Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Success of Tibetans: Choeying Kyi's Bronze

This past summer, during the London Olympics, something very unusual happened:

Tibetans, the world over, cheered as a competitor wearing the People's Republic of China uniform raced for, and eventually won, a bronze metal.

Another unusual event occurred as well.

Chinese, the world over, cheered as a Tibetan competitor raced for, and eventually won, a bronze metal.

Why? Because for the first time ever, a Tibetan competed in the olympics.  Unsurprisingly, she was competing under the Chinese flag. I say 'unsurprisingly' because statistically, with roughly 150,000 Tibetans in exile and 6,000,000 Tibetans in Tibet, there is a larger pool of potential athletes to choose from Inside of Tibet and therefore under Chinese domain should they wish to compete in the olympics.

Tibetans, almost uniformly, were thrilled to finally see a Tibetan face in the olympics.  Choeying Kyi, a young woman from a nomadic family in Amdo, not only was able to compete in the women's 20 km racewalk, she took home the bronze metal.  She wasn't just the first Tibetan competitor in the Olympic Games, she was the first ever Tibetan medalist.

Along the track, Tibetan flags waved alongside Chinese ones, and banners written in both Tibetan and Chinese urged Choeying Kyi to win.

Of course, there were those who felt uncomfortable cheering on an athlete under the Chinese flag and understandably so.  I am sure that there are many Tibetan athletes who might be of olympic quality but wouldn't feel comfortable competing as a representative from China.

But there was a far more vocal group as well, primarily consisting of Western "supporters" who plastered the word "COLLABORATOR" over the photos of Choeying Kyi winning the race and campaigned and wrote on how she was a traitor, how she should have stood up for Tibet and protested or defected.

I ask these people: what do you think would have happened to her family if she had done this?  It's easy to say that, but would you risk your family?  You don't have to!

I use Choeying Kyi as an example, because she was one of the first Tibetans under a Chinese passport to make a big name in the international media in recent years.  However, I consider this just another symptom of a greater problem that I've seen among so-called "supporters." And it is the idea that Tibetans cannot be successful unless they are collaborators, the idea that Tibetans can never be truly Tibetan without being protestors.

But that request boils down to this: Asking that Tibetans in Tibet risk their lives and safety, their families' lives, for the sake of politics. Asking Tibetans to forfeit the right to just try to live a normal life. Asking Tibetans to forfeit the right to try and be successful, just because they would have to play within China's rules.  Who will they condemn next? The composers who must submit their music to 'copyright offices' where they are judged by censors?  The singers who's concerts and music videos must be published on a state run television? The Tibetan film directors who have no choice but to play their films on state run television stations because no others exist?

It's fine if you don't want to cheer Choeying Kyi on, but she isn't putting Tibetans in jail, she isn't making propaganda speeches about how Tibetans are So Happy Under the Great Motherland. She's living a dream under the restrictions that have been imposed on her.

So don't cheer for her if you don't want to, but how can people declare her and by extension any Tibetan who chooses to pursue success over mediocrity and safety over extreme danger for the sake of a political battle they don't know if they can win, a "collaborator"?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Doing Things Right

Recently I've seen this article being passed around, "An Open Letter to Self-Identified Allies to [Marginalized Group]"  With the last post being about how I couldn't even express how many things were wrong, this article had overwhelmed me with all that was right.  So rather than summarize it, I'll just post the first point of the letter and I hope you will all read and pass this great open letter on!

Remember that your identity as an “ally” is contingent upon the maintenance of the status quo.
In other words, your identity as an “ally” has its basis in the continued oppression of marginalized groups. In the possible future reality of a just world, your identity as an “ally” would be obsolete. Work toward putting yourself out of a “job.” An effective ally’s goal should be toward obsolescence.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Where to even start

A reader sent us the following facebook conversation.  It's honestly hard to even start with what's wrong with this.  For privacy, we've covered all names, but B is the only Tibetan in the conversation.

What really gets to me here goes back to one of our age-old points: entitlement.  The writer points out how much they've done for Tibetans as if they expect some sort of reward or immunity from responses to their criticisms of Tibetan communities.  Remember, people, if you're doing this do get something, you're doing it for the wrong reasons.

The C responds.  Mass generalizations about tibetans as "childlike and egotistical" followed "Tibetans are in a negative karmic cycle". Well, that's some victim blaming! The whole comment is victim blaming.

But wait guys. That's not all:

A's comment: Threatened?  Come on. The statement was that there would be backlash. Let's be honest, any time anyone writes something critical there is backlash.  And considering A's comments as this post continues, the backlash of her supposed critiques is probably deserved.  C continues with Tibetans now being "Fascist and authoritarian".

Now B, a Tibetan woman based in the west, comes into the conversation, calling C out on his degrading generalizations about the Tibetan community.  She also seems to be very gently asking A to reconsider her critiques for the same reasons.  I want to note the gentleness, because it reminded me of a comment we got from a Tibetan reader a long time ago. The reader mentioned how lots of Tibetans felt pressured to be overly nice and polite to foreign "supporters" and avoid criticizing them.  I can't speak to B's intention here, so I don't know if that's what's going on, but it definitely reminded me of that comment. B Then is forced to point out another major racist pattern: when one, non-white, person does something, the whole group gets blamed.  B goes on to call C out on his ignorant bullshit and self-purported rationality.

Now A joins on the faux-Buddhist, victim blaming bandwagon.  And yes! My bingo card is filling right up! Quoting important Tibetan figures out of context!  I wonder what Jamyang Norbu would say to being referenced like this...

C's apology is even worse.  Like any good fake apology, we get the "Sorry...but" and then goes on to call B's response a "typical Tibetan ethnocentric hyper-defensive response..." but seems to be absolving himself by saying "it could be argued" (Weasel words, anyone?)  And then, no not all tibetans are bad "but what if half"...really?  And this is coming from someone who lives in Tibetan communities and claims to love Tibetans.  I don't even.... Seriously. I'm having trouble with words.

B, the only Tibetan in the conversation I want to emphasize  again brings up the important point that it's not that Tibetans are bad, it's that one Tibetan did something.

C: Fundamentalist fascistic Tibetans?  Man. I have to wonder what was under that "see more" link.


C, you are the master of the backhanded compliment. Once again, how Tibetans are "far from great thinkers".  Wow.  So they're jerks, lying assholes, fundamentalist fascists, but they're mostly OK even though they are kind of stupid?  Tell me, C, how is it you hold them in such high regard?  That statement just reeks of self importance.

Seriously. I can't even analyze this. I'm done.