"Just from a creative standpoint there are just entire genres that I’m locked out of, being Asian, because of historical reality. You know, like the cowboy picture (laughs). Basically you’re doing immigrants, smaller immigrant roles. And if you’re doing bigger roles, you’re doing modern tales. That is to say, contemporary stories. And you can do futuristic stories. So I guess I’ve done those.
What I’m locked out of is American history. There just aren’t roles written for Asians in stories that revolve around American history. So you’re dealing with that handicap off the bat.
I don’t know whether the perception is that people think I’ve got it made in the shade, but I still feel like I have to fight for everything. And you know, my career may seem rosy to some—to me, I’m always pretty convinced the wheels are gonna fall off the car any day and that this is the last job. It seems impossible that I’ll work again every time—but maybe I’m fooling my own self. Maybe that’s not the truth either.
I have noticed that—for whatever reason—my personality, I think, folds over into what people consider to be a broad definition of American. And I think that I’m very Korean-specific. But that’s just a chance thing. You know, I feel very much like a Korean man that immigrated to the United States. But I think white America would see me as American. That’s a vague adjective in lot of ways—but it’s a bit of a roll of the dice as to whether people see you as foreign or not. The number of years you’ve been in the United States, whether you’re born here or not—sometimes has no bearing on whether people see you as American or not.”
When your classmates wrinkled their noses at the scent of your lunch still lingering on your clothes,
Even though their ancestors had conquered half the world in search of the spices you ate.
How they jeered at your mother’s bindi, making crude jokes about how ridiculous it looked on her,
And after ten years, how they all wore the exact same ornament on their own foreheads to keep up with the current trends.
When they repeatedly stumbled over the sharp letters which formed your name, forcing you to repeat yourself several times before giving up;
Only to have those very letters tattooed on their own flesh, in a language they do not comprehend.
Your culture belongs to you,
Not to them.
hi Fascinasians, do you have any advice or posts written about your experience growing up in Arizona and surviving as an AsAm woman?
I actually haven’t written anything! It’s probably because when I was living in Arizona, I internalized a lot of racism and sexism. I kind of “survived” by assimilating and making self-deprecating jokes about my Asian heritage. Sorry that doesn’t help much!
Thanks to some very lovely people from Project By Project - Los Angeles, I was able to attend the 2014 Annual Tasting Benefit put on by Project By Project - New York!
Plate By Plate is part of an organization called Project by Project (PbP), a national volunteer organization. PbP works with a partner community organization to customize each campaign according to their needs. 100% of proceeds raised are given to the partner organization, resume-writing workshops, tutorials for immigrant children, and parent-child activities to enhance community connectedness. Every year, PbP selects a theme and a local partner to exchange knowledge, education, and skills with.
This year, PbP - NY worked with the Henry Street Settlement, a landmark organization in New York providing multicultural services and resources for mental health issues in New York. Its bilingual program helps the growing Asian American population of NYC and helps provide job opportunities, skills workshops, and arts development.
The tasting was held in a beautiful venue in Chelsea, the Metropolitan Pavilion. The dim lights and energetic music set the stage for a glitzy night of wining and dining.
As soon as I got there, MC Jin went on stage to talk about the importance of the Asian American community and how honored he was to be a part of it. “I felt instantly aged. Someone came up to me and was like, dude I’ve been listening to your music since the 8th grade!” we love you always, Jin.
Many of the restaurants featured gourmet and modern takes on Asian cuisine, with Mok Bar doing a minimalist take of ddeokbeokki. The bacon and gochujang was a surprising (but super delicious) combination that I’m reminiscing about even now.
Local favorite Fung Tu served a chilled corn soup (I had three servings)
“According to National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), there were approximately 12,135,210 Asians and Pacific Islanders that are twelve years old and older in 2010 (Truman, 2011). The 2010 Uniform Crime Report states Asian and Pacific Islanders comprised of 5.1% of all known racial biased hate crimes committed (U.S. Department of Justice, 2011b). However, they are most likely to underreport crimes compared to other races (Chen, 2009; Kang, 1993). Christina Chen claimed the reasons why these crimes are underrepresented are because victims are not comfortable with reporting their experiences with officers who are not bilingual, they fear problems with their immigration status, mistrust with local police, and the disregard of hate crimes and civil rights protections (2009). The crime rate is also affected by how law enforcement officials measure them. They fail to record hate crimes by misidentifying the crime or not identifying it as a racially motivated crime (2009). A prime example is the classification of Asian women rape victims.
Asian women are subject to victimization because of their Asian descent. Their reputation as an Asian woman to be a sexual object of desire becomes a burden when they are purposely sought out for sex because of their race. Jaemin Kim, a female Korean American journalist, reported “… Asian women in particular remain vulnerable” (Kim, 2009). They are more prone to rape victims based on their race, but reporting it as a hate crime is difficult because police officials fail to recognize that it can be racially motivated. A secretary from an L.A. police department said, “rapes were ‘not a hate crime’” (Ibid, p. 3). This situation in itself should be considered a hate motivated sex crime because the serial rapist specifically sought out for Korean women, but police authorities ignored the possibility (Ibid.).”—
Sunday morning the world came together and took to the streets for the People’s Climate March. It was the largest event of its kind in human history, Desis were there in full force.with 400,000 people gathering in New York City to ring the alarm on climate change days before world leaders gather for the UN Climate Summit. Beyond New York, there were major events in cities throughout South Asia including New Delhi, Islamabad, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Colombo, and Malé. There is no question now that this is the defining movement for our time — and yes, Desis were there in full force.
Barnali Ghosh from the the San Francisco Bay Area group Brown and Green: South Asians for Climate Justicesaid, “The South Asians for Climate Justice delegation was critical. South Asia is climate ground zero, and our actions in the United States can either reduce the risk or further endanger 1.7 billion people. For every time we take action in the US to vote for climate leaders, shut down another dirty energy facility, divest from mega-polluters, or reinvest in real solutions, we achieve a double victory — not only helping communities in the US, but simultaneously also in our homelands.That is why we are here. We must use our power and privilege now to demand climate action with real solutions.”
Through the joint South Asians for Climate Justice contingent, one hundred fifty members of eleven South Asian community groups came together to begin this process by learning from each other and then marching in a united Desi front. Anirvan Chatterjee, one of the contingent organizers said, “Our contingent looked like our community — our whole community — with over three generations of South Asian environmental activists from coming together from all over the United States, and as far away as Canada and the UK.”
One of the signs at the event read “Defend our homes, defend our homelands,” a reference to the fact that South Asia is one of the most climate-vulnerable regions of the world, with crop failures in India, floods in Pakistan, sea level rise in Bangladesh, intense rain in Sri Lanka, glacial lake outburst floods in Nepal and Bhutan, and the potential disappearance of the Maldives.
The events began with members of the Bangladeshi community sharing their hopes for the talks. According to Sayed Rahman from the Bangladesh Environmental Network, “while world leaders are dithering, climate refugees in Bangladesh are living with the consequences of catastrophic climate change created by major greenhouse gas polluters like the United States and Europe. We all call on world leaders, particularly President Obama and the U.S. Congress, to work toward ambitious international emissions reduction targets.”
The large Sikhs for Climate Justice group opened with a prayer before the march, linking their environmental justice activism with their faith. According to Bandana Kaur, environmental researcher and Program Ambassador of EcoSikh, “we march because this understanding of the universe is embedded within the Khalsa ideal for Sikhs — a word that also signifies the sovereign body of Sikhs who make a commitment to protecting the most marginalized among us, a strong call to environmental justice.”
New York-based organizing groups emphasized the links between local and global. Padma Seemangal of the Indo-Caribbean Alliance said her group was participating because “As a community we have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy both in our neighborhood and across New York City.” Rasel Rahman, a senior community organizer at Chhaya CDC sees deep links between the global climate justice movement and his agency’s housing rights work in New York. “From Hurricane Sandy in New York to mega-floods in Kashmir, climate change robs communities around the world of their support systems. We demand equitable reinvestment in all our communities, and call for UN Climate Summit participants to fully fund the Green Climate Fund.”
Devika Ghai of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action was one of twenty community members participating in a parallel climate rally taking place in Oakland, California. She worried about her grandmother, whose community had been affected by the 2013 Uttarakhand floods in India. Ghai compared the climate crisis to colonialism, where much of the atmosphere’s ability to absorb carbon has been monopolized by a small group of industrialized nations, while residents of the most vulnerable communities around the world pay the price.
Do not pretend like our generation believes just a march will solve the climate crisis. We inherited this Earth and we will save it. What we do next is everything.” -Sharmin Hossain, Ya-Ya Network
Alok Vaid-Menon of the South Asian spoken word group DARKMATTER, echoed this idea saying, “Climate change’ is not a failure of Western capitalism, but actually the total success and realization of it. The same poverty-generating systems that built the West are the ones wreaking havoc on the water, air, and land. The ‘solution’ then, is not to get down to 350 parts per million, or to institute a carbon tax, or create more solar panel startups, or fund another wind farm, or screw in better light bulbs. The goal is to continue to fight state violence, colonialism, and capitalism at their roots.”
Sharmin Hossain of the Ya-Ya! network built on the day’s urgency, “We know that these marches are not movements, but do not ignore the presence of all the resisters. Do not invisiblize the communities who are taking the streets, dancing in the streets, marching with art and visions. Do not pretend like our generation believes just a march will solve the climate crisis. We inherited this Earth and we will save it. What we do next is everything.”
The municipal identification cards that New York plans to start issuing next year in an effort to make life easier for undocumented immigrants will come with an added benefit so enticing that many others may sign up for them too: an offer of free tickets or discounts at 33 of the city’s leading cultural institutions.
Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall; the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden; the American Museum of Natural History, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and many others will offer a variety of perks — most of them equivalent to a basic one-year membership — to holders of the new ID cards, which are expected to be made available to any city resident over age 14, regardless of their legal status.
The emerging South Asians for Climate Justice group met in Berkeley, California to discuss our unique role in this issue:
we all live in one of the most climate-destructive countries in the world
yet our home countries, our friends, and families are the ones who are most impacted by climate change
collectively, we have the power and the opportunity to demand climate justice
equitable, just, and environmentally sustainable solutions have local benefits here in the US and positive impacts globally
We invite you to march with us, for us and in solidarity with people both here and in South Asia who are going to be impacted by this and demand climate justice now! We want to be visible as a community that demands real action on climate change — the most critical political issue of the 21st century.
As a South Asian American, my social media feeds have been filled with news about the California drought. Next to the endless stream of stories about the drought are posts about the hundreds of Indian and Pakistani villages now submerged by flooding.
If ever there was a time to take action to save our globe, it’s now.
Climate change impacts all of us. As Asian Americans, it hits especially hard. We live in the United States, the #1 historical climate polluter, while communities in our countries of origin are often at the center of climate ground zero. We can’t afford to wait for the next climate disaster before we choose to do something about climate injustice.
On September 23rd, Barack Obama will be in attendance the UN Climate Summit. We need him to lead on limiting climate impacts, and to set ambitious emissions reductions targets. As the leader of the United States, he must step up to support the most vulnerable communities by making significant contributions to the Green Climate Fund, and exercise his leadership by limiting public funding of dirty energy.
Tell President Obama to do the right thing at the UN Climate Summit.
The world is burning and flooding as we speak, and we cannot wait one minute longer to save what is left. Future generations are depending on us to end climate change, and to demand that our world leaders to do the same.
Join me now.
18MR Member & Director of Data Strategy, UC San Francisco
This summer I had the privilege of being able to spend some time with a group of Civil Rights Era veterans—folks who were Freedom Riders, organizers with the
This summer I had the privilege of being able to spend some time with a group of Civil Rights Era veterans—folks who were Freedom Riders, organizers with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, people who in a big way I feel like are movement elders. I was in North Carolina for Moral Monday and we had a great national convening of the collective called the Freedom Side that coincided with the march. It was amazing to feel like a part of that energy and experience this amazing historical through-line from the Civil Rights Era to the present, seeing the parallels in the moment we are in.
One of the questions that we asked the SNCC veterans was: did you really feel like when you were organizing, you were in a magical time? And their answer was definitively yes. I think it makes sense for us to trust our instincts when it comes to the importance of our moment. It’s crucial to take it seriously.
And it is serious. It’s serious as the racist police and vigilante violence that’s been raised to a national conversation. It’s as serious as Citizens United and the fact that corporations have the same rights to free speech as you and I. It’s as serious as the unaddressed climate crisis. It’s as serious as the systematic dismantling of our rights under the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the attempt to declaw net neutrality rules, and the undermining of democracy and the public good across the country, whether it’s emergency management in Detroit or the explosion of the private prison industry.
You’re probably thinking, oh my god, how is this at all a magical time?
The thing that makes this a magical time is that across the country, around the world, people are responding to this as a call to action.
The thing that really makes this a magical time is an explosion of organizing. I’m thinking of the groundswell that started after Trayvon Martin was killed, boiled into a fury after George Zimmerman was acquitted and as the Dream Defenders occupied the Florida state capitol for thirty days, that’s gained momentum in the wake of the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Rekia Boyd. Or the movement for a living wage in fast food and home care work. Or that ordinary people are coming up with solutions to seemingly intractable problems by banding together, from Occupy Sandy to the Detroit Water Brigade. Or the fact we have emerging electeds and hopefuls who are willing to push the envelope, from Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu’s rejection of the New York State political machine to Kshama Sawant’s inspiring third-party victory in her race for Seattle City Council. That longstanding gatherings like the Allied Media Conference are bearing visionary fruit in art, music, literature, and technology.
I’m also thinking about small, everyday things. The fact that as communities respond to racist police violence they’re asking questions about why police and prisons are the only options we have to address crisis in our communities. That we’re starting to get real about the effects of intergenerational trauma on our bodies and our minds. That movement leaders are stepping up to accept critique and change the way they do their work to center the historically marginalized. And we’re more connected than ever before. We’re stronger and smarter and faster because of the internet, for all its limitations.
So when you look past the problems and let your eyes adjust to the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s easy to start seeing the magic. When we asked the SNCC veterans whether they knew their time was magical, they answered yes with a sparkle in their eyes. They knew exactly why we were asking. To be young and doing organizing in America today is to feel simultaneously a powerful optimism about our capacity to change as well as a profound fear about what’s at stake.
The death of Michael Brown and the subsequent repression of protest and the press in Ferguson has meant all eyes are there, but we must look with minds ready to learn. If Ferguson teaches anything, it’s that we have a long way to go against incredible odds. Some of the challenge is about the hurt we all carry inside of ourselves. Said the organizers in Ferguson some three weeks ago:
We are striving for a world where we deal with harm in our communities through healing, love, and kinship. This means an end to state sponsored violence, including the excessive use of force by law enforcement. We are committed to an America that comes to terms with the trauma of its painful history and finds true reconciliation for it. Mass incarceration and the over criminalization of black and brown people must forever end, leaving in its place a culture that embraces our histories and stories. This means an end to racial bias and white supremacy in all its forms.
Our dreams are directly linked with those resisting militarism, war, and state repression around the world. We will achieve this new beloved community hand in hand, step by step, in global solidarity with all people committed to lasting peace and full justice.
My heart is encouraged by words like these. We are learning how to be visionaries in public again.
In Grace Lee’s documentary about the unparalleled Grace Lee Boggs, Boggs says that she thinks that too many organizers emphasize action over reflection, but that action and reflection go hand in hand. I want to take a moment from this heart-thumping action to talk about us–and I mean the us in this room, Asian Americans from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, who care about the future of our country.
I want to echo the words of Soya Jung, a senior partner at Changelab and someone who has been a major star in a constellation that has guided me in my work over the past year or so full-time at 18MillionRising. In her essay “Why Ferguson matters to Asian Americans,” she writes that often, as Asian Americans, we find ourselves pulled toward two different sides of the what she terms “the color line,” that divide in the United States that separates white hegemony from historical Black disempowerment. This is the work of the model minority myth, this idea that somehow, as industrious, quiet, obedient Asians, we are the minorities and immigrants who made good on the promise of the American Dream and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps.
The reality, as we know, is much more complex. A combination of immigration policy, popular culture representations of Asians and Asian Americans, and the invisibility of Asian bodies and lives, like attacks in the past and the present from Vincent Chin to Sandeep Singh, all contribute to the perpetuation of this myth. Even as South Asian American communities experience heightened surveillance, Southeast Asian American communities experience some of the highest poverty rates in the U.S., or that nearly a ten percent of undocumented immigrants are Asian, and many of our communities across the spectrum grapple with the afterimages of war, violent revolution, and genocide, this myth persists.
Jung writes that the model minority myth is a major buttress to the everyday violence that the Black community is subject to: it is held up against the assumption of Black criminality as evidence of the failure of the Black community, of Black culture. As we engage in the struggle to find justice, we must call the model minority myth out for what it is. We must find an Asian American identity that is rooted in values of community, healing, and anti-racism. We must not forget that, before we were Asian Americans, we were “orientals,” and we named ourselves Asian American as we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other people of color during the heady days of the Black Liberation movement.
So I leave you with a challenge. In this magical time, we can stand on the sidelines, or we can roll up our sleeves and make magic happen. We can heed the clarion call of this upswell of organizing, but we must know that means making some tough choices. It means sticking our necks out. It means doing the hard work of developing our identities and healing ourselves as part of the praxis of dismantling racism, whether we’re at the ballot box or in the classroom, in our neighborhoods or at work, online or in the street.
As Jung writes, we have a choice to make about where we stand. I choose to embrace the infinite power of this magical time. I choose resistance.
BREAKING: September 9th will be officially an entire month since the murder of Ferguson African-American unarmed teenage Michael Brown, at the hands of racist Ferguson PD Officer Darren Wilson. In this entire month, Officer Darren Wilson hasn't been heard from, he has literally disappeared. He still has not been arrested, charged, or indicted in the murder of Michael Brown.
Episode 6 of Reappropriate: The Podcast is now live! This episode features a great conversation between myself and Cayden Mak (@Cayden) of 18MillionRising. We talk identity formation in an increasingly digital age, as well as digital tools as one of several tools in an activist toolbox. We briefly touch on the Stephen Salaita controversy in relation to the perils of when digital activism crosses over into the real-world.
Next episode: Please join me in two weeks’ time when I hope to have a conversation about the third rail in AAPI politics: interracial dating. Guests are still being scheduled, so episode time and link are TBA.
Check out my next adventure with Reapprorpiate as my partner and I talk with Jenn about interracial dating!
Thank you for taking time to be with us, Sir. We are Filipino American writers. We have come home to the islands where our ancestors still inhabit the land, the province, the war-torn city of their childhoods. We are in search of our origin stories, looking for the details of where we come from. We have heard stories from our parents and our lolas and lolas. We have been imagining the tables where they sat to eat their meals, the paths they walked to and from their schools, and the mother nation they call “back home.” We have been wondering where the stories were lived. We have come home and we have been invited to this stage to share our written works.
Our experience is different than your own to be sure. Our writing concerns and reasons to write will be different. But let me ask you this: Have you ever imagined what life might be like if you were raised to be a Filipino far from these islands? Have you ever imagined what it might be like to grow up and read the stories of the people around you and never see your own? To be writing in a nation that has traditionally washed the walls white and made our own stories invisible not only to the culture at large but to ourselves? Of course we have a longing to be back home, even as we have never lived here.
What a complicated identity we have. Unlike you, a National Treasure in a nation where you are part of the dominant mainstream culture, our stories and poems in the United States are not and might never be mainstream. We write from the space of the Other. We write our stories because no one else will. No one else can. We document our existence so there is a record. And for whom? Probably ourselves first. Then like-minded readers after us. And if the whole world wants to read us, then they too. Do we think of audience? If you mean you, sitting there thumping your nails on a desk top as my friend reads, if you mean you, then probably not.
I grew up in a smallish town in the middle of Massachusetts. Ok, technically it was a city, but it had the feel of a small town. Fairly suburban, cars everywhere and everyone knew each other through at least six degrees of separation.
And boy was it white.
I’m not saying it was as white-washed as the middle of North Dakota. There were definitely other Asian kids growing up that I knew. But for some reason, no one really talked about the fact that my face looked different from the 23 others in the yearly class picture. No one acknowledged the elephant in the room. I grew up fairly unaware of my racial identity.
Then I moved to New York City and suddenly, I was Asian.
It seemed that everyone in New York wanted to know where I was “from.” Barest acquaintances would start speaking in Japanese, Chinese or any other language they thought was appropriate to my ethnicity. Instead of people describing me as the “short girl with the glasses,” it was now the “short Asian girl with the glasses.” One of my exes used to joke that he had “yellow fever.”
At first I was confused. Then I thought, “Wow, New York is really racist.” Then, I tried to go along with the joke of “I’m Asian/but not/I’m a twinkie” (twinkie=white on the inside, yellow on the outside). Then I got annoyed, especially when one person said, when learning my history, “Oh, so you’re like, fresh off the boat,” casually dismissing the fact I’m an American citizen who has lived here for most of my life. Most of my life in this case is 26 years and six months. I’m 27.
What is up with New Yorkers? I used to think. Why can’t they just live and let live?Why do insist on pinpointing my ethnicity via geographical location? Sometimes, I felt like wearing a GPS sign around my neck that said, “Was born here” with the appropriate coordinates so the teller at the corner bodega wouldn’t start playing the “let me guess what kind of Asian you are” game when I was just trying to buy my morning coffee.
But then I realized: The difference between New Yorkers and everyone else is that they say out loud what everyone else is thinking. Most of the rest of the country, including my hometown, need to catch up.
There’s nothing to me more insidious than silent racism. Racism that is shoved underneath the bed or whispered behind closed doors is lethal. Nothing is more dangerous and debilitating to a person (or a society) than choosing to willfully ignore the fact that yes, there is a big difference between you and other people that stares you in the face when you look in the mirror. That doesn’t make it better or worse. As Jane Elliott, activist and originator of the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise says:
We don’t need a melting pot in this country, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in the different things. You want the vegetables — the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers — to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences.
When I look at what’s going on in Ferguson, I wonder: Was silence what made the city explode? If the people of Ferguson were as vocal as New Yorkers are when it comes to “where we come from” would the situation have escalated like it has?
Now I by no means am claiming that New York is a haven of equality. It isn’t, by far, and I only have to look at the recent "stop and frisk" policy to know that. I only have to have one more person at a party ask me, “Where are you from-no, where are youfrom?” or “Do you know karate?” to acknowledge ruefully to myself that we still have a long way to go. "Quiet bias" is alive and thriving in NYC. Just go to 116th street and then walk 20 blocks down and it’s evident inequality isn’t just tied to economics in this city — it’s tied very much still to race.
But at least in New York, we talk about it. If we’re talking about it, if we’re laughing about it, if we’re pointing at the elephant in the room, that means we can dispel the stereotypes that separate us. I like to think it’s a major step in the right direction.
The Organization for Black Struggle is teaming with ColorOfChange.org on Thursday to deliver a petition to the White House demanding a federal investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, whose officer shot and killed Brown. Simmons said the groups expect to meet with an administration official.
"What you see is a deepening of the movement," said Barber.