Peter Bradley, American Renaissance, July 2011
Ying Ma, Chinese Girl in the Ghetto, CreateSpace, 2011, 174 pp.
Asian immigrant success stories often follow a familiar script. The immigrant leaves his country, lives in a close-knit family, struggles hard at a low-paying job, learns English, and moves into the middle class.
Ying Ma’s story would not be much different if it did not go into detail about an aspect of the immigrant experience that most authors leave out: what it’s like to live among blacks before finally making it into the middle class.
Miss Ma’s book starts in the 1970s, when she was a little girl living in communist China. She shared a two-room apartment with her parents, a brother, and grandparents. Her family was actually well-off compared to others, and Miss Ma excelled in school. She had relatives who sometimes visited from Hong Kong and gave her things like nail polish — unavailable in China — that gave her visions of a better life in the West. When, in the mid-1980s, she learned that her family was being allowed to emigrate to the United States she was excited: “America was going to be great; I could not wait!”
Her excitement soon gave way to racial reality. Miss Ma thought America was full of white people but when her family settled in inner-city Oakland she was surrounded by blacks. Asian and Hispanic immigrants were beginning to move in, and though her grade school was mostly black, there was a handful of Chinese students who interpreted for her while she learned English. In only her second or third week of school, a group of black boys stole her mechanical pencil — a going-away gift from her Chinese classmates — and laughed at her when she tried to get it back.
Because her parents worked at below-minimum-wage menial jobs, by the time Miss Ma was in the fifth grade she was doing most of the cooking and cleaning. She also had to interpret for her parents on visits to doctors and government agencies. Even so, she quickly outpaced her classmates. At one point, a black teacher lectured his students about the need to study harder when Miss Ma — still not fluent in English — correctly answered a grammar question that stumped the blacks.
In junior high school, things got much worse. Miss Ma writes:
Numerous black students regularly screamed racial epithets at their Asian counterparts. ‘Ching Chong,’ ‘Chinaman,’ and ‘Chow Mein’ became our names. Sometimes, our tormentors imitated the way in which we spoke our native tongues. On other occasions, they physically assaulted us or threatened to do so.
Along with other Asian students, I did my best to avoid physical confrontation — those who openly and regularly uttered racial epithets always appeared ready to back up their threats with violence. When black students made fun of the ‘Chinamen’ among us, I did nothing. When they screamed at the middle-aged Cantonese cafeteria aide and called her a ‘stupid Chinaman,’ I, along with all the other Asian students present, pretended we did not hear anything.
Asians could get the same treatment any time:
On the streets of Oakland, black teenagers regularly hurled racial insults at adult Asian immigrants who spoke limited English. One common tactic was to creep up behind an elderly Asian person and frighten him or her with sing-song nonsense, such as ‘Yee-ya, ching-chong, ay-yahhhh!’ Meanwhile, numerous black adults discriminated against Asian immigrants at the grocery store, on the bus, at the hospital, the unemployment office and everywhere else. Each time I witnessed such behavior I gritted my teeth, felt a burning rage and watched the racism take place in silence.
Whenever Miss Ma ate a snack at school, blacks would demand part of it:
I could not understand why Tyesha felt entitled to my food. . . . I was just as poor, if not poorer, than the rest of my classmates. Our collective poverty was evidenced by the fact that we, along with nearly everyone at my school, took advantage of government-subsidized lunches. . . . Still I did not walk around demanding food from others.
Miss Ma learned to wolf down her snacks before anyone saw her or just eat them at home.
In high school, Miss Ma used an uncle’s address to transfer to a school in a mostly white neighborhood. Still, there were blacks on the bus who continued their abuse and said things to Asian girls “that would make Howard Stern blush.”
Miss Ma studied hard, helped her parents, took a job at a movie theater, and even played on her school tennis team. She went to Cornell and eventually earned a law degree from Stanford.
While Chinese Girl in the Ghetto is about the life and struggles of an Asian immigrant, it says more about blacks. Every institution in America tells us that blacks are held back by inferior schools, bad teachers, poor housing, crime-ridden streets, lack of role models, bigoted cops, stingy government programs and — of course — white racism. Yet an Asian girl from a poor family who knew not a word of English was dumped into the same environment and ended up in the Ivy League a decade later. Her parents worked in restaurants and sweatshops but still saved up enough money to buy a house five years after they arrived.
Miss Ma criticizes other races as well. She was frustrated by her fellow Asians’ passivity and lack of unity in the face of black aggression. She did not develop close friendships with other Asian girls and found that many were jealous of her success in school and more interested in movie stars and boy bands.
Hispanics were not nearly as abusive as blacks but some did join in the anti-Asian bullying. The one time Miss Ma fought back physically was when she finally had enough of a Mexican girl who was taunting her.
Whites are barely a footnote in this book. A few were in her AP classes, and though they did not abuse her, Miss Ma thought they were privileged and superficial. One day, after her usual dose of harassment from blacks, she found a distraught white girl in the bathroom. The girl was having a bad-hair day.
After the graduation ceremony from Stanford Law School, Miss Ma’s classmates were partying or having celebratory lunches. Miss Ma was helping her parents understand and complete closing papers on a new house in a better neighborhood. It is hard not to admire her.
Opportunity and freedom?
Miss Ma started out to write a book on American opportunity and freedom, but a series of black-on-Asian killings in 2010 made her change focus. “As news about the sadistic attacks hit the Internet and airwaves, I quickly lost interest in inserting commentary about freedom into my draft chapters,” she wrote.
She has also discovered the double standard:
Had white teenagers inflicted similarly horrific violence on Asian residents across America in a series of incidents over a four month period, the country — or at least the cities where the crimes took place — would have rushed to engage in serious soul-searching about white attitudes toward Asians. Where black-on-Asian violence was concerned however, America’s fear of confronting painful truths beyond the bounds of political correctness became all too clear.
Miss Ma’s decision to talk about race makes Chinese Girl in the Ghetto unique, but it may have had a cost: the book is self-published. Miss Ma is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has written for the Wall Street Journal,International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Policy Review and National Review Online. Why aren’t neoconservative and even a few liberal publishers jumping at the chance to publish a work extolling the opportunities and wonders of the United States from a young Asian immigrant?
Miss Ma hinted at the reason why when she told FrontPage Magazine:
Given everybody’s obsession with China these days, my book probably would sell much better had I written about China alone and skipped any references to the unpleasant reality in the ghetto. . . . I will leave it up to my readers — and the market — to decide whether that was wise.
Racial taboos paralyze even non-white organizations. There are several Asian “civil rights” groups, but they are afraid to criticize blacks. Let an 18-year-old white woman at UCLA, Alexandra Wallace, make silly remarks about Asians on YouTube and they are as brave as samurai. Miss Wallace was eventually hounded out of the university. Yet these same race activists have nothing to say about the repeated assaults, robberies, and even murders that blacks routinely commit against Asians. Miss Ma is the rare Asian brave enough to speak up for her people.
Of course, any reader of American Renaissance can offer Miss Ma an endless supply of similarly unheralded black-on-white attacks. During the few days I was reading her book a white transvestite was beaten by a gang of black girls in Baltimore (this did get some publicity), an autistic white man was beaten by a black on a bus in San Bernardino, and a gang of blacks robbed and assaulted white passengers on a train in Atlanta. There could well have been similar attacks that were either not reported or were so briefly noted that I never heard of them. Needless to say, the subject of black racism remains officially off limits.
Still, people who would never dream of reading American Renaissance may be open to a message of racial reality if it comes from a young Asian woman. Whites are being bit by the same dog as Asians. If her book can alert more people to black pathology it may help chip away at the taboos against discussing them.