Merge or disappear ?
The Asian anti-racism and SOS racisme.
End of the year 2017, Aubervilliers, Northern suburbs of Paris, France. A song written in a primary school textbook, to be referred as "the litchi song", was reported on social networks. It not only plays on the sounds of chinese language, but also contains stereotype and inexactitudes. It also mentioned the exotic fruit of litchis in a way that sounded pedophile to the Chinese population of France.
The Asian anti-racist movements actively spread the information on the social networks Twitter and Facebook to obtain withdrawal of the content, and their claim was backed by a well-implanted organization called SOS racisme, also known as a powerful name and shame unit affiliated with the socialist party, implanted in the uphill 19th district of Paris.
Still SOS racisme seemed powerless to counter the National Front during the presidential election, and there is no credibility in saying the concert organized by the once respected anti-racist association convinced the voters to chose Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.
The declining anti-racist association seeks new supporters in the Asian communities, and the Asian communities seek legitimacy as their movements rise in a specific moment in political history : the divide between moral anti-racism, and political anti-racism. The first one is understood as a strategy of "name and shame" which had the power to take away respectability from any politician making offensive comments about a minority. Although, it had the major imperfection to be only efficient with identified personalities by revealing their dark side. It was also meaningless to counter the anti-demonization strategy of the National Front recently, and unable to analyze racism among the leftist parties. Communists, for example, use the categorization of proletarians in a way which appear inefficient to explain the religious divide in the post terrorist attack context. Moreover, the lobbying strategy appeared to on the ground activist very far from the reality of impoverishment and violence in the popular districts. Thus, political anti-racism (or radical anti-racism) emerged with the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic represented by the spokesperson Houria Bouteldja, who has been probably one of the most demonized activists in France recently. Deputy Danièle Obono, herself from Gabonese ascent and one of Unbowed France party's major figures, mentioning the spokesperson of the Party of the indigenous as a comrade in the struggle for equality, SOS racisme's president Dominique Sopo gave an all out counter fire, describing the radical anti-racists as "neurotic". Such partition between "acceptable" and "erratic" antiracism might divide the Asian communities for which the idea of "Asianitude" (neologism created after the word "negritude") seem far. We might question whether Asian communities' claims are moderate or radical, and whether the idea of giving away legitimacy to a non-asian organization seem acceptable to these groups.
The case of the litchi song holds particular interest to the extent that French Republican Education can be seen as a field of expression out of the political interests, and therefore the stereotypes spread within could benefit from a favorable environment of proclaimed objectivity for construction. Here is the song's capture shared by Asia2.0.
Chang sitting at his place,
He is eating rice,
His eyes are tiny
Chang smiles to me
When he says
Do you want to try my litchis ?
You are in your boat tang-tang
Your feet hurt in your tongs-tongs
You see Orangu-tangs
Your head bounces, ping-pong
Notifications to the author and the school were made with the use of digital technologies, and a video by AJ+ was shared on the networks, but the final move was made by SOS racisme. Its notification of the ministry of education is promising a powerful symbol, but means also dispossession of the means of action by the Asian anti-racist associations SOS racisme only recently collaborated with. The song was apparently written more than 10 years ago, and its recurrence on the internet show evidence of propagation on the digital networks. The song will be probably removed from the textbooks, but remain on the websites until complete ban is gained. There is no guarantee that insults alternative to "chang" won't appear in the future, and the word "chinese" still holds a pejorative meaning, which seems difficult to remove as this is a word commonly used to call individuals coming form China or of east-asian appearance.
The strategies decided by anti-racist associations are clear and careful : gaining visibility and legitimacy by removing offensive contents, and getting closer to the well-identified movements with the purpose of being seen as moderate. Although there doesn't seem to be a will to be affiliated to the socialist party, the question of making the problem of racism apart from the political context is still to be answered.
This case involved the lobby-type anti-racism in a context of shut down of twitter accounts held by a far-right activist and rising accusation of censorship on the social media. A similar content by former National Front activist Julien Rochedy was reported on twitter, but didn't benefit from the same visibility. The mobilization about the song was seen as legitimate because of its purpose of criticizing a written content for children, but the will to create a political movement, or moves to attack politicians for equivalent insults seem absent for the moment. If this case allows anti-racists from Asian communities to gain visibility, it doesn't seem to ground a political movement claiming equality. This leads us to identify the weakest spot of the myth of the "model minority". These are understood as two privileges : one of political irresponsibility based on wealth as criticized by Naomi Klein during an interview with the investigation media Mediapart ; the second, a privilege of self-evident anti-racism based on defense and complaint, in opposition with anti-racism based on attack and reparation of the victims. This later anti-racism, seen as "aggressive" is clearly seen as illegitimate in the post-terrorist context although it would allow affirmative actions. If the supposedly wealthy Asian communities adopt a lobby-type strategy which will be seen as elitist, it might cause a divide between the popular and the well established communities in France.
Some evidence of the propagation of stereotype content on internet :