We've never been very impressed by Sepia Mutiny -- a popular blog that wears its racial identity on its sleeve.
Many years ago, having just arrived in the US for graduate studies, we ran into a Pakistani-American colleague whose near-first conversation with us alluded to our mutual "brownness". The whole idea of affiliation based on the color of our skin was absurd to us -- and offensive -- but as we've learnt, this is apparently OK among the bloggers of Sepia Mutiny.
Quite startling, even if the idea is likely benign in intent.
The problem with racial identification -- even if benign -- is the underlying thought process which can lead people to absurd and outrageous conclusions.
These thoughts are triggered by the latest Sepia Mutiny outrage where they compare the uber- conservative lawyer John Yoo (whose legal interpretations helped the Bush administration push the envelop on coercive interrogations) with liberal Amrit Singh (whose legal advocacy on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union has been about challenging these tactics in court). Sample this -- deeply offensive -- Sepia Mutiny thought construction:
John Yoo, professor of law at my alma mater, UC Berkeley, became infamous last year for writing a memo justifying torture by the CIA.
At first glance, Yoo might seem an unthinking political soldier willing to write whatever tissue-thin legal justifications his superiors order. But what if he’s sincere in his belief that torture, locking people up without charge and domestic spying by the NSA is legitimate rather than prima facia illegal and unconstitutional?
I get the sense that East Asian Americans tend to be socially conservative and more pro-law and order (vs. civil rights and privacy) than the mainstream. It’s the whole idea that Asian-Americans are ‘natural conservatives.’ Does this jive with your take, or are Yoo’s views an individual aberration?
So, here the blogger takes the liberty to abstract from one man's views, that he disagrees with, to ascribe political views to an entire race of people -- helpfully characterizing such views as not being "mainstream" and, in the best case, being an "aberration". He is thus imposing on an entire people his personal disgust with Mr. Yoo's ideas. Just imagine the outrage -- with Sepia Mutiny at its vanguard -- if an Anglo-Saxon writer had similarly characterized Indians based on the views of an individual Indian conservative? For some inexplicable reason, similar bigotry by others is considered acceptable.
We are neo-conservatives ourselves -- Sepia Mutiny likely will consider us an aberration (!) given our "brownness" -- yet happen to strongly oppose (see here and here) the consequences of legal views like those held by Mr. Yoo. What deeply offends us, however, is the even more sinister racial perspective of Sepia Mutiny. It's one thing to have political disagreement and debate -- it's quite another to stretch it into the racial realm.
Sepia Mutiny -- if it has any decency -- ought to apologize for this post.
Update: The blogger in question has amended his post, changing his racial point to one about generational differences among immigrants. We're sorry to say that -- notwithstanding his giving up on the original, clearly obnoxious racial point -- he's not apologized for his error; rather he hopes that his edits to his post will resolve the matter.
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