Friday, July 13, 2012

636 Words


It's been bothering me for weeks that people take an important discussion like the one Francis and I had, then reduce it to "whether white chefs can cook ethnic food" or to conclude that at the end of the day "taste is what matters". The Marcus article was an extension and it was fun to see how people danced around the actual challenge in the article for dominant cultural food editors/writers to hit the pavement and find more voices of color. Maybe for once put a voice on the soap box even if it's threatening...

Instead, reactions became Eddie v. Marcus and comments were about Yellow v. Black or Harlemite v. Non-Harlemite. The lack of a response from any writer living in Harlem proved the entire thesis of the article. Marcus is the only voice we hear from and the situation is flawed whether Michael Symon's cackling ass thinks so or not. You simply can't have a Swedish-African-$28 Fried Chicken Selling-Chef that reduces the neighborhood to "eating, dancing, and praying" speak for the ENTIRE food scene in Harlem. He most certainly can and should be ONE of many voices, but not the only one. This is true of any person or neighborhood. It'd be offensive to have an Asiatic-Holando Transplant with a J.D.-and-an-F speak for all of the East Village. That'd never happen in the East Village, but why in Harlem? Whether I'm Chinese or not, I'm going to tell you we can't enable that because I'm absolutely right.

I don't care if NY Mag thinks Asian Hipster Chefs are the next great thing or if they want to attribute our stories to some David Chang legacy. It's all bullshit and no one will care in 3 years so I don't even know why my dumb ass engages these shit storms. I'm fucking disappointed in myself. The only conversation that matters to me is defending culture, resisting assimilation, and creating my own America... every thing else is ancillary. It's important to be conscious of what America is and isn't. I wanted to write the below for a while and people kept stopping me, but fuck it. Writing this is more productive than a lot of frustrated, not well thought out tweets. So here it is... 636 words on why you should fight every single fucking day taken out of the context of food because, clearly, the element of food and Harlem precludes anyone from being reasonable.

636 Words

        America is an adversarial society. Whether we want to accept it or not, the good guys don’t always win. Biggie was right, “it’s an every day struggle.” Your life begins as an American when you recognize and accept that nothing you have will be given to you; it’s taken. Notice I said “taken” and not “earned”. You can’t trust that for said amount of work you’ll get said amount of pay. It just never happens. If you want to make sure you get what you deserve: take it. 

When you bring your cultural goods to market, expect someone to try and take it from you, especially the dominant culture because they can. The only way to come up is to defend the things you have and learn to take for yourself. Offense is the best defense. Look at all the inspirations we’ve had as 80s babies. Barack - took the youth vote and micro donors; Fab Five - disrespected every thing about collegiate sports, rejected white socks/short shorts, took booster money, and peace’d; Brooklyn - like BDP said, “Manhattan keeps on makin’ it, Brooklyn keeps on takin’ it.” As much as I love Francis Lam, his ideas about aspiring to “join” America lead to the loss of your culture and Indian Casinos. What if the Tea Party wins and that bullshit definition of America rules? You want to be a member then? Sometimes you shouldn’t respect the other side because it’s wrong #Newsroom. The only America that matters is yours... but you’ll have to fight for it.

I remember in 9th grade we had this exercise in class. The teacher said, “Form groups of 5. You’re all in a crashing plane and there’s one parachute. Figure out who gets it.” I didn’t want to die so I campaigned for the parachute. Every one else was embarrassed to put their life above someone else’s but I wasn’t. I believe in myself. I believe in my values and I believe that I'm more valuable to the world alive than dead. I didn’t know how to explicate that, but I wanted the parachute and was the youngest in the group so I took it. The teacher asked why they gave me the parachute and we answered “Because Eddie is the youngest in our group.” She said, “That’s the wrong answer. You should all want the parachute and if you don’t, then what’s the point?” I never forgot that lesson. Far too many of us have something to offer the world and sit idly by thinking someone will make it better for us, but they won’t. The world you want has to be taken. 

I don’t care if people think I’m angry because no amount of peer pressure will force me to submit and allow another culture to consume my identity. I worked too hard unearthing myself buried under American stigma and stereotype to turn around and give it all up because someone wants me for a member. Like Groucho Marx, I’m not joining your club but not because you’ll have me. I’m not joining because assimilation is cultural and ethnic baptism: you lose every thing you came with in exchange for false moral approval. It matters that we don’t let you take over neighborhoods and displace those that made it what it is simply because you have and they do not. It matters that we don’t let people shark bite gua bao or call it Peking Duck because it’s Beijing mother fucker. Why should we let The Man romanize our shit? We were good enough when we came, we’re good enough if we leave, and we’re good enough if we stay. People are different and society should just accept it... but they won’t. You’ll have to fight for it and that’s the most important thing I can tell you.



Note: To readers who want to discount this by saying culture is fluid, you can't defend it, it's supposed to change, I ask you this: Why is it that there is copyright protection for Louis monogram but not my Mom's recipes? People draw the lines where they do because it benefits them and they CAN. I use the world "culture" and I understand it may not be the precise term. Maybe we should be talking about this through the lens of intellectual property but that's possibly too dense. This applies to every one from anywhere from Martha's Vineyard to Canal St. We all have a "way of life" and no one likes to see that taken, distorted, or expelled. The point is that if you want it to continue, you have to fight for it.





15 comments:

  1. Yo that's real. America is an exercise in conflict theory.

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  2. Something I realized late in the game. It's never too late!

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  3. "The only way to come up is to defend the things you have and learn to take for yourself." So....when you called me the dumbest white girl alive, this is really what I was asking: Why didn't everyone try to take their shit back from us white-folk once we stole it from y'all? I actually really DON'T know why old Whitey was allowed to co-opt every goddamned thing in the world b/c I wasn't there. Apparently that makes me an idiot. Bum rush the show seems like it should have been an obvious choice when the white man came with their guns and pink nipples. They could have outnumbered them every time. It's not like they were automatic weapons. They don't really cover this part in history class. White people are never allowed to be proud of anything but being gay or cancer survivors. For anything. We're supposed to apologize and repent or risk being called racist. A black person can say they don't like me because I'm white (and many have, btw) but if I flipped that, I'd be on the goddamned news that night with Cornell West dissecting what my ancestors did a century and a half ago. Maybe you have never considered this conversation from the perspective of the Caucasian who has lived their whole life being told how awful their race is.
    if the conversation between you and Francis was meant for a strictly ethnic audience, then my apologies for butting in, if it was meant for discussion by all, then can we please set a statute of limitations on this "them and us" stuff and get back to being the It's a Small World Ride that the aliens intended us to be?

    Respect.
    (and please don't call me dumb again when I am honestly asking a question. I wasn't trying to be an asshole and it really hurt my feelings)

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    1. it's quite simple. as long as you're at the top of society others are going to want to bring you down, or come up, or whatever.

      that's going to be a fact no matter what your race. and since you're white, you represent a people that have ruled the fucking earth for thousands of years.

      so with that being that, would you rather be at the top of the food chain and have people clown on you, or be at the bottom looking up?

      i'm not white and i'm not racist, but i will always make it a point to remind white people how privileged they are in society. now what side would you rather be on -- the one that has or the one that has not?

      think about it some more, you dumb ass white girl. ;)

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  4. Ok, I know what you're saying. I'm responding quickly before I go to the bank so this might not be correct but... it's less about being white and more about being the majority. I'm sure Tibetans talk about Chinese people the same way and if not, maybe they should? haha.

    I wasn't there for it either, but I know at least for chinatown restaurant owners like the people at 456, they didn't know how to reach out to press, respond to fact checks, take interviews, etc. My parents read the World Journal not the NYT. They aren't equipped to defend their wares. You'd say, well just serve your community and you'll be fine. True... but eventually something like Joe's Shanghai opens that kinda hits a mark, draws the dominant cultural crowd, becomes the false standard, drives the price of rent up, and every one kinda gets screwed and instead of thinking: "HEY, we should maintain our way, defend against Joe's, and use what we have to prevent proliferation"... they copy. You'll always see a similar Chinese restaurant open across the street from a succesful one. In this way, it's our own fault and this article is about that. It really doesn't blame "white people". This is the GAME. Take or be taken. Yall just happen to have more shit now but it's cause you played it well. Can't knock the hustle. I'm just telling people that they need to aware cause some don't even want to recognize the existence of the game...

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    1. your views strike me as very conservative. a tea partier might write something incredibly similar in a different context. there is a thin line between being yourself -- which we can agree is a good thing -- and being stubbornly stuck in your ways, which we can agree is the problem with too much (rather than, as you imply, not enough) of america. it's hard to tell which side you're advocating for.

      also, this post pretty clearly seems like a product of living in the hypercompetitive nyc fishbowl. other places aren't so adversarial; people have at least a little more room to breathe. for most people, conceptualizing life as a rat race is not appealing. why does it make you happy to be adversarial?

      people should be proud of who they are, do what they like to do without too much regard for money, and dont judge others.

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  5. I agree with Eddie's sentiments. An original idea rarely sees the light unless it's co-opted/ripped off by The Man or someone of his ilk. And we're not just talking about being championed by The Man, they have to be credited/ the primary recipient of any windfall (and don't mouth ooff about fucking investment/risk-- usually not their own money…they're just powerful gatekeepers). And I'm guessing The Man probably isn't the same Man from the early 20th century. No this one's more virulent. And when you go abroad, foreigners aren't thinking American Gothic when they hate on Americans.

    This isn't an issue of the majority group in America (or "old whitey" as used above). This is not about the folks shopping at JCPennys, WATCHiNG fucking "America's Got Talent". The most sinister culprit is a small minority that curates what we read in the news, see on screen and what issues get political support. Media, popular culture and politics in America today are dictated by a few who have traditionally sought to consolidate and keep out…but that's nothing new-- all groups have done this since the beginning of time. Their trick though…they'll deflect all the attention and hide behind a generic "America" or point a crooked finger at "The Man" --whose outdated image they've carefully drawn for us-- and obscure the dialogue so it devolves into senseless, vitriolic exchanges between people who are just working (or not) stiffs-- one side feels they're attacked for shit that they can't recall doing and the other feels systematically marginalised.

    So when an Asian or African-American voices an opinion on a little-read blog because they don't have platforms like the guy behind this column of diarrhea: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/27/opinion/la-oe-goldberg-trayvon-martin-race-20120327... the one or two white folk that comes across the little-read blog feels attacked and the cycle of futility starts again.

    So yeah, it goes without saying…until media, pop culture and politics start looking a little more like America, The Man will naturally make sure the demographic of power looks like him and if you let him (and sometimes you have no choice), he'll fucking tell you what to buy, what to eat, what to watch, what to read, what to think…

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  6. I also agree with Eddie's sentiments. An original idea rarely sees the light unless it's co-opted/ripped off by The Man or someone of his ilk. And we're not just talking about being championed by The Man, they have to be credited/ the primary recipient of any windfall (and don't mouth ooff about fucking investment/risk-- usually not their own money…they're just powerful gatekeepers). And I'm guessing The Man probably isn't the same Man from the early 20th century. No this one's more virulent. And when you go abroad, foreigners aren't thinking American Gothic when they hate on Americans.

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  7. eddie is the truth

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  8. I am shocked about what you were quoted writing on twitter regarding the cop shooting homeless mans pit bull on 14th street. How dare you call anyone a pig! You are a joke sir, and apparently are more concerned with tge safety and well being of a dog then people. What if that dog bit one of your customers or family members? I'm sure then you would have called that cop to help you. You should stick to what you do best, cooking shit food for stupid people. I will tell everyone I know to boycott your establishment. 14th street is really not tge block you want to be in business and make disparaging remarks about police officers. Nice thread you have here about America. Looks like even self absorbed Asian chiefs can be bigots too.

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    1. i don't know what this anon is posting about, but i bet they're part of the culture stealing, community gentrifying, hipster elite that are fucking up everything.
      if you have such a problem with what huang says & writes @ least have the balls to rep yourself instead of being a spineless anonymous hater.

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  9. eddie you're the man playboy!
    in general, but specifically in the pieces about culture & the inauthenticity of red rooster's confused owner the human panda taps into something that many people of color who influence pop culture are too afraid to publicly articulate: the status quo for assimilation in the u.s. & europe is always a one way street that says what's white is right & foreign nuances are only appreciated or acknowledged if they're palatable & nonthreatening to the dominant culture.

    thoughtful people know that's bullshit, but unfortunately most folks fail to truly understand culture, which is everyone's collective flavors interacting to create a delicious global stew. culture is not the customs & traditions small similar groups of people do getting co-opted, bastardized, or out right stolen by the owners/conquerors of society.

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