Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: George Floyd

Micro (and macro) aggressions and virtue signaling

A situation has arisen with Bon Appetit that makes me want to talk about it, systemic racism, the protests, and virtue signaling. I know that’s a lot to cram into one post, but that’s how I roll.

A confession before I start the post. I don’t like Bon Appetit’s videos. When they became all the rage during lockdown, I watched a few of the eight chefs at home videos and could barely get through them, and that was with heavy fast-forwarding. I liked Priya Krishna, but most of the other chefs left me cold. I’m naming one specifically because even while I was watching him, I was thinking that only a white dude (and probably het/cis*) could get away with acting like that. It’s Brad Leone, and I cannot watch him. I don’t doubt he’s a good chef, but his whole persona is the epitome of loud clueless white dude, it’s extremely off-putting. But, putting him aside, there are a few other of the white cast who set me on edge as well.

Back to the topic at hand. Five or six days ago, it emerged that the (ex) EIC of Bon Appetit, Adam Rapoport and his wife had dressed up in brownface for Halloween 16 years ago. His wife reposted a pic to Instagram in 2013. They were dressed as stereotypical Puerto Rican in ‘da hood’, and it’s very cringe-worthy. That was just the tip of the iceberg, however. After the photo was released (along with the story by a freelance writer that her piece on Puerto Rican rice fritters was rejected because it didn’t reflect “what was happening ‘right now’ in the food world”, Sohla El-Waylly described a long list of injustices she had to face at work as one of the few PoC working there. Here’s a summary of the story thus far.

Long story short, Adam Rapoport resigned with a lot of mealy-mouthed words about having to be a better person. Other staffers came out with mea culpas or yelping about how they had to do better. Do I sound cynical? It’s because I am. I’ll get to that in a minute, but let me confess something else.

I’ve always viewed Bon Appetit as a snobby faux-elite website. I’m not saying it was a wholly rational, but they always rubbed me the wrong way. They seemed so self-important and self-congratulatory, and I never payed much attention to them even though I like watching making food videos. The brouhaha over their astoundingly tone-deaf article on pho only cemented my feeling. I had forgotten about that until this shit sprang up, but going down the rabbit hole reminded me of it once again.


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Embracing the Model Minority Mentality

My mom called the other night and wanted to ‘discuss’ an email she received from a (Taiwanese in Minnesota) friend of hers. Or at least I assume it was a Taiwanese in Minnesota person for reasons I will reveal later. It was about the George Floyd murder, and…let me give you some  background. My parents, especially my mother, were appalled at what happened to him and couldn’t believe it happened in Minnesota. I will get to that in a minute as well because it also came up in this conversation.

I will say, my back was up at the start of this conversation because of the way she phrased her initial comment. Telling me she got an email from her friend and that she wanted to fact-check it with me didn’t set well. Not just because she could have Googled if she really wanted to learn more about it (yes, I know not everyone can Google efficiently, but you have to start somewhere. I wasn’t born knowing how to Google. I know I allow her to rely on me too much, but it’s not worth the argument), but because while she may have really been looking for a discussion, the way she phrased it was teeth-setting. I’ll give you examples.

She started by asking if George Floyd was Somali. That already put my dander up because why would that matter? She went onto ask if Somalis were terrorists, and I lost my damn shit. She began reading from the email without allowing me to talk (another of her tactics. She asks questions, but won’t listen to the answers. It’s fucking annoying, and I’ve learned to cut her off and talk over her. It feels rude, but it’s the only way to get a word in edgewise), and it was about how Somalis came here en masse when there was a war in their country. Yes, the history is true, and, yes, Minnesota took in a large amount of Somali refugees (same with Hmong), but the leap from that to terrorist is a big one. When I told her she was full of shit (not in those words), she said she was just trying to get the facts.

Uh huh. She’s a psychologist. She should know about confirmation bias. Anyway, I first tried to correct or repudiate her points one by one. No, George Floyd was not Somali. Yes, there are a lot of Somalis in Minnesota, but that did not make them terrorists. I did not want to get into the complicated relationship of the Somalis and Minnesota because she didn’t even understand Racism 101, let alone this issue.  Finally, I completely snapped when she asked if it was true George Floyd had been in jail. I didn’t even bother Googling it (until later. I have an incurable need to know shit). I said for maybe the third or fourth time, “He was killed over a counterfeit $20 bill. Even if everything you said was true, did he deserve that?”


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Video games: the mundane and the profound

I had to go to the post office to mail something (have had a check stolen from my mailbox, so I don’t mail out from here), and it was really weird. In the past three months, I’ve gone to the pharmacy twice (once before lockdown started and twice since), and that’s it. The post office isn’t far, maybe a mile, but it might as well have been in Timbuktu. I had the windows rolled down, and I was singing along to the radio. In other words, it was like the before times, and it felt strange. There were people jogging with or without their dogs. The sun was shining. I had to remind myself that there was a pandemic raging on.

Side Note: Even before the protests, it was getting hard to hold onto the idea that there’s a pandemic. Intellectually, I know it’s true. Emotionally, it’s hard to accept that it’s still going on. I don’t know anyone close to me who has been affected by it. If I expand that circle, then, yes, I do. But it’s remote enough to not really kick me in the teeth with it. I keep up with the news, but I’m not checking daily. And, right now, it’s been pushed to the back burner, obviously, because of the protests and the awful behavior of the president.

Pivoting swiftly to video games, I’m still keeping it light. I haven’t played any more BL3, and I’ve stayed away from the Souls games as well. I will say I’m proud of myself for figuring out why I couldn’t get Good Pizza, Great Pizza to work (something about Microsoft redistributables being missing) and fixing it. I still don’t know how it went missing or what exactly I did to fix it, but it works now! It’s funny because it’s not a good game, but there’s something addictive about it. It started as a mobile game, and it shows. That doesn’t stop me from compulsively clicking, though.

Anyway, I picked up Warhammer 40K: Inquisitor–Martyr (what’s up with the name, by the way?) because it was on steep sale and because Ian had gotten it. I’m interested in the Warhammer universe to a degree, but more the fantasy lands than the space ones. Still. I was looking for a Diablo-esque hack-and-slash because sometimes, all you want is meaningless fun. Does this scratch that itch? Yes…and no.


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Personal health in a time of societal crisis

The war is raging on, and it seems selfish to focus on my personal health. Alas, I am still me, even in these times of unrest, so I can’t completely divorce myself from, well, me. Also, all the words  I have to say about the ongoing situations are bottled up in my throat, making me strangely muted. I’ve been grieving–crying at the drop of a hat, and I’ve been praying to a god I don’t believe in for something, anything, and I’m not even sure what.

But, because of my autoimmune bullshit and the Covid-19, I am not going to the protests. I have to ask myself honestly, though, would I go if it weren’t for the Covid-19? My answer is, I don’t know. If my bestie were here, we’d go together. We’ve done it before. Would I go on my own? Not so sure. It doesn’t say anything good about me, but it’s the truth.

It’s weird. When my parents called the other night, concerned about my brother and me (more him because he lives in South Minneapolis), my father counseled me to stay in. “You’re Asian,” he said. “So you’re the other to both blacks and white.” He didn’t say it exactly like that, but it’s what he meant. He’s right, and it puts me in this weird other-land that makes it hard for me to figure where my place is in all this.

Let me make myself clear. I am 100% on the side of the protesters. What happened to George Floyd was horrific, and it’s a symptom of a very sick system. But I’m not black. I cannot speak to that experience. I’m also not white, and I’ve experienced racism myself. Especially in the time of the Covid-19 with the president stoking flames of hatred towards Chinese people, I am concerned about how I might be perceived if I go out into public. I’m not Chinese, but that’s a point without distinction right now. Add to that the fact that I’ve experienced mild racism at the hands of cops, and it leaves me in a weird place.


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Watching as the city burns

I know what I titled the post, but I’m going to do a little bait and switch with this post. I’m going to touch a bit on the protests, but the post is going to be more free-form, stream-of-consciousness about what is on my mind during these times. So, apologies ahead of time when I jump all over the place.

We need to start with Amy Cooper. She’s pretty infamous by now, but I’ll summarize. She was walking her dog off-leash in Central Park when Christian Cooper (no relation), a black man who was birding, asked her to put her dog on a leash. She refused, and he started recording. She told him to stop recording or she’d call the police. He invited her to call the police, which she did. She then told the police that there was an African-American man threatening her, and she begged them to come protect her.

There has been plenty of ink spilled about her and why her actions were so profoundly disturbing–and, yes, racist. Both Aya Gruber and Aymann Ismail from Slate wrote about it from different perspectives, and I would recommend both reads highly. The thing that stood out is that afterwards, she both ‘apologized’ and claimed she wasn’t a racist. She also said she didn’t intend to harm Christian Cooper. I call bullshit on all of that. Or rather, I’ll say that it doesn’t matter if she’s a racist in her heart or not. I don’t give a shit if she has a million black friends and listens to rap in her spare time.

I don’t care who she is–I care about what she did and to a greater extent, how what she did affected someone else. Also, I care about the broader context in which she made the decision to call the cops and knowingly use ‘African American man’ as the whip to goad the cops to racing to her protection. There’s a whole history of white woman fragility and black man scariness that Gruber touches on in the post above, so I won’t belabor the point. I just want to say that it beggars belief that Amy Cooper meant no harm. I mean, come on! If you watch the video, she was the aggressor the whole time. He remained where he was, and his voice is calm and polite. She’s the one who goes towards him and points angrily at him.

I will say one thing–people have discounted her claims that she felt afraid. They say she was angry, but why can’t it be both? I think she was afraid, but it’s because of the endemic and enduring racism that is interwoven in every fabric of our society–black men are dangerous, especially to white women, not because Christian Cooper was threatening her in any way. This is something I don’t want lost in this incident–she’s not the problem in and of itself–the systemic racism that allows her to be this way is. She was obviously also angry at being called out by a black man as well.


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