Wednesday, September 9, 2015

James Tiptree Jr. vs. Yi-Fen Chou: on writers whose personas are more "privileged" than they are

Read Sherman Alexie, 'The Best American Poetry 2015,' and Race, especially for Alexie's reasoning for publishing a poem that had been submitted by Michael Derrick Hudson, a white man writing as Yi-Fen Chou. Alexie's a smart man and a fine writer who is caught between the needs of his identitarian beliefs and his desire to publish the best work, regardless of the writer's identity.

Then think about James Tiptree Jr., the persona of Alice Sheldon and consider this: Tiptree and Chou are more privileged than Sheldon or  Hudson. I trust I don't have to point out that the heart of the argument of male privilege is that men have greater economic opportunities than women (and yes, that's changing, but women's overall income has not caught up to men's). I suspect I do have to point out the existence of Asian-American privilege. From Asian Americans are quickly catching whites in the wealth race:
Asians have had higher median incomes than their white counterparts, according to a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The typical Asian family has brought home more money for most of the past two decades. 
...Some 65% of Asians age 35 to 39 have a college degree, compared to 42% of whites, 26% of blacks and 16% of Hispanics. Nearly a third of Asians that age have a graduate degree, more than twice that of whites. The share of blacks and Hispanics with advanced degrees are 9% and 5% respectively.
Asian-Americans object to race-based criteria for university admission because they know they have an advantage if you look through the racial reductionist lens of privilege theory. From Affirmative action amendment has some Asian-Americans furious | 89.3 KPCC:
...opponents — the most vocal being Chinese-American groups — are lobbying Assembly members to stop the measure from ever getting on the ballot. They predict their children would lose deserved college spots to “underrepresented” minorities such as Latinos and African-Americans if race-based admissions were to return. 
“College-admission standards should reflect our efforts, not by race,” said Kenny Hsu of the Southern California Council of Chinese Schools, which represents weekend language schools attended by more than 20,000 students.
So what does it mean when Michael Derrick Hudson cannot publish a poem as a white man, then has it accepted as one of the Best American Poems of 2015 when he writes as Yi-Fen Chou?

It means privilege is not as simple as privilege theorists think.

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