With the launching Of the sit-com “Fresh off the Boat” on ABC, there were a flurry of articles on Eddie Huang and the TV series. There was a profile of him in New York Times beside the review of the show, and Arthur Chu wrote about the importance of the show for Asian Americans in Salon.com. I watched the first 2 episodes and have mixed feelings as it triggered my own memory when I was in High School in New York. Eddie Huang was born in 82 of immigrant Taiwanese parents. He graduated with law degree and passed bar exam first time, worked for NYC law firm for 2 years, got layoff, worked as a standup comic and marijuana dealer, opened a restaurant called Baohus and got great review from NYT, opened a second one and closed it. He wrote an autobiography called “Fresh off the Boat”, and now turned to a TV series. Eddie talked about growing up around the age of 9 when his family moved from Washington D.C. to Orlando suburbs to open a steak-house restaurant, the resulting clash of cultures, race, and being bullied in school. Because of the format being sit-com, it inevitably stereotypes certain situations to generate laughs, the tiger-mom, model minority emphasis on grades, his own rebellion by embracing hip hop and basketball, and some minor swipes at suburban life style. I remember myself in early 60s, being the only Chinese in a high school of 3,000, got in my only fight in school with a Puerto Rican student when he started to bully me by using the F word of my mother. I was rescued in the principal’s office by my music teacher who vouched for me. Unlike Eddie who was born here I was very conscious of my poor English pronunciations and has only 2 Ukrainian fellow students from the neighborhood as friends during morning train rides. When the word Chink was used by neighborhood kids I knew better than to engage them by just ignoring them and walked fast past them. I sublimed my anger by what Lu Hsun called Ah-Q method, clutching my NYT newspaper and mumbling to myself that they are nothing but jail baits as I knew the proportion of African Americans in jail from reading the papers. I think that Eddie Huang may not like the way the show was portrayed and deviated from his vision, but if he wants the show to succeed, unlike his second restaurant then the compromises are inevitable.
NYT this weekend also have 3 articles on real estate. One on a Malaysian Chinese as a go between for the son of Prime Minister there in purchasing real estate in U.S.. One on the Time Warner center condos and the shell companies used by foreigners, some of them being Chinese nationals. Third being the Gold Coast, northern coast of Long Island suburbs where Chinese have been buying up expensive mansions with cash like hot cakes. The descriptions being nouveau-riche, uncouth, possibly corrupt Chinese driving genteel WASP or Jews out and pricing out natives from the housing market and crowding the schools there. The fact of low profile of Chinese were used against them as they don’t spread wealth around like Great Gatsby did. NYT is good at channeling the outrages and backlashes to the comments as they publish one commenter probably more than 10 times ( Susan from Seattle), from 10 years visa to immigration, berating Chinese for taking over the local housing, schools, and country. Previous week I wrote a comment when Thomas Friedman criticizes Israeli Prime Minister for the coming speech to joint session of Congress, I wrote saying it was an insult to Obama and Presidency, if the Democrats have balls they should boycott the speech, of course it was not published. Three days later on the paper it said Vice President will not attend the speech, and there were talks by Jewish democrats about boycotting the speech. So much for free speech, while those racial attacks and attacks on China being authoritarian were published multiple times. When I read the article I pretty much anticipated the backlashes. For buying those houses costing from a few to over $10 million, one has to be not even from 1%, by more like 0.1%. I doubt most Americans can dream of owning one, but human nature being what it is, Chinese are easy scape goats. For most Chinese Americans here not from the 0.1%, from those illegal ones working to pay off their debts to smugglers to Silicon Valley IT workers, expect the backlashes. I just hope no baseball bat attacks this time.