The coup d’état at Teen Vogue is the result of a debased form of identity building—one that mistakes an identity worth having for one founded on the pitiless prosecution of offenses by members of other races regardless of whether they are large or small, intended or unintended, ongoing or long-disavowed. I see little harm, and some good, in the various Asian-hyphenated Americans celebrating their communities, and even their wider pan-Asian community. Like everyone, Asian Americans should meet racism and violence with the contempt they deserve. But they should decline to model their outrage on the vindictive excesses that have become commonplace. They should do so independently of existing structures, which originated in categories of Black and white, and don’t work very well for discussion of those races either. Nor is it any failure of allyship with Black people, or for that matter white people, to opt out of these structures. Black identity and white identity are lamentable realities, difficult to unravel because they are legacies of America’s original sin. If, as Hong says, Asian identity is something still being built, a real act of allyship would be to reject the defective templates of its predecessors. No one wants to be stuck in a prison of racial identity, but the prison walls do not crumble because some people volunteer to be inmates with those who have no choice.
America has forgotten how to forgive