Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Response: Attack on JA Woman in WI

This came in this week:

Anonymous has left a comment on your post: "Japanese American Woman, 58, Beaten While Canvassing in Wisconsin":
I feel bad for her, but she needs to know people are upset on both sides and she
has to take that risk when she goes canvassing in an area she's not familiar
with. she took the chance to root for Obama and has to be aware that that's part
of the territory;, there are many, including myself that don't trust Obama; and
I'm an Asian Pacific ; I also don't believe McCain is a racist at all; he and
his wife have adopted kids of different races, has Obama thought of adopting a
white disadvantaged European child if he's truly not racist himself.

The editors struggled with the decision of whether or not leave up this comment, recently posted to our item about the assault on Nancy Takehara earlier this month. We were sorry but unsurprised that the poster opted to remain "Anonymous". Finally, we determined to leave the post up, even though we fully and forcefully disagree with its logic and sentiments. But we have always tried to create a forum for our readers conducive to frank dialogue about Asian American community concerns, even when we don't share every view or, as in this case, when we oppose them.

Anonymous' logic aptly illustrates what we believe has gone so very wrong in the home stretch of this 2008 presidential campaign, where race is the elephant in the room that no one seems to want to address in the complexity it deserves.

We reject the argument that being physically assaulted is "part of the territory," to be an expected byproduct of "rooting" for a particular candidate. It stinks of "blaming the victim," similar to those who say a woman who is raped "brought it on herself" by being outside at night or dressing attractively. It is disgraceful.

We further refute the notion that violence should be an acceptable -- much less expected -- condition of civic engagement in a civilized society. Citizens should not have to endure assault for their political views, and for participating as citizens in the most important activity that is at the very root of what makes us Americans. This should be beneath us as a country, but apparently it's not in this most tense campaign fraught with racial anxiety.

We also don't understand the logic that views and dismisses this attack based upon John McCain's views about race, one way or the other. The fact of the McCain family's transracial adoption seems a singularly odd litmus test for determining racism; it's rather like people who say "I can't be a racist because I have a Black friend" (or "an Oriental wife"). More baffling still is implying that someone else might be a racist by virtue of having not-adopted a child (of any race).

More to the point, whether or not McCain has adopted an Asian child, or Obama has Asian brothers and sisters, is surely the most superficial possible way of judging their characters and trustworthiness as leaders, and it is also utterly irrelevant to the question at hand. The issue is not John McCain's racism or lack thereof; the issue is the attacker's sentiments, and the ugly, divisive rhetoric that drives them.

What did the attacker mean when he reportedly started screaming that the canvassers were "not his people," grabbed Takehara by the hair and began pounding on the back of her head? Let us venture a guess.

What Asian American has not had the experience of being challenged as foreign, different, alien, not belonging, not deserving, not "real American" enough. Or of people expressing surprise that you speak English, or grilling you about "where are you really from?" Who has not been told to "go back" where we came from?

In the same way that ex-Virginia George Allen sought to deride a Virginia-born, Indian American man at a campaign rally by referring to him as "macaca" and "welcom[ing] him to the 'real world' of Virginia and America," politicians try to score cheap points, stirring outrage among the mob, by casting Asians as essential foreigners. It was true in the late 1800s and remains true today.

And it will remain true as long as Asian Americans -- like "Anonymous" -- continue to kow-tow and make excuses for those who attack us.

See or respond to Anonymous' comment at the bottom of the Takehara posting here.