I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I entered USC through its only open gate (which I found so strange, are there other colleges that do that?). I only knew one thing: the panel would be blogger-star-studded, with myself being chump change in comparison and the only mommy blogger. Most of the other panelists wrote about racial and cultural issues, so I tried to bone up on my Asian American studies before attending. Other than that, I was ill prepared; I even forgot to bring my MOO cards.
Every single person I met was a delight. We mingled as the crew prepared the lecture hall for showtime, and half an hour after the official start time, we introduced ourselves to our audience. The other panelists were obviously intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful, and passionate, and I was excited to share the stage with them. I sat between Byron of BigWOWO (and Rice Daddies) and Phil of Angry Asian Man, so I knew I needed to bring it in order to earn the seat.
Then the panel discussion commenced, and I dunno, call me Pollyanna, but until then I had NO IDEA that there was any animosity between several different factions of the Asian American blogging world. Basically, the men thought Asian American women play an active role in the emasculation of the Asian American male by dating and marrying non-Asian (and let's face it, mostly white) men in increasing numbers, and the women were offended by the unrealistic, sexist, and ultimately dangerous stereotypes they are expected to play in order to be considered Asian and feminine enough. Also, the political bloggers dismissed the pop culture blogs as fluff pieces, which was ironic because they were mostly male while the pop culture writers were mostly female, therefore kinda proving the women's point. It struck me in the gut a bit, since I have always gotten along better with men throughout my life, and considered myself one of the guys in many contexts, but none of my guy friends ever talked to me about this issue, so I guess I was fooling myself while silently they resented me and my multi-culti bevy of bedmates. However, in spite of my personal hang-ups, I was so proud of these Asian American men and women engaging in compelling debate. We have indeed come a long way from the stereotype of the inscrutable Oriental.
Shortly after all that, Militantgate happened. The Minority Militant got extremely pissed in the British sense and left the stage in the middle of a discussion. He staggered up to the food table to drink some more, then sat in the audience for some time, yelling "West Siiiiiiide!" and throwing some signs for a few minutes before his girlfriend escorted him outside. He then tried to sneak back in a couple times, but eventually left for good. Having only read a few posts of his before the conference, I naturally assumed this was all a big Fuck You to the overly-intellectualized mental masturbation that is the bread and butter of the panel-based symposium. In other people's post-mortems, the trend seemed to be the closer you sat to him (and therefore the more you were subjected to the wine breath), the more outraged you were by his behavior; I was very far from him, so I thought it was very punk rock.
When it was over, I was replenished with a sense of awe at the possibility and promise of my generation of Asian Americans that I had lost in my college years. Maybe it was the specific people around me at the time, but I just thought my colleagues were just content to become personally successful and not really sweat it about making a bigger impact, but my fellow panelists proved me wrong. It made me wish I knew them back then, and a bit wistful at the lost opportunity. But hey, I ain't dead yet; if any of them need a helping hand, I'll definitely offer one, albeit one covered in baby shit.
So, to sum up, I am taking BANANA for what it is: a metaphor. I choose to enjoy the good stuff and will discard the less palatable peel. Concentrating on the peel denies the life-giving goodness within, and at the same time, the fruit is not complete without the peel.
Thanks so much, Lac and Steve, for inviting me to witness the start of something very, very big.
Here are links to other posts about BANANA:
Gil from Nikkei View
Nelson from AARisings
PS: Photos can be seen here, and I'm sure videos will be up soon.