A Moment of Silence for Lisa Chan’s Career
Lisa Chan, the budding actress who starred in Pete Hoekstra’s now notorious campaign ad, is apparently regretting it.
The ad is not racist, as people have claimed. It’s not even xenophobic: it uses an attractive woman to represent a China which is beating America through hard work, and because America is stupid. The worst that can be said is that it assumes a dubious zero-sum conception of economics, whereby if China gets rich, the USA must get poor. (Well, that and also it employs some horrible puns).
So why all the fuss?
The ad portrays China as a competitor (which in many ways it is). This is problematic because competition forces people to choose sides, even if the competitors otherwise respect each other. In particular, the ad (unintentionally) invites Chinese-Americans to choose sides. Chinese-Americans don’t want to choose sides, and resent the suggestion that they need to. The truth is that their loyalties are divided: they have racial, familial, and cultural ties to China; there are also reasons why they or their parents left China, they have friends and jobs here, and they genuinely want to fit into their adopted home-land.
I don’t have a problem with divided loyalties. Anyone has any number of commitments, and sometimes these commitments conflict. But we love to deceive ourselves, telling ourselves that we can have everything at the same time. We hate when other people suggest that we can’t. And the more likely it is that our commitments are really going to come into conflict, the more we hate the suggestion.
A lot of huffing about ‘racism’ and other forms of ‘prejudice’ reflects this kind of insecurity about belonging. Apparently Lisa Chan wasn’t insecure, so good for her.