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Asian Woman Writes That She Refuses to Date Asian Men: Is She an Internet Troll or Agent Provocateur?

Jenny An says she wrote “I’m an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Date an Asian Man” as an experiment in provocation. Well, it’s working.

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The notion that An came up with was to write from the perspective of someone whose ideals were shaped by “white supremacy,” showing its “impact on non-whites.” “Seriously — one of the pictures is of me holding a white elephant in a room,” she says. “And well, I figured nobody likes being told that they are racist, so I decided to use the first person. Plus, it's xoJane. That's their thing.”

The bottom line is that An and her editor were entirely conscious of what they were trying to do, and it was something that reflected a weird mix of dewy-eyed innocence and calculating crassness.

“I totally now see that I was naive in thinking that by opening with ‘I'm a racist,’ I could draw out a different conversation,” she says. “I was disappointed by the reactions not because they were mostly angry, but because they were mostly negative in a ‘That's so racist!’ sort of way." On the other hand, she tweeted shortly after the piece went up that she wrote the piece “for the lulz.” And when asked whether xoJane had reservations about the angle she took, or suggested she take a more even-handed approach, An basically laughed: “I mean, it’s  xoJane.”

Unfortunately, that pretty much sums up the accountability for racetrolling in this day and age — “Forget it, Jake; it’s the Internet.” So xoJane gets a firehose of traffic and burnishes its reputation for edgy parafeminism; An gets attention — a lot of it — albeit not all of it entirely pleasant. And the racial provocation machine will keep churning out the hits.

Indeed, given the burgeoning success of prior art like Amy Chua’s  New York Times bestselling Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Wesley Yang’s subsequent " Paper Tigers” cover story for  New York magazine (which led to Yang getting a healthy publishing contract of his own), racetrolling Asian America for fun and profit has probably just gotten started. The countdown for An’s own book deal begins now. Ten…nine…eight….

Jeff Yang writes the column "Tao Jones" for the Wall Street Journal online. He can be heard regularly on NPR, and is the Pop and Politics correspondent for WNYC's political blog It's a Free Country. His latest book, the graphic novel anthology SHATTERED, will be published by The New Press in November 2012.

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