Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We gays could learn a lot from Asian-Americans

From CNN:
Asian-American leaders are calling on a weekly newspaper to apologize and cut ties with a writer who penned a column titled "Why I Hate Blacks."

In the piece, which appeared in the February 23 edition of San Francisco-based AsianWeek, contributor Kenneth Eng lists reasons why he supports discrimination against blacks, writing, among other things, "I would argue that blacks are weak-willed. They are the only race that has been enslaved for 300 years."

An official at the nationally circulated paper apologized and called the column's publication a mistake.

Leaders at the Asian American Justice Center, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Coalition for Asian Pacific Americans and other groups are circulating a petition denouncing the piece as "irresponsible journalism, blatantly racist, replete with stereotypes, and deeply hurtful to African Americans."

The petition calls on AsianWeek to cut ties with Eng, issue an apology, print an editorial refuting the column, and fire or demote the editors who published it.
Notice how the response from Asian community leaders to an Asian person in an Asian publication insluting Blacks was swift, unified, and unrelenting.

Compare that with the reaction from gay community leaders to a gay man performing a character in gay night clubs that's pretty hard-core racist against Black people. The NGLTF released a statement about Shirley Q. Liquor a couple of years ago. GLAAD jumps in several years too late. Yup. And after that a mainstream queer publication questions whether our advocacy groups should have gotten involved at all. (Jasmyne Cannick answers the line-by-line).

It's frustrating to me that GLAAD could not have seen on its own that Chuck Knipp's act helps fuel stereotypes that Black gays and lesbians have to experience every day and that it doesn't reflect very well on the rest of the GLBT community. More importantly, they should have realized their unique position to help bring about an end to this act.

Imagine being in Kenneth Eng's position. Since he works for an Asian-American cultural magazine, I'm going to guess that he has a love for his community. When he was told by a united front of Asian-American advocacy groups that what he did was wrong, I'm sure that he was more affected than he would have been by any other community group.

I would think that a person like Knipp would be more likely to change his ways if the GLBT community took such a stand on his act. It's one thing to have a group of people for whom he has little respect say that he should change; it would be quite another for a coalition of LGBT organizations to tell him to stop the act. Since he identifies with the latter, I could only imagine the pain of being ostracized from one's own people in that way.

Imagine receiving letters from the HRC, GLAAD, the NGLTF, the NCLR, the NBJC, and GLAD all in the same week telling you personally that something you were doing was deeply offensive and hurtful. I know I'd have to have a lot of chutzpah and a pretty good reason in order to stay the course, and whether I did or not, I would still feel the pain of ostracism from the community that I love deeply.

And it's that power and that sense of duty that the Asian community demonstrated in reacting to Eng's column. What makes that so difficult that we can't understand it?

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