Asian Girl Problem #115: White Fever

If I was white, I would go live in China right now and ca$h in that ivory skin. I’d learn some Chinese, memorize a folk song or two and become famous, then marry the most eligible bachelor out there.

We talk about yellow fever a lot. The subtle suspicions about Asian women being docile and domestic and petite, everywhere. Or Asian men being loyal and hardworking and—wait, never mind—if anyone knows a case of the fever (I mean straight up ignorant fetishization) for Asian men, let me know because I’ve yet to see it.

Yellow fever disgusts me because it’s rooted in the sexual subordination of an already weaker minority. White fever disgusts me in a different way. It doesn’t pertain to only one gender, or one area of prejudice. It’s much bigger; it’s a deification of everything from the Western hemisphere.

The obsession with pale skin, blond hair, blue eyes, height, and other features Hitler would be proud of.
The money and power associated with the country someone’s from, even if s/he earns minimum wage.
The automatic assumption s/he is more cultured, worldly and intelligent.
The instant validity someone white brings to the table, whether you’re engaging in business or politics or entertainment.
The deep desire and pressure to earn their respect and appreciation, no matter what it costs.

This last one is especially gut-wrenching because I see it everywhere in ways large and small.

I see it at the salon in China when my aunt proudly tells my hairdresser that I’m from America, something I usually keep to myself. I don’t need people to know. I don’t need them to see me in a different light, suddenly more serious and reverent, but also more distant. Wanting to ask questions, but scared at the same time. I don’t need him to “treat me well” by spending over two damn hours just blow-drying my hair. I’m not even white, but I ignite the fever by association.

You see it in European/American male ex-pats who go to Asia intending to stay for a year to teach English, and get trapped by cheap living, easy women and constant ego-massage by everyone from their bosses to kids to police.

I see it in a girl on Craigslist who applies to be my housemate, who spent the past few years in China and is still “homesick” for it, wandering around in Chinatown bars to make herself feel better. Everyone was so nice and treated her special there, she said. Back home in America, she feels like a nobody.

You see it in how the government immediately shuts down the country right before the APEC summit so foreigners can enjoy decent air. How millions are poured into banquets and gifts for visitors, while their own people are forced to stay at home for two weeks so they don’t increase pollution. How the government cancelled school, weddings, milk deliveries, taxis—basically put off educating, feeding, acknowledging civilians—to make a good impression on the rest of the world.

It’s can be a good thing, looking up to another country, especially one that’s much farther along in human rights. It’s no doubt beneficial for the country to be seen in a positive light, under blue skies. Even the ex-pat who goes home telling his buddies about the primo pu$$y is probably doing the economy a favor.

But sometimes I’d wonder how a person can begin to wish they were someone else. How they can accommodate others to the point where their own self-respect is compromised. How they willingly give over more power and validity to someone who speaks or looks English. Then you get a whole bunch of people who act this way. And they try to earn affection through sheer adulation, which anyone over six years old can tell you doesn’t work—the more you do it, the less you’re respected.

Most Chinese people are proud. They have a lot to boast about, and they do it a lot. But ultimately, the government’s like, shut up for a minute. We’re going to put your collective feet in your mouths to make the rest of the world recognize us. But actually, the rest of the world is laughing at China, not with it. That’s the part that I hate. And I don’t know what I’m getting at anymore but I’m pretty sure this is all connected to the root of this evil.

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