Are We Approaching Critical Mass?

Writer Bryan Thao Worra posted an interesting observation on The State of Asian American Blogs:

"Back in 2009, the website connected to the excellent documentary Vincent Who? featured a list of over 50 Asian American blogs. It certainly wasn't meant to be comprehensive, but was an interesting snapshot of many of the voices writing regularly in our community. I wanted to see how many are still active and operating...

"This year, on the 20th anniversary of Vincent Chin's murder, it's surprising to see who's still standing and posting out of the sample Vincent Who? noted three years ago.

"Out of 55 listed, fewer than 30 are still around. I wouldn't call this a 40% attrition rate but it suggests there are some changes happening on the internet and how Asian Americans are developing their voices."

Not listed amongst the dropouts were The Fighting 44's and Sepia Mutiny, both of which closed shop just recently. I didn't keep up with Sepia Mutiny, but I regularly visited The Fighting 44's for the insightful discussions by it's members. It was a place where Gen X Asian Americans (who actually took Asian American Studies courses) elevated the discussion of Asian America to a higher  intellectual level. The demise of The Fighting 44's was like the burning of the Shaolin Temple: the surviving monks and keepers of the flame scattered and established their own blogs.

Just as Asian American (AA) blogs brought about the demise of AA forums, microblogging (Twitter and Facebook) have brought about the demise of AA blogs. Of the 30 AA blogs that are still around, how many actually talk about Asian American issues? Half the time, these AA blogs talk about things other than Asian Americans. Not that one should be limited in their subject matter, but why tag your blog as Asian American if the topic of Asian America is peripheral at best?

The only blog that is in people's minds when you say "Asian American" is Angry Asian Man. 8Asians comes at a very distant second and everybody else comes at a very distant third. Nothing against Angry Asian Man, but do we really want the AA blogosphere to be consolidated into a single storyteller?

All bloggers are human (although some blogs I'm not too sure of), and humans naturally filter out subject matter and focus on things that they choose to be preoccupied with. So if you have a limited number of bloggers, then you're going to have a limited number of viewpoints, even if they are all Asian American.

Case in point: I emailed several bloggers about my podcast interview with Gene Yu, an ex-Army Special Forces officer. Here was an Asian American male who had taken a very different journey in life from most people by becoming a Green Beret. And yet not one Asian American blogger was interested enough in Gene's military career to make any reference to him or his book in their blogs. Here was a true Alpha Asian, and yet for some reason, no other Asian American blogger was interested in showcasing his story. I guess he's not as interesting as the IR disparity or music videos from AA artists.

It is a dangerous thing when your sources of information are being consolidated. When only or two viewpoints rule, then we as the AA community lose out. The Asian American image is too big, too large a responsibility for one person to shoulder the load, and this is why we have blips of progress, not critical mass. We pray for a single savior like Jeremy Lin to bring respect to Asian Americans, when in reality we each should be self-reliant and look to ourselves in bettering the Asian American image. Every day and every moment we are out in public, every interaction is an opportunity for each one of us to represent our communities positively. Every racist encounter, large or small, is an opportunity for us to address the issue and educate people. 

We each can be Jeremy Lins in our own ways. And if we have enough Jeremy Lins, Yul Kwons, Bruce Lees and Gene Yus, then we will reach critical mass.  The Asian American image will shed the negative stereotypes, because the stereotypes will be seen as incongruent with reality. 

It is my belief that we'll reach critical mass within our lifetimes.  This is part of the reason why Asian American blogs are on the decline. There are fewer AA blogs, because more Asian American writers are submitting articles and books to mainstream publishers, magazines and newspapers (both online and print).  They're using the mainstream media instead to address Asian American issues. 

Look at the past three mega stories that exploded on to the AA blogosphere: Tiger Mom, Paper Tigers and Jeremy Lin.  Both Amy Chua's Tiger Mom article and Wesley Yang's Paper Tigers started in mainstream print (Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine) and their hype spread like wildfire in the mainstream media.  When Linsanity struck the world, Asian Americans took the opportunity to address a whole slew of AA issues, everything from racist remarks in the media to the bamboo ceiling to stereotypes of Asian American men.  Asian Americans addressed these issues using the mainstream media, by appearing on talk shows and radio shows and by writing articles on mainstream papers and websites.

AA blogs used to cover AA stories and issues not addressed by the mainstream media.  Fallout Central was a good example of that.  Now, AA blogs just echo or relay AA stories that appear in the mainstream media.  That's why AA blogs are falling by the wayside: nobody's reading them.  They used to provide an alternative perspective and now as a whole they don't.

This may not be a bad thing.  Because if AA issues are being discussed in the mainstream media, then that means Asian Americans are playing a greater role in society.  Asian Americans are creating the headlines.  Non-Asians are discussing our issues and through discussion they come to understand our issues.  If we have enough Asian Americans creating headlines and making news worthy stories, then we will reach critical mass.

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