The “Good Asian”

Here we are again, me and you, talking about issues of race, and the problematic political party that is One Nation. Today, I present to you Shan Ju Lin, One Nation’s candidate for Bundamba. Read more about it here, but essentially, Lin defends the comments Pauline Hanson made twenty years ago about Australia being “swamped by Asians”, and hopes that “good Asians” will vote for her in the upcoming Queensland election. From my brief research, it seems as though Lin has sided with Hanson because of a mutual opposition to the Chinese government, and a fear that Chinese owned corporations will soon overtake Australia and swallow it into a deep dark hole of unescapable Communism (I exaggerate, but you see the point). There are few issues to unpack here, so I’m going to try and do them some sort of justice.

First of all, there is extremely problematic conflation of what it means to be Asian. Asia is a big place – it’s not just China. And while I understand that there may be animosity towards the Chinese government by (specifically) Taiwanese people, considering their history, this does not mean you get to pick and choose what and who you consider to be Asian. By agreeing with Hanson’s statements about Asian people, Lin buys into a homogenising of Asian culture that is already rife amongst many white Australians. I don’t know if I can stress this enough – but this is fucking dangerous. None of us can be spokespeople for our own cultures, let alone something that purports to encompass the values of a whole continent. To do so, or to think we can do so, is again, dangerous and naive, and not to mention, extremely arrogant.

Lin’s defence on this point is that “[f]or European people it’s very difficult to distinguish Chinese or Korean or Japanese, and I can understand why she said it”. Lin acknowledges the racism inherent in thinking that “all Asians look the same”, before dismissing it as an issue, seemingly telling people it is okay for Australia to continue to see Asian people as one and the same. This is again, dangerous as all hell, because the “my friend makes jokes about themselves/their culture all the time so it must be okay” defence put forward by many as a justification for their racism has been present in society for a while now, and it doesn’t look like there’s any sign of it abating. (If anything, it’s getting worse – and people are coming up with increasingly inventive ways to justify their ridiculous offensiveness. It’s great. Join us, we have Yan Yans and White Rabbits).

In light of Lin’s opposition to the Chinese government, her comments can also be interpreted as, “oh, Hanson actually meant Chinese people when she said Asian but white people have difficulty telling different Asian nationalities apart so I’ll let it slide”, which is equally, if not more dangerous than simply thinking all Asian people are/look the same. This is, however, also a good example of the seldom acknowledged racism that occurs between different nations on the Asian continent, which, when it occurs, is to all of our detriment. The nuances of such attitudes are often lost because we are both bundled together as “Asians” in the general vernacular, and we also spend so much of our energy trying to combat the overwhelming racism directed towards us as this homogeneous group that there seems to be little time, space, or energy for anything else.

And then there is the “good Asian”, a concept that simply serves to dig us deeper into the hole that is the model minority myth. I’m going to put aside the generalisations inherent in “Asian” and focus on the phrase at hand. The good Asian respects their parents, doesn’t embarrass themselves in public, knows how to keep their private and public lives separate. They excel academically, and work hard. They ignore all the racist insults thrown at them, and they rise above. The good Asian is not oppressed or discriminated against, because they have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and put in the hard yards to get where they are today. Gosh, it’s almost like the good Asian has assimilated into Australian culture!?

Am I emotional about this? Fuck yes, of course I am. I’m sick of not knowing where the next racist barb will come from (because it’s coming, it’s there, somewhere), and this will make it just that much harder for the rest of us. Maybe Lin doesn’t have to worry about that, maybe she hasn’t encountered racism in her 26 years in Australia (I doubt it, but if so, she has been one lucky duck). But if so, this doesn’t mean she gets to negate the feelings and experiences of all the other “Asians” in Australia – and especially those in Queensland, in Bundamba.

And if a good Asian is one that agrees with the values that Lin (and Hanson!?) espouse, or one who will vote for One Nation, then please count me out. I’m sure I have many friends who would say the same.

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