Bridge 2.2 (December 1972)
Editorial: As the Year Ends: A discussion of the past present and future of Bridge Magazine.
The Arts: Poems by Tachihara Michizo, translated by Takashi Kodera
Die Today, Die Tomorrow: the rise and fall of Chinatown gangs, by Henri Chang
A Laundryman's Daughter, by Mary Chu
The Security Blanket of Racial Anonymity, by Clarence Chan
El Paso: the Ghost of Chinese Past
Who's Afraid of Frank Chin, or is it Ching? an exchange of letters between playwright and Bridge editor
1. [Frank Chin] Dear Frank,
Been out of it and uptight all month. My mother died in an auto wreck July 31st, bringing me back quick from the Berkshires in Massachusetts where I was going to polish the new play. Now I'm getting busy again scuffling and hassling.
I'd like to take advantage of your being on the inside of the Times and have you lay the enclosed on the editor of the Sunday Arts and Leisure section. I'm throwing a few things back at Jules Irving and Ralph Blumenthal. If you have any clout at the paper, I'd appreciate you using it to get my piece of badmouth in ink.
Bill Wong and me are rewriting a paper I did for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on Asian American ... a kind of list of guidelines for coverage, background, description of the stereotypes to get 'em to do it right when they open their mouths about us or hire us to pose for them. We're aiming to publish it in one of the broadcasting mags. We're working with Chris Chow and Suzanne Jow and Yemun Chung ... the most energetic, and the most active yellow news snoops in town.
Later, take care and thanks...
2. [Frank Ching]
Glad to hear from you again, though I'm sorry about your mother.
If you wish, I'll forward the piece you sent me to the Sunday drama editor. I see little likelihood that he will print it, though, because you do not limit yourself to Jules Irving, but include Tom Wolfe and Ralph Blumenthal. I would suggest that you limit this to Irving and, if you wish, send separate things to Tom Wolfe and Blumenthal.
Let me fill you in on the background of Blumenthal's piece. He had consulted with me before proceeding. [...] Although I didn't think it was much of an article, I didn't thinkg it was really that harmful. [...]
I m obviously not as sensitive as you are to the innuendoes of language. But the linking in the average person's mind of Chinese from Hong Kong or Taiwan and American-born chinese is understandable. I also feel that, while Chinese-Americans should not constantly have to fight for their birthright as Americans, they should also not shun recent immigrants for fear of being tainted as foreigners. Chinese were for too many years forbidden to come to the U.S. they should be welcomed today, especially by Chinese-Americans.
3. [Frank Chin]
Ignorance and racism support each other and when ignorance is used as knowledge it's racist. Likewise 'the linking in the average person's mind of Chinese from Hong Kong or Taiwan and American-born Chinese' is not understandable, except in the terms of white racism. Whites from France, England and Americans of French and English descent are not linked up in the average person's mind are they.
I'm not shunning immigrants. I'm stating the fact that I am not Chinese. I am not shunning Albinos, elephants, dwarves and midgets either. But call me one and I'll just have to set you straight. As far as I'm concerned Americanized chinese who've come over in their teens and later to settle here and American born Chinamen have nothing in common, culturally, intellectually, emotionally.
["Frank Ching did not reply to this letter. The two held a number of telephone conversations during which Frank Chin agreed to write an article for Bridge and to have part of his play reprinted in Bridge. Two weeks after this verbal agreement, Frank Ching received this letter:]
4. [Frank Chin]
[...] If the purpose of Bridge is to bind me to the immigrants, I'm not interested in being bound. If it is to acquaint me with immigrant thought, I find it dull and tediously working hard to be hip and/or intellectual/scholarly following white rules of language, argot, slang and grammar and like Charlie Chan's Number One Son, fucking it all up badly and yet admirably...admirable if for no other reason than the enormity of the effort behind the attempt to be slick with tongues is so obvious.
[...] You and I, who are mistaken for each other, have difficulty talking to each other because of the mistaken assumption that we have something in common, when we don't And if we don't we shouldn't force it.
[...]I don't feel good about printing or even being praised in a magazine that has nothing for me and a lot that offends me and doesn't pay. What me and other yellow writers, American born and scrounging, what we see in Bridge is yellow people repeating what whites have said about us and yellow people doing what whites have programmed us to do, keeping their place out of sight and giving each other a rubdown for having gone through the dynamic of staying up all night together, as if their staying up all night were an accomplishment.
[...] Now let me recommend someone to you whose work I respect and find fucked up as a thinker, a Eurasian, a Chinese-American, a mind and person, fucked up. diana Chang. She just had another poem published in The New York Quarterly in which she fails to come to grips with her Chinese-American identity, but does repeat the cliches and racist stereotype with a certain style and an occasional nice line. Her writing...three novels and several poems, represents what Bridge could be. She takes a stand with white supremacy as unconsciously and unwittingly and as sincerely as any of your writers and brings it off in a tour de force of writing flash and style. She manages to have her own voice and take that white racist rhetoric about universals of art and being an individual instead of white or yellow, and mixing the best of East and West...the whole stinking mess..and show us accurately, how she's made it work, how she believes it. [...]She's incapable of understanding my point of view and the mention of my name upsets her. Because she's more honest and smarter than either B.L. Sung [Betty Lee Sung] or Francis Hsu [Francis L.K. Hsu] or Bridge, she is worth reading, and makes for good reading.
5. [Frank Ching]
Let me explain that the purpose of Bridge is not, as you put it, to bind you to the immigrants. The purpose of Bridge is to foster a sense of solidarity and to pomote understanding among Asians, whether Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc. And within the Chinese-American community there are many who were born and raised abroad. We recognize the differences in experiences and attitudes between them. But you cannot exclude the foreign-born Chinese-Americans and say you have nothing in comong with them. Your father is a foreign-born Chinese-American. You have at least that much in common.
I did say that the linking in the average person's mind of Chinese from Hong Kong or Taiwan and American-born chinese was understandable. Perhaps I should have explained that this is because of ignorance, an ignorance that has to be attacked at the most basic level.
You know very well that Chinese in this country were prevented from proliferatin because of racist immigration laws. Now the laws have finally been changed, and you and other descendents of Chinese who came to this country in earlier years should be the first to rejoice. You should be the first to welcome the arrival of new Chinese immigrants.
Instead the arrival of more Chinese immigrants only aggravates your fear of being identified with them in white minds. In wishing to be accepted and recognized as American--albeit Chinese-American--you try to put as much distance as possible between yourself and the new immigrants. It is sad to see a person so insecure that he has to turn his back on the people of his ancestors in order to affirm himself.
A Hundred Flowers Bloom: a survey of Chinese publications in New York, by James T. Lee