Content Warning: stereotypes, anti-Asian racism
So, I know it has been a long time since I posted. A lot of it has to do with being increasingly busy with some stuff while also having almost no time to write except for a little thing here and there. Also being as deep in the work to help make the world a better place has left me tired, especially with how toxic our political climate has become in the United States.
I will start off with a little good news before I get to the title of this update. First, I had the pleasure to visit relatives I have not seen in years last summer. I also spent time with relatives I had not seen in over a decade, as well. There was also meeting relatives I did not know I had! Some of my in-laws also come from a variety of backgrounds, and I am so happy at seeing my family as multiracial and multiethnic as we are.
Now I am getting to the stressful situation. There is many things that might match this since I last posted, but this is a more important one. It needs said just in case it does become an ordeal later.
Because I do want to protect some of my own anonymity and also (for now) the anonymity of the publishers and editors, there is a situation that came up with an article I published in an encyclopedia. First: this was a very good opportunity for me and I am grateful to have had it. However, when I saw how my article came out in the actual printed encyclopedia, I saw some content that was significantly different. Some editing was expected, and I know that the editor told us all that we would not have the chance to see the draft they intend to submit to the publisher because the publisher suddenly changed their expectations and the deadline for the needed edits was tight. To this end, I understand why I might have not had a chance to see how my work would come out.
However, in my work, there were two phrases that made it that were never, EVER in my final draft I submitted to the editors. The phrases inserted changed my work significantly and now perpetuates the very stereotypes I was combating by authoring one of the articles. These phrases were basically saying in one sentence that they may struggle with English, then say that they may resist westernization in another. There was no “some may” in either case, it was “they may.” This bothers me because I spent a portion of my article draft I submitted trying to criticize the idea of the “perpetual foreigner” and this reverses some of that effort on my part. There was nothing I saw in the piece to mitigate these phrases in a way that adds context or nuance, either.
I understand the editors may not have been sensitized to some of this, but I am. When I was younger, a shade or two darker, and did not pass as white, people asked me where I was really from. I even still sometimes get this on the wrong time, day, and shade. Now I have a work out there who will not only sting some peoples who are Asian, Pacific Islander, and more, but really any immigrant to one degree or another who has had to deal with people scrutinizing their proficiency in English. This issue affects some more than others, but is still an issue no matter what. I may not be an immigrant and I will certainly not speak for the community, but I have heard the stories from people who have migrated over to the United States and received mean-spirited remarks on their language proficiency. In addition, I have also heard stories from people born in this country be scrutinized for their language proficiency despite having spoken far better English than most US-born citizens.
In any case, I wrote to the publisher first about this. I did not want to make assumptions on what calls the editor made, and I know that the publisher’s choice in this matter to put the product out the way it is plays a significant role. These sort of issues are systemic, and reflect a broader issue that perpetuates harm toward people. I sincerely was trying to trust the publishers and editors on this and assume that my entry would not have significant changes.
I was unfortunately hit from the side with this. Months after the work has been printed out, I learn of how my entry looks. Thinking on this, I regret what sort of harm was already done because I only learned of this months later. Through contacting the publisher, I hope this will be resolved in a positive way to do that.
Another portion to this situation is I did notice that one of the editors inserted their name as a co-author of the piece I submitted for publication in the final draft. I understand that systemically, this might have given them more legal justification to not alert the authors how their work has been altered; at best, it is an acknowledgement not all words in the piece are mine. Still, this does not make the situation more unpleasant, and I found even knowing how little authors have rights in the broader publisher industry, I am disappointed. If they would have all taken a moment longer to make sure that authors were okay with the final submission, even if I legally had delivered my rights, or to receive input from editors or sensitivity readers from the communities most affected, this would not as likely happened. Instead, my name is attached to something that has potential for harm.
Truth be told, despite the hurt I feel over this, and feeling like having words put in my mouth, I do not want ill to befall the publishers or editors. I just want this situation resolved and for them to consider how to reduce chances of this happening again. If anyone asks for my article on Asian American Identities, I am happy to provide my pre-print to them privately if they are among the people affected. They can see what I turned in to the editors. In this, it is only right that I am transparent about what happened. This is part of what I can do to try to mitigate the harm, as we are as a collective afflicted by intergenerational trauma from being triangulated against each other by those in power, especially colonial forces.
Hopefully I will have better news to post later, or I will have the energy to work on Part II of Allyship in the Gaming Community: A Work in Progress (Part I).
Please have peace, joy, and happiness in your lives. Also please be safe and healthy, as we still have a pandemic (if not more than one) going on.