9.19.2014

Random Rant about Western Asia

A while back, my eldest sister and I were talking about romantic partner preferences (or at least I think that was the topic).  She talked about regularly interacting with various Asians at work and outside of work and until today, maintains she's just not attracted to Asians.  Quick side note: as the founder and co-moderator of a Blasian blog and author of multiple Blasian works, I'll understand if folks consider me biased.  But to me, logically and simply, if you're a sexual person who's regularly interacting with Asians but simply not attracted to them, then you must be hanging out with the wrong Asians.

As fellow Narrator Kon has had to reiterate in a vlog, Asia is a "big-ass continent.  Huge." Saying you're a sexual person (as in not asexual) who's "just not attracted to Asians" is saying you're just not attracted to 60% of the human species...literally billions of people spanning a vast variety of ethnicities, languages, cultures, and yes, physical appearances.  When you're ruling out that level of variety, one has to wonder why you'd even bother calling yourself a sexual person.

But I digress.

This post isn't actually about romantic/sexual preference, it's about geography.  As we kept talking, my sister mentioned all her Lebanese connections, Arab friends, Middle Eastern acquaintances, etc.  For folks who've ever wondered, Mid-East/Middle East, over time, became shorthand for "Middle East Asia."  So while she was talking about her friends from Syria, etc., I was like, "Oh...you're kicking it with Western Asians."

By her reaction, you would've thought I'd uttered some heinous form of sacrilege. My sister emphatically insisted these were not Asians nor did they consider themselves Asian, and you already know the reason why: "Asian" has essentially come to mean Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.  If the person has a couple of more points to their IQ, they might also tack on Thailand and Vietnam...Philippines too, if they've had their morning coffee.  But for a lot of folks, that's pretty much it.

She actually struck me as being troubled by my use of the term "Western Asians", and repeatedly brought up the fact she'd never heard this and that her friends, never, ever, ever used the term.  Me...I was pretty much shrugging and stating 1) it depends upon whom you're talking to, 2) what's going on in the world, and 3) the big one: how we define ourselves doesn't change Geography 101.

There are seven continents - Africa, Asia, South America, North America, Europe, Antarctica, and Australia.  Oceania, last I checked, was still being debated, but even so, it includes Australia, thus keeping us at seven.

Now...this isn't rocket science.  This isn't advanced political science.  This is the shit you learned - or should've learned - in grade school.  I get that people like to define their personal identities, and most definitely have that right, but there is some basic shit we all have to accept until further notice.


Contrary to semi-popular sentiment, "Eurasia"* is not a separate continent of its own comprising Asian-like Europeans and European-like Asians (which is where the "Western Asian" conversation often tends to head).  Eurasia, conversely, is exactly what it says on the tin: a combination of both Europe and Asia - in their entirety - into a single continent.  (Even less known is the term Afro-Eurasia/Eurafrasia which adds Africa - again, in its entirety - to the mix, thereby forming a supercontinent.)

Now, I'm not going to sit here and discuss theories as to why certain folks virulently avoid the "Asian" label; y'all can get into that conversation if you really want to.  This post is about people redefining basic concepts (like geography) to crucial concepts (like rape, genocide, and terrorism) simply to feel better about themselves, and to back up their extremely limited and self-serving opinions about the world around them.

You know that old saying about those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it?  Slight tweak: those who downplay the necessity of geography are doomed to wind up like this....



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*FYI: Eurasia is not a new concept; it's actually very old, tracing back to a time when humans actually did view the two as a single continent.  In fact, it's theorized that the main reason that particular perspective was altered in the first place was to accommodate Eurocentrism (yeah, I know, big shocker).  So for Western Asians fleeing the "Asian" label, you gotta ask yourselves what you're fleeing to, 'cause chances are, you're not wanted where you're headed.  But that's between you and you.

10 comments:

  1. Girl, like...I knew the seven continents back in kindergarten. That's like, core education. There ain't been an eighth added to the mix. Any fool with good eyes or a decent pair of glasses should be able to look at a world map and see that shit.

    Sounds like an instance of folks wanting to re-write history, or in this case, re-draw the world map.

    *rubs temples* Thanks for the chuckle tho.

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  2. The issue, as always, is the Eurocentric/white USian conception of "Asia", which many of us PoC (even those involved in social justice) do not fully question. Yes, the North American idea of Asia is based on historical immigration trends from East/South East Asia/the Pacific (and colonial rule). But it is also based on - perhaps willful - ignorance of basic genetics. Really, that's what being "Asian" comes down to in the U.S.- warped and racist notions around phenotype. This is why there is quite a bit of resistance around South Asians Americans claiming the Asian label (even though quite a few South Asians resemble and have East/South East Asian ancestry). PoCs have been mixing and sharing knowledge and LAND for millennia. So, it is virtually impossible to classify countries into continents or people into "races" to neatly fit into these continents. Many PoC, knowingly or unknowingly, become proponents of racist white geography. Like your sis, I know Arabs, Persians, Afghans (and some Pakistanis) who vehemently deny their "Asian-ness". I sometimes see where *a few* of these people are coming from; they want the freedom be able to identify as "Arab" or "Pashtun" instead of being forced into a catch-all label. But these are the same people who happily tick "white" on the U.S. census. *eye roll*

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  3. But these are the same people who happily tick "white" on the U.S. census.

    Preach. The great thing about reading Eurasian history is the result: when Europe decided to split away from the idea of a single continent due to "cultural differences", they didn't take with them the Turks, Arabs, Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians, etc. They left them in Asia, which - call me crazy - should be the focal point here.

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  4. I don't know much about the Middle East but I see what you mean...White people have no problem with grouping POC who are very different together to keep their boundaries and disassociate with them. It's like what they did after the independence of African nations...not giving a shit about the different ethnic groups and stuff, arbitrary borders.
    But I wonder if White people took into account that Western Asians tend to have good historic relations through trade with East Asian and South Asian countries...from what I've read, I may be wrong. Like, Islam wasn't brought in East Asia with missionaries. People adopted it on their own, because they liked it.

    I do think that people should be more clear though about who they're talking about by citing the countries.

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  5. Thank you Ankhesen for this post. I am always surprised when people I have encountered says "There is no West Asia". I always bring up you can't have a "Middle" if the immediate left is a different continent but ok.....

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  6. Ankhesen, I understand your point about geography, but I kind of agree with your sister. Language is about communication and for it to be effective the terms of reference used must be broadly accepted by the target audience. It may not be politically correct, but as things stand "Asian" in English is generally accepted as being a reference to East and Southeast Asians (although, in the UK the word refers to South Asians while the anachronistic "Oriental" is used for East Asians).

    If we were to refer to people using a geographical definition, white Australians and New Zealanders could well be lumped together with Asians and I don't think you would find many people that would understand "Asian" in such terms. Certainly, white Aussies and Kiwis would not identify themselves as Asians.

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    Replies
    1. a reference to East and Southeast Asians

      And if the concept of East and Southeast Asians are acceptable in language...what about their counterparts? Have you noticed we have every kind of East Asia imaginable - East Asia, Far East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle East Asia...and a virulent opposition to even mentioning the very (logical) existence of the West?

      Siah's assessment remains on point: this is about corrupting language/concept (in this case geography) in order to push a specific agenda: avoiding identification with a term that has a non-white connotation (in this case, "Asian").

      When I was a teenager, I read the 1001 Arabian Nights volume (note the wording in the very first paragraph). Phenomenal work; profound insight into an age when Western Asians were brown and proud. The story of "Prince Camaralzaman and the Princess of China" is particularly noteworthy. The Prince is Persian (Western Asian) and the Princess is Chinese (Eastern Asian). Apparently, the two are deemed "fated" to be together because they are both so beautiful, but not just because of that:

      The first thing that struck Marzavan on entering the prince's chamber was to find him upon his bed languishing, and with his eyes shut. Although he saw him in that condition, and although the king his father was sitting by him, he could not help crying out, 'Was there ever a greater resemblance!' He meant to the Princess of China; for it seems the princess and prince were much alike.

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    2. If we were to refer to people using a geographical definition, white Australians and New Zealanders could well be lumped together with Asians and I don't think you would find many people that would understand "Asian" in such terms. Certainly, white Aussies and Kiwis would not identify themselves as Asians.

      By geographical definition and current convention, Australia - quite rightly - is considered its own continent. Depending on sources, it could be considered either part of Oceania or separate from Oceania. The logic behind the grouping, as I understand it, is due not only to the physical locations of the islands themselves, but because of the specific peoples indigenous to that area.

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    3. You're right about Australia being its own continent. The thing is, many Australians regard Australia as being part of Asia (or "Asia-Pacific") geographically. For example, take a look at how this think-tank (an Australian site) has defined "East Asia":

      http://www.eastasiaforum.org/wp-content/themes/redeaf/images/eastasia.png?8aee72

      But on second thought, it probably would've been better to use the word "American" to make my point. We all understand "American" to be a reference to United Statesians; Canadians are not referred to as "Americans", and neither are Brazilians, even though both are citizens of either North or South America. But this probably just supports your point about corrupting language to push a specific agenda...

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    4. The irony of that particular agenda is how it's backfired. Courtesy of these Disunited States, "American" is an increasingly negative term, carrying the connotations of ignorance, arrogance, and violent impulses.

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