Bobby Berk Appreciation Post/FOBs Anonymous
It was definitely one of those weeks where the news cycle makes you want to run to the closest McDonalds and shove chicken nuggets in your mouth until you’re finally taken from the misery of real life. The news of the migrant families being separated at the border completely wrecked me. Like, actually had me screaming into my laptop. I tried to write a funny, informative, quirky piece about how to understand this crisis, but there was a lot of anger flooding through my eyeballs and Queer Eye playing on the background, so this is what I have to give you instead:
Your informational packet on supporting your immigrant friends through reading this news cycle has finally arrived. Has it ever occurred to you that the family separation crisis is also rooted in the alienation and othering of your FOB friends? Here are some key points to remember, complete with a glossary to debunk all your Caucasian thoughts.
The separation of migrant families happens everyday, and has been happening for centuries.
When slavery was “abolished*” in the late 1800’s, Asian American immigrants were tricked into indentured servitude. Notably, South Asian recruiters would tell outlandish lies about a prosperous life in The West Indies & US, only for immigrants to find out they would be working back-breaking hours at sugar cane farms, with terrible and unfair wages to solve the labor shortage after the slaves were freed*.
Chinese immigrants settled in the West Coast during the height of The Gold Rush, only to face racism so brutal that they became the first group of migrants from one specific country to be banned from entering the US under The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
In the history of Asian immigrants alone, there’s overwhelming historical evidence that one member of a family would voyage to the Americas to try to make enough money to support their families, only to find the American Dream (1) inaccessible.
When my mom (2) was only a teenager, her mother left the Philippines to find work. Her papers were expired and she wasn’t able to see her kids for twenty years while she worked menial jobs to send money back home. When I was eleven, my father moved to New Jersey shortly after 9/11 to live with his aunt and try to find work so my sisters and I might have better educational opportunities in the US.
Just rewriting that bit of family history fills me with so much pain, but it’s sadly very normalized. My grandmother being forced to leave her children for twenty years counts as family separation. The Christmases my father missed while he was trying to make a life for us counts as family separation. If you’re only speaking up to abolish ICE because you’re seeing really disturbing images on the news about family separation, you’re a couple centuries late to the movement, my guy.
*slavery was never abolished, it just went through a rebranding.
US Imperialism is a Caucasian scam.
The Philippines was colonized by the Spanish for exactly 333 years, but upon losing the Spanish-American War, they sold strategic territories to the United States, which included The Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. After the 1899 Philippine-American War for the country’s independence, The Philippines was left economically fraught, the war claiming at least 400,000 lives in the span of three years.
The economic effects of US colonization are still felt in The Philippines today, so much that its biggest export to the American continent is its people offering cheap labor. Our economy was hit so heavily by American colonization that our families have no choice but to migrate to America in hopes of a better future, only to find out that the cards are still stacked against us in a foreign land.
The United States basically trashed our front yard, and when we tried to move to a different house, they said, “Well you can’t seem to keep your yard clean, so you can’t live here.” Like… what the fuck? I’m drawing on my knowledge of Philippine history to back this up, but the US has worse imperialist (3) relationships with other countries. Google that shit. Get angry with me.
My family and I were once the only people of color at a party thrown for friends we have known for 10 years. At said party, a white woman engaged in conversation with my mom and asked her, “So… why did you come here?” My dear mom, confused as fuck, responded, “You mean… to St. Louis? Well, my husband had a job offer here…”
“No,” the woman interrupted. “I mean… to this country.”
Look, I know this person probably does not spend a lot of time with people of color. But what really has me heated is the fact that immigrants, no matter how hard we have already worked to access white spaces, are still asked why we’re even here. I’m literally at a point where I do not trust white people to foster safe spaces for me, and this is why.
Romanticizing the martyrdom of immigrants low key (but high key) makes the effects of imperialism okay.
Have you ever noticed how every immigrant story on mainstream TV or movies always have this predictable arc of unimaginable, back-breaking struggles followed by exponential triumph? For example, on a TV show called Fresh Off The Boat (4), Jessica Huang (who is played by total dreamboat Constance Wu) pushes her children to be the absolute best at academics, sports — basically everything so that her sacrifice of having left her mother country will be justified.
Even though I think these stories are very important, I’m very thirsty for content about immigrants and their children just living their lives. I mean, Girls (5) is a relatively entertaining show about four white girls fucking their whole lives up; Insecure (6) is a very good show about an emotionally messy woman trying to figure shit out; Sex and the City (7) is a cultural juggernaut that launched one actress into a political career — but we’re really not going to give Mindy Kaling (8) and Aziz Ansari (9) the same acclaim for The Mindy Project (10) and Master of None (11)? To fetishize, romanticize and capitalize on martyr narratives means that we are excluding stories about first-gen immigrants who are simply trying to navigate their identities, the way that white people get to show on screen all the time.
FOBs Anonymous/Bobby Berk Appreciation Post
For those of you that don’t know, Bobby Berk (12) is the most slept-on member of the Queer Eye Fab 5 (13). While the other goons cut hair, schedule paintball outings, go shopping and make guacamole, Bobby remodels a whole ass house in one working week!! I’m going to tell you right now that all of your friends who are first-gen immigrants, aka. FOBs (14) feel like the Bobby Berk of every friend group. Don’t @ me. These are the fucking FACTS.
The stereotype of Asian kids not being allowed to fuck up is REAL as fuck. Every time we fuck shit up — get a C on a test (an Asian F), get a parking ticket, spend too much money at McDonald’s — we are offending a history of ultimate sacrifices that were paid to enter this country. Meanwhile, Cody, Karen and Taylor (15) are over there getting “outstanding citizenship” awards for successfully doing a herkie and getting consistent C’s all semester.
A lot of first-gen kids are plagued with feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment for never accomplishing anything on the same level as their ancestors. Beyond this, our friends tokenize (16) us and expect us to bear the labor of making our heritage palatable to their white tastes. It’s truly fucking exhausting.
My fellow first-gen kids, I’m here to tell you that it’s not your fault. Your feelings of inadequacy are tied to the scam of US Imperialism. We are conditioned to think that we need to exert a superhuman amount of labor in order to gain access to basic American privileges. It’s ok to fuck shit up even though you have decades of generational pressure & systemic oppression of immigrants on your backs.
Throw your respectability politics out the fucking window.
I’m really curious why people think it’s ok to stand up for immigrants by saying things like, “Immigrant labor is the backbone of our country. They take on jobs that no one even wants. They typically have low criminal history. They even pay taxes!”
The reason migrant families need to be treated with respect is because they are human. Not because they have earned their access to this country by martyrdom. Respectability politics (17) have no room in the defense of better treatment for families trying to cross the border. Immigrants do not only deserve respect and decency when they are “performing” according to the standards of white supremacy!!!!
(1) American Dream (n) - a Caucasian scam
(2) My mom - an absolute angel, who I love dearly
(3) Imperialism (n) - the policy of extending rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries; often resulting in the depletion of natural resources in the imperialized country.
(4) Fresh Off the Boat - phenomenal TV show by ABC, which is one of the first to feature an Asian family at its forefront. Available on Hulu - go watch immediately.
(5) Girls - subpar TV show on HBO created by Lena Dunham, following the lives of four gentrifiers living in Brooklyn making very unfortunate life choices.
(6) Insecure - a beautiful, intelligent, amazing, heartfelt TV show on HBO created by the insatiable Issa Rae that explores the black female experience
(7) Sex and the City - a show that I guiltily binge and rewatch over and over again despite its colorblindness
(8) Mindy Kaling - an actress, comedian, writer and all-around bad bitch. Kelly Kapoor from The Office, Mindy from The Mindy Project, Amita in Ocean’s 8.
(9) Aziz Ansari - actor, writer, producer, director and comedian who writes about modern love and dating, but apparently doesn’t know the basic definition of consent — still torn over whether or not we should throw the whole man away because his work is still very important to me.
(10) The Mindy Project - a Hulu TV show that follows the life of Mindy Lahiri, a doctor in her 30’s trying to find love and happiness.
(11) Master of None - a Netflix TV show that follows the life of Dev Shah, a 30-year-old actor embarking on romantic, professional and cultural experiences.
(12) Bobby Berk - the most slept-on member of the Fab 5, an interior designer who turns every space into a gray/white/”modern” fantasy.
(13) Queer Eye Fab 5 - Queer Eye is a show where a group of 5 gays come into a client’s life and give him a total makeover. It is a remake of the old series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The Fab 5 consists of Antoni (food & bev - avocadoeria), Tan France (fashion - French tuck), Karamo (culture - schedules paintball sessions, polygraph readings, talks to clients’ friends), Jonathan (grooming), and of course, Bobby Berk on interiors.
(14) FOB (n) - “Fresh off the Boat,” once a derogatory term for Asians, now reclaimed as a term for endearment (but maybe this is just me lol)
(15) Cody, Karen and Taylor - Caucasian names
(16) Tokenization (n) - the practice of making a symbolic effort to be inclusive of members of minority groups to give the appearance of racial equality; this is damaging because you let one person represent an entire racial group… just fucking stop doing this please.
(17) Respectability politics (n) - the idea that minority groups should “behave better” in order to receive better treatment, for example:
A woman named Sharkeisha having to change her name to Shannon to get job interviews.
Immigrants having to change their accent to gain basic respect in the workplace.
A woman being told to dress less slutty so she doesn’t get raped.
*important note: Respectability politics was coined by a black professor. If you don’t give credit to black folks for creating language that allows us to talk about marginalization, go home sweetie. *upside down smiley face*