“When I stopped speaking Vietnamese, It took me years to be comfortable With calling any elder “you.” How a language could be so simple Was beyond my comprehension; There was no understanding Of respect.
In Vietnamese, honorifics are law. You are to address someone In relationship with their age to yours— An older man of the same generation: Anh, older brother. An older womxn of the same generation: Chị, older sister. Cậu or dì, Mother’s brother or sister, For someone as old as Mother. And for someone as old as Father, Chú or cô, Father’s brother or sister. And a person older than both parents Is bác, a parent’s older sibling. And even older, an elderly person, Like Grandpa or Grandma, Is ông or bà, grandpa or grandma.
To separate the non-kinship From the familial is then impossible For we, Vietnamese, are family. To pay homage in any other way Is unacceptable, Because “you” is impersonal—“You” Can be any stranger on the street.”—Cát-Phương Nguyễn “You” (via no-dickpix)
Suey Park is the Bitcoin of activism. Her hashtag movements are a digital phenomenon. Her value is determined by how much others buy into her. The lack of institutional backing allows her to disrupt the status quo. And just like digital currencies, hashtag activism is vulnerable to shadowy intrigues and corrupting influences.
When Park sent out a 115-character tweet at 7:55 p.m. on March 27, “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals has decided to call for#CancelColbert. Trend it,” she ignited a media firestorm. She was playing on a skit by The Colbert Report mocking the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, accusing the faux news show of racism.
The #CancelColbert was all spectacle with colorful characters, outrageous conduct, and lessons in the power and peril of new media. Pundits needed only to generate a new round of controversy to propel the outrage machine, thereby allowing them to ruminate on three of their favorite topics at once: the news, television and Twitter. Park was engulfed by controversy and vitriol, and many people flocked to defend her, supporting her position that the media mocks Asians because they are an easy target and opposing the loathsome death and rape threats aimed at Park.
Park, a 23-year-old “activist and writer,” became a Twitter star in December 2013 with#NotYourAsianSidekick, which encouraged Asian-American youth to use social media to tell empowering stories and challenge stifling stereotypes. Park rapidly built a powerful following, but the site also facilitated the aggression against her. The ability to mask oneself on Twitter has spawned a bestiary of trolls, hackers,doppelgangers, bots, pranksters, and real-life sociopaths who punch down outspoken women of color because that’s how America works.
The openness of platforms like Bitcoin and Twitter is also their weakness, allowing dark recesses to be carved out for malevolent ends. Digital money entices crooks whopilfer strings of code that comprise the currency as a path to fabulous riches, while social media attracts those looking for a shortcut to power and prestige. It’s what led Park into the orbit of Michelle Malkin, the radical right’s Asian sidekick.
Hashtag activism is ancient history for the web, but Malkin, a new-media controversialist, has adopted Park’s language, tactics, and social media skills, and it appears she is influencing Park to target “liberal racists.” Malkin hybridized hashtag activism with reactionary politics by creating #MyRightWingBiracialFamily in January 2014. Accusing MSNBC of racism, her campaign swiftly went viral and elicited an apology from the news network. Evidence shows Malkin came into contact with Park at this point. So when Park started #CancelColbert, Malkin charged in with her huge network and ample resources primed to skewer liberal racism.
Less than two hours after Park initiated #CancelColbert, Malkin enthusiastically backed it. Park was immediately bombarded with tweets warning of the dangers of allying with Malkin, but she said very little despite Malkin writing an Islamophobic defense of Park that used #CancelColbert to argue liberals were the real racists, not conservatives. Park has also been silent about the fact Malkin wrote a book justifying the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, called Asian campaign donors to Hillary Clinton “limited-English-proficient and smellier than stinky tofu,” and once dismissed campaigns against anti-Asian racism as “self-pitying and grievance-mongering.”
Park has become a sensation with just 23,000 Twitter followers, a scattering compared with Malkin’s 693,000 fans. What sets Park apart is her savvy use of Twitter, flowing from her metaphysical vision that “Digital lives will shape history.” Park and her followers float in digital ether where avatars, buzzwords and representations are terra firma. It’s similar to Bitcoin enthusiasts who proselytize that monetary algorithms, online wallets and virtual keys will reshape the global economy, but fall prey to classic con-man scams. It’s a shame because Park is right that liberal racism is real. Democrats are as complicit as the right in locking up brown people at home and blowing up brown people abroad. But when a young anti-racist activist who writes about “imperial timelines,” anti-capitalism and decolonization finds herself in cahoots with an extremist like Malkin, it reveals Twitter is more useful for political manipulation than collective revolution.
The #NotYourAsianSidekick landed Park on The Guardian’s list of “Top 30 young people in digital media.” One detail left out of the story is that the movement was shepherded collectively by Park and by co-creator and feminist Juliet Shen, facilitators for specific topics, and organizations like 18 Million Rising. In January, Park took sole credit in a bit of humblebragging, writing, “The viral success of #NotYourAsianSidekick after I first tweeted the tag on December 15, 2013, wasn’t about me, but all of us.” By February, Shen and 18 Million Rising had fallen out with Park.
Park’s next triumph came on Jan. 14 when she scorched the CBS sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother,” accusing it of yellowface in an episode satirizing Kung Fu movies.Tweeting ”My race is not a costume,”with the hashtag #HowIMetYourRacism, Park elicited an apology from the show’s co-creator after the controversy was covered byCNN, Time magazine, and Cosmopolitan.
It seems Malkin was watching. Sounding like an activist immersed in cultural theory, Malkin tweeted on Jan. 20, “Great thing about Twitter is that it allows those excluded from official MSM narratives to break down the barriers.”
Then, on Jan. 29, Malkin came into her own as a hashtag activist. MSNBC tweaked the right by tweeting, ”Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family. http://on.msnbc.com/1dPgQEU.”
A first responder in fabricating outrage, Malkin linked the Cheerios tweet to an incident a month earlier when an MSNBC panel belittled Mitt Romney’s extended family, which includes an adopted black grandchild. Then Malkin tweeted, “Hey @msnbc jerks: This is #MyRightwingBiracialFamily. We love #cheerios. Enough with your race card crap==> pic.twitter.com/DZikmrD0PK.” The crowds went wild, retweeting the hashtag and accompanying photo of Malkin’s two biracial children more than 500 times.
Two minutes later Malkin exhorted her followers to make it a movement, tweeting “Counter the Left’s evil narrative. Use social media to expose & crush it. Flood @msnbc w/YOUR pics ==> #MyRightWingBiracialFamily.”
As more than 100 photos of right-wing biracial families poured in, Malkin gushed, “Gorgeous!”, “BEAUTIFUL!”, “LOVE!!!” She played empowerment coach and bare-knuckled brawler, tweeting, “‘Rightwing’ families responded to @msnbc w/love, pride & joy. This, ultimately, is how we will end poisonous, libelous race-card smears.” Her fans played victims of a bigoted liberal media and basked in the Instagram glow of diversity, family and tolerance.
Twitchy, a Twitter aggregation and curation website founded by Malkin in March 2012 (and sold to a Christian media company last December), churned out posts to keep the outrage fresh. The next day, Jan. 30, Twitchy crowed, “Michelle Malkin leads crushing social media win against MSNBC smear,” after the news networkapologized and reportedly fired the tweeter responsible.
What’s this have to do with Suey Park? Well, on Jan. 30, Park weighed in on a Twitter discussion that included Malkin. After Park derided another woman as “hysterical,” “unreasonable,” and “immature,” she declared Malkin was “reasonable.”
Why would Park call Malkin reasonable given her noxious politics?
Perhaps Park was enthused by Malkin’s victorious hashtag campaign that mimicked her own, celebrating diversity against racist media depictions. Given the fact they were familiar with each other, it’s distinctly possible they were talking in the internet’s dark alleys, and Malkin was trying to convince Park they had the same enemy. Park’s fixation on the digital world over the material may have led her to conclude that Twitter Malkin was reasonable.
On March 17, Park published a hashtag manifesto with her frequent collaborator,Eunsong Kim, a PhD candidate in literature. The two imagine Twitter as the new vanguard party uniting revolutionaries. Twitter is subversive, a tool to “defy the limitations of time and space,” a means to build intentional communities, and “part of a collective struggle … to end capitalism and abandon the replication of oppressive exclusionary tactics within ethnic confines.” This reveals a disconnect with reality. That the revolution is riding in on a $25 billion company gentrifying a patch of earth called the Bay Area and displacing people of color in the process goes unmentioned in the manifesto. If you can think Twitter is making a revolution possible, then you can believe Malkin is on your side.
A few days later, on Feb. 2, Park smacked “Saturday Night Live” with charges ofyellowface. Her complaints were retweeted only by a few dozen people, but Jeff Yang, whom one source said was a mentor of Park, criticized SNL as well in his Wall Street Journal column and linked it to the “How I Met Your Mother” episode.
In neither episode did Park raise the issue of liberal racism. Certainly Colbert, with his bloviating right-wing alter ego, delights liberals and displeases conservatives. But one can easily make the argument that Park’s initial campaigns exposed the racism of liberal Hollywood as well. It was with #CancelColbert that liberal racism suddenly became Park’s target.
The supercells of Park and Malkin collided the night of Thursday, March 27, 2014, generating a perfect media storm. Park fired off at least three tweets in four minutes. The first was a “Fuck you" Colbert. The second was the infamous “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation,” which was retweeted a respectable 144 times, a mild breeze compared to a Twittersphere hurricane like Justin Bieber, whose feckless grunts are retweeted 100,000 times or more. In the third tweet, Park accused white liberals of being “just as complicit in making Asian Americans into punchlines.” Presumably she meant as complicit as conservatives.
In the next two hours, Park rained directives, exhortations, jargon, and rebukes on her followers while skirmishing with others on the side. Park was Asian-America: “there are 19 million of us,” “We are waiting for an apology and explanation,” and “we aren’t amused.”
Park commanded, “White people—please keep #CancelColbert trending until there’s an apology. This is NOT the burden of people of color. Fix it. Do something,” orderedthose who aren’t “structurally subordinated [to] please shut up and help #CancelColbert,” and sneered, “Still waiting for white allies to make themselves useful, but they probably enjoy the show too much.” (She changed her opinion about the utility of white people the following week, telling Salon, “I don’t want them on our side.”)
Park later claimed #CancelColbert was a provocative way to expose liberal racism, but that night she chided, “White people … I know y’all are used to having structural power, but losing one show isn’t oppression #CancelColbert.” Additionally, the headline for her and Eunsong Kim’s article for Time magazine read, “We Want to #CancelColbert.”
An hour into the campaign, at 8:52 p.m., Twitchy swung into action. In February, I felt the heat from a Twitchy-led mob, including a thinly veiled death threat, after sarcastically tweeting that Republicans were guilty of economic terrorism by threatening to cut aid to a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee if workers there unionized. But for #CancelColbert, Twitchy became as earnest as an Occupy Wall Street general assembly, curating Tweets about racist “othering,” transphobia, fat shaming, cis privilege, bullying, and triggering. Garnering more than 1,200 mentions on Facebook and Twitter, the Twitchy post praised Park’s persistence, framed the issue as one of liberal racism, and noted the campaign was going viral fast.
MALKIN IT FOR ALL IT’S WORTH
At 9:34 p.m. Park announced the first victory. The Colbert Report deleted the originaloffending tweet that had gone out at 6:02 p.m.: “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”
Malkin piled on seven minutes later by tweeting, “Coward just deleted the tweet!” She also referred to the tweet from Twitchy the previous hour.
Warming up, Malkin tweeted at 9:44 p.m., “Co-sign! RT @suey_park I’m sick of liberals hiding behind assumed ‘progressiveness’ #CancelColbert.” Malkin was retweeted 152 times, nosing past the first Cancel Colbert tweet. Park retweeted or favorited both missives.
That minute Malkin tweeted at Park, “@suey_park I know we don’t agree on much, but you are TENACIOUS & I respect that greatly. Hats off to you. #cancelcolbert.” Also at 9:44 p.m. Park tweeted, sounding like Malkin, “I’m sick of liberals hiding behind assumed ‘progressiveness’ #CancelColbert.” Given their contact in January, the tweets suggest the two had been in communication. At minimum the two were now joined in battle against the specter of liberal racism. Park did not comment on Malkin, but she retweeted her yet again.
Others alerted Park she was making common cause with someone who commits every political sin Park preaches against. At 9:48 p.m. on March 27, only four minutes after Malkin backed Park, noted anti-racist and feminist blogger Mia McKenzie, aka Black Girl Dangerous, expressed her displeasure, tweeting “@suey_park ew michelle malkin, though? ew.” Park didn’t respond, but she favorited this tweet soon after.
At 9:54 p.m., two hours after #CancelColbert was born, Malkin explained the goal was not to cancel Colbert, it was to “#ExposeColbert & it’s working very effectively. Luv the smell of hypocrisy toast.” Park favorited the tweet.
Cancel Colbert rapidly went stratospheric. At 10:33 p.m. Park tweeted, “Fun! We are the #1 trending hashtag in the US right now … Keep it up! Park’s mood understandably soured a few hours later as Twitter interactions hit 200 per minute, many of them oozing racist and sexist vitriol, including rape and death threats.
The next morning Twitchy published another post defending Park that made it seem as if she and Malkin were united on the issue. At no point did Park publicly distance herself from Malkin, reject her politics, or at least express concern that Malkin’s vicious real-world racism might harm the campaign to address racism in the fictional world. Park’s only comment the night of March 27 to Malkin was to declare, “I’m Christian, too,” at 8:56 p.m.
While Malkin and Twitchy supported Park, Park concluded that Colbert fans were behind the torrent of abuse directed at her. Park tweeted that night to Colbert’s personal account, “Dear @StephenAtHome—your years of satire have failed when your fans send rape/death threats to an asian woman for critiquing your work.” From the Twitter feeds of abusers calling her "chink" and "rice nigger,” nearly all look to beright-wingtrolls.
By March 28, #CancelColbert burned through the media. Park’s article in Time indicated that Cancel Colbert was the goal. But in an interview with The New Yorkerthe same day, Park sounded like Malkin, saying she didn’t really want to cancel Colbert, despite the hashtag. Park said of Colbert’s sketch, “That sort of racial humor just makes people who hide under the title of progressivism more comfortable.” Malkin completed the Freaky Friday switch, sounding like Park when she tweetedthat afternoon, “For all you CLWM’s [clueless white males] lecturing brown & yellow women about how we don’t get the ‘satire’ …”
Park obviously is not responsible for Malkin trying to co-opt her message. But given the number of times she retweets or favorites Malkin, and acknowledges criticism but is silent about it, this suggests she is keeping quiet about Malkin’s politics so as to benefit from her support.
Three anti-racist feminists who have been in touch with Park say “she might be in over her head” in tangoing with Malkin. Juliet Shen, who calls Park a “former friend,” says she was “shocked” to see Malkin and Park “were talking to each other, and in a way supporting each other.” Another source says Malkin “doesn’t support Park, she is just eager to use her to slam liberals.”
Shen thinks Malkin is using Park to “change people’s opinions about her, and in that way help loop Asian-Americans into right-wing politics.” She suggests both Park and Malkin may be “using each other for an opportunity to get more visibility in communities neither of them had a lot of presence in.”
Shen says, “It is confusing to see why Park wouldn’t denounce Malkin of all people,” especially when Park is quick to fling around insults such as “anti-blackness, racism, sexism, homophobia [against]other organizers in the Asian-American community.” She says Park might be afraid “if she did publicly criticize Malkin, she has this huge following that could easily turn on Suey.”
One source who asked Park about Malkin’s support for Cancel Colbert claimed Park expressed her distaste for Malkin but then did not respond when asked if she would repudiate Malkin publicly.
Park’s first comment about Malkin came on March 30. The previous day Jeff Yangslammed #CancelColbert and the limits of Twitter as a social justice tool in the Wall Street Journal. Park broke with Yang that evening, calling him “a gaslighting self-promoting patriarch.” Shen wrote in a blog post that it’s common practice among Park’s followers to accuse others of gaslighting, that is, trying to deliberately twist someone’s memory. At 3:42 a.m. Park tweeted at Yang, “@michellemalkin has been a better friend than you.”
On April 1, Malkin threw down in support of Park, making no bones of her intentionto use Park to sanitize right-wing racism. "Question: Who are the most prominent, public purveyors of Asian stereotypes and ethnic language-mocking in America? "The right answer is liberal Hollywood and Democrats. "The wrong and slanderous answer is conservatives…"
After denigrating Colbert as an “illegal alien amnesty lobbyist,” Malkin applauded Park for leading a group of “diehard liberals” to “tenaciously” question Colbert and his defenders as “race-baiting liberals who hid behind their self-professed progressivism.” Malkin also took the opportunity to bash Muslims and defend her internment book.
Finally on April 1 Park offered some ambiguous criticism, tweeting, “Michelle Malkin cosigning my work means my message sucks, but white supremacists threatening rape cosigning Angry Asian Man means…what?”
Just as Park has shied away from criticizing a demagogue who boosted her, Park’s defenders have ignored how she and her supporters engage in abusive behavior, outrageous claims, and odious alliances. This is not equivalent to the threats of violence directed at Park, who has shown real courage to face down internet predators.
But Park and her followers use the digital medium as a cudgel to silence opposition and to erase histories, which serves to promote her brand. Park says the revolutioninvolves building bridges “across difference in our Twitter neighborhoods" to understand "how slavery, genocide, and orientalism are the three pillars of white supremacy." Twitter’s 140-character limit, however, also selects for cliques that build gated ideologies out of code words. The medium is hostile to analyzing the quality of an idea, the logic of an argument, or the nuance of history.
If you are an ally, your social genotype takes precedence as long as you can correctly assemble the jargon: decolonial, intersectional, queer, anti-racist, imperial timelines, trans, white supremacy, heteropatriarchical. If you are a critic, which is a polite term for enemy, then your phenotype is all that matters.
Thus, if you are an Asian-American man Park disagrees with, that’s because “Asian men [throw] women of color under the bus.” If you are an Asian woman critic, you sound like “a white feminist.” If you are a white feminist, that really means “White (Supremacy) Feminism.” And if you are a hetero cis white male, nothing more needs be said.
There is no institutional memory on Twitter, just a stream of directives and pronouncements that wash away the past. If Twitter is the revolution, then Park can actually believe ”my tweet” of #NotYourAsianSidekick was “the point of origin for Asian American feminism.” That’s right. Suey Park invented Asian-American feminism. Additionally, Park can simultaneously speak for 19 million Asian Americans, tell them to “decenter" their identity, and berate them for "gaslighting,” “sidekicking" whites, and ignoring their internalized racism.
Her enablers include the swarm of leftists on Twitter so intoxicated by identity politic buzzwords they couldn’t walk the line between defending someone against vile threats, and challenging the conduct and ideas of Park and her supporters. The media is even more complicit as it made her into a national figure, but is so incurious about Asian-America that Park can act as its voice and the founder of Asian-American feminism without raising an eyebrow.
Then there’s the matter of how #CancelColbert “Drowned out the Native Voice,” as Indian Country Today Media Network bluntly stated. Native American journalist Jacqueline Keeler criticized Park for shifting discussion away from the Redskins name, and for not promoting hashtags to protest racist sports team names. Keelerclaims, “We kept Suey Park in the loop regarding our hashtag #Not4Sale, she was just not moved to act on it.” Native activist Jennie Stockle, who works with Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, wrote: “… like a tornado, Suey Park’s tweet calling to cancel Colbert Report came through and pushed all of our efforts into a storm shelter.”
Park admitted the adverse effect of #CancelColbert the next day, “The almighty@andrea366 has reminded me of an important point—can’t ignore anti-Native racism—let’s address issues simultaneously.”
Ironically, Park is right that digital lives do bleed into reality, just as drug traffickers and the IRS alike realize Bitcoin is more than fictitious capital. Park and her allies sparked a national controversy and sent the media all atwitter. They proved a point that Asians are an easy punchline for television comedy, even as their claim Asian-Americans is one monolithic marginalized community is as fictional as the shows they critique.
But in the offline world, says Shen, they’ve “burned bridges, hurt many people in our community, and by throwing buzzwords around they’ve diminished real organizing against sexism, racism and other forms of bigotry.”
Shen adds Park’s appropriation of grand roles and achievements shows a lack of “recognition for those who’ve done so much before us. … This is not the origin for Asian-American feminism. This is one blip in the long timeline of fighting for racial, sexual and gender justice.”
The only one who gained from the dust-up is Colbert with more attention and ashow’s worth of material. Park built a national platform out of hashtags, but her standing has likely peaked. After Colbert was tapped for the coveted spot of host on “The Late Show,” Park and Kim took to Time magazine once more to vow they’re not going to stop “until it ends.” It, presumably, is how the “entertainment industry has perfected the development of white, cis, straight, male characters,” and marginalized “other voices.” It’s a worthy goal, but they are trying to empty an ocean with a thimble by using Twitter to change historical consciousness.
Bitcoin paved the way for a slew of digital currencies, and #CancelColbert will inspire others to replicate Park. There will be more hashtag activists inventing history 140 characters at time, erasing allies and achievements, positioning themselves at the head of movements and communities, and influencing national conversations. Lurking in Twitter’s shadows will be other opportunists like Malkin ready to divert that energy for twisted ends. But 140-character harangues in the dark won’t change anything. Real change happens in the real world.
What would you say are the 3 greatest problems facing Asian Americans in the US currently that are specific to the Asian American community and what are some ways they could be addressed? By which I mean Asian Americans in general, rather than specific Asian American groups (Arab Americans obviously have unique problems from say Japanese Americans). Thanks alot
Many children grow up hearing fantastical tales and listening to nursery rhymes. A magical forest here and furry talking creatures there. I grew up listening to the nightmares of chaos and terror as tragedy consumed Cambodia.
On April 17th, 1975, Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge. Like many Khmer Americans, my family came to the United States as refugees from Cambodia in 1982. My grandparents reflect back on the day the Khmer Rouge scoured the city and announced over their loud speakers that the Americans were going to begin dropping their bombs. Greeting the citizens with smiles, they expressed that safety was their priority and all those living within the city should evacuate to the countryside. They promised that the invasion would be over and they would be able to return to the city. Yet, it would be four years of terror before any lucky survivors would be able to return to the remains of their homes. My family had no choice but to abandon all of their belongings and at that precise moment, their entire lives.
Soon after they began to lose sight of the city, they were met with the smell of death. Piles of dead bodies, of former doctors, teachers, lawyers, business people, and other intellectuals lined the streets. The rotting flesh was cooked by the sun and empty eyes stared at the travelers. When I was younger, my mom used to wake up in the middle of the night after she replayed this scene over and over again in her nightmares. You can find her story [here].
From labor camps to pseudo-refugee camps, my family never had the security of knowing that they would wake up the next morning. Their very lives were dependent on being invisible. Children over the age of 10 were separated from their parents. My mother, the oldest sibling, was forced to leave my family behind and live in a separate labor camp. She worked 9-10 hours a day, 7 days a week under the hot sun, surviving on small portions of rice soup and salt. Countless citizens were so malnourished that they died of starvation, diseases, and exhaustion. Yet, no matter how sick they were, my family dragged themselves out of their makeshift huts because they feared being executed. The Khmer Rouge believed that if you were unable to contribute, then you were useless and it would be a waste of food to feed you.
On one fateful night, my family was met with the sounds of gunshots and the blares of an explosion. They found cover in the bomb shelter and continued to listen to the whirring of bullets throughout the night. When daylight broke and the shooting sounds subsided, they tried to move on to another town and abruptly the shooting sounds were close by again. They found refuge in barn house hid anywhere out of sight. My grandparents later heard that there was a Khmer Rouge soldier who wanted to enter the house, but his comrade said that he had seen my family with the rest of the Khmer Rouge already. If he had not made that mistake, a simple grenade would have decided the fate of my family.
Fortunately, my family made their way to a refugee camp in Thailand. My grandpa filed for sponsorship to come to the United States, as we had no relatives living in the U.S. that could sponsor us. After he applied for sponsorship, my grandpa went to the refugee bureau every day where they posted name of families that were sponsored to leave the camp. With each passing day, my family began to lose hope, as their name did not appear on the board. Finally, in May of 1981, after a year and a half in the refugee camp, my family’s names were posted among the last ones in the list. They were transferred to the Philippines, flown to Columbus, Ohio, and eventually made their way by bus to Denver, Colorado.
Life has a funny way of coming full circle when you least expect it. Here I am, sitting in a Starbucks in Columbus writing this blog and reflecting upon how close I came to living here instead of Denver. As I began to get older and my family began to acculturate into America, I began to hear less and less about their previous life in Cambodia and the discrimination they experienced in the United States. I forgot these stories and I forgot the struggle that my family underwent. The above stories are so surreal that they almost seem like fiction.
It must be recognized that history is often written by its victors. Growing up, much of my narrative of the Khmer Rouge were small excerpts in my history book written by American historians. In many ways, America was painted as a safe haven for refugees, and while I am not denying that, it seemed as though my family traded in one form of cultural genocide for another. It was Washington’s intention in the early 1970s to strengthen the Khmer Republic and to help defeat the revolutionary Khmer Rouge movement. However, it is heavily argued that American intervention widened the war and served as a catalyst for driving Cambodia into conflict. Furthermore, evidence suggests that foreign intervention produced negative results in the end, as it gave rise to the revolutionary force and weakened the Khmer Republic, making the power transition and societal levels more volatile and dangerous.
President Nixon and his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, began to discuss the North Vietnamese sanctuaries and supply routes in the then neutral country of Cambodia. Despite the fact that military strikes against locations in a neutral country would be flagrant violations of international laws and treaties, it was soon decided that the areas be bombed in order to clean out “the communist sanctuaries.” Codenamed Operation Menu, on March 18th, 1969 the US Strategic Air Command began the bombing of Eastern Cambodia under the Nixon Administration. The primary goal was to destroy supply lines and camps used by the North Vietnamese to wage attacks into South Vietnam. In 1969, these secret missions more than doubled and over a thousand missions were initiated. And in the same fourteenth month period, over 3,600 B-52 raids were conducted against targets in Kampuchea. However, these bombings were kept secret – not only from the public but also within the Air Force command. The first bombing raids were called Breakfast. Later raids that were deeper in Cambodia were referred to as Lunch. Eventually, the raids reached beyond Dinner and into Snacks and Dessert. At a great loss of Cambodian civilian lives, the operation proved unsuccessful in decreasing North Vietnam offensives. Indirectly, the bombings led to the downfall of the Cambodian government and the rise of the Khmer Rouge.
Yet… I was never taught any of this until I studied abroad in Southeast Asia. I remember being placed in an English as a Second Language track during elementary school (even though, let me be clear, I spoke perfect English) and having the word refugee thrown at me. I had no idea what that meant. I never understood how lucky I was to be sitting within the safe confines of a classroom, with the reassurance of three meals a day. I knew I was Cambodian, but did not realize how much weight and history that identity held…. nor did I realize how much of my identity was authored by American history. Why must we illustrate heroes at the expense of so many? It makes me think of how much of what I know is constructed, rather than authentic.
Recently, I have had the privilege of traveling all over the nation to speak with fellow Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (A/PIA) college students about the importance of community organizing and A/PIA activism. I realize more and more how my family’s history has shaped my passion for activism, equity, and authentic representation of communities. Since becoming involved in the social justice realm, I have had many internal conflicts about the American Dream. Despite coming to the United States with every possible disadvantage, my family made it. My mother was the first in our family to graduate from college. My family is littered with Student Body Presidents, Valedictorians, Salutatorians, full ride scholars, Daniels Fund Scholars, and Gates Millennium Scholars. Coincidentally, many of us found ourselves in fields of education and made West High School, the Denver Center for International Studies, and the University of Denver our home, including myself. But, they are only a single story. Cambodian Americans still have some of the highest high school drop out rates, are victims of the school to prison pipeline, and face numerous deportation cases.
In providing me with these opportunities and the need to assimilate to survive, I grew up not truly understanding who I was or where I came from. It was not until recently that I began to realize more and more the need and impact of storytelling. My family realized this long before I did and published their own personal memoir (of which many excerpts have been included in this blog). Storytelling allows us to preserve our roots. It allows us to share our experiences in ways that are real and authentic. Stories give us the ability challenge what we learn in our history books and gives us the power to advocate for visibility and representation. Stories give us the right to WRITE our OWN histories. They can move systems and transform institutions. Storytelling is resistance. Stories start (r)evolutions.
For the past year, I have carried an Audre Lorde quote that states, “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you,” with me wherever I go. It serves as a powerful reminder that choosing to be visible and to speak powerfully will help to ensure that fewer communities will have to experience the types of silencing that my family had to endure. Although I was born 16 years after the fall of Phnom Penh on April 17th, 1975, I choose to remember it every single day. Why? Because it is evidence that I come from a legacy of warriors, of survivors. Resiliency is on our blood. My name is Vanessa. I am a daughter of refugees. I am a feminist. I am an activist. And most importantly, I am Khmer.
**Thank you to Gao Chia-Ren for his unwavering support, encouragement, AND editorial and creative title skills. ***To support Project Ava and our vision of sharing stories that inspire meaningful change, visit our store.
In honor of this day of remembrance: April 17, 1975
Is the change I seek revolutionary? Is every revolution going to require bloodshed? When “The Revolution” comes will I be able to take my mother and father with me? And what about my children? The Revolution did come to us. On April 17, 1975 the revolution marched into Phnom Penh. It emptied out the city. Nearly every single family in Cambodia suffered losses during the time of the Khmer Rouge. An estimated 2 million Cambodians died. There is no exact body count.
I was too young to be recruited as a child soldier. In 1975, The People’s Revolutionary Party instead enlisted me in the fields where I would pick up cow dung. The unrelenting sun scorched my hair a shiny amber.1978 my mother almost died giving birth to my brother. There were no doctors or nurses in their commune. Professionals, intellectuals, former government officials, and religious figures were targeted for torture and execution. Kindness spared my father who would have otherwise been executed for being a teacher and a Muslim. The oppressive Khmer Rouge regime lasted 3 years, 8 months and 20 days. In 1979 when the borders reopened, my family was forced to leave Cambodia for the nearest Thai refugee camp. Survival is an instinct the body remembers well. On June 30, 1979, my family left the Thai camps for America. I do not need to have memories of violence to know that the experience of genocide has never left my body.
My parents never left me behind even when the Revolution left us with nothing. The change I seek has to include my family even if their politics differ from mine. The change I seek must be rooted in love. I believe that you can’t serve your people if you don’t love your people. Acts of violence can never be acts of love.”
”—Artist and activist, Anida Yoeu Ali. Anida is also the producer of the award-winning documentary, Cambodian Son. It screens today at 3:30pm at East Bay Media Center in Berkeley, CA.
With Asian Pacific American Heritage Month approaching, we are proud to announce the launch of a new platform that will develop and feature data-inspired feature writing and provocative short pieces relating to AAPI communities and AAPI experiences. The goal is to harness both the power of compelling data and the storytelling talent of the vibrant AAPI journalist, blogger and academic communities, to inspire more news coverage and public understanding of key aspects and features of our rapidly growing and changing AAPI populations.
To this end, we are openly soliciting pitches for contributions on the following themes for APA Heritage Month in 2014. While the contributions we’re seeking should be anchored in data and explore trends, patterns, nuances or exceptions to conventional wisdom that these data reveal, the style in which the pieces are written can range from analytic to creative, and from sober to humorous, and can range from short pieces (300-500 words) to longer-form, feature-length articles (1000 words+). Whatever the style or format, storytelling counts: Above all, we want to these contributions to be compelling, inviting — and provocative.
any cuties in new york city this summer wanting to intern for the asian american writers workshop, they’re looking for summer interns! i spent the past couple of months with them and learned a lot about myself, what i want out of a job, and got to meet and mingle with a lot of incredible authors and poets, including ocean vuong, ruth ozeki, chang-rae lee, and natalie diaz, yo! plus, i met some incredible people throughout the program, and made some awesome friends that just warm my heart just thinking about them.
the applications are due on may 1! i don’t know man. it was a warm, loving place to work in. the hours are lenient, and you get to attend all there are quite a lot of perks that come with it. i’m just saaayin.
Kari and Chuks, with special guest Cynthia, discuss anti-blackness in K-pop. From racism early on to the now-ubiquitous appropriation of Black culture while disparaging Black people, from what the artists do to the fans’ reactions, we trace the history and analyze anti-blackness in K-Pop. We also answer an anonymous ask about Nicki Minaj’s sexuality, an ask from ithinkimgettingthefear about racial politics on a university campus, and an anonymous ask about dealing with a friend who’s coping with trauma.
Hey folks! The Association for Asian American Studies Conferencebegins this Wednesday, April 16. I will be sitting on a panel on Saturday, April 19 called, "Teaching the Forbidden Book: The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons” with Abe Ignacio, Jorge Emmanuel, Eric Pido, and Harvey Dong. The Forbidden Book is a collection of political cartoons (such as the one above) produced during the Philippine-American War, which marked the beginning of American colonialism in the Philippines.
Broaching the topic of “White Privilege” is not synonymous with “All white people are evil and, I hate them all.” Chill out.
Want to watch a white person rush away from a dinner party? Just bust out phrases like “institutionalized racism,” “white supremacy,” and the oldie but goodie “residual effects of slavery that are still with us today,” and watch a room of white people clear itself out, or, at least, have them stammer out the names of all the black people they are friends with, and then offer another unsolicited list off all the good they’ve done for people of color.
When I talk about systemic racism and historical racial inequalities as it ties into white privilege and modern-day racism, I think I must sound like this to white people: “Hey Whitey! I am going to kill you.” I know this is a lot to ask of white people, but could you please STOP FLIPPING OUT when the topic of white privilege comes up? I’m talking about being defensive, blabbing about how there is no such thing as race (just one human race, which is actually made up of different races), and how you are so gifted as a white person that you “don’t see race.” Ooh, that last one, ouch.
That’s why we need to have this conversation — because the inability to “see” racism and privilege is exactly what white privilege is. Talking about race is not a trap. It’s not a game of “Gotcha with your Klan Hood Down.” Talking about white privilege is not about asking white people to leave their race. Nor is it about declaring genocide on the white race. (Besides, looks like we’re already going to outnumber you by 2050, so you might as well sit back, relax and enjoy being Wong-splained.)
Talking about white privilege is not even about trying to make you feel like shit for being white. Surprising, I know. But the conversation on white privilege concerns you and yet is not about YOU. And when you make it about how you feel personally attacked, we really don’t progress further into talking about how we’re going to fix racism. Really.
If you are a white person who gets nervous when white privilege gets brought up, imagine having to navigating racism in every day life as a person of color who must live with it. Imagine systemically being locked out of better education or healthcare, job opportunities or the mainstream American narrative.
There are moments as an Asian American when I’ve been regarded as an “honorary white.” (There are also many other moments when I am reminded that I will always be a perpetual foreigner despite the fact that my family has been in the United States for three generations.) But rather than take whatever privilege I can and run with it, I’m interested in talking with people who benefit from white privilege -– how and if they can recognize it and use their positions of privilege to dismantle the systems that oppress other people.
Believe it or not, I’d love for the world to be more equitable for EVERYONE. And when I ask you to recognize your white privilege, it’s not because I’m trying to place blame. It’s about asking white people to consider the moments where they are able to “pass” in certain situations. Where they are afforded privileges that they never earned. It’s about finding ways to cede privilege, space, and comfort to allow others to live in a more equitable world.
So white people, the conversation about race can’t happen without you. We can’t get things better if we aren’t all talking. If racism were an easy problem to fix, we would have fixed it already. Ending racism starts with recognizing privilege, systemic control over society at large, and when you are dismissing issues of racism then you have the privilege of being oblivious to.
Don’t get me wrong there are people of color who proclaim to drink the tears of white people. There are anti-racism activists who will never organize with the most “down” of white people. I don’t want to drink your white tears, but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t enjoy watching you squirm a little.
I don’t know if what I’m about to rattle on about actually does involve cognitive dissonance, because I think the “contradictions” I have in mind may not be contradictory in a true sense.
I’ve been actively, genuinely participating in the ongoing diversity dialogue for the first time, and this morning my attention was captured by a Twitter exchange between Kelly Jensen, Elizabeth Burns, Justina Ireland, and a number of other people. That exchange appeared to be sparked by Kelly’s Book Riot post about the need for bigger megaphones in kidlit diversity, and both the post and the ensuing Twitter conversation touched on the idea of being able to hold two very different, conflicting feelings about a book in one’s heart and mind.
I love Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. It moved me tremendously, and there were moments when I was flabbergasted by the existence of a character whose inner life so closely resembled mine, in ways I’d never found in a book before. I’m not mixed-race (although both my children are), but I spent my middle school and high school years as one of the very few Asian kids in an overwhelmingly white community. I was, and in many ways remain, deeply alienated from my Korean ancestry, and I became as thoroughly assimilated into the privileged culture of white suburban America as I probably could have been.I was confused, and I grew more psychologically distanced from my extended family by the day.
My feelings of self-loathing weren’t rooted solely in my disengagement from my racial and ethnic heritage, but they weren’t separate from it either. I think Park is a character with more than a little self-hatred, a deep sense of alienation from his own racial and ethnic roots, and a very compartmentalized, incomplete understanding of himself. And some part of me fell back and sang out in relief that a book had captured those old feelings of mine so truly and so well.
Then I started seeing the critical response to the book’s depiction of Korean characters, starting with Wendy Xu’s blazingly smart assertion that Eleanor & Park is a racist work (I won’t link to the other posts I’ve read since Kelly did a very thorough job of doing so in the Book Riot post). I read more, I opened a halting dialogue among my Facebook friends, and I realized with more than a little dismay that my perception of the book was becoming a much more complicated and difficult thing.
The aforementioned Twitter conversation really made me think about the issue of loving a book, really loving it, while also feeling genuinely troubled by it. It’s always deflating to realize that I’m simply not any more human than anyone else when it comes to such things, but there you have it - a very large part of me simply wanted to dismiss the objections to E&P so I could just go on loving it in the relatively uncomplicated way I did after first reading it.
I’ve expended some time and energy learning how to unpack my feelings about such things, so I made that effort, and was both unsurprised and unhappy to realize that once again, my difficulty in really absorbing the criticisms of this book I love were rooted in defending my self-defined identity. Acknowledging the troubling aspects of Rowell’s Korean characters couldn’t be done without acknowledging the fact that I simply hadn’t perceived those aspects on my own, which made me feel:
All of the above
All of the above plus a bunch of stuff I don’t even really understand
It was (and remains) painful and exposing to realize that I completely whiffed on perceiving racially problematic aspects of a book that had become so important to me. It’d be easy to go spiraling down the emotional rabbit hole in a self-destructive way - believe me, I’ve done it before - but there’s no denying that seeing, hearing, and reading a viewpoint that so powerfully disrupted my psyche forced me to engage in a heavy round of self-examination.
I still love Eleanor & Park. I’m also increasingly troubled by it. Can those two feelings coexist inside of me? I think it’s possible, although the evidence thus far clearly shows that it’ll be an uneasy coexistence, at least for a while. And I’ve started thinking it’s not only possible for those two feelings to coexist - it might actually be vitally, desperately necessary.
I intend to keep engaging in the diversity dialogue, because I believe in its importance. We live in a world that’s bafflingly, messily, gloriously complex. The ongoing process of simply being alive in this world is endlessly multifaceted, and how can authors and publishers truly serve the needs and desires of all our readers without creating books that are equally complex? The fullness of that complexity can’t be addressed by each individual author or in each individual book, of course - that’s just not possible - but on a global scale, is there any other way?
But if I’m going to keep my commitment to being a part of that effort (and I intend to), I’ll have to contain a seemingly endless supply of contradictory feelings inside my harried brain. That includes respecting the intent of authors who confront matters of diversity in their work, but honestly addressing their shortcomings, if only in the recesses of my mind; supporting dissent, critical analysis, and necessary confrontation by people who are my allies, but also safeguarding and expressing my own feelings and opinions that might differ from theirs; honoring and valuing my own life experiences, creative intentions, and finished work, but accepting the reality that I will learn things that force me to examine my own biases and blind spots; and on and on and on.
I’m worried about being attacked by racist trolls who’ll hammer at me with all the same vile garbage I’ve heard all my life. I’m actually even more worried about being attacked by people who might perceive me as oblivious, witless, or actively complicit in acts of disrespect and disenfranchisement. I don’t know if I can continue engaging in this dialogue without feeling terrible about myself on a regular basis. I don’t know if I can refrain from engaging in this dialogue without feeling terrible about myself on a regular basis. So I guess I’ll do the latter, because despite my lack of a really colossal megaphone to speak through, I feel a spicule of hope that I can contribute to shoving our industry further along a more inclusive, equitable, reality-embracing track.
artemis from young justice > Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss
ALSO OMG SHE’S ASIAN YESSS
I was watching the show, and Robin mentions Artemis’s mom, Huntress, by name, and the fact that I heard cartoon Robin say “Nguyen” out loud made me feel like I could imagine myself in the same universe as Batman and Wonder Woman for the first time in my life, and I almost cried.
This was my favorite part of Young Justice, to be honest
This post is in celebration of Womxn’s Herstory Month! It is by no means a complete list, but here are 5 Pinay scholars who are interrogating, challenging, and decolonizing the world with their groundbreaking research and activism.
In 1993, I returned to Viet Nam for the very first time with you and your father. When the plane landed at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon, everyone on the plane stood up and cheered. Some people were in tears. It probably seems a bit silly to you now. These days, travel is easy. Twenty-four hours and you’re on the other side of the world.
But back then, when we left—when we *fled*—we never thought we’d ever be able to return. Viet Nam was everything we have ever known and loved; it was our childhood, our family, our collective histories and blood. To leave was like having to rip our hearts from our chests. We were leaving a part of ourselves behind.
To this day, nearly forty years later, I can still remember my last day in Saigon. I walked around my neighborhood, looked at the street vendors, the children, the speeding motorcyclists, the way the sunshine hits the trees outside my window. I tried to soak in every single detail that I had previously taken for granted. I wanted to hug the country to my heart because I didn’t know I would be able to return.
There was also a sense of guilt for leaving, at least for me. I should stay and help rebuild with your aunts and uncles, with my neighbors, with the rest of the country. It was my responsibility as a Vietnamese. Why should I get to leave and have freedom and liberty while they had to stay in poverty and hardship? What made me so special? It was nothing but luck. I’ve been through a lot since that day, but nothing will ever compare to the sadness and pain of leaving Viet Nam.
I understand how you feel now, but Viet Nam will always be within your reach. It’s 2014. The world is a different place. And I am just so happy and proud to have a daughter, born and raised in America, who loves Viet Nam with all the heart and soul of a Vietnamese child who’s never left. Perhaps even more because you don’t take it for granted.
”—something my mother said to me last February as we boarded the plane to fly back to the States (via weetoiletpaperroll)
I strongly oppose the use of native imagery and racial slurs as team mascots and nicknames. These displays are in no way “honoring” any Native American, living or deceased.
We need your help to counter the weak and baseless statements of the Washington team owner and NFL Commissioner, they claim that Indian Country does not support the removal of these disrespectful emblems and nicknames that do not honor Native peoples and harm our Native youth.
We have been urged to continue to send copies of letters, resolutions, and statements that reflect the opposition of our councils, school boards, and communities to the NCAI in Washingotn D.C.
These messages and comments are being put to good use in an effort to combat Dan Snyder’s claims by the National Congress of American Indians in Washington D.C.
Now is the time to raise our collective voices. lets get this done!
##### PLEASE ##### If you are a native American please put in Parenthesis your tribal affiliation i.e. (Yurok) next to your last name. This is IMPORTANT to show how there is complete opposition to racist mascots from all tribes and non-native alike
Reappropriate has the full list of AAPI bloggers and journalists in solidarity with #NotYourMascot, along with this list of petitions to sign:
Send an email (Wylliet@redskins.com) or a snail mail letter (Dan Snyder c/o Redskin Park; 21300 Redskin Park Dr.; Ashburn, VA 20147) to the Washington R*dskins administration asking them to change the team name.
Participate in the #Not4Sale campaign to protest Dan Snyder’s offensive creation of a “philanthropic” organization to purchase the goodwill of Native people. Retweet photos shared to this hashtag to help send the message that Native people are not for sale.
Paul Lo will be the nation’s first Hmong American judge. (Photo credit: UCLA Daily Bruin)
Earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown made history when he appointed UCLA Law alumnus Paul Lo to the Merced County Superior Court Bench. Lo, who will be sworn in this Friday, will be the nation’s first Hmong American judge.
Lo was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1994 and has been a solo legal practitioner since 2003, according to State Bar records. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Davis and his law degree from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.
Lo spoke no English when he came to the United States at the age of 11, but eventually mastered the language, working hard through school, college and law school.
He said he appreciates the appointment’s historic relevance, but said it wouldn’t change “the person I am now.”
“I think a lot of people in the Hmong community are very proud of it, but I’m equally excited for the opportunity to serve this community, this town,” Lo said.
Lo’s appointment not only contributes to increasing diversity on the bench in California but also elevates a dedicated community advocate, who has devoted his life towards improving legal rights for Hmong Americans, an often over-looked and marginalized ethnic group within the Asian American community. Although Asian Americans remain underrepresented in state and federal judiciaries, Lo’s appointment is an important step forward.
“(Lo) provides needed diversity for our bench. Our bench is starting to look like the population,” said Judge Brian McCabe of the Merced County Superior Court, who worked with Lo as partners in the same firm.
“My true passion to go into law was to be an advocate for the Hmong community,” he said.
The public is invited to attend Lo’s swearing-in ceremony this Friday, which will take place at 4pm at the Art Kamanger Centre at the Merced Theatre, 301 Main St.
The Brandeis community has recently seen the establishment of a new fraternity, Xi Kappa, an Asian-interest fraternity started by Brian Lee ’15, Eric Shen ’16, Brian Louis ’16, Justin Kwon ’16 and Darrell Hosford ’16. The idea of starting the fraternity began when Lee approached Shen and Hosford with an interest in starting an Asian-interest fraternity that would focus on Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues. Shen was the main point of contact for implementing the fraternity, and Hosford and Lee said that choosing which fraternity to establish was simple. Xi Kappa fit every criterion they were looking for in a fraternity.
“They are very involved in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, trying to raise awareness and break stereotypes, and for me personally that was what I was looking for,” Hosford said.
Xi Kappa’s focus on battling the stigma placed on mental health also made it an attractive choice to the members. The new chapter of Xi Kappa has many missions, including bridging gaps between organizations on campus, giving a voice to young men and spreading awareness through community involvement.
Hosford explained the goal of the fraternity’s existence on campus.
“Our goal is to create a presence where we are recognized for building character in young men who are interested in creating a Brotherhood that focuses on the AAPI community.”
Xi Kappa is not an exclusively Asian fraternity; anyone who is interested in AAPI issues is welcome to join. The process to start a fraternity at Brandeis is different than at many schools because Brandeis does not officially recognize the presence of Greek life on campus and therefore does not require administrative processes in creating a chapter. The fraternity thus began as an interest group that volunteered and held events to prove that they were a sustainable group.
Since Brandeis does not recognize Greek life on campus, the Xi Kappa members say they faced some difficulties in the process of beginning their chapter.
“We had a celebration event of our crossing where we invited different organizations to our revealing,” Hosford explained. “This proved difficult, because we had to find event spacing off campus where a lot of students did not have the transportation to get to.”
Despite setbacks such as this, their events were well attended and overall, the group has found that regardless of the fact that they are new, their chapter has been quite successful thus far.
“Though we lack the resources from Brandeis in receiving funding and reserving event spacing, we have already assimilated very well into the Greek community around the Boston area and on campus,” Hosford said.
Xi Kappa has also already supported many causes, including the Asian Pacific Annual Conferences (APAC) Conference at SUNY Albany and the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference, which will be taking place next year in Boston.
The Xi Kappa members expressed confidence in their fraternity and motivation to meet their goals for the future. The fraternity aims to volunteer and foster community involvement to provide a voice and spread awareness. Hosford explained that the group hopes to remove the stigma attached to Greek life by proving the worth of all Greek life on campus through their philanthropic efforts.
“We are hoping to show Brandeis that fraternities and sororities are not the stereotypical ones that are shown in media but that they can improve the social and activism scene on campus,” Hosford said.
Why does this matter? Because fraternities (though institutionally privileged and oppressive) have historically excluded people of color, and because Boston especially lacks a strong unified Greeks of color community. Their focus on mental health issues is a much needed one in the community and they are Brandeis University’s first Asian-interest Greek organization.
“For many years, the Hmong inside the little girl fell into silence.
And then one day, the little girl grew up into a young woman. Because she hadn’t said much in her first twenty years, all the words had been stored inside her. Because her people had only been reunited with a written language in the 1950s, in the break of a war without a name, they had not had the opportunity to write their stories down. In the books on the American shelves, the young woman noticed how Hmong was not a footnote in the history of the world. How Vietnam was only Vietnamese. How Laos belonged to Laotians, and how the war was only American. She saw how the world only knew skin-deep the reaches of Hmong. She saw how they did not know that from the day she was born, she was Hmong. She saw how the children, born in America, lived life like Americans. She saw the diminishing memories of her mother and father on the hard road to remembering the strings of words and the new food in America. She said good-bye to her grandmother from Laos, from Thailand, from America, from the world of the living, and on sheets of white paper. The young woman slowly unleashed the flood of Hmong into language, seeking refuge not for a name or a gender, but a people.”—Kao Kalia Yang, The Latehomecomer (via theangryminority)
Fred Ho, a composer, saxophonist, writer and radical activist who wrote politically charged operas, suites, oratorios and ballets that mixed jazz with popular and traditional elements of what he called Afro-Asian culture, died on Saturday at his home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He was 56.
The cause was complications of colorectal cancer, his student and friend Benjamin Barson said. In books, essays, speeches and interviews, Mr. Ho said he had been at war with the disease, his preferred metaphor, since 2006.
Mr. Ho, who was of Chinese descent, called himself a “popular avant-gardist.” He was inspired by the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and by the ambitious, powerful music of African-American bandleaders, including Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Sun Ra and especially Charles Mingus. But he rejected the word jazz, which he considered a pejorative term imposed by Europeans.
Self-reliance was a priority for Mr. Ho. He rarely played in anyone else’s band. Among the exceptions were stints with the arranger Gil Evans and the saxophonists Archie Shepp and Julius Hemphill. Describing himself as a “revolutionary matriarchal socialist and aspiring Luddite,” he never owned a car and made many of his own clothes from kimono fabric.
Fred Ho in 2013. CreditJoshua Bright for The New York Times
Despite his determination to stand outside the mainstream, he found support from grant-giving organizations, academic music departments, which hired him as artist in residence, and nonprofit arts institutions, including, in New York City, the Public Theater, the Kitchen and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Born Fred Wei-han Houn on Aug. 10, 1957, in Palo Alto, Calif. — he changed his surname in 1988 — he moved with his family when he was 6 to Amherst, Mass., where his father taught political science at the University of Massachusetts. He felt a powerful attraction to the art and rhetoric of black culture. As a teenager, he audited college classes taught by Mr. Shepp, the drummer Max Roach and the poet Sonia Sanchez, who were all putting progressive politics in their art. He never formally studied music, but began teaching himself baritone saxophone when he was 14.
In interviews, Mr. Ho recalled that his father physically abused his mother. “One of my first insurrections,” he told Harvard Magazine, “was to defend my mother against his physical beatings and give him two black eyes.”
He joined the Marines in 1973 and learned hand-to-hand combat before being discharged in 1975 because, he said, he had fought with an officer who had used a racial slur. In his 20s, Mr. Ho briefly joined the Nation of Islam and then the I Wor Kuen, a radical Asian-American group inspired by the Black Panthers. Like his two younger sisters, Florence Houn and Flora Houn Hoffman, he attended Harvard University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1979.
His sisters and his mother, Frances Lu Houn, survive him.
Mr. Ho moved to New York in the early 1980s to pursue a career as a musician. He formed the Afro Asian Music Ensemble and became associated with other Asian-American musicians working on a newly emergent hybrid conception of jazz. They included the pianist Jon Jang and the saxophonist Francis Wong. His first records, “Tomorrow Is Now!” and “We Refuse to Be Used and Abused,” were released by the Italian jazz label Soul Note.
In 1989, Mr. Ho had his first work performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the bilingual opera “A Chinaman’s Chance.” He then created two ballet operas based on the Chinese novel “Monkey,” by Wu Ch’eng-en, “Journey to the West” (1990) and “Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey.” Both used Mandarin Chinese in their librettos, and both reimagined Monkey, a trickster figure, as a political agitator, upsetting the power structures of the gods. Mr. Ho called them “living comic books.”
Other ambitious works, many of which were recorded, were on the subjects of Chinese folklore, physical combat, domestic abuse, the black power movement and revolutionary feminism — and sometimes all of those subjects together, as in the opera “Warrior Sisters: The New Adventures of African and Asian Womyn Warriors” (1991), written with the librettist Ann T. Greene.
That work imagined a meeting of Fa Mu Lan, the Chinese fighter who was the subject of a sixth-century folk ballad; Yaa Asantewaa, who in 1900, in what is now Ghana, led the Ashanti rebellion against British colonialism; Sieh King King, a young Chinese-American woman who agitated for women’s rights in early-20th-century San Francisco; and Assata Shakur, the Black Liberation Army activist.
After learning in 2006 that he had colorectal cancer, Mr. Ho documented his fight against the illness in a book, “Diary of a Radical Cancer Warrior: Fighting Cancer and Capitalism at the Cellular Level,” followed by another, more prescriptive one, “Raw Extreme Manifesto: Change Your Body, Change Your Mind and Change the World by Spending Almost Nothing!” He wrote about his treatment in a blog, naming the doctors he mistrusted, thanking his friends and theorizing about his illness.
In “Future’s End,” a lecture from 2010 that he published at the site of the artists’ collective Commoning, he wrote that the cause of cancer is “capitalist industrialism” and “social toxicity,” and praised Luddism, his philosophical passion, as the only alternative: “The opposition to technology (any of it) that is harmful to people or to the planet.”
Even in his final years, as Mr. Ho underwent multiple operations, he was still working: on “Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon!,” a choreographed martial-arts opera based on the 1970s manga comics of Kazuo Koike, performed for two weeks at La MaMa in May and June 2013, and on “The Sweet Science Suite,” for a 20-piece band and dancers. Dedicated to Muhammad Ali, it had its stage premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in October 2013.
I love all that you are doing to bring awareness to racial stereotypes! I ran across your blog..saw all the stuff on stereotyopes… and thought this video would be especially relevant for you. It is calling us all out on how silly and damaging stereotypes can be,
IMAGES of BLACK FACE, WHITE FACE, YELLOW FACE intertwined with controversial characters: a white oppressive colonialist, blacks gangsters with fried chicken and watermelon, and dog eating, martial arts fighting, asian nerds, this video exposes HATE in a satirical, poignant way. I am a rap artist and do a lot of other art as well. Thought I’d use it all to make this point and help stop stereotypes. Share it if you like and if you are willing to help me call our culture out, that would be awesome ya know!
The Asian stereotype is the 2nd one! I hope this can help further our similar message and call society out on all this! Share it help me make this rap campaign on stereotyping go viral if you can! Thanks - I am originally from Haiti, my first language is French and I speak Mandarin…I grew up at a martial arts school and was around more Chinese culture than anything else so stereotypes can be quite annoying haha :).
Assemblyman Ron Kim slams Tiger Mom author Amy Chua for sending the wrong message
Kim will debunk the Tiger Mom view of success in speech to SUNY Albany college students on Saturday
New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim, the first Korean-American elected to the state Legislature, will speak at a conference of Asian American students at SUNY Albany on Saturday to debunk Tiger Mom myths and encourage kids to pursue their passions.
Call him the Tiger Mom slayer.
Assemblyman Ron Kim, the first Korean-American elected to the state Legislature, slammed “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” author Amy Chua on Thursday, saying her latest tome about cultural distinctions “sends the wrong message.”
Just two days before the Flushing assemblyman is slated to speak at a conference for Asian-American students at SUNY Albany, Kim took a shot at the controversial author’s new book, “The Triple Package,” which hit bookshelves January.
“It’s taking us back 50 years by putting the nature of different races and groups in competition,” Kim said of the book, which asserts that certain ethnic groups — including the Jewish and Chinese communities — have a natural edge.
“It’s actually undermining what is great about American culture — that we appreciate diversity and have compassion for other communities,” added the assemblyman.
Kim is taking his message to college students at the State University of New York in Albany on Saturday as the keynote speaker at the Asian Pacific Awareness Conference.
He said the high-pressure “Tiger Mom” attitude of some Asian-American parents and narrow view of success has pushed some kids into depression and even suicide.
“Kids needs to discover their passions,” he said. “My main theme is to make them question whether they want to be someone or want to do something with their lives.”
LEE SEUNG-HWAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGESYale Law Professor and author Amy Chua, who sparked controversy with her Tiger Mom views of parenting has a new book out titled “The Triple Package” which asserts some ethnic groups are better equipped to succeed in America.
Kim considers himself lucky because he had the freedom to play football and pursue a career in public service. He said many of his friends and relatives were told the only measure of success were jobs in the medical or legal fields.
“I’m going to tell them now is the time,” he said. “They’re in college and they have the freedom, the opportunity to be reflective and have that choice.”
The new book by Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld — both professors at Yale School of Law — outlines how all the groups they single out succeed by sharing three traits: a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control.
“We are totally annoyed by the books,” said student Juliet Shen, a member of the school’s Asian American Alliance who helped organize the conference. “It perpetuates the model minority myth that we succeed at everything.”
Shen said Chua’s theories are the “butt of many jokes.”
“For people who are not familiar with Asian-Americans, it’s such an extreme story that they love hearing about,” she said. “We look at our own reality and we know it’s not true.”
Photographer Annie Ling’s work “A Floating Population” is on view through April 13 as part of an exhibition exploring “the connection between people and lived spaces within this neighborhood,” according to The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA).
Photographer Annie Ling’s work “A Floating Population” is on view through Sunday as part of an exhibition exploring “the connection between people and lived spaces within this neighborhood” at The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in New York. MOCA says its mission is to celebrate the living history of the Chinese experience in America and encourages contemporary artists to tell those stories.
Curator Herb Tam said the project “Chinatown: Beyond the Streets,” which includes two exhibitions, serves as an attempt to “look beyond the streets into the interior life of Chinatown, its domestic spaces and collective memory.” Ms. Ling’s photographs, spanning four years of work, allow viewers to access the “internal, private worlds” of the residents of Chinatown in a display of more than 80 imagescomposed of four sections: “81 Bowery,” “Shut-Ins,” “Tenements,” and “A Floating Population.”
Below is a selection from Ms. Ling’s photographs taken in New York’s Chinatown, on view through the weekend at MOCA.
Workers share a late supper together with Chu Ben Jin in cubicle #4, at 81 Bowery.
From the series “81 Bowery,”2010
The home of Fung Shok Yin, a homebound resident of a tenement building on Pell Street. From the series “Shut In,” 2009
View from inside a bridal boutique after store hours.
From the series “A Floating Population,” 2012
Most residents at the Bowery lodge are men. Often at the end of work days, meals would be shared in the hallway.
From the series “81 Bowery,” 2010
Inside the halls of a tenement building.
From the series “Tenements,” 2009
Residents burn money and goods made of joss paper to send to a deceased family member outside a makeshift Buddhist temple.
From the series “A Floating Population,” 2012
Chang Yi Ang, 63, redeems cans at a recycling depot for 5 cents each, earning about $20-$30 per visit from recyclables he collects from trash picking.
From the series “A Floating Population,” 2011
Photographs on the walls of the home of Fung Shok Yin, a homebound resident of a tenement building on Pell Street. From the series “Shut In,” 2009
One of the last lodging houses in New York City, 81 Bowery has been home for more than a generation of immigrant Chinese laborers who work at construction sites and kitchens in Chinatown. Today, dozens of individuals are left sharing the fourth floor—each occupying a 64-square-foot cubicle.
From the series “81 Bowery,” 2010
Ng Chiu Cheng, an 83-year-old widow, immigrated from Hong Kong to New York in 1959 and worked in a garment factory as a seamstress. Ng has lived in isolation for five years and is unable to leave her apartment on her own, struggling with grief and depression.
From the series “Shut In,” 2009
Chen Yin Zhen prepares to turn in for the night. Because the cubicles are without their own ceilings, there is very little privacy at the Bowery lodge.
From the series “81 Bowery,” 2010
Ms. Ling’s former residence on 22 James Street during reconstruction more than six months after a fatal fire destroyed the building and displaced more than 200 individuals, including the artist herself, in February 2009.
This interview I did with Anshuman Iddamsetty for Hazlitt’s ”The Arcade” podcast is one of the best I’ve ever done. Honestly, it sounds BEAUTIFUL. We talk about growing up South Asian, Apu, and how I went from an immigrant rights organizer to a professional standup comedian.
“The power of the narrative is so undervalued. It is so devastating for our bodies to have been violated and hurt. But in talking about it, it’s almost like reclaiming our bodies and souls. We have a long way to go, don’t we?”—Elizabeth Aritonang
Kollaboration New York, the New York branch of the national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Asian American performers, will hold its annual showcase on August 30, 2014 in New York, NY. Attracting more than 700 audience members last year, the showcase is the nonprofit’s biggest event of the year.
Aspiring Asian American musicians audition for a comprehensive winner’s package comprised of an extensive publicity package across Kollaboration’s networks nationwide, professional recording time, an opportunity to record a full-length music video, guaranteed spots at Kollaboration New York’s various open mic events throughout the year and full access to Kollaboration’s network of artist development professionals in the Tri-state region and beyond. Last but not not least, the winner will get the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles, California to compete in the national Kollaboration Star show against other local Kollaboration winners for grand prize of $10,000.
Showcase applications are available on Kollaboration New York’s website. To audition, interested parties must submit a detailed application and include a video link of the talent he/she would like to audition with. The video may be a past performance or a home recording. Acts will undergo a selection process by the Kollaboration New York staff. Selected applicants will move on to participate in the Live Auditions.
About Kollaboration New York
Kollaboration is a 501(c)3 chartered organization with an annual showcase produced entirely by Asian and Pacific Islander (API) professionals and students throughout the New York City area. We are proud to be part of the larger, nationwide Kollaboration movement which spans across twelve major cities across the US and Canada.
Our primary mission is “Empowerment through Entertainment,” and we are dedicated to providing API youth with a creative outlet to showcase their talents on stage. By hosting shows across the nation, Kollaboration seeks to gather diverse Asian American talent and bring their presence into mainstream media and the entertainment industry.
Applications close April 17, 2014 at 11:59 PM EST.
I have a very interesting relationship with the month of April.
Tonight, I managed to catch the tail end of the local Take Back the Night event. Since the 1970s in the United States, Take Back The Night has focused on eliminating sexual violence, in all forms, and thousands of colleges, universities, women’s centers, and rape crisis centers have sponsored events all over the country.
Every year, I try to attend regardless of whatever I have scheduled for the day. I’ve been relatively open about my experiences with sexual assault, but sometimes euphemisms and hiding behind URLs and screennames aren’t enough. Every year at TBTN, I’m filled with a million different emotions. I relive my trauma, I imagine people’s faces that I wish I could forget, I feel the shame and dirtiness and confusion all over again. But at the same time, I feel the love between all the people there and all the support and solidarity from my friends. I am reenergized by the strength of other survivors and the strength I find in myself.
It took me a long time to realize what had happened to me not once, not twice, but three times. That doesn’t make me an ‘easy target’. That doesn’t make me ‘damaged goods’. That doesn’t make me any less than who I am. And as much as we say that trauma and rape don’t define a person, in many ways it does. What I went through changed me — in ways that I didn’t realize until much later.
I’ve been thinking lately about how I got to where I am today. Where did this blog spring from? Where is my feminism rooted? My thirst for justice?
And then I remember the silence. Feeling like I was going to shake so much I’d fall to pieces if I didn’t tell someone but simultaneously feeling frozen with fear that it would be all people saw when they looked at me. And I wanted people to like me, to not have to step carefully around me, to treat me like any other “normal” person. But the more I learned about sexual assault, the more I realized (to my horror) that I was the norm. It’s something like 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted or has been sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
Every April I fall into a little slump because it brings back so many memories. My assaults happened in and around April, so along with the warm spring breezes and longer days come the memories of an older man telling a 15 year old me that he loved me, a person pushing me to drink more and more until I blacked out, my teacher’s son doing things because he took my silence as a yes.
The photo above is from the movie Hard Candy, which I enjoy quoting. "Just because a girl knows how to imitate a woman, does not mean she’s ready to do what a woman does". The statute of limitations expired for my assault. I got a text from one of the assaulters reminding me of that.
I am a strong person. I am tough as nails and I will not take anyone’s bullshit. I will handle myself gracefully and use my words as weapons to defend and fight for myself and my community. I am honored to have the platform that I have today to bring awareness to racial and gender inequalities. I am a warrior. I am a warrior who has panic attacks when people make jokes about pedophilia. I am a fighter who couldn’t handle being called “beautiful” for years because that’s what he called me. I am an unstoppable force that needs to take a break sometimes because something unexpectedly triggered me. I am a strong person, but I am a person nonetheless.
This blog was birthed from the pain that I held inside for years, the shame and anger and unstoppable thoughts of revenge and justice. I clearly remember sitting at my computer crying because I was looking up the statute of limitations on sexual assault in Arizona and finding out that the time limit had expired. I knew that who I was, as an Asian American woman, was intertwined with my experiences.I wanted to be heard, damn it.And I wanted to make things right.
I write this not because I want to go back through every excruciating detail, and not to weaponize my experiences. I write this to ask: isn’t there any way for us to become warriors without having to go through a war? If I could have empowered myself and grown this strong without having to go through the heartbreak and pain that I did, would I still be who I am?
Happy Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Happy April.
For the past fifteen years ASU’s Barrett Honors College has been home to professors who sexually harass and sexually abuse students. While romantic relationships between professors and students may seem consensual, the imbalance of power makes these relationships inherently coercive and abusive. For example, a student may feel pressured to acquiesce to requests made by someone with the authority to give grades and letters of recommendation.
The Barrett administration began receiving sexual abuse complaints about a Barrett professor in 2005 but did not fire him until 2012. A second professor was fired Spring 2013, and a third at the end of March 2014. The Barrett Deans and ASU’s Office of Equity & Inclusion continue to intimidate victims and discourage reporting, and ASU President Michael Crow and Chief of Human Resources Kevin Salcido deny the existence of rape culture at Barrett altogether.
Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault is aware of at least four sexual predators who are still teaching Honors freshman seminars and leading Barrett Study Abroad trips. This must stop. Professors should not receive “slaps on the wrist” for this behavior, as they have in the past; these professors should be terminated so they can’t abuse more students.
Got forwarded this from a friend, please share and signal boost!
This historic photograph captured the ceremony celebrating the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which united east and west coasts of this country by a land route for the first time; yet, the thousands of Chinese Americans who helped build the railroad were conspicuously absent. Photo credit: Wikipedia
On May 10th of this year, the transcontinental railroad will be 145 years old. On that day in 1869, track laid by Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad companies finally connected, and insodoing created a railway that spanned 1,928 miles. For the first time in American history, it was possible to travel from coast-to-coast without sailing around the North American continent.
It is estimated that as many as 12,000 Chinese American labourers helped build the transcontinental railroad, predominantly on the West Coast. Working for a fraction of the pay of their non-Asian White counterparts, Chinese “coolie” labourers were assigned some of the most dangerous tasks, including blasting away rocks that lay in the path of the track. Unknown numbers of Chinese American men lost their lives in the course of laying the railroad. This was in part because of ongoing anti-Asian racism among the work crews; White labourers viewed their Chinese American colleagues with disdain,calling them “midgets”, “effeminate” and “monkeys”. Nonetheless, Chinese American labourers participated in the construction of virtually every railroad track on the West coast built during that era.
Yet, when the railroad was completed on May 10th, 1869, an event commemorated in a historical photograph that showed actual railroad workers crowded around the final spike as it is hammered into the ground, Chinese American labourers were left out of the photograph. They were literally erased from history.
Every year on May 10th, that historic photograph is re-created by the park officials who maintain the national park commemorating the site of the Golden Spike ceremony. And every year, park officials refuse to make any specific effort to make the Asian American community visible in the photograph recreation.
Corky Lee has been documenting the Asian American Movement’s protest actions and historic moments for over the last 40 years.
This year, acclaimed Asian American photographer and historian, Corky Lee — whose iconic black-and-white photographs have documented some of the most landmark moments in the political history of Asian America — is organizing a “flashmob” style event to correct the historic wrong of that 1869 Golden Spike Ceremony photograph.
On Saturday, May 10th at 9:30am, Corky is inviting Asian Americans to join him at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Tremonton, Utah (group transportation is being organized from Salt Lake City). He is hoping to get at least 145 Asian Americans to join him in recreating that historic photograph, but this time with the faces of Asian America front and center!
If you are 1) Asian American, and 2) able to get to Utah on May 10th, I urge you to please come out and help him in making this important project happen! Please help challenge the erasure of Asian Americans from the history of the transcontinental railroad.
The mass incarceration of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II is a powerful but often occluded illustration of the fragility of US citizenship and civil liberties. As such, this event demands frequent reexamination in relation to ongoing conversations regarding post-9/11 special registration, detention, and deportation, as well as long-standing formal and informal practices of profiling and surveillance of communities of color. This daylong conference presents a three-part program examining: 1) the history of the Japanese American incarceration and how it is made meaningful to multiple publics in different locations – higher education, museums, and our national landmarks; 2) artists who deploy this history as relevant to their artistic and political practices in the present; 3) the legal significance of the incarceration to contemporary local and national state policies directed against communities of color.
1. 9:00AM – 10:00AM: Registration & Coffee/Tea
2. 10:00AM – 10:15AM: Introductions
Jennifer Hayashida, Director of the Asian American Studies Program, Hunter College
3. 10:15AM – 11:00AM: Keynote Address
Norman Mineta, 14th United States Secretary of Transportation
4. 11:00AM – 12:30PM: Panel I: Teaching the Limits of Citizenship to Multiple Post-9/11 Publics
Heidi Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, English, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Greg Kimura, PhD, President/CEO, The Japanese American National Museum
Franklin Odo, PhD, Founding Director – Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
5. 12:30PM – 1:45PM: Lunch
6. 1:45PM – 3:15PM: Panel II: Dislocated Memories: Incarceration, Communities of Color & the Arts
Tomie Arai, Public Artist & Printmaker
Roger Shimomura, Artist & Distinguished Professor of Art Emeritus, The University of Kansas
Katie Yamasaki, Muralist & Children’s Book Author/Illustrator
7. 3:30PM – 5:00PM: Panel III: Legacies of the Incarceration in Surveillance & Policing of U.S. Communities of Color
Baher Azmy, Legal Director, The Center for Constitutional Rights
Kathryn Bannai, first lead attorney in Hirabayashi vs. US in 1982-1985
Amardeep Singh, Co-Founder & National Director of Programs, The Sikh Coalition
I often talk with my children about different aspects of life, without bringing up being Native American, as they grow into adults. Honestly, it had been a while since I asked them about what being Cherokee is like outside our home. What their views on identity has meant to them? Have I helped them navigate the confusing Native American waters?
A deep coversation is what followed that I want to share bits of with you. I hope after reading this you can have similar conversations with others. Being able to vocalize how we feel about our place in the world is an important topic. It can give a sense of validation and understanding between people, be it a parent to child or friend to friend.
My daughter told me that once she had watched Peter Pan without me there. “I guess you were at work or something. I don’t remember,”she said. It left her confused. She didn’t talk to me about it. She just didn’t know what to make of it. After all, none of the “Indians” in the movie resemble us. “The pickaninnies” don’t resemble the Natives we meet at pow-wows or stomp dances either. The “singing Indian’s music” doesn’t sound like the Cherokee children’s music I play for my kids in the car. Being so immature, she was unable to describe what she felt. So, she didn’t say anything to us.
Of course, I felt bad for not having prevented her watching those clips. I felt guilty that I had no idea at all about it happening. I asked her if she felt I had let her down? “No, mom. I am not confused about being Cherokee. You should see some of the Native American kids at school. Sometimes they make “Indian” jokes just to fit in. When they act like that, I just walk away.”I understood what she meant. Sometimes, when your a kid, it’s easier to leave a conversation. It shouldn’t be up to kids to explain that embracing Native American stereotypes for the amusement of non-Natives isn’t healthy for a person’s mentality. Plus, confronting a Native child in front of the peers she/he is trying to impress can embarrass a Native kid with self-esteem issues to begin with.
“Mom, do you remember when I came home with a coloring page of Pilgrims I had to do in class,” my other daughter chimed in. “I told the teacher it was a lie. She made me color it anyways,” she said.
We suspect thatyou’re probably pretty excited about what #CancelColbert has done for you these past two weeks.The media feeding frenzy over the public battle between Asian America and Stephen Colbert seems to have provided you the perfect cover for your ongoing exploitation of Native peoples. While the news cycle has focused squarely on Asian Americans’ justifiable anger at a cable network satirist, you’ve managed to carry on with both the Washington R**skins and launch a foundation that supposedly focuses on the needs of Native youth — detestably named the Washington R**skins Original Americans Foundation.
Truth be told, we’re over you and your offensive Native mascotry.We’re joining our Native friends and fellow organizers in demanding that you change both the name and mascot of the Washington R**skins.
And seriously, this “foundation” of yours? We see your sham. We know that despite your publicly stated mission to “serve” Native communities, this foundation actually serves you by drastically reduce your own tax liability.1We also know that Gary Edwards, your right hand man at the foundation, has notoriously misappropriated, misused, and outright taken nearly $1 million from the Bureau of Indian Affairs while falsely claiming to “help” Indigenous communities through the his Native police association.2Meanwhile,we see you laughing all the way to bank by taking full advantage of Native people and their dehumanization.
Running multi-million dollar cash cows emblazoned with a racist slur and caricature is a far cry from “honoring” Native peoples. And we’re not having it.
We wish that the “Washington R**skins Original Americans Foundation” was just the punchline of a racist joke gone horribly wrong. In reality,it’s nothing short of you slapping Native communities in the face and calling it a handshake.And now, between the football team and your joke of a foundation, you’ve got two ways to perpetuate Native mascotry.
If you’re as committed to responding to the needs of Native peoples as you claim to be, then respond to the repeated requests to change the name. Because this has been — and continues to be — a clearly articulated need from the Native community.
We demand that you change both the name and mascot of the Washington R**skins.
At the age of 93, actor Mickey Rooneyhas passed away. As his many lengthy eulogies have made abundantly clear, his was a life of stratospheric highs and humiliating lows. He was one of the biggest stars in the world as a teen; he fell into bankruptcy and irrelevancy as an adult. He reinvented himself and rebounded. He crashed and burned. Few lives have had as many epic twists and turns, making his obituaries obsessively engrossing reading.
But there’s one thing the newspapers have generally danced past, and it happens to be the role that has cast the longest shadow out of a career of thousands: His performance as Mr. I.Y. Yunioshi in the classic 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
In the decades since the film was released, Rooney’s portrayal of Yunioshi — taped eyelids, buck teeth, sibilant accent and all — has become one of the persistent icons of ethnic stereotype, brought up whenever conversation turns to the topic of Hollywood racism. The depiction has prompted widespread protests whenever the film is screened; Paramount, the studio behind “Breakfast” has now acknowledged Yunioshi as such a toxic caricature that its canonical “Centennial Collection” DVD release of the film includes a companion documentary, “Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective,” which features Asian American performers and advocates in conversation about the role’s lasting cultural impact and the broader context of Asian and other racial stereotypes in entertainment.
Six years ago, after four decades of stolidly defending the role, even Rooney himself finally expressed some regrets, stating in an interview that if he’d known so many people would be offended, “I wouldn’t have done it.”
Would that he hadn’t. The spectre of Yunioshi continues to haunt Hollywood and Asian America today. Rooney’s broadly comic performance, repurposed from his early vaudeville days into the brave new world of the cinema, is the godfather of the “Ching-Chong” stereotype that continues to rear its yellow head today — as the recent “Colbert Report” flap underscores. Though I wasn’t a supporter of the tactics or stated objectives of the#CancelColbertcampaign, the point made by the activists behind it is a valid one: Racially stereotypical images are problematic even when presented as progressive satire, because many who see them won’t understand the context and will laugh for the “wrong reasons.”
And even when laughed at for the right reasons, they’re problematic. As many have pointed out in the wake of that campaign, the mainstreaming of these images has the unfortunate side effect of making them seem safe for public consumption…so long as their intent isn’t to “harm.” The danger of allowing intent to be the sole arbiter of whether something is acceptable can be seen most obviously in the depictions of another marginalized American population — ironically, the one whose interests were drowned out in the wildfire aftermath of the #CancelColbert campaign: Native Americans.
The Cleveland Indians confrontation.Sam Allard, ClevelandScene (used with permission)
Last Friday, an image of anincredibly awkward encounterbetween a Cleveland Indians fan and a Native American protester went viral. The photo, taken by Cleveland Scene staff writer Sam Allard, shows the fan in a plastic feather headdress and grotesque “Chief Wahoo” makeup, face to face with an expressionless demonstrator, a member of the Apache Nation.
Allard quotes the unrepentant Clevelandite as proclaiming that his costume wasn’t racist: “It’s Cleveland pride, that’s all it’s about.” But the fact that he and hundreds of thousands of other sports fans still shamelessly refuse to acknowledge the offensiveness of such depictions, even when staring a real, live Native American in the face, shows that that isn’t all it’s about.
Racial mascots like the Indians’ Chief Wahoo aren’t something to be proud of; they’re a lingering disgrace. They serve to dehumanize a people who’ve been subjected over the span of America’s existence and beyond to an innumerable series of abuses and betrayals. They bury some of the worst aspects of our nation’s history under piles of printed polyester and plastic gimcrackery. They encourage new generations of young Americans to believe that racialized imagery is acceptable and appropriate, just so long as it’s being used for fun, for laughs, for entertainment….even when the subject of that imagery is not the one having fun, laughing or being entertained.
It took Mickey Rooney 40 years to regret his role in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” but he had little leverage to redress it even if he’d wanted to. He couldn’t change his filmed performance or ban its distribution. As an entertainer, it is a permanent part of his legacy. Maybe the biggest part: Most of his movies, from the Andy Hardy series to his partnerships with Judy Garland, have largely passed into the category of quaint, half-remembered nostalgia. But “Breakfast,” with the luminous Audrey Hepburn at its center, has not. And even those who decry the PC police can’t deny that Rooney’s performance, the one that has likely been seen by more people than any other, is the most unpleasant and uncomfortable part of an otherwise classic film.
Sports teams like the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins have a luxury that Rooney didn’t have as an entertainer. They control how they’re depicted; they own their brands. Which means it’s fully within their power to eliminate the ugly trappings of racial mascotry from their corporate identities and merchandising.
And while they may pay a short-term price for doing so, the long term benefits more than outweigh it: They will have removed a set of cancerous growths from the face of our popular culture, and established new legacies for their franchises, marked by goodwill, grace, humility and sensitivity. That would be something to truly make their fans proud. That’s what it’s “all about.”
APA #NOTYOURMASCOT SOLIDARITY: This week, a number of Asian Pacific American bloggers are writing to show their support for the Native American push to end racialized imagery in professional sports and popular culture at large. Check out Reappropriate.co for a full list of participating blogs.
M’eh. It was a goal for 2013, and we tried what we could, but we still didn’t get there. I’m back to not giving a shit [healthiest place to be].
At this point in my career, I’m making the best content that I’ve ever made, I’m finding ways to keep switching things up, I know how to engage an audience, I’m making enough money to be happy, and most importantly: my viewers/peers respect me. I’m making content that is meaningful to me and to my viewers.
With very few exceptions, anyone who is super successful on YouTube is that way because they either got in early, had a big hit and sustained the momentum, or they have a format that they can consistently follow and that is easy enough to reproduce. Well, I passed on my chance in 2009, I’m not ever banking on going viral (again), and I don’t want to start regurgitating the same content every week for the rest of my life. I’m not going to scale back on my ideas or my productions for the sake of getting a video out every Tuesday and Thursday. I mean no disrespect to anyone who chooses to do things that way - that’s just not the type of content that I want to make, and that’s my choice.
No one is doing what I’m doing, and I’m able to make exactly what I want to make, exactly how I want to make it. I’m happy about that. So that’s what I’m focused on.
Maybe I’m not a big deal in the YouTube sphere - maybe I’m not a ‘special guest’ and maybe I don’t get a gold play button, but in the grand scheme of things, I am still successful. And if this all collapses one day, there is no shortage of opportunities outside of YouTube.
Google/YouTube made a mistake when they put so much emphasis on subscriber numbers. You can’t let someone else define ‘success’ for you.
TL;DR - let’s drop the 100K thing because comparing me to bigger YouTubers and constantly asking “why doesn’t this have more views?” diminishes the value of the content that I’m creating right now. Just enjoy it, share it. It will always be there.
Recent events have allowed mainstream media to paint a picture of Asian American and Native American communities as being at odds in #NotYourMascot: the fight to call on Washington R*dskins owner Dan Snyder to change the name and mascot of his NFL team, both of which are deplorable examples of redface stereotypes against Native peoples. Sadly, in the aftermath of the last two weeks and the attention placed on Asian American advocacy, Native peoples have been functionally “edited out” of their own campaign.
Yet, anti-racist work is a work that should bring together people of colour, not divide us. This week, the AAPI blogging community is dedicating a week of posts in solidarity with our Native brothers and sisters to try and raise awareness for #NotYourMascot and the R*dskins controversy. Many AAPI blogs have committed to writing posts in support of #NotYourMascot, and we will also be re-tweeting the powerful and compelling writing of Native writers.
Please check out all the blogs participating in this week of solidarity and bookmark this post, which will be aggregating all the writing done this week.
Please also check back for updates.
Posts Written in Week of Solidarity with #NotYourMascot
When I became a parent, I kept my children as underexposed as possible from faux-Native American images and portrayals. I didn’t want them knowing what any of that felt like. Frankly, it’s impossible. The imagery is everywhere, and so are the Native mascots. I tried to combat them on my own, with no success. Regular Americans didn’t see the harm, not even after the research backed by the 2008 American Psychological Association study stating that American Indian mascots were harmful to American Indian students’ self-esteem. Dismantling other people’s “innocent fun” was too much trouble, no matter how worthwhile it would be to help out the group of Americans with the highest suicide rate.
…Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redsk*ns, created an odious foundation to help Native Americans last week. Yet again, I felt like that teenage girl sitting up in the bleachers. I didn’t cry this time, and I wasn’t alone. I was live chatting with other EONM strategists. Reading what they had to say about what we all felt was an obvious ploy to buy us—to silence us with money.
We wanted to do something. I told the group that I was going to tape money over my mouth, take a picture, and add the hashtag #Not4Sale beneath it, to illustrate our responses to the “Washington Redsk*ns Original Americans Foundation” in a single picture. It is what I did, and what we did. Then it became what other Native Americans did. However, these actions only lead to a happier childhood for American Indian children if change is what follows.
Here are many ongoing ways you can participate:
Send an email (Wylliet@redskins.com) or a snail mail letter (Dan Snyder c/o Redskin Park; 21300 Redskin Park Dr.; Ashburn, VA 20147) to the Washington R*dskins administration asking them to change the team name.
Participate in the #Not4Sale campaign to protest Dan Snyder’s offensive creation of a “philanthropic” organization to purchase the goodwill of Native people. Retweet photos shared to this hashtag to help send the message that Native people are not for sale.
Please add any additional links you think would be useful to the comments section below as an additional resource.
Shout-Outs: A huge thank you to Cynthia Brothers, Ursula Liang (@ursulaliang), and Jeff Yang (@originalspin) for taking the lead in coordinating this week of solidarity among AAPI bloggers.