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We, as two Asian women, would like to address the Middlebury community. Since our individual identities tend to be erased and grouped together, we would like to preface this by saying that our views are not representative of those belonging to all Asian women.
Over the course of the week leading up to Murray’s talk, we repeatedly heard a number of people on this campus counter assertions that Charles Murray is racist with arguments such as: “But how can he be a white supremacist if he was married to an Asian woman and has two children with her?”
If you do not already know, let us tell you that it is entirely possible to be a racist while having a partner who is not of your same race. Just as a man who marries a woman can be sexist, a man who marries an Asian woman can still be racist and can still believe in the inherent superiority of white people. Racism is a complex system that does not just disappear because you engage and interact with people of different races. We would also like to point out that there is an amply-proven, long-running history of white men partnering with non-white women while still upholding racist ideologies.
“A white man who marries an Asian woman cannot be a white supremacist.”
We resist, and we denounce the usage of Asian women as silenced participants in this argument. Using Asian women to qualify Murray’s hatred and racism is troubling because it dehumanizes us. The identity of each Asian woman is complex, and, as individuals, we refuse to be reduced to the rudimentaries of our race and gender and then violently collectivized to be used as an argument over the semantics of “racism” and “white supremacy”.
As defined by Webster, “racism” is “the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”. Webster also defines “white supremacist” as “a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races”. Evidently, white supremacy and a white man’s racism are inextricable.
“A white man who marries an Asian woman cannot be a white supremacist.”
We refuse to be reduced to an abstract counterargument and used as a testament to the notion that interracial marriage and white supremacy are mutually exclusive. Charles Murray married an Asian woman. Charles Murray is racist. It is wrong and unjust to use an entire group of people to validate an argument. Our varied identities cannot be further degenerated and used to prop up yet another white male.
In addition to this problematic treatment of Asian women, we also saw a similar usage of Asian peoples as a whole to disprove Murray’s white supremacy. During his livestream, Murray re-asserted that he is not a white supremacist because Asians are shown to be above white people on his infamous bell curve (begins at about the 59 minute and 30 second mark).
Once again, the identities of Asian people were systematically erased in this argument. Regardless of our backgrounds and our experiences, we were reduced to a couple of data points on his bell curve to qualify racism and to be used against our fellow peers of color. We were reduced to nothing but our race and our scores on a problematic test. We reassert that being flattened into a 2-dimensional dot on a paper and then subsequently used to deny white supremacy is dehumanizing.
It is not flattering to be referred to as smarter than white people. It is not flattering to be deemed “hard-working,” “overachieving” and “obedient” because of our race. Asian people are not culturally monolithic. It is wrong to stereotype a diverse collection of people, even if those stereotypes are deemed positive. It is through this subtle manner of collectivizing an entire group of people that the Model Minority Myth exists. The Model Minority Myth is the dangerous belief that if Asian people can become and are successful through hard work, then so can any other racial minority. Not only is this used to pit people of color against one another, but it is steeped in anti-Blackness and disregards systemic barriers to “success”. The “Asian success story” in the United States is the carefully constructed result of strict immigration laws that have historically favored (and still do) highly educated and highly skilled Asian immigrants.
It is dangerous that when the term “Asian” is used – the first thought is usually of a college-educated, able-bodied, economically successful person of East Asian descent. Such a belief has caused the plight of many marginalized Asian people to be ignored. The Model Minority Myth is fueled by dehumanizing actions such as those perpetrated by the bell curve. The myth makes broad statements about the intelligence of Asian peoples and effectively erases the inherent and essential diversity of Asian peoples. The bell curve “research” reinforces this idea of a “Model Minority,” which has been used to ignore underserved Asian communities such as Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai and Hmong peoples since all Asians are already “successful”. The myth invalidates the existence of Asians who are poor, war refugees, targets of ethnic genocide and many more complex experiences.
We are students at Middlebury, and we are here to learn. In that process, we question what may or may not be a learning opportunity. Being repeatedly reminded of the usage of Asian people as a mere counterargument to white supremacy – essentially an excuse, a cop out, a stepstool – and as weapons to undermine fellow people of color is not a learning opportunity. In the course of these past few weeks, our fellow Asians whose struggles are invisible because of the Model Minority Myth were repeatedly undermined. Our fellow community of marginalized students was dehumanized. Our humanity was swept into the running narrative of institutionalized racism. Even though Murray is gone, his views and invalidations remain on our campus, in our classrooms and in our textbooks.
To allow Murray access to our space again, after his previous visit where he stated that our Black students belong at a community college and not at an institution like Middlebury (which is not only a racist but also a classist statement), is to come from a place of privilege many of us are not afforded. Many of us do not have the privilege to listen to Murray with our mental and emotional health intact. Many of us do not have the privilege to go to bed and sleep well, unaffected by his words.
There is no denying that Murray’s ideas and theories have impacted the educational experiences of those who identify as low-income, LGBTQA+, women and students of color (specifically Black and Brown students). However, Murray is just one of the many faces of white supremacy. We hope that the events of March 2nd can continue to provoke reflection and self-critique as we assess the intricate position of Asian people not only as people of color who are undermined by white supremacy but also as people who are used to support that very same system.
We are not your model minorities, and we will not let our history and our identities be washed away.
Vee Duong ‘19 and Sandra Luo ‘18