The Curse of Pragmatism
Where does white worship come from? Or why do Asians often give preferential treatment to whites in social interactions?
Let's try to get inside the mind of an Uncle Chan or Auntie Tan- the sort of person who thrills to the presence of a white person, who excitedly engages them in conversation, who shies away from disagreeing with them, who in general gives them more importance in social interactions.
Let's consider the idea of Social Status. Social status is comprised of many factors but in the end it is an assessment of a person's social worth, their importance; it determines their rank. I think we can agree that in America, whites have fashioned a society where they put themselves atop the social hierarchy. If you want a primer on Social Status and how it affects people's behavior, see my review of an important study on the subject.
Pragmatism, Social Pragmatism, Social Opportunism
This is where Pragmatism comes into play. A pragmatic person accepts reality how it is, and figures out how to operate in that ecosystem to his best advantage. (Idealism is the opposite of pragmatism; an idealist leads with his values and operates in his ecosystem according to his beliefs, and does not accept the rules of the game, as such). Pragmatists largely accept Life as it is; often thinking the Rules of the Game are beyond reform; and in any case, focusing on the big picture comes at the expense of their personal gain.
I think we can say that many Asians are Pragmatic. Pragmatism is associated with being rational. Being realistic. And in many cases of being effective and successful. Poverty drives people to pragmatism. Our parents or grandparents may have lived in impoverishment- where they margin of error was slim. One could not afford "ideals"; what needed to be done, needed to be done. Not acting out in accordance with practical reality and that which brings near-term gain could mean failure, ostracism, or possibly death. Therefore, this pragmatic- accept the world as it is- mentality is in many cases, part of the home culture we were raised with.
Now let's think about the nature of an Uncle Chan given the concepts of Social Status and Pragmatism. Pragamatic behavior with regard to social status ("social pragmatism") would accept the racial hierarchy "ecoystem" how it is, and plot to advantage oneself as much as possible within the fixed reality. I will submit that this behavior is a) largely subconscious and automatic, and b) not limited to race, and not unusual. For example, it is somewhat normal in an office environment to interact respectfully with let's say a senior VP who's your manager's manager, but more casually to your peers, and tease/act in a dominant way towards those lower in the org chart. It is acceptable behavior that almost everyone does to some extent. But clearly, SOME take this to extreme levels – the Kiss Up, Kick Down type — and you see this in the social world too, forgetting the office environment example.
Coming back to social interaction, the Uncle Chan has adopted a pragmatic, un-idealistic way of navigating it. And let me be charitable to him. This is a rational strategy. In many cases, because whites do have higher status, the butt-kissing Chan finds a way to elevate himself in social rank, even if it's at the expense of other Asians. Even if it's solidifying the racial hierarchy, selling out his own, making whites, Asians, and non-Asian minorities think less of Asians and in general, acting in a way that's Status-Reinforcing of white supremacy on a broader level.
At the micro-level, the individual has secured himself the approval of high-status whites, which insulates him from perhaps the most damning social aggression, exclusion, and in some cases insulates him from criticism of others in the group. It is a self-serving, cynical strategy- but nonetheless one that is not foreign in human affairs- and as I pointed out with my office example, one that we all engage in to some degree. Pragmatism seeks out the decisions that will advantage oneself, not one's group; and the outlook emphasizes the short-term.
The difference with the Office example to Social interaction is the office example features Official Hierarchy- that is, the different levels in rank accord to real differences in level of responsibility and seniority. In the Social example, we are arbitrarily making distinctions in rank based on race. However, if you read my analysis of a study on Status, social ranks are remarkably durable, comparable with Official Rank in a defined hierarchy. This is based on the individual and group's need for stability.
Opportunism is taking pragmatism to an unhealthy place; where moral standards are jettisoned in favor of personal advantage.
Pragmatism and Vulnerability
As I mentioned, pragmatism doesn't just emanate from selfishness; it often results from vulnerability (such as poverty). Those that believe they cannot afford to "lose". Asian women fall into this category. Women are more vulnerable than men. And minorities are more vulnerable than whites. Being both, Asian women often believe they can ill afford the wrath of the group or high status individuals. This may lead to an often cynically pragmatic outlook – which in our society, necessarily leads to some form of white worship.
How Social 'Pragmatism' leads to mistreatment of not just Asians, but other POC
In addition, unfortunately, a purely pragmatic point of view, not only normalizes white supremacy in their mind (because that is a part of reality), it also legitimizes the mistreatment of POC, because they are deemed lower status by society. We can see where pragmatism run amok – Accepting white-constructed social reality whole cloth – among AF's can lead to unremitting white worship but also dismissiveness and rudeness to POC, since such pragmatic Auntie Tans at a subconscious level assume their reaction to someone ought to be based on whatever society classifies their social rank as.
Social Pragmatism comes from a "rational" place but if often means accepting the racism and racial hierarchy in white society. If every Asian engaged in Channery, the Asian race will be forever subordinated in the West- in every area of life. This is true even if the Asians in question argue on their behalf that they were just trying to make the "best of a bad situation".
Idealism is the counter-balance to Pragmatism. Idealists believe Right makes Right, not Might makes Right. Idealists are willing to take hits in the short-term in order what is the correct thing to do in the long-term; that are long-term optimal, that are optimal to the collective…..and even if they are not optimal, their moral compass influences their choices, not merely self-interest.
Identification with a group leads to Idealism. Because now the group's agenda has importance to the individual; and the individual also sees his benefit in the realization of the group's agenda. Being part of something larger than onesself can be a healthy experience because one is able to finally step outside his narrow instinctual/short-term self-interest. (However, group membership is not necessary for the Idealistic worldview).
Idealists leave something on the table in interactions. They take less than they could, but in adhering to conduct consonant with their worldview and morals, they realize these sacrifices are minor in service of playing their part in the larger mission; in this case, in engaging in Status-Attenuating behavior towards white rule atop the social hierarchy. The individual's behavior chips away at a larger force he deems unhealthy to him and others like him, and whatever the impact, is the right thing to do.
I will now get away from neutral observation of the matter into how I think about the subject.
I personally have contempt for people who are purely Pragmatic. To me, they are soulless golems, prisoners to their instincts and vastly overstate the benefit of their "victories" from aligning themselves to the world as it is. At the end of their life, all their epitaph should say is: "I played the Game".
We face a choice in the social sphere. We can either take the "safe, easy" route of supplicating to whites "because that's the way things are" or we can do what we know is right- which is act to counteract that. Such as monitoring how we act in social situations and noticing if we subconsciously make allowances for whites; if we notice we "feel happy" when whites are around or "bored" when greeted by another Asian or POC. This self-monitoring is essential to rooting out internalization of the social/racial hierarchy.
Gauging Other Asians with more Nuance
Beyond self-monitoring, we should see the behavior of other Asians clearly. I think this is absolutely essential. If you ignore everything I just said and were unfamiliar with this topic, you might observe an Asian person who in a social group who is happily talking with a tall white male, getting along fabulously, and assume this man is socially successful. You might assume an Asian woman who is getting the attention of let's say a white female and a white man in a larger group of other Asians and Hispanics is – popular. But what if you realized that the reason they were directing attention and talking to her was that she agreed with everything they said. She flattered them. And she gave further importance to them, by refusing to make eye contact whenever another Asian spoke. Or the syllable they finished, immediately began talking again to the white people in the group. Or what about the Asian male example I gave- what if that Asian man was "getting along" with the white male because he was deferential to him but undercut FOB Asians to him, and laughed at how bad their food smelled, etc.
Not Enough to Guard against Raw Social Pragmatism in Ourselves, but also avoid Accidentally Giving Respect to Asians who Engage in It
We tend to make automatic judgments of the "social success" of others; but we need to look more closely at patterns of behavior and understand the WHY in it. Part of the problem is our language. Which insists people are either Uncle Chans or Not-Uncle-Chans. But an Asian can be subtly "respectful" towards whites while more normal towards non-whites in the same way a person can be "respectful" towards their superior at work and more normal towards their peers. These subtle differences, we often don't pick up on- or are too slight to meet the bar of Channery. Instead, perhaps we can rate people on a scale of what I call Accomodationism (white accomodationism- that is preferential treatment to whites): high levels or low-levels. To simplify we can say it's a scale of 1-10; from Independent (treats people equally and objectively) to Utter Sycophant to Whites. By making an assessment along a gradient, rather than binary (Chan, Not-Chan), we can better gauge Asians around us.
If a fellow Asian is always acting friendly towards whites, whether the CEO or the intern, whether the attactive charismatic white or the dorky obnoxious white, that gives us information on which to grade them. If instead an Asian person treats others in accordance with their actual nature and their compatibility with them, that would stand in favor of them not being Accomodationist.
By grading in this fashion, we do not accidentally "give credit" to Accomodationists or Chans for "social success" that ostensibly seems earned but is actuality the result of Channery. This is because even if we are Idealists, we naturally reward one another for "wining" social interactions, for being "popular". We can correct ourselves and other Asians when they speak about an Accomodationist/Pragmatic Asian by making it clear that their social gains are ill-gotten. Our vigilance and clarification to others of it is what serves as the necessary Moral counter-balance to the social gains that are to be had through selfish social Pragmatism. In other words, it serves as a Deterrence to this behavior by Asians.
One of the 'crimes' committed by 1st-gen Asians is 'rewarding' their children or any 2nd gen Asians overly for 'assimilating' as "proved" by having white friends or being popular among whites. One crime we all commit is giving more respect to Asians who 'earn the respect' of whites. We have to guard against our gut-reaction, and be critical if this is all the result of white accomodationism.
Pragmatism is a human strategy applied in many areas of life. If is often pronounced in those who are Insecure and those who suffer from Poverty; aspects of our parent's culture and also properties of being the "other" in America. Pragmatists in the social sphere do not believe they are doing anything wrong; they are 'following the rules' that they discern through observation of social patterns.
We often think of Channery as a conscious choice. My write-up on Pragmatism and natural yielding to social hierarchies, whatever the setting, suggests that giving whites preferential treatment may instead be an unwitting extension of ordinary behavior. Taken to its extreme, social opportunism accepts as given the racial hierarchy whites have created- and then supplicates to whites, disregards or treats less well other Asians. Because of that, self-monitoring as well as properly assessing and undercutting Asian accomodationists is important.
We mustn't fall into the trap of raw social pragmatism but neither should we unconsciously reward Asians who do, just because they see the social or professional benefits of it. Instead, we should expose their 'selling out' to others in subtle ways so, long-term, Asians are deterred from doing this. Perhaps over time, we'll develop the language to stigmatize such people; for now, while I think Uncle Chan/Krishna are useful, they are often more too severe, and not credible for the vast majority of cases.
Idealism- or in this case Asian identity- serves as a counter-balance to the instinctual tendency to "go along to get along". Unhealthy degrees of pragmatism lingers in the Asian community from the scarcity mindset of immigrants. Hopefully, we'll realize that success goes well beyond the Western emphasis of Popularity or the Asian emphasis on Financial gain and Assimilation. The 1st gen didn't combat social racism because they 'had bigger fish to fry'; because the poverty mindset meant accepting society as it was and being purely pragmatic to gain economic security. The 2nd gen, benefiting from economic security, can see the bigger picture and act in accordance with their moral values, not just 'getting ahead' – whether in social or economic terms.