Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Jessica Sun Lee's blog.
To better understand the toxic environment of my childhood, I spent years studying narcissism. It has given me a window into the ways White supremacy and its Western systems operate.
From a racial perspective, think of White supremacy as the narcissistic parent, and BIPOC as its triangulated children. Black, Indigenous, Brown Hispanics and Latinx, and dark-skinned Asian Americans have been scapegoated. Yet, Asian Americans as a whole were proclaimed the Golden Child. The successes of our elites were put on a pedestal to aspire to, while they—and many of us—have been deprived of the necessary tools. It’s a way to blame the scapegoated for their oppression, causing further division among us “kids”. Keeping us pitted against one another prohibits an uprising big enough to take out the narcissist.
As the Golden Child, many Asian Americans have benefited from the narcissist’s approval, which in turn kept us thankful, feeding their ego, and upholding White supremacist systems to stay in their good graces. We’re often considered nearly as privileged as Whites—despite Asian Americans having the greatest wealth gap, revealing its selective reach.
This is how narcissism works. The narcissist (White supremacy) possesses all power and stops at nothing to keep it. It truly believes it’s more deserving than everyone else. It gives itself the best and the most, and then boasts of its inevitable success. Violence, manipulation, and lies are common tactics to avoid and distract from the injustice. When the Scapegoats voice their difficulties, the narcissist points to the Golden Child as proof that the Scapegoats haven’t worked hard enough and are therefore unworthy. They do this repeatedly over time. It’s called gaslighting. It can seep into the Scapegoats’ psyche, resulting in poor self-esteem and redirect the Scapegoats’ anger towards their own people. A Scapegoat who manages to rise above—often assisted by someone who views them as an exception—can buy into the narcissists’ campaign.
When they are young, the Golden Child can be so busy enjoying their privilege that they won’t hear the Scapegoats’ complaints as valid. They may mimic the behavior of the narcissist. This is what is referred to as fleas. In some cases, the Golden Child becomes a narcissist, too, fully programmed to believe they’re more deserving than their siblings.
Through growth and outside exposure, the Golden Child can become awakened to the injustice and how they’ve played a part in keeping their siblings down. If they speak out against the narcissist, they’re pushed off their pedestal and replaced with someone who is better controlled. Unfortunately, there’s always another willing to take the temporary rewards at the expense of their peers.
Crimes against Asians have been historically underreported, as they don’t serve the Model Minority myth.
Anti-Asianness is a White supremacist goal. As the Golden Child, we’re Scapegoats of triangulation; an alternate target. Let’s look at LA in the early 90s. In March of 1991, a Korean American grocer named Soon Ja Du murdered a Black fifteen year old girl named Latasha Harlins over suspected theft. Two weeks later, Rodney King was badly beaten by cops who were caught on camera. In both cases, Whiteness won and Blackness lost. Despite Soon Ja Du being Korean, the lack of any real punishment upheld White supremacy by allowing the Golden Child to prevail, while perpetuating the racist idea that Black life was less valuable. During the “riots”/uprising of 1992, White supremacy (the cops) rescued the wealthy White communities and left the Black and Korean businesses to burn, fueling the proverbial and literal fire. This is also an example of how the Golden Child is ultimately used as a disposable pawn. (See also: China Virus.)
While there are Asian Americans well versed in our history, it’s either passed down from family or sought out on our own. Many are unaware of the lynchings, discrimination, and racist policies we’ve suffered beyond the Japanese concentration camps. Few Americans know about Vincent Chin, let alone other Asian Americans who were murdered by racists around the same time—such as the Vietnamese man shot by slur-wielding men, the seventeen-year-old Vietnamese kid stabbed to death by high school peers, or the pregnant Chinese woman who was pushed in front of a subway car. Crimes against Asians have been historically underreported, as they don’t serve the Model Minority myth.
In a capitalist society, the narcissist (White supremacy) also holds White people down. A large subset of Scapegoats are immigrants of color, queer and trans communities, and disabled people. Inciting the fear that there’s only so much wealth to go around, the narcissist lines the pockets of their flying monkeys, who return the favor. When the less fortunate Whites still work to keep the narcissist in power, if not outright racism and ignorance, it could be a form of Stockholm Syndrome. In supporting racist policies, less privileged White people inhibit their own advancement by voting against affordable healthcare, free college, and higher wages.
Technology allows us to spread awareness of what appears as systemic genocide on Black Americans. Films like 13th reveals our prison system as legalized slavery. This is not new, as the United States was founded on genocide and slavery. It shouldn’t take this positioning, but for those who require it, I ask: What do non-Black People of Color and less privileged Whites think will happen if the narcissist succeeds at eliminating Black Americans?
The president’s overt narcissism is both embarrassing and disturbing, but mostly dangerous. He’s the manifestation of reigning White supremacy. While we must of course replace him, we cannot stop there. We must root out all narcissism from our society, repair inter- and intra-community trauma, and rebuild systems that enable our most vulnerable to thrive. Without it, we will always have hate, theft, violence, and escapism. Let the protests continue until we achieve it.