The Racism Behind the Marina District

with edits

The Marina District in Toledo recently sold for a few million dollars, and citizens are objecting in droves. Forget that the property was an eyesore for over a decade, the money saved or the money earned through local tax. Equally forgettable are the relationships built with Chinese investors, who went on to purchase other property like the Docks.

And omit the detail that the City of Toledo can re-buy the Marina District five years after purchase date. Toledoans are stuck on who bought the property – the Chinese. Whereas African-Americans regularly experience social stereotypes, such as police profiling, the Chinese are stereotyped globally.

Americans fear an enormous Chinese military, hold a McCarthian view of communism, or that too many American jobs traverse to China. Because the language barrier is as pronounced and that most Chinese are naturally non aggressive, the discourse between Chinese and American is cluttered with fear or resentment.

The Chinese are mostly passive, and throughout world history, subsequently embarrassed on a global scale. There’s the Mongol invasion of China in the 13th century, the democratic revolution in the early 20th century, Japan’s invasion of China in 1937, and the French during the Second Opium War. Americans confuse aggression with China’s passivity and ingrown national paranoia.

The Chinese are scared to lose Tibet or to renounce rights to Taiwan, because of a history of embarrassment on a world scale. They are also wary of Americans, who they view to have traditionally forced western assimilation onto foreign countries.

Despite a history of paranoia, the Chinese immigrants to Toledo eagerly integrate into American society. These are the types of people who drive to Niagara Falls, soak in the streams of water for a few minutes, and then drive back to Toledo within a twenty four hour period.

Most Chinese in Toledo are incapable of grasping the western concept of racism because they speak average to terrible English. Even though a word like oriental elicits memories of the Chinese building U.S. railroads as slaves, one might occasionally see a food market headlined with that racial distinction.

Trying to get the average Chinese immigrant to understand institutional racism would take a lifetime of lectures spoken in fluent Mandarin. To them, if a white person describes them as oriental or from the Far East, then it must be good to include into their own daily rhetoric.

We’re still living in a fantasy in which acts of racism only includes segregation or nasty words. Part of the new wave of racism is that of stereotyping; perceiving that all Chinese people reek of communism and socialism, which is no different than fearing a Black man as he walks down the street of a suburb.

Racism has also evolved into another classification: the absence of diversity as a companion to Clinton era affirmative action laws. When I studied at Oklahoma State, I recall just five American minorities in the entire English department, teachers and graduate students alike.

When interviewing for full-time positions, the list of potential professors did not include a single minority candidate. There was a white dominated hierarchy at Ok State unwilling to seek out qualified minorities, which is a symptom of racism.

The Marina district issue is multi-dimensional. First, it’s the stereotyping; a fear of Chinese people because of how one views where Chinese people came from. Interconnected is the absence of diversity; the common theme of so-called “die hard” Americans who would rather pay higher taxes than sell anything to a Chinese lead company.



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