The Fallacy of Cancel Culture and White Heritage

Another paper from my Multiculturalism class.

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You’re not cancelled, your paying the consequences for your bad behavior. Deal with it. Meow.

I have often wondered why someone would use the term “cancel culture” for something that truly needs to be a cautionary chapter in a history book. Why we, as a society, tend to drape the First Amendment around us like a cloak of immunity in order to continue to display objects that are part of an oppressive past or voice disparaging remarks against another social group. Isn’t the First Amendment about freedoms? Not just freedom for one particular group of individuals but every person residing in this nation. In 2020—in part in response to George Floyd’s death and the growing issue of white supremacy showing its ugly façade—symbols of the Confederacy started coming down in the United States. The cries that Southern heritage culture was being cancelled not only bellowed across the lower tier of the United States but in the White House itself. Robert E. Lee was a great military hero, right?

What was so wrong about eliminating statues and flags? An era of the United States where brother bloodied brother over wanting to own another human being just because the color of their skin had historical significance. The problem is we don’t see Germany with statues of the Third Reich or Hitler in their country. Even Italy makes a concerted effort to stamp out the remains of the fascist Mussolini. If they can learn that glorifying a horrific period in history is morally wrong, why can’t we? Perhaps it’s because we’ve tried so hard to erase the cultural differences of everyone who has immigrated here—along with the First Peoples—that we’ve clung to symbols uniquely our own. The fallacy of the melting pot that never existed. We revel in that multicultural divide trying to make ourselves above every other culture that pours across our claimed borders. Instead of embracing diversity, we continue to disparage those of darker skin tones all cheered on by the highest office in the land. The echoes of the reason behind the South fight to secede from the Union still whispering in the halls. The horrible history of our past that should have been a stain of embarrassment has now become something that has to be displayed for all to see. We forget that the last bloody battle on these lands ended with toppling a statue of King George III. Was this not the tyrannous heritage we embraced without question at one time? The phrase cancel culture didn’t exist then and I can’t imagine the Framers of the Constitution would have thought tossing kingly rule out of the colonies as that.

Regardless of our past, the buzz phrase of this decade will be cancel culture. Its usage will be off-base and without understanding but it will exist nonetheless. Lost your job because you used a derogatory term? Cancel culture. Banning General Robert E. Lee’s battle flag from being flown in the inner circle of NASCAR? Cancel culture. The most surprising measure is that the phrase is an engine of a white society. So much of history had white society as the dominant force that now the mere prospect that they do not dictate the course is a harsh reality. I think the problem stems from thinking that being white is a culture when it’s simply not true. Our ancestors did not start in the land we live today if we have a pale skin color. Sure when I fill out an application, I’m checking the box that says “white”. It’s the default cookie cutter one size fits all from Europe descent option. Should it bother me? It bothers me that I have to check any of those boxes, honestly. It’s not an “I don’t see color” nod. It’s more along the lines that by having that on as a requirement could lead to bias.

Perhaps I should not worry about the effects of having Confederate mementos in parks or in front of a federal building. Gettysburg is a stone’s throw away from where I live and statues depicting persons from both sides of the Civil War are along the battlefields. My ancestors weren’t here during the war and I have no blood ties to the North or the South in that regard. In the context of my location and the history involving the Civil War, I cannot fathom why anyone would glorify the losing side of a war that didn’t even last four years and cost 620,000 American lives. By comparison, the Revolutionary War lasted seven years and 6,800 Americans died. More than a half a million people dead. One side fought to preserve a socially constructed racial hierarchy and the other wanted, for the most part, equality.

Regardless of my feelings, this issue isn’t about me. While I balance between that line of discrimination—being a woman—and privilege—being white—I will never truly know the horror of my darker skinned brethren. I can, however, know the difference between what is cancel culture and what is a sect of society that has nothing to lose but their bullying posture over statues that cropped up during the Jim Crow era in our history. That they started coming down in 2020 with fervor should be celebrated not reviled. We cannot say we are a multicultural society if we cling to things that say otherwise and you cannot cancel a culture that never really existed in the true sense. Symbols of racism are not a culture. They are a construct that continues cite that one race is superior to another. In my opinion, it is an old prejudice that needs to be buried in the past and never repeated or allowed to live in breath within our society.

The Creation of Fear Against Asian-Americans

I have finally finished my Bachelor’s Degree requirements and I thought I would share my last paper written for my Multiculturalism class. We have got to do better as a country.

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When we reflect on the genetic makeup of the United States, we like to believe that we are collectively a “Melting Pot” or “Salad Bowl”. People who are a mish mash of cultures converging into one to make one society. If we were to be honest about not only our past history but the one being written today, we would see a world deeply rooted in ensuring that the Anglo Saxon roots remain the dominant force in not only the creation of laws but the wealth of the nation. While we witness the rise of groups like Black Lives Matter combating this systemic problem, the issue of discrimination is not inherently theirs. The United States has also practiced its discriminatory practices on the Asian population in the past and now through public health and immigration policies (Natividad, 2021). At its core, the main driver to continue this trend is fear. Fear that white privilege will fade to a minority group and not dominate the social structure of society. This is an unfamiliar territory for a people with a long history of subjugating those with a darker skin tone.

While the violence against Asian-Americans might seem like a rising trend that started in 2020, it’s a common theme in U.S. history. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 became the first significant law that restricted immigration into the United States specifically aimed at the Chinese immigrants (History.com, 2019). At the time, Chinese immigrants only made up for a very small percentage of the population. Even this law had its roots in maintaining white supremacy. Before this law, taxes were imposed that directly targeted Chinese miners who had emigrated from China during a famine that plagued their home country in order to find a better life for their family. After the law was enacted, immigration from China was halted for a period of ten years and those already living within the United States were ineligible for naturalization. Because they were not allowed to testify in court—like blacks and the ingenious peoples—their efforts to overturn this law failed. In 1892, the Geary Act extended the ban on immigration for another ten years and required all Chinese residents to carry certificates of residence. Should they get caught without the papers, they were sentenced to hard labor and ultimately deported unless a credible white witness vouched for them. Again, the dominant power force was white. It would take until 1943 and the passage of the Magnuson Act for Chinese immigrants to be eligible for citizenship. While the Chinese were given this reprieve, another Asian population was losing their freedom.

During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 establishing Japanese internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This affected the lives of around 117,000 people including American citizens (History.com, 2020). While this wasn’t just an act by the United States as many other countries also enacted their own version but it was because of the United States’ initial response that other countries followed suit. Assets of Japanese-American citizens were seized and many lost their homes or sources of income because of the internment. Lt. General John L. DeWitt falsified reports of property damage under the label of espionage to suggest the creation of military zones to better control the movements of Japanese-Americans. His plans to include Italians and Germans, however, failed because those of European descent did not invoke the fear factor to gain popular opinion for his ideals. To put it plainly, those of German of Italian descent were too white to be considered a threat. It took a Supreme Court decision in 1945 to end internment camps. Unlike the Chinese, however, the Japanese were paid reparations for acts done to them.

Lt. General John L. Witt wasn’t the first to fabricate stories in order to perpetuate racist policies. Between 1910 and 1940, over 225,000 Chinese and Japanese immigrants were detained in despotic conditions. They were quarantined and forced to have invasive medical exams without their consent. Public health officials spread false claims that these detainees carried diseases such as small pox and the bubonic plague. This played into the fear of Asian immigrants’ threat of taking white American jobs and fueled hysteria once again (Natividad, 2021). With China becoming a dominant global economy in our modern times, the United States—once regarded as the model for a strong economy—feels threatened once again. Regardless of what the United States wants to project to the outside world, the history of the nation as a whole in the modern world cannot be suppressed or hidden in the age of the internet. Unfortunately, this can also lead to a better outlet for misinformation in order to keep a false narrative of fear against another race going.

At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the epicenter in Wuhan, China became a political target for former president Trump. Instead of referring to the virus as coronavirus, COVID-19, or SARS-COV-2 he referred to it as the ‘Chinese Virus’ and ‘Kung Flu’. While it is not uncommon for pandemics to take the name of the place of origin, the way in which the former president used the terms were blatant racist statements in order to incite fear into his base against China to further his high tariffs against that country. In 2020, there were 122 incidents of anti-Asian American hate crimes in 16 of the most populous cities of the United States (Fariver, 2021). This spike is believed to be attributed to the former president using Asian Americans as a scapegoat for the downturn in the economy and social impact from the pandemic. The attacks have ranged from verbal assault to violent attacks. The main targets of these attacks are the elderly and women in the Asian communities (Mai, 2021). While President Biden has signed a memorandum pledging to combat anti-Asians and Pacific Islander discrimination, it cannot erased the systemic issue that has continued to fester since Asians—or any non-white—began to immigrate to the United States.

Until we as a nation stop considering racism as the norm and allow it to live within communities, calling ourselves a “Melting Pot” or “Salad Bowl” is a fallacy. This country pushes assimilation as a way to live when we forget that we have no active culture that is uniquely American. Systemic racism is not a culture nor should it be the basis of any society. Until the genetic makeup of our policymakers shifts into a more diverse group that believes in equity, we will continue to see hate crimes such as those against the Asian-American community. We do not learn from our past because there is a continuation to teach the youth that white privilege is the basis in which our society thrives and that any other skin tones that gains ground takes away from that. Our country isn’t one apple pie where if we share, there’s less for us. We are a smorgasbord with an endless bounty with plenty for everyone if we just stop believing that the white way is the right way.

 

 

References

Farivar, B. M., By VOA News, & Farivar, B. M. (2021, March 2). Hate Crimes Targeting Asian Americans Spiked by 150% in Major US Cities. Voice of America. https://www.voanews.com/usa/race-america/hate-crimes-targeting-asian-americans-spiked-150-major-us-cities

History.com Editors. (2020, February 21). Japanese Internment Camps. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/japanese-american-relocation

History.com Staff. (2019, September 13). Chinese Exclusion Act. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/topics/immigration/chinese-exclusion-act-1882

Lang, C. (2021, February 18). Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Are on the Rise. Many Say More Policing Isn’t the Answer. Time. https://time.com/5938482/asian-american-attacks/

Mai, H. J. (2021, March 11). Asian Americans Experience “Far More” Hate Incidents Than Numbers Indicate. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/03/11/975592502/asian-americans-experience-far-more-hate-incidents-than-numbers-indicate

Natividad, I. (2021, February 10). Coronavirus: Fear of Asians rooted in long American history of prejudicial policies. Berkeley News. https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/02/12/coronavirus-fear-of-asians-rooted-in-long-american-history-of-prejudicial-policies/

 

 

Thanks and Gratitude

While my three part series has come to an end (though feel free to read it if you haven’t– Just start here), I have had time to reflect in these hectic times. COVID-19 is got the world by the junk and since I have a job that will not close, I’ll be wash my hands until it’s the latest “viral” trend. My college days should hopefully end this year (bring on the crushing student debt!) and that means I’ll be able to pour myself back into my writing that I’ve sorely missed.

And that brings me to something I didn’t expect. Last year, by some miracle that I won’t be able to replicate, I published a book with Evernight Publishing. To my delight and surprise I got runner-up for Best Menage. WOW!

All I can say is thank you so much or all those readers out there that enjoyed Devin and the Playboy enough to not only nominate it but vote it to runner up. I hope I have many more years to bring you books you enjoy.

Thanks again!