陈凯论坛 Kai Chen Forum 不自由，毋宁死! Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! 陈凯博客 Kai Chen Blog: www.blogspot.com 陈凯电邮 Kai Chen Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 陈凯电话 Kai Chen Telephone: 661-367-7556
Your reply to
Don't Confuse Culture with Race - A Common Mistake
种族与家庭背景不是人可以选择的，因此也无高低贵贱之分。 文化则与种族与家庭背景有本质的区别： 文化是后天学习与教授的，是人造的，因此文化也是被选择的，有进步与落后之分的概念。 将文化看成僵死的，一成不变的，与种族并立的概念是中国人的通病。 --- 陈凯
Race, as family background at one's birth, is not up to human choice. Therefore there should not be anything as a superior or inferior race. Culture, in contrast, is an entirely different notion: It is up to human learning and human choices. It is a human creation. Therefore, culture is always changing and can be differentiated by progressive, stagnant or backward (regressive) qualities. To worship a culture as a rigid, innate quality inherited by birth, much as one's race is a perversion, a sign of mental illness often found among the Chinese. --- Kai Chen
Today there is an article on the LA Times about a new show by a Chinese-American director named "Yellow Face". I will paste the article here for you to read.
The sick mentality of "Being confused as a virtue" among the Chinese often leads to the sick and perverted notion that culture is inherited with one's birth, much as the Chinese invention of 民族 (People Race). The Chinese don't distinguish between choice and non-choice, between learned and innate qualities. This confusion leads necessarily to the prevalent Chinese cultural schizophrenia -- a split personality without individuality. As a member of the collective, a Chinese tends to hate America or anything foreign, but as an individual, a Chinese will kill for a visa to come to America. This intense inner conflict often results in one's indecision and passivity. Fatalism thus permeated the Chinese mind, making the Chinese only a servant to the collective, to the ancetral culture and the government.
It is crucial to distinguish Culture from Race, if the Chinese want to be free as independent individuals with spirit, mind and choices. A free society can only be possible if the Chinese part ways with their "Confusion as a virtue" culture.
Best. Kai Chen 陈凯
[size=24]A Road Beyond Ethnicity[/size]
David Henry Hwang's new play takes us to a place past race.
May 21, 2007
IT SOUNDED LIKE a desperate groan, or maybe it was a guttural, exasperated "Oh, please." But near the finale of a preview performance of David Henry Hwang's new play, "Yellow Face," which opened Sunday night at the Mark Taper Forum, an unidentified female audience member — was she Anglo? Asian? — made known her displeasure with one of the protagonist's closing lines.
The offending words? They were relatively straightforward, if not utopian. After a successful career of both deconstructing and embracing the complexities of ethnic and racial identity, the lead character, a Chinese American playwright whose initials are, like his creator's, DHH , throws up his arms and wonders aloud whether "we should take words like 'Asian' and 'American,' like 'race' and 'nation' " and "mess them up so bad no one has any idea what they even mean any more. Cuz, really, when you think about it, has anything human ever been pure?"
Hwang, once an adept player at identity politics and best known for his Tony Award-winning "M. Butterfly," has come to realize that the roles ascribed by our race or ethnicity are just that — roles we play. In "Yellow Face," his doppelganger DHH concludes that even though he may know a lot about being Asian American, "the real work of … life — figuring out who you are, how to live — had barely even begun."
It's liberating to get beyond the confines of ethnicity, but it's also lonely. And the groan incident suggests that some will resist it fiercely. Still, a generation ago, Hwang's — or should I say DHH's — epiphany would have been greeted with an entire chorus of groans. Back then, the U.S. was in the throes of an ethnic renaissance, and a generation of young, college-educated baby boomers chose to wrap themselves up in their minority identities — racial, ethnic, religious or sexual. On the verge of his 50th birthday, Hwang wonders whether he and others in his generation overestimated the role of ethnicity in making them who they are.
"I think there was a point in my life when I felt that understanding my ethnic identity was the key to knowing who I am," he told me in an interview in a grim, prison-like room at the Taper. "But now I think that's a limited point of view. Sure, it's an essential part of our overall identity, but it's not the whole answer. You can get struck there."
Hwang isn't naive enough to think that race no longer matters. Indeed, he believes that as China increasingly becomes the U.S.' primary competitor, Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans may be ever more vulnerable to charges of divided loyalties because of their physical appearance.
He says identity politics — standing together along racial or ethnic lines — still serve a purpose to protect people from incidents like the Wen Ho Lee affair, in which Lee, a U.S. scientist, was wrongly accused of spying for China.
Hwang has learned that race and culture are not one and the same. "In the past, it was easier to assume that someone was of a particular culture based on their race. But that's less and less true," he told me.
When Hwang began writing plays in the late 1970s and early 1980s, everyone was searching for the "authentic Asian American voice," and to many, he was it. But over time, being the singular voice of authenticity not only became a burden but a hindrance to his growth as an individual and an artist. "If you think you already have the answer or the truth, it keeps you from learning," he said.
Now he sees one's "community" as optional rather than inherited and absolute. "People should be able to choose where they belong," he said.
And as globalization makes racial, ethnic and cultural identities increasingly more porous and complex, more will. But entering this brave new world will not be painless.
"Attaching yourself to a traditional identity can be affirming," Hwang said. "There's even a certain joy in self-objectification. Like grown children with their parents, it's easier to fall into a role where you feel safe." But there's a price to pay.
Some might say the nation's preeminent Asian American playwright has entered his post-multicultural phase. And they may be right. But Hwang doesn't see it that way. To him, challenging notions of authenticity and testing the boundaries of inherited identity represent more an extension of multiculturalism than a repudiation.
"In the same way that multiculturalism posits that different groups experience reality differently. I'm saying that there is no uniform Asian American, black, white or Latino experience. If you accept the existence of multiple realities, then you can acknowledge the contradictions and ambiguities that exist within any community."
It's an eminently reasonable point, I know, but it's taken us so long to get here.