Full disclosure: When I was in Junior high, I streaked my hair golden brown and told people the sun changed its natural color.
I wore Dragonball Z T-shirts.
I once stabbed a man to death with my spiky hair (Not really, but I could have).
In short, I was that Asian guy. Baggy clothes, strong mom keeping me in check at home, hard on the outside, straight-A student on the inside.
I share this with you because I want to let you know that I’m not coming from a place of pride here; I’m no better than other Asian guys.
We need to stick together because we understand the stigma that’s put on Asian-American guys. Most guys I know are smart, eloquent, funny…just all around good guys.
Unfortunately, I feel that our collective image is more or less defined by this guy:
It could be worse I guess. I always feel bad for my Muslim friends who are by and large stand-up citizens of the United States. Instead of being celebrated, they battle discrimination because of the very small minority who try to blow up planes and buildings.
Let me ask you…don’t you think it would be within the right of an upstanding Muslim-American to rebuke a fellow Muslim brother or sister, if they happen to be perpetuating the stereotypes that plague the Muslim community?
I certainly think so because the bomb-toting anti-American would be terrorist is not only making a statement about his own beliefs and affiliations, he’s affecting the phenotypic fabric of his own ethnic and religious group. In other words, he makes all Muslims look bad and therefore indirectly and adversely affects the upstanding Muslim-American. So I consider it well within his right to rebuke. Why not?
In the same way, I feel that is within my right to call out stupid looking Asian guys. I know what this sounds like and I run the danger of falling into a classic subjectivity trap. But let’s face it…there are dumb looking Asian guys that are objectively dumb looking.
That’s who I’m talking about.
I’ve been tempted in the past to approach these guys, complete strangers, mind you, and say:
“Hey. Cut your hair. You look dumb.”
But I’m glad I didn’t because 1) That’s mean. 2) That would be counter-productive. The guy would probably get mad or defensive, and in either case, would probably be unwilling to change.
But something has to be done. I can’t bite my tongue any longer in the name of political correctness while we have schmoes running around making all of us look like hapless teenage computer hackers.
It’s not about disrespect. It’s about accountability. It’s not about mean-spiritedness. It’s about the inherent belief that we as a collective community can and must do better. I am the change that I seek.
So I’ve developed a script that I think communicates this message in a way that, if spoken to a complete stranger, might…just might, plant a small seed of change within the dumb looking Asian guy:
“My brother. I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but believe me when I say that I deeply care about you. You may not know it but our fates are intertwined. I know that it’s important for you to express yourself in your own individual way, but please, let me assure you that this is not the way. Instead of expressing your individualism, you are damaging the proud brand of Asian-American man. MAN. What is it to be a ‘man’? Do men bleach their hair, spike it to the height of Babel and trip over their own baggy pants? No. My brother. Let us be men who dress, talk, and behave in a manner befitting good respectful men. I say this because I love you and because I want our group to flourish and to be respected. Unfortunately, as long as you’re using enough hair gel to reflect visible sunlight off the face of the moon, we’re never going to achieve our goals. Believe me. I’ve been where you are and I only wish someone cared enough to confront me to tell me that I look ridiculous. My brother, you look ridiculous. But it’s not too late to change. Our fates depend on it. I love you more than you know. Please. Cut your goddamn hair and pull up your pants.”