Julie Huynh | 46376331
In Week 4’s reading of Machida’s “Othering” chapter, I found the following quotation worth noting:
Edward Said describes Orientalism as a Western “corporate institution” enfolding a broad swath of practices and discourses historically tied to the West’s exercise of power, which is aimed at “dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.” (58)
When I came across this statement, I was reminded of my first upper-div Asian American class on Race and Urban Space, in which I learned that racism was a social construction, as well what exactly “institutionalizing” race meant. Before learning about racism in the classroom, I understood what prejudice and discrimination looked like and how it happened; but I never knew or realized that it was more than just a result of people’s ignorances running amok. It’s a completely different concept for me to digest when I realize that racial and social inequality is deliberately constructed and enforced by people in power in this country. People used to tell me “that’s just how it [life] is,” and now that phrase has a whole context behind it; it’s not “just how it is” by human nature like I used to think–it’s how it is because people want it in order to hold onto their power in society.
The first part of the quote describing “practice and discourses” calls to mind the concept of the glass ceiling, in which Asians never seem to be able to reach the highest position of power in America (eg. corporations, board of directors, etc). They might make it to the vice presidential position, but never quite the full CEO position. The glass ceiling, in my eyes, is a practice used to ensure that the power hierarchy stays in the white man’s favor.
The chapter also mentions that the Orient has been the West’s most “powerful cultural contestant and a primary source of extraordinary wealth and knowledge” (57). This is no different from today’s problem where America fears usurpation by China, because the country has a huge fist hold in every area possible: the economy, sports (see Olympics), being everyone’s source for jobs, academics. I feel that this “threat” from a country that tends to phenotypically represent the entire Asian race affects Western people’s treatment and attitude towards Asian people much in the same way as in the past when the American auto industry was being dominated by Japanese cars, or when the Chinese miners were coming during the Gold Rush and competing with American miners, and et cetera. Basically, Westerners feel threatened by the sheer mass of Asians because they are their most “powerful cultural contest,” and in order to curb the competition, Westerns have to exact their authority on their turf that is America.
An article that I would like to bring to light in order to contrast the idea that Westerners have the privilege of power over race in America is one called “Tackling Asian Privilege” from an online blog/magazine. The article basically supposes that Asians have too much privilege in this country and that they’re getting it too easy and all the other races are disadvantaged. The author cites a plethora of examples to show how Asians are power-hungry oppressors of other races. It is unsure whether this article is supposed to be a satire, like Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” because the article gained supporters in favor of this notion that Asians are the ones with the privilege of power.