Suey Park is a young liberal feminist who recently gained some notoriety within academic circles for starting the Twitter hashtag “#NotYourAsianSidekick.” She told the Washington Post she wanted to “create a space where Asian American feminism does not leave any group behind and where they’ll be anything but a sidekick.” Her story gives us a unique opportunity to identify what the next crop of liberal American feminists represent.
Before doing that, it is probably best to familiarize yourself with Dinesh D’Souza, the author who immigrated to the U.S. from India decades ago. In August of 2000 he sat down with C-SPAN and said the following about America:
I come from a middle-class family. My father is a chemical engineer; my mom, a housewife. And I’ve thought hard about what is it [about America] that has made my life different […] and I would answer this way: If I had stayed in India, if I’d remained, I would have probably ended up living one mile from where I was born. I would probably have married a girl of my identical religious and socioeconomic background. I would probably be a doctor or a lawyer or a software programmer, and I would have a whole set of opinions that could be predicted in advance. By coming to America, my life has taken a totally different shape. I became interested in American politics. I […] went into writing and journalism, public speaking. I joined the government, the Reagan administration. So America, in a sense, gave me the chance to write the script of my own life. And I think that’s the intoxicating appeal of America to outsiders, it’s a country that’s sort of like a blank sheet of paper and you are the artist, and you get to create your own destiny instead of having it given to you.
America is a country where you write the script of your own life. It’s a country that is like a “blank sheet of paper” and you are “the artist” who creates his or her own destiny instead of having it given to you.
Suey Park is like most liberal feminists — they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to blame others for the obstacles to their advancement. They live in the past, looking for the elusive boogeyman who made them feel sad, angry, insecure, weak or confused. In those cases where there is a grain of truth to their complaints, they inflate it into a mountain that they can endlessly traverse.
When did Ms. Park find her excuse mountain? Childhood.
Suey Park: It was a long time ago — from when I was really young. Even from the start of kindergarten, I was quickly racialized and made to understand that I was different based on what my mom packed for me in my lunch bag. On the playground other kids would pull their eyelids to their side and run around and chase me. I always thought to myself that someone must have taught them that. What kid would know to put their hands on their eyelids and make their eyes slanted? It’s not like they would look at an Asian girl for the first time if they never heard of Asians and do that. So it really proved to me that racism is taught.
Things seem so much bigger than they really are when we’re young. Sadly, for Ms. Park, the childhood trials and tribulations all kids go through have been turned a weird affirmation of American racism. Is it more likely that some dumb mean kids saw someone who looked different and responded to it like dumb kids have for thousands of years — or that parents instilled Asian hate in their kids when they tucked them in at night?
Kids can be downright mean in their attempts to come across as smart, witty or popular. Sometimes, insecure kids become bullies to mask their pain. “Mom is an alcoholic. Dad is abusive. Might as well go pick on the scrawny kid to make myself feel like I’m in control…”
Jerks make fun of fat kids, skinny kids, birthmarks, overbites, glasses, the tall, the short, the shy, white kids, black kids, Hispanic kids and yes, Asian kids. Those who don’t go through life with race-goggles strapped tight around their head can see that.
Suey Park: As an Asian American woman you’re told that you have to be smart and pretty to be heard. And you have to be exceptional, and of course people want us to be exceptional, so it was hard for me because I did struggle with math and science and I couldn’t live up to the ideals of what my sister could. So then I internalized that I had to be the pretty one and that I had to be the thin one and that became extra hard for me as I hit puberty and I wanted to hold onto it.
We’re back to childhood again. Freud would have a field day with Ms. Park. Keep that in mind as she discusses her eating disorder and the big boogeyman reveal.
Suey Park: I also think there’s also a lot of silence around mental health issues and eating disorders in Asian American families whether it be because of a cultural barrier or a communication barrier. There’s a lot of pressure to not struggle. It was hard for me to tell my parents about my eating disorder because I didn’t want them to know I was struggling because I knew they had sacrificed so much to give me this good life and so-called American dream.
So Ms. Park has a competitive dynamic going on between she and her sister, her parents put pressure on her to succeed, and the household environment wasn’t conducive to talking about emotional and psychological challenges. Sounds like something that any American might deal with, right? Wrong.
Suey Park: I think what was most disappointing was that even some “progressive” white people or “progressive” Asian Americans were telling me that I was demanding too much and telling me that meritocracy exists and that I should stop complaining and try to overcome my circumstances — the typical spiel.
The boogeyman is real, and he is white. Those darn white people and their “spiels” about overcoming adversity. Apparently, Ms. Park hasn’t been hanging out with the progressive white kids from Minnesoata, because they scrawl all over their bodies with black ink in bizarre attempts to shame themselves for their whiteness.
Instead of seeing a blank sheet of paper, Ms. Park sees “white” and then wonders why there isn’t a “Korean” color in her box of Crayola crayons.
Ms. Park continues:
Suey Park: I think a lot of white people have a visceral reaction to the fact that they belong to a structural whiteness. But I think it shows us something really important, which is that fraction of discomfort is nothing compared to a lifetime of being racialized and put in a subordinate class of people in the U.S.
“Structural whiteness.” Feminists like Peggy McIntosh said that “white privilege” was invisible, and that we couldn’t see it. Now Ms. Park comes along to inform us that this invisible whiteness is of immense size and shape — and it’s subordinating Asians. America is a giant mad house that is so insidious that millions of immigrants come here thinking they can shape their own destiny. If Dinesh really understood he was in an oppressive white matrix, he’d realize that his many successes and the American dream he fondly speaks of are figments of his imagination — it’s really only a “so-called” American dream.
Side note: When I was in college I had a professor tell me the American dream didn’t exist. I told him that I was living proof that it did exist. I left home at 18 years old with $100 to my name. I joined the military, and only a few years later I was putting myself through college at the University of Southern California. It took a little longer than I expected after an honorable discharge, requiring some time as an overnight stock boy at Target (as the only white guy, for those obsessed with race), but I got there. I often get nostalgic for those 1:00 a.m. breaks, where I’d watch my coworkers play soccer in the parking lot while I cheered them on and ate tacos from the back of a food truck, but I digress.
Question for Suey Park: Would she prefer something more “structurally Korean”? The gulags in North Korea are filled with Koreans, and sometimes you get to watch your parents get executed. They put rocks in your mouth and then tape it shut before the firing squad gets to work. (We can’t risk the Dear Leader getting disparaged by someone with nothing left to lose, now can we?) I’d talk about South Korea, but the wealth and prosperity it has seen over the last several decades is largely due to its embrace of America’s “structural whiteness” and the safety and security provided by our marbled Armed Forces. Check out satellite imagery of North and South Korea if you’d like to see what “structural whiteness” can do for the nation state nearest you…
The problem with most feminists is that they spend the bulk of their time reading the ramblings of other feminists, and not enough time examining the authors of the greatest experiment in self-governance in the history of mankind. Their intellectual wells on Washington, Jefferson, Madison and John Jay are dry, but they run deep on Gloria Steinem wannabes.
A bunch of really white guys hundreds of years ago laid down a road map for achieving levels of freedom and individual liberty that, to this day, is an aberration in much of the world. The ideas embedded in the Declaration of Independence and codified into the law by the U.S. Constitution transcend race. America is not structured around “whiteness” — it is structured around freedom and liberty. That is what millions of immigrants get, and what Americans like Ms. Park either a.) fail to understand or b.) willfully downplay to concentrate on a level of racism that simply does not exist in modern America.
In the end, we all want to be happy. Even though I disagree with Ms. Park, I want her pursuit of happiness to end well. According to her Washington Post piece, she has achieved her own definition of success. That’s great, right? Wrong again, white America.
Immediately I’ve become the cool Asian friend and all of my Facebook friends who thought I was really annoying for talking about racism, my feelings and my eating disorder are somehow now tokenizing me as a successful Asian American woman. I mean, how token is that?
At one time Ms. Park was upset because her friends rightfully found her obsession with race annoying. Now that she has found a modicum of success, and they patted her on the back for it, she is perturbed that she has become a “token.” But is she really a token — or just a token in her own mind?
No matter what happens to Ms. Park, there is always something to complain about.
Congratulations, Ms. Park — you are the quintessential liberal feminist.