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New Year Resolution (Op-ed)

In Chinese-American author Amy Tan's short story, "Two Kinds," Waverly Jong's chess-playing ability is compared with Jing Mei's piano-playing. "Only two kinds of daughters," shouts Jing Mei's mother, "Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind!" Even before society has tested Jing Mei, Jing Mei's mother is ready to scapegoat Jing Mei--beat and humiliate her into becoming Waverly Jong's "competition."

Ironically, Jing Mei's greatest accomplishment becomes winning the standoff with her mother, and in the process, becoming her own true self. This story holds great meaning for me both personally and socially. (In contrast, my longer short story, "Pair of China Dolls," tells of a daughter's developing psychosis). While "Two Kinds" is a bit of a shock, I have no doubt that in Asia-Americana, there are conservatives who frown disapprovingly.

The sad fact is that too many Asian-Americans, abetted by Hollywood, accept say, David Chappelle brand impersonations, while clinging--and limiting themselves to--Type A brand exceptionalism. Either we are the "right perfect," or else.

The implications in society are evident. When I first viewed the "Racism on the Rise" article, which included a picture of a "neutral Chinese Character," I was appalled. Wonderful, I thought, how many more people will feel it's acceptable to transfer pent-up frustrations. I wondered how many read and recognized the go-get-'em subtext?

Let me be clear, as an educator. It is absolutely not okay for people to make "others" their scapegoat. Sure, there may be a psychological explanation for it called "affect misattribution," but that doesn't make it okay.

Of course, I do remember that scapegoating is rife in the genepool. Have I myself not played tag, practiced "fight or flight" instincts, and become conditioned to fagging through classes, levels, and forms? I earned my badges and rewards by putting up with hazing and bullying myself through the wee morning hours. However those were my choices, really!

It is altogether different from today's Warcraft-like interpersonal mindgames. I see brothers and amigos watch t.v. and talk football, leaving work behind. I hear sisters and chicas talk pretty, no wonk in the mirror. So why do they turn on me like sharp-shooters at park benches, check-out stands, even cash-registers? "Are you working? What do you do? What is your major? Where do you work?" And if you nibble at the bait, Thar, She Blows!, as they cried to Moby Dick, the monster whale.

So my New Year's Resolution is to no longer take crap from strangers. Do we not teach children to practice and say, "Mind your own business (MYOB)"? Did Silent Bob not say to the nosy cashier, "I make tin foil hats for a living"? Rhetorical questions aside, it is not okay for a clerk who I am not accountable to, to query, "What is your major? MA'AM, what is your MAJOR? EXCUSE ME, WHAT is YOUR MAJOR? EXCUSE ME, WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR?!" then toss the head hook of ridiculous opinions and unsought for advice when I provide an answer.

According to Manual J. Smith, author of best-seller When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, saying "No" and acting assertively actually requires training and plenty of practice. This is particularly the case when our environments--home, peers, work, culture, etc.--have conspired to drown us out.

They say I will be THAT kind of Chinese-Daughter if I tell the nosy clerk, "PLEASE DO NOT SHOUT AT ME! I am NOT obliged to talk with you! Please MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!" Next time, these swift firm scripts, delivered automatically, will free me from the Maze. Medusa can go crawling back to its lair.

I intend to celebrate my own sense of multicultural dignity and humanitarianism in 2013!

"Majority of Americans racist--poll." Russia Today(RT). RT.com. 27 Oct. 2012.

Tan, Amy. "Two Kinds." Literature for Composition, 5th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet et al. New York: Longman, 2000.

Smith, Manual J. When I Say No, I Feel Guilty. New York: Random House, 1985.

Wong, Christine. Chasm. Fresno, CA: Columbia Press, 2012.

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