In the second part of this series, BAP blog site talks with Phil in a continuing discussion about coolness – how it is and should continue to be the model for Asian American men.
INTERVIEW WITH PROFESSOR PHIL J. FOX, Ph.D. IN EVERYTHING.
BAP blog: Thank you Dr. Fox for agreeing to the interview. It’s a pleasure, again.
Dr. Phil (J. Fox): Mhmm, yes, thanks for the nightcap. Do you know what I like while having a chat? (pointing to his pipe).
BAP blog: Go ahead, it’s fine, just not too much okay?
BAP blog: So while you pour another, I’m going to ask a follow up on the question of Black America – does coolness continue to define the culture?
Dr. Phil (J. Fox): Mhmm, yes, well, so long as African American folks continue to define a culture own their own terms the answer is yes. Coolness, if you’ll recall is the very concept at the intersection of self expression and a rejection of a culture that rejects you.
BAP blog: So what can we expect to find there?
Dr. Phil (J. Fox): Consider the original three pillars of hip hop: breakdance, graffiti writing, and DJ/MC. Each of these disciplines felt free to express that which broke the conventional ideals at the time. Breakdancing brough dance from the ballroom to the sidewalk on a piece of cardboard and a beatboxing friend. Graffiti was literally illegal art with cheap paint and cheaper canvasses. DJ’g included record scratching, the jarring sound of an apparent mistake, as a major feature. Hip hop did and does express the indifference to the mainstream and subsequent thriving central to the concept of cool.
BAP blog: Okay.. so then… so how does this relate to Asian boys and men?
Dr. Phil (J. Fox): Mmmhm, well, I tend to see more of an adaptive social behavior from my experience with some Chinese families at least. That is, there seem to be more individual electing to try to participate in good faith as members of a greater society rather than rejecting majority culture and identifying more with a counterculture or going lone wolf.
BAP blog: What’s wrong with that? Haven’t many Asian ethnic groups enjoyed success and harmony within the dominant white culture?
Dr. Phil (J. Fox): That depends on how you define success. Asian Americans occupy what’s referred to as a token position, a naturally occurring phenomenon in multiparty politics with power disparities. The token position represents the top of the bottom, i.e., the group whose members are more capable of accessing social resources and power. Socially and personally, the role is constructed to be inferior. Rejection of the role usually leads to social ostracism. Asian women can be sexually promiscuous and objectified, but if they speak up too much, then “no one wants to talk to that crazy Asian bitch.”
If you don’t like the status quo, you get boxed into an “angry minority,” stereotype. It’s black women and men who get the brunt of it, but it hurts all ethnic minorities.
BAP blog: …Let’s bring it full circle here, I’m running out of booze.
Phil (J. Fox): Look, Asian guys have tried working within the system, and that system is a rigged game. Compared to other men, just to keep even a slightly inferior social standing, they have to work harder, earn more, and so many still end up feeling left out.
BAP blog: …so…
Dr. Phil (J. Fox): They need to fully reject it and the ideals that come with it. They need to define themselves and occupy that intersection of fuck-you-society and this-is-me. Be cool and walk away.