Not Your Model Minority

Pandemic, Proximity, and Power

Los Angeles, March 30, 2020

 

Not Your Model Minority - Pandemic, Proximity, and Power highlights some of stephanie mei huangs recent work which is of even more relevance when viewed in light of the anti-Chinese discourses and anti-Asian racism that have emerged as a result of the pandemic. 

 

In how to paint a rocking horse stephanie mei huang discusses what unfolded in her life during the first two and a half weeks since the WHO labeled COVID-19 a pandemic and since she has been sheltering in place:

 

"My parents started sheltering in place on January 28, 2020. They live in Shanghai, China, where I spent the majority of my life.

Two days ago, China closed its border to foreign nationals. For my Chinese American family, this meant that neither my brother, who lives in DC, nor I can go back to Shanghai, and my parents would not be able to return home if they left. All three of them would have been here this weekend.

I feel temporally scrambled in many ways and time feels syrupy not necessarily in that it is moving slowly or quickly but in that it is no longer demarcated or punctuated by public life or bureaucratic impositions of labor and one day slides into and dilutes the next and weeks feel that way too and so on. 

I have been ideologically accustomed to my parents living fifteen hours in the 

future yet it is bizarre that now they are experiencing events a month in the future, but also, time moves at different a different pace under a communist regime instead of a democracy. I notice that she commends increased measures of mass surveillance, accustomed to an entire life of the private being colonized by the public.

Today, she says on the phone: I think from now on, the rest of the world will no longer be so judgmental towards China. I don’t have the heart to tell her of the increasing anti-Chinese sentiment here. Her greatest global political concern seems to lie in how China is perceived as a nation state by the West rather than how the Chinese are perceived racially- 

I notice how she cannot see that this is a byproduct of American exceptionalism, 

or a byproduct of Chinese propaganda,  how she seems more sensitized the effects of exceptionalism rather than actual exceptional byproducts, whereas i am more sensitized to those byproducts,  which I tend to think of as erasure and displacement."

 

...

 

"A week and a half ago, after a slew of anti-Chinese rhetoric from politicians, in which Trump began calling COVID-19 a “Chinese virus” in an attempt to scapegoat  and Senator John Cornyn claimed china was “to blame” because of 

a “culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that”

 and Republican county head in Kansas Marvin Rodriguez suggested Kansas

wouldn’t be hit hard at all because they don’t “necessarily have any” Chinese people, my dad called and asked if I would be leaving the apartment alone and perhaps it was not safe to.

It’s the first time in life that he has expressed concern regarding my race. 

He has always thought that being born in this little town in Wausau, Wisconsin 
and my subsequent US citizenship meant that 
I would not experience acute racism in this country; but the chinese have repeatedly been a scapegoat in this country, american citizenhood or not.

Not dissimilar to my parents’ inability to see racism unless the President of the United States is spewing explicit anti-chinese sentiment, my own racial grief came to me delayed as a latent trickle, sort of like the dregs of an upside down honey jar, slow to crystallize, liquid sediment.

I lived in far west Texas for three years before I came to Los Angeles, unable to fully articulate what it was that drew me towards cowboy culture."

 

View this and other works and read the full transcript at stamp.umd.edu.

 

 

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Katherina Zeifang

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März 30, 2020