Mental Cages, Psychological Ropes

So I was having coffee with an old friend the other day. He's a good guy, and a loyal friend over the 20+ years I've known him. But he's also got the angry Asian man syndrome. In the early years when we hung out with each other, we'd be bitching about stereotypes in the media and the racist micro-aggressions we as Asian men have to endure on a daily basis.

As the years passed, I found myself less and less inclined to engage in such bitchfests. I was tired of being chronically angry, because it was seeping into other aspects of my life and affecting my psyche. I channeled my anger into productive projects and self-improvement. My friend, however, is still quite angry after all these years.

But there was something he said to me this last time we met up. He said, "I used to think that other people were brainwashed. That other people could not and would not see the racism. But I've realized that I've been brainwashed. That my mind is preoccupied with these issues to distract me from more important things. That my confidence has been destroyed."

If you want to destroy a people, then you destroy their confidence in themselves. You set the men and women against each other. I was watching a documentary called Diary of a Tired Black Man. If you think there is a gender divide between Asian American men and women, this documentary makes it seem like the gender divide is ten times worse in the African American community. I didn't bother watching the entire movie, because I found it way too redundant and depressing.

I'm reminded of a saying from a football coach (I'm paraphrasing here):

"If you focus on things that you cannot control, then you will lose control on that which you normally control."

The IR disparity is kind of like that. I've known lots of AA guys who get bent out of shape focusing on the disparity and analyzing it to death. They turn into the angry Asian man, and much of their time and energy is spent focusing on how shitty a deal AA men get in dating and sex.

It sort of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because anger and bitterness are not the most appealing traits to women, so your negativity starts to affect your love life. It starts affecting your emotional well-being and other aspects of life. Then you start lashing out at your friends and people who are really on your side.

And yet I think AA men need to talk about this stuff and let it out. You can't deny it, like some people do. But you got to acknowledge it and work through it.

Personally, I would rather not have this stuff talked about so openly (like on a blog) where non-Asians can see. If anything, it's probably better to have a closed discussion group amongst guys who get it. That way AA men are free to talk about this stuff without some nagging sense that we need to apologize for feeling the way we do and being who we are.

Bottom line is I think a lot of the IR disparity is in people's heads. Sure there are some AA women with non-Asian men, but so what? Asian American men date and marry beautiful smart women of all ethnicities: Asian, white, Hispanic and Black.

I may be biased, because I was born and raised in SF. Plenty of Asians, so we hook up with... each other! The vast majority of Asians (both men and women) date and marry other Asians. But the past several years, I've seen far more AM/WF or AM/XF couples than AF/WM. Maybe it's because I notice the former and block out the latter. Maybe it's because of where I hang out and where I don't hang out. I don't know.

But we are all born into a mental framework, a framework that we either perceive as a cage or as a series of doors leading to opportunities. Growing up with racism places a mental cage upon you. Then one day you decide to test the door and find it was unlocked all along.

My friend once told me of how they train elephants to stay put. I have no idea if they actually train elephants in this way, but his story has stuck in my mind nonetheless. Supposedly they take a strong rope and attach it to a baby elephant's neck or foot. Then they tie the rope to a pike set deep in the ground. The baby elephant pulls and pulls, but it's not strong enough yet to break free. After awhile, it doesn't bother trying and just sits there in despair.

This false lesson stays with an elephant even into adulthood. So even though an adult elephant has enough strength to break free, the trainer simply attaches a rope to the elephant and leads it to wherever.

Asian American youth spend way too much time on the Internet, instead of interacting out in the real world. The thing is that the Internet can either be your cage or it can be your portal to opportunities. It is a filter of reality, and you can warp reality to whatever you want it to be. But there are lots of sock puppets, false prophets and people who willingly or unknowingly spread disinformation out there on the Internet. They will make you think the cage you are in is locked.

You can either bow your head and willingly accept the noose around your neck, or you can run that trainer over and stomp him into the ground.

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