“Fresh off the Boat” author and restaurateur Eddie Huang has responded to Steve Harvey‘s controversial Asian men joke from earlier this month.
In an essay for the New York Times, Huang wrote about the certain stereotypes Asian men face — “we count good, we bow well… our male anatomy is the size of a thumb drive and we could never in a thousand millenniums be a threat to steal your girl.” Yet, growing up, he realized those stereotypes necessarily don’t deem to be true, given that he “didn’t count good, I hated bowing,” etc.
But the one joke that still hits a sore spot is the one that “women don’t want Asian men” — a statement Harvey made on his show earlier this month.
Harvey invoked the internet’s ire during an episode of his talk show, when he poked fun at dating guides via the example, “How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men.” Harvey then cracked himself — but clearly not everyone — up with a string of one-liners.
“Do you like Asian men?” Harvey asked, before answering his own question with, “No.”
Harvey continued, “I don’t even like Chinese food.”
The comment drew backlash, with many calling Harvey “Mr. Potato Head.” Now, in the NYT piece, Huang wrote about the “expectations the dominant culture” places on Asian-Americans.
“I realized that people on the margins aren’t afforded the privilege of being complicated, whole, human beings in America; we have to create that existence ourselves, and it is that experience that I feel fundamentally binds us,” he wrote. “Over time, I began to find solidarity with my singularity and difference. Yet the one joke that still hurts, the sore spot that even my closest friends will press, the one stereotype that I still mistakenly believe at the most inopportune bedroom moments […] is that women don’t want Asian men. Attractiveness is a very haphazard dish that can’t be boiled down to height or skin color, but Asian men are told that regardless of what the idyllic mirepoix is or isn’t, we just don’t have the ingredients.”
He continued, “But no matter how successful I was, how much self-improvement was made, or how aware I was that stereotypes are not facts, there were times I thoroughly believed that no one wanted anything to do with me. I told myself that it was all a lie, but the structural emasculation of Asian men in all forms of media became a self-fulfilling prophecy that produced an actual abhorrence to Asian men in the real world.”
He goes on to write that that’s why Harvey’s episode was so “upsetting:” “He speaks openly about issues facing the black community, he is a man of God, and he has a huge platform to speak from. Unfortunately, he’s also the type of guy who orders Krug champagne for himself and Cook’s for every one else. For his own personal profit, he’s willing to perpetuate the emasculation of Asian men regardless of how hypocritical it is.”
Read his entire essay here.