, Hawaii, Occidental and Columbia. If they're Muslim Asians, like his friends in college, he's for them, but otherwise, he barely notices them. In Dreams, Obama's attitude toward people who aren't black or white is much like the Rev. Lovejoy's attitude on The Simpsons towards people who aren't Christian or Jewish:
Rev. Lovejoy: No, Homer, God didn't burn your house down, but he was working in the hearts of your friends, be they [points to Ned Flanders] Christian, [points to Krusty the Klown] Jew, or [glances at Apu with lack of interest] ... miscellaneous.

Apu: Hindu. There are seven hundred million of us.

Rev. Lovejoy: Aww, that's super. 

In Dreams, Obama's feelings toward non-Muslim Asians are like those of a New York Yankees-obsessed Boston Red Sox fan regarding the Milwaukee Brewers: "Which league are they in these days?"

34 comments:

nooffensebut said...

Obama likes to generalize about Asians. They lack skills.

Anonymous said...

Steve, my PC-dar tells me that these are some pretty serious hate facts you're laying out in this post.

But it is remarkable, though, how thoroughly prosaic [and, quite frankly, vulgar] Barack & Michelle have proved to be.

Anonymous said...

That's a very America-centric view of the world. Do you think he developed race consciousness only after being exposed to SWPL America?

afasdfasdf said...

This attitude is pretty much shared by ALL Americans. Asians are invisible except for cutie pie Asian chicks as newscasters. And I think most Asians want to be remain below the radar.

Anonymous said...

Asians tend to be quiet, low profile, docile, boring, and go with the flow. Their verbal skills are also weak, which is why a superb verbalist like Obama doesn't seem to take them too seriously.

In general, as individuals, Asians don't seem to leave a strong impression one way or the other.

Whiskey said...

Lack of Asians on the radar is definitely not an attitude shared in SoCal. Irvine for example has gone from fairly White to majority Asian in many areas. Most of the Churches around here seem to be Korean or Taiwanese, for example. Entire swaths of SoCal are Asian dominated.

Lack of focus on Asians are a Black cultural feature. The world consists of Blacks, Whites, and "miscellaneous."

adsfasdfasdf said...

"Asians tend to be quiet, low profile, docile, boring, and go with the flow. Their verbal skills are also weak, which is why a superb verbalist like Obama doesn't seem to take them too seriously."

True, but there have been some great Asian cultural figures in the 20th century. Kurosawa, Imamura, Seijun Suzuki, and many other Japanese filmmakers, as well as many fine writers. In fact, many western intellectuals--John Nathan, Ian Buruma, Joan Mellen, Donald Richie, etc--were drawn to Japan because it was so interesting after the WWII. Japan kinda settled down after the 60s but then there was the very hot hong kong cinema of the 80s. A small city-state but very influential in the most important artform of the 20th century--arguably most influential in the world after Hollywood in the 80s and 90s.
And some people say Korean cinema has been interesting too lately.

So, why are Asian-Americans generally so uninteresting? Maybe Asians have this mindset of submitting to the majority. In their own nations, since they are majority, they may feel more comfortable and express themselves more openly. In the West, Asians may feel comfortable going with the majority culture. It's kinda paradoxical, with Asians being more expressive in their own more repressive societies yet being less expressive in the freer and more individualistic West.
Maybe had Kurosawa had grown up in the US, he would have been happy to be a gardener or accountant than a great filmmaker.

Wandrin said...

Agree it's a black thing - though maybe not in Africa in a few decades time. There's black, white and other.

Anonymous said...

NB to our Limey friends: when Americans talk about "Asians" they mean East Asians: Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, etc.

Whereas Brits usually mean "Asian" to refer to South Asians: Indians and Pakistanis, etc.

The USA hasn't had any real experience with South Asian immigrants until the past 20-30 years. In fact most Americans were barely aware South Asians existed until the past 10-15 years when call center jobs started to be outsourced to India.

Dahinda said...

"Most of the Churches around here seem to be Korean or Taiwanese, for example."

I live in a rural part of Illinois outside Peoria and there is a Korean church and an Albanian Muslim center both out in the country in our area.

Anonymous said...

But Asians are generally invisible to American culture in general. Few on tv, at the cinema or in sports. There are few well known Asian public figures.

Obama pays Asians no more and no less attention than the average American.

Baloo said...

"Asian" is such an annoyingly ambiguous word. How about using "Eastasian" to refer to Mongoloids and "Southasian" to refer to subcontinent people?

Just shoot me already said...

"which is why a superb verbalist like Obama'

AH HA HA HA HA
BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA

When asked by a hostile (finally!) reporter if he thought the tsunami of a mid-term election meant America is repudiating his entire agenda, and how did he feel about that,
the newly un-Axelrod-ed Obama said,

"I feel bad."

Bwah ha ha ha!
If that's what a superb verbalist comes up with, my five-year-olds must be freakin' geniuses.

Suharto said...

I'm under the impression that Obama didn't learn Indonesian despite living there four years as a child.

Obama would have to be seriously incurious to avoid absorbing the language at that age exposed to it for so long.

If there is one thing SWPLs love it's living abroad and bragging about learning foreign languages. It puts them at a loss when they consider, if but slightly through this example, that Obama is not the intellectual world citizen they imagine him to be.

Peter A said...

It's pretty difficult to be blind to Asians in Hawaii (or Indonesia for that matter). It may be that Obama consciously tailored his book for the black/white audience he expected would read it (or, if you like, you could use this as evidence that Obama did not, in fact, write the book).

Felix said...

Asians (females) get MY special attention.

totus said...

"Their verbal skills are also weak, which is why a superb verbalist like Obama doesn't seem to take them too seriously."

Superb verbalist? TOTUS? Such an opinion was forgivable two years ago but not now.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

But it is remarkable, though, how thoroughly prosaic [and, quite frankly, vulgar] Barack & Michelle have proved to be.

True. For all his citizen-of-the-world airs, Barack is quite the provincial.

One might at least give his wife some credit for not putting on airs but she's still just hopeless. Big, awkward, uncouth, ghetto-scowl. Yeesh.

ricpic said...

In my experience Asians (east) in America are indifferent toward whites (we are as invisible to them as they are to us, assimilation is not even on their radar) and are thoroughly dismissive of blacks. South Asians, on the other hand, are quite receptive to the idea of assimilation: they care what whites think of them. It's no accident that Bobby Jindal and now Nikki Haley, from a much smaller base of South Asian immigrants are so integrated as to have been elected Governors of Southern States!

Anonymous said...

How about using "Eastasian" to refer to Mongoloids and "Southasian" to refer to subcontinent people?

How about "Stasian" and "Thasian"? It sounds futuristic as well.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Obama is using Lothrop Stoddart's classification where roughly: Brown equals Mohammedan; yellow equals East Asian. So the other S Asians are essentially 'miscellanous'.

Anonymous said...

In an all-Asian country like Japan or Korea, almost every role (gangster, alpha male, big man politician, hustler) is going to be played by the local people. In the more multiethnic U.S. and Canada, Asians specialize in what they're good at and tend to be driven out of the masculine fields other races are more talented at. For an Asian guy looking to be the big man, it pays to stay in Asia or perhaps come of mixed race ancestry (ie Michael Lee Chin).

Obama is a smart verbalist, no matter how bad his policies can be. Way smarter than Bush for sure. Whatever you think of him, Obama was editor of the Harvard Law Review. You've got to be pretty smart verbally to make it that far.

Obama's problem is that he's spent most of his life thinking mainly about himself and race, not about society's problems. So he's good at writing eloquently about himself and black-white relations, but doesn't have much insight to bring to the table.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps Obama is using Lothrop Stoddart's classification where roughly: Brown equals Mohammedan; yellow equals East Asian. So the other S Asians are essentially 'miscellanous'."

Not quite. Stoddard included all South Asians as Brown except the Yellow ones. He even treated Hindu movements in India in his book on Islam. And wow, that book on Islam has remained surprisingly insightful 100 years later...

Baloo said...

Stasian and Thasian. I like it.

Anonymous said...

So he's good at writing eloquently about himself and black-white relations, but doesn't have much insight to bring to the table.

I take it you've never heard of Jack Cashill?

Chief Seattle said...

Obama is a smart verbalist, no matter how bad his policies can be.

Really? And he can't get up in front of a crowd without a teleprompter? It makes you wonder what are his handlers are afraid of.

Having lived in Boston and CA and now WA I can say with authority that Asians are wonderful people up to about 15-20% of the population. When they make up more than that they slip into the authoritarian ways of the old country and are insufferable to deal with. Cupertino and Fremont are hell on earth for anyone that doesn't believe that this life is just a trial run for something better.

Anonymous said...

"In general, as individuals, Asians don't seem to leave a strong impression one way or the other."

Yeah, just like pasty ghosts or shadowy drones. Seriously, this is just about the most insipid comment ever dispensed on this website. Then again, what can you expect from a poster who makes blithe use of the term "verbalist."

BTW, hasn't more recent testing data involving Eastern Asians born Western countries shown they possess a pronounced edge in verbal aptitude?

Anonymous said...

@Baloo: what about West Asians and Central Asians?

Mr. Kesuke Miyage said...

As a self-imagined black activist who adopted this persona later in life, Obama also adopted the American Black attitude towards Asians: ignore them.

There is no profit for the Black activist in drawing attention to Asians. Asians don't have the guilt complex of white Europeans and are frequently used by conservatives to undermine Black victimhood.

Anyone can point to the success of Asian immigrants and Asian countries despite their own forms of modern slavery and cruelties, White racism and European colonialism to undermine the victimization claims of American blacks and resource-rich African nations.

Even Asians that struggle like Cambodians or that are more physically dominant like Polynesians (highest per capita in NFL) don't exhibit the same degrees of self-created social pathologies like crime, fatherless children, etc.

Also, there is no need for Blacks to antagonize Asians because they publically go along with the elite liberal worldview like their successful Jewish and WASP peers.

BamaGirl said...

"South Asians, on the other hand, are quite receptive to the idea of assimilation: they care what whites think of them. It's no accident that Bobby Jindal and now Nikki Haley, from a much smaller base of South Asian immigrants are so integrated as to have been elected Governors of Southern States!"

I would agree. The only asians I encountered in somewhat significant numbers growing up on the gulf coast were indians and vietnamese. Both groups seemed keen on integrating, with their kids especially pretty much getting absorbed into the local white population. Vietnamese parents seemed stricter than Indian parents though.

Svigor said...

This attitude is pretty much shared by ALL Americans. Asians are invisible except for cutie pie Asian chicks as newscasters. And I think most Asians want to be remain below the radar.

By "ALL Americans," you mean the people who produce media? Well, I guess the typical media consumer shares that attitude, shaped as he is by the producers.

Black women don't amount to much in the media, either.

Svigor said...

The world consists of Black Men, Whites, and "miscellaneous."

FTFY. Again, African women seem only slightly better represented in the media than Asians, especially Asian men.

David said...

>they care [in a positive way] what whites think of them<

This is the kind of non-white who has my respect. Whites belong to a spectacular race and ought not to be slammed or resented for it.

play that funky music, WHITE BOY said...

BTW, hasn't more recent testing data involving Eastern Asians born Western countries shown they possess a pronounced edge in verbal aptitude?

Well shit-damn, I reckon we crackers might as well head on home with our tails between our legs.

Turn out the lights, the party's over.