Monday, February 6, 2012

Peter Hoekstra--PLEASE take an Asian American history class!

A student in my Asian American in the South class just sent me a link to a New York Times article that discusses an ad that ran in Michigan during the Superbowl--I've included it below and you can click here for the article itself:

Not sure where to begin with this one. The fact that the actress is Chinese American and NOT Chinese and certainly even in the ad, although she's speaking in this strange broken English she does so without a clear Chinese accent. The fact that this ad was filmed in California--probably in the Delta of California (which is northeast of SF) and NOT filmed in the rice paddies of China. And, oh, the fact that this ad is clearly playing off of fears of exporting jobs to China--which is a return to yellow peril rhetoric that American politicians have been using since the mid-19th C.

In fact, I just got through teaching the concept of "yellow peril" in both my Asian American classes a few weeks ago.

So here's the sad but true thing of it all: my students (who range from 18-22, generally speaking) are much more saavy and sensitive and smart about issues related to Asian Americans in this country than this Republican contender for the U.S. senate.

Shame on you Peter Hoekstra! Shame on you! If you really want to do something for the civic good of this nation, get yourself enrolled in an Asian American studies class at the University of Michigan. Go out and buy a history book about Asian Americans or Chinese Americans, like this excellent one by Peter Kwong and Dusanka Miscevic.

I cannot BELIEVE we still have to talk about yellow peril rhetoric and that Asians are still being linked to the loss of American jobs. AGHHHH!!!!!


Dianne said...

I'm sorry that actress took the job and doesn't understand that by doing so she is hurting herself and perpetuating lies and ignorance. It's very offensive in every way (particularly the language) but doesn't surprise me. The whole Republican platform is based on fear and loss of privilege.


skim666 said...

It's hard to blame individual actors (see Viola Davis in "The Help," etc.), bc it's a structural/systemic issue in media. There are so few jobs for minority actors that if they want to actually BE an actor (as opposed to leaving the field altogether), they HAVE to play some racial stereotype. The thing is that all those movies, tv shows, ads, etc. need to be changed, as does the larger culture.

Also, Hoekstra's reactions to the criticism is very, very depressing, as is the media's coverage of this issue. CNN interviewing Rep. chu this morning -- "why is this offensive to *you*?" should be WHY ISN'T THIS OFFENSIVE TO EVERYBODY!!!?? >:O

Jennifer said...

"The whole Republican platform is based on fear and loss of privilege" -- YEP -- couldn't have said it better myself. Although the Democrats have been known for some mis-steps with respect to race issues. I think, for me, the primary difference between the two parties is that I think Republicans want to actively perpetuate a system of white supremacy and white privilege.


It is so hard to deal with negative media images of Asian Americans--and like Dianne, I thought why the hell did that actress take that job??? But like you, I recognize that Asian American actors just want to act--and there's just not a lot of roles out there, so if you start to take the high ground you just aren't going to work.

Of course none of this is simple. I mean, it's one thing to play Suzie Wong, it's another thing to take a roll in which you are maligning another person and playing up fears of Asian nations taking away jobs from Americans (and lets face it, we could hear "white" inserted in there).

So while this actress needs to work, and I'd never malign her choices, the fact that she took THIS role instead of playing Asian nail salon tech #2 speaking in broken English, I do think makes a difference.

But I absolutely agree that what media outlets should all be doing is going up to ANY AMERICAN of ANY ETHNICITY and saying, "Don't you find this OFFENSIVE???" Because it is offensive for everyone.

skim666 said...

"the fact that she took THIS role instead of playing Asian nail salon tech #2 speaking in broken English, I do think makes a difference." --> true dat.

skim666 said...

Have you seen this spoof of Hoekstra's ad?


Dianne said...

I just caught this. Poor woman, she is in the spotlight now and has apologized for her complicity.