Thoughts for Sleepless Nights

They say all humans are genetically 99.95% identical. What? What about the other 0.05%?! Do the math. We have about 34,000 genes. That means there are 17 mystery genes that define all human differences! What if researchers decide that as a race we Asians don’t share some genes shared by all white people and that those genes define our temperament, moral fibre and intellectual capacity?

Think about it. What better justification for racist groups to argue that Asians don’t even belong to the human race? A landmark suit is filed and works its way up to the Supreme Court. The high court holds that Asians are not human after all and, therefore, not eligible for equal protection, due process and other constitutional guarantees. Local governments start nullifying real property deeds and marriage certificates issued to Asians. Forget interracial conflict. We’re talking about the potential for inter-special war! A fierce debate might rage as to whether hapas, “half-humans”, should be allowed to retain human status. Asians might even start dying their hair blonde and going under the knife to look more caucasian — but to no avail. They are betrayed by the telltale race genes.

That’s only one of the scenarios that swarm into my brain as I stare up at the dark ceiling at four in the morning. By that hour my mind has long since overshot things that have happened and sped on to things that could happen. For us Asian Americans the opening nights of the 21st century may be the golden age of insomnia, so pregnant is the near future with possibilities for good and bad. Let me share some other scenarios.

• Researchers prove that MSG and soy sauce are dangerously addictive. Local governments move switftly to close down all Asian restaurants. Asian gangs open speakeasies where people gather secretly to pay exhorbitant prices for kung pao chicken, kalbi and big bowls of steaming pho. Powerful foodlords wage bloody turf wars. They keep entire police departments on the payroll. Politicians are paid off to stonewall any and all efforts to legalize Asian restaurants.

• All eight campuses of the University of California are overrun with Asians. Angry whites stage mass rallies and threaten violence against Asian students. Declaring a state of emergency, the President signs an executive order sending all Asian college students to “security” camps “for their own protection”. There they are made to learn useful trades like carpentry, roofing and bricklaying while their college slots are reassigned to white students. Don’t laugh. When Southern Californians began grumbling that Japanese Americans had come to own too much choice real estate, they were sent to camps in places like Arkansas and Wyoming. It was said to have been for their own protection.

• Psychologists and social scientists conclude that Mortal Kombat and Dragonball-Z are parts of a sinister Chinese plot to subject American kids to images of strong, muscular Asian males capable of winning. Vigorously lobbied by religious and social groups, politicians speak out against the potential damage to the greatest of American legacies — the unshakeable conviction, painstakingly nurtured by Hollywood, that Asians are an inferior race that can easily be defeated, manipulated and exploited. Consequently, laws are passed banning all cartoons and video games featuring Asian characters who violate longstanding stereotypes of timidity, homeliness, evil and cowardice.

• In the wake of the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a tidal wave of Asian martial arts flicks swamp movie screens and airwaves. Some Americans begin decrying the dangers of subjecting American kids to all that Asian violence. Hollywood is ultimately pressured into going along with a ban on the production and distribution of movies featuring Asians. A few independents try to defy the ban by making and showing films starring a charismatic new Asian action star. He meets an untimely and mysterious death, like Bruce Lee and his son Brandon. A determined investigative reporter uncovers the awful truth: a century-old global conspiracy of white supremacists has been working secretly to eliminate any and all threats to the image of the white male as the repository of all masculine strength, wit and sex appeal.

As farfetched as those scenarios may be, they seem positively realistic compared to the ones that rage through my brain on nights when the insomnia is really bad:

• The 3.5 million Asian Americans who graduated from U.S. universities during the past two decades grow up to become elite professionals with a consciousness of their own importance as workers, shareholders and consumers. Corporate America comes to its senses and refuses to advertise on or finance TV shows and movies that belittle or exclude Asians.

• Asians around the world decide they are tired of seeing movies starring people who don’t look like themselves. Not wanting to become niche players in a global marketplace in which Asians outnumber Whites three to one, Hollywood executives begin casting Asians as leads of big-budget movies while appeasing the white minority by including them as ingratiating sidekicks and admiring girlfriends.

• The generation of Asian Americans who have grown up with stereotypes become parents and raise a generation of non-stereotypical kids. Young Asians encouraged to pursue their non-academic talents flood into Hollywood and the sports world by the hundreds of thousands. Attractive Asian faces become so commonplace in the Amerian media that I am forced to start watching broadcasts from eastern Europe for a change of pace!