Written by Jennifer; Originally published at Mixed Race America
I’ve been having an interesting discussion on the comment thread of a post I wrote about bullying with a commenter known as Artificer. Artificer’s original post to me was about his feeling that Asians in America are targeted by racism more than other minorities (a point to which I disagreed) and he included a very disturbing video that shows an Asian teenager (who is Chinese) in Chicago being brutally beaten by 7 different people (almost all of whom wear ski masks). I’m including it below–but if the embedding doesn’t work, you can see the video here. Also, please be aware that this is VERY DISTURBING to watch.
If you’ve made it through this video, one thing you should look at is the “more information” portion — because it describes the possible offenders (besides Raymond Palomino, one of the only attackers not to be wearing a ski mask and therefore the one who is most easily identified). The suspects, at least according to this random YouTube uploader, appear to be Asian American–specifically they appear to have Chinese surnames and American first names.
So I decided to find out more about who these attackers were, beyond Raymond Palomino, who was turned in by his father, a county sheriff, when relatives alerted the father to the youtube video. You can read more about that story here.
One of the things I came across was this very odd vlog by a young Asian American teen who seems to know the attackers and claims to have the “real story” behind the attacks–it’s a rather rambling and inarticulate explanation and justification (of sorts) for the attack–she seems both sorry for what happened and yet trying to defend her friends for their actions, stating that their attack on the Chinese teen was retaliation for a beating by (her language) “20 FOBs” of 2 of the guys (which include Palomino).
It’s not exactly clear what the race of the attackers are (other than Palomino, who appears white, but then again, he could be mixed race), but the lack of any discussion related to the civil rights violation of the Chinese American teen who was attacked or that this is a racially motivated attack leads me to believe that several of the teen abusers (all of whom are between 15-16–Palomino is the only 17 year old) are also Chinese American/Asian American, a fact that also seems to be confirmed by this post on Angry Asian Man, in which he writes that
Authorities have deduced that the attack wasn’t racially motivated. I could tell you it breaks my heart to learn that some of the attackers were actually Asian kids too. Because it does. But it’s certainly no surprise. It’s a violent reminder of the inter-generational conflicts that have long existed within our own communities, between Asian American kids and more recent immigrants — the so-called FOBs.
Angry Asian Man goes on to say that
It sounds crazy, but can I be so bold to suggest that even though both the perpetrators and the victim are Asian, you could still make the case that the attack was still indeed racially motivated?
And I agree with him. As I told Southern Man this morning when I was trying to explain to him why I was watching all these YouTube videos, while on the surface this might not seem to be a racially motivated attack, there is definitely racism involved–but it’s a complicated kind of racism.
First of all, in the mainstream footage of the video, the audio is muted, so you can’t hear one of the most disturbing things that is happening during the beating: that the Chinese American kid who is being kicked in the head and stomach and face is simultaneously having racial slurs being lobbed at him. But what he’s being called, consistently and constantly in this video is: Nigger.
[Note: I apologize for the use of this offensive slur, but I think it's important to use it and contextualize it because it is being used as a weapon of racial hatred--but not in the way we would normally assume].
All throughout the video his attackers call him a “nigger.” When I originally watched this video, I assumed (based on seeing Palomino) that this Chinese American teen was racially targeted for his Asian ethnic difference from the white teenagers who were then using a word of ultimate racial othering–nigger–to reinforce the racial difference and racial superiority that they felt over him. In fact it seemed to make perfect sense. As a linguistic weapon of hatred, the slur “nigger” only has one other corollary, and that’s “fag” (truthfully I was surprised that they didn’t go there). I’m not trying to say these two terms of hate are equal, but they have a similar weight in the way that people wield these words: as weapons.
In thinking about what it means for a Chinese American teenager to refer to another Chinese American teenager as a “nigger,” I have to wonder at how this kid ingested this term. He uses his fists and his words to bludgeon the Chinese American kid–who appears to also be a first-generation immigrant who speaks with a Chinese accented English. And as the comments by the young woman above attests, he is regarded by his Asian American peers not as one of them–a fellow Asian American–but as a FOB (fresh-off-the-boat, a derogatory term for Asian immigrants)–and the way she says this sounds like she’s using FOB to be a term of racial othering, racial hatred. After all, they’re just FOBs. They aren’t fully human.
And that’s the thing about racism. Racism perpetuates the false belief that some people get to be real humans and others are sub-human. So within the ill-logic of racism, it makes perfect sense that young Chinese American teens, who appear to speak without a Chinese or Asian accented English, target a Chinese immigrant American teen who does speak a Chinese accented English and attack him for his racial difference–his otherness–his FOB-ness, his nigger-ness. Because they don’t want to be associated with all that they deem to be foreign, bad, and other.
Perhaps, as the young female teen says, this is a simple matter of revenge and retaliation. Some of the Chinese immigrant teens (perhaps he, himself) beat up some of the Chinese American youth (and Palomino too). But regardless of whether it was a matter of revenge or retaliation, it’s definitely wrong and it’s definitely embedded within a system of racism in our country that continues to think that it’s OK to dehumanize others based on some racialized differences.