An Asian American Argues It's Better to be Feared Than to be Invisible

My status has gone up a few notches since the White House Asian Connection scandal broke. No longer another Vietnamese refugee living in America, I can now claim that I am an Asian American -- and an Asian American with ties to the Far East to boot. A few well-placed campaign contributions, and, who knows, I could become the next John Huang or Johnny Chung and topple a giant-sized American politician or two.Make no mistake, my trans-Pacific web of connections is extensive. I have two cousins living in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. An uncle who is a retired musician in Saigon. And a few friends teaching (aha!) English in Tokyo and Taiwan.In addition, I speak flawless Vietnamese and fluid French, make a wicked Thai soup, and can prattle endlessly on the merits of Hong Kong movies.Clearly, talking to me might put a promising political career into a permanent tailspin.Here in California, Asian immigrants have taken their turn at playing some very important roles in the American imagination. We have drained the welfare system, taken jobs away from real Americans, kept eligible students out of college with our ability to raise the curve by rote learning -- and, by working endless hours, have acquired vast fortunes which we are now using to dazzle unsuspecting politicians. In some cases, we are responsible for earthquakes, tsunamis (of course), and wild fires.It's a tough job. We are simultaneously impoverished and wealthy, cunning and simple, hardworking and lazy, powerful and helpless. Ever since Manifest Destiny required that Americans kill off most of the Indians, other people of various colors have been called on to don the feathers and dance menacingly around the edges of the settlement.Poor America! If it weren't for drugs from Colombia, illegal immigrants from Mexico, hurricanes from the Caribbean, and flu from Hong Kong, the American way of life would be flawless. And if only those rich Asians hadn't made $3 million in contributions -- almost 42 cents per Asian-American, after all -- our political system would once again be free of corruption.A few of my Chinese friends don't quite understand this, however, and they are decidedly bitter. Bitter because it's their first step onto the American political battlefield and they got slapped in the face and sent home for their trouble."We are treated like pariahs for wanting to participate in the political process," they complain. "What's wrong with Asian money, anyway? What makes it dirtier than money from England and Israel?"I have to tell them I don't know the answer. But it's better to be slapped in the face than to be ignored. And it's better to be feared than to be invisible.Think of it. Now that we know the awesome power of our yellow skin, we can give money to politicians we don't like and instantly ruin them.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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