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Hawaii Congressman Ed Case Said He’s “Asian Trapped in a White Body” and It Went Over About as Well as You’d Expect

Fellow white people, we need to talk.

ghost in the shell

Yesterday, Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) attended an event celebrating the Asian-American and Pacific Islander members of Congress. While speaking at the event, Case stated, “I’m an Asian trapped in a white body.” Oof buddy, what are you doing? The story went viral after National Journal data and visualization fellow Nicholas Wu tweeted it to his followers.

Twitter quickly took Case to task for his insensitive comments.

Case issued an apology via the Washington Post, saying “Like so many others from Hawaii who treasure our multicultural heritage, I have absorbed and live the values of our many cultures … They and not my specific ethnicity are who I am, and I believe that this makes me an effective advocate on national issues affecting our API community. I regret if my specific remarks to the national API community on my full absorption of their concerns caused any offense.”

I mean … okay, that’s sort of an apology, I guess? And it’s great that you’ve “absorbed” different values and cultures but … at the end of the day, you’re still a white guy. In addition to Case’s statement, his spokesman Nestor Garcia added that Case’s comments were in reference to “what his Japanese-American wife sometimes says about him.”

brooklyn nine-nine

(image: FOX)

Here’s the thing: Case is not pulling a Rachel Dolezal here. He knows he is white, and he clearly has enthusiasm for Asian culture. But he’s going about it in a wildly insensitive and wrongheaded way. When a white person proclaims themselves to be a nonwhite race/ethnicity trapped inside a white body, they are discounting and dismissing the systemic racism and oppression that is inescapable for folks of that race or ethnicity.

It is peak white privilege, and it shares the same cultural voyeurism of straight women saying that they are “gay men on the inside.” These are marginalized communities that have suffered under discrimination and mistreatment since time immemorial, not a fashionable token to brag about how woke you are.

Race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, gender: these are not accessories to fit your mood: they are lived experiences and identities. If Ed Case really feels an affinity for Asian culture, he should know better than to insult it in this way. Fellow white people, it’s only January. Let’s be better than this, yes?

(via Washington Post, image: Paramount Pictures)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.