I wrote this in response to an email I received, asking for my thoughts on the article.
Professor Hough a racist?
I do not believe Hough is racist by any stretch. I do believe he sits comfortably in, and exhibits openly, his unfettered white privilege.
On the surface, making a comparison to Asians seems simple enough, no matter his very real failure to acknowledge the historical differences in our country’s treatment of stateside (continental or otherwise) Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Filipino, Cambodian et cetera immigrants and foreign nationals. In blatantly grouping them all into this “Asian achievement” category, he shows a wanting ability to think critically.
The Asian high achievers in the US are more often than not second and third generation Japanese and Chinese Americans, the latter of whose culture includes a certain amount of prejudice against the Japanese, but does not include having forefathers and mothers placed into concentration camps after having had their Napa Valley land confiscated by US government officials.
Hough highlights the “American” name-donning by some American Asians, ignoring the truth that on the most basic level, their languages contain characters and sounds that do not exist in English or any other romance languages, and therefore can never be properly pronounced by native English-speakers, as a general rule. This is done both to respect their own culture and given names, as what you are called is important, but also to eliminate the hassle of correcting an existing subset of ignorant Americans uninterested in putting forth any effort to correctly pronounce said names when at all possible.
Black Americans donning new names is not indicative of an unwillingness to integrate, but rather an assertion that our difference makes us no less American. When the sounds of the names and spellings, in the case of my friend Chanté, have French sounds and spellings, they are mispronounced just as a much more phonetically challenging, American Asian’s given name would be. Yet, the French names are made entirely of letters and sounds that originated in the Latin alphabet.
Pausing there, let me state that I don’t believe he should be required to apologize. Teaching at an institution like Duke means that he has access to both educated AND intelligent young adults, though the two are, at times, mutually exclusive. They need to be exposed to this reality without having the option to change the proverbial channel. The review by a student online spoke directly to this truth and cautioned others not to skip Hough’s class, but to walk in with their heads screwed on straight, prepared to hear his thoughts and opinions.
How many thirty-something minorities among us in the current social climate are willing to bite our tongues, phrasing all we say so as not to offend? So as not to upset? I am very much in favor of pushing the envelope. I have no other option as a black woman in this country.