“Oh, Great Tengri of the Blue Sky, yet another Asian conqueror/white victim pairing,” I groan, even as I plunge my saber into my victim’s strange, hairy torso.
Seriously, it’s the year 1319. Are we still trading in the outdated stereotypes of the late 1200’s?
As I search for more pale faces on the battlefield to dispatch unto the River of the Dead, I cannot avoid the uncomfortable fact that, here in the western-most reaches of the Khanate, it seems as if everywhere I look there is yet another yellow-faced warrior gleefully disemboweling his white victim. As my victim gasps for air through the dust kicked up by the hooves of my Mongol steed, mere moments from meeting his infidel pagan god, I see his own shame of being “that” kind of white victim.
Just the other day I received a report that a Great White Voice from the Land Beyond the Mountains has been trafficking in the stereotype that Asian men — despite being “actually conscious” human beings (so thankful for that compliment, eyeroll) — are emotionless and efficient killing machines who exhibit no fear in combat. The stereotype is a familiar one. And to be perfectly honest, when I watch the Golden Horde smiling as they unleash an endless barrage of arrows from horseback, I just want to yell “Cease my brothers! Is it not apparent that the more we exterminate our white enemies, the worse it looks?!”
The first time I heard the term “merciless yellow invader,” I was the only yellow face in the village that I had been sent to scout. This was late in the afternoon, just prior to its sacking the next morning. I had cloaked my face so as not to bring attention to myself, but the white peasantry knew what was coming. They muttered about “the Golden Peril” and I thought, “Oh, Merciful Umay, these godless heathens actually fear me!” I admit that in those early days, I felt incredibly self-conscious that the white traders and grain growers who dotted the northern passes did not find me as terrifying as the white crusaders who then held dominion over their lands.
The next day, however, the white peasantry did not revolt and welcome us. In some cases, they even fought alongside their European Christian knight overlords. We had strict orders to kill only the rulers and their elite warriors, as the peasants would welcome us as liberators. When they did not yield, either upon the first waves of slaughter or the subsequent pillaging, I began to internalize the white-centered narrative that Asian men were good at conquering, but inferior to the task of imperial management. Sure, the Christian knights would say, they may kill you, all of us in fact, with a terrifying ease, but can they tax your grain harvest modestly to avoid famine? Honestly, I struggled hard with this stereotype.
I also slaughtered them without mercy. For punishing any and all resistance is more important to me than even the literal meaning of the Great Khan’s decrees. It was a judgement call, and despite what the Great White Voice from the Land Beyond the Mountains has to say about Asian men, I am not just a robot without free will. Take that!
I sometimes wish that I had been enlisted instead into the Yuan Khanate of the East, currently sacking the city of Peking. I’ve tried bringing up this shame I feel of being a living stereotype, but my brothers of the Yuan Horde don’t seem to relate. Over there, it’s all ACAV (Asian conqueror/Asian victim) pairings, and they can just focus on what really matters to us warriors: siege and slaughter.
The issue has become so heated and controversial here in the steppe, that the great Kublai Khan himself was asked about it during a question-and-answer session when he came last year to examine the physical stock of our newly conquered white peasantry.
“I’ve never seen it that way!” Kublai insisted. “I am establishing a new dynasty in China, so most of my victims are Asian… certainly not all, but I guess I just never thought about it.”
I suppose it will always be awkward when I thrust my saber into more white heathens fleeing from the thunder of our cavalry. Nevertheless, every morning I don my leather armor, my fur pelts, and mount my horse before riding into endless battle. Although I still wrestle with the discomfort of my greatest passion in life confirming some of the unsettling stereotypes about men of color like myself, I know that I am doing this for all the right reasons. Neither I nor my white victims are perfect, but I do not drive them from their lands, and rejoice in the lamentations of their women, because they are white. I do it because I love to kill.
Conquest is conquest, as they say.