Hey folks! The Association for Asian American Studies Conference begins 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.
The NYPD’s Demographics Unit, a secretive force tasked with spying on Muslim communities, will now be disbanded.
Kudos to the folks at New York Civil Liberties Union - NYCLU, CUNY-CLEAR,Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving, and others who have worked long and hard to fight the unwarranted surveillance of New York’s Muslim communities.
Still, the end of the Demographics Unit doesn’t mean the NYPD will put an end to its unconstitutional surveillance tactics. As they say, the battle is won, but the war soldiers on. -MTP
Vijay Seshadri is the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, for his recent book, 3 Sections.
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.
Come on, you got to give me that.
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.
You guys: I just found out about this short film called Love Express that takes place in Queens, on the 7 line, between two Chinese/Chinese American characters, and takes its color scheme from 90s Hong Kong cinema
In other words, a film that is utterly and completely after my own heart and could not appeal to any more of the things that I love if it tried
Here are interviews with the director, Patrick Chen, and actor Tim Liu. It was successfully funded on Kickstarter just two days ago, and I will be so happy if it’s playing at the Asian American International Film Festival this summer!
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
The Brain Trust is proud to present the first national AAPI Digital Leadership Weekend this summer in Washington, DC! Designed for both emerging and novice progressive organizers and advocates, AAPI DLW will be a 3-day intensive training for AAPI’s who want to learn the basics of digital strategy.
In 2012, we saw the power of the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community influence on election day, from local ballot boxes to the presidential election. As we look forward to the next big fights, we know that our grassroots power needs to be represented both online and offline. The future of organizing and advocacy depends on our communities’ ability to represent strength in numbers on the ground and in digital advocacy.
But we’re just not there yet. We need to build critical online organizing skills to strengthen our work online. And we need your help to make this a reality.
Our goal is to bring 20 incredible organizers together from across the country. Other comparable trainings are run by organizations with full-time staff with budgets in the tens of thousands. We’re a scrappy, resourceful group doing this out of a labor of love, so we’re being as frugal as possible.We’re looking to raise $2,000 through individual giving—that’s only $100 per participant—to offset basic costs and get this off the ground.
We’ve planned an action-packed agenda, and in order for us to have the greatest impact in our short time together, we need your support. Your contributions will help us:
What if we don’t meet our goal? Well we’re fronting a lot of costs ourselves and hoping to recuperate them through registration. So the training will still happen, but we’ll be in a far riskier position with less capacity to plan the most productive experience.
What if we exceed our goal? I like how you think! Every additional dollar will support additional scholarships to help participants from across the country attend AAPI Digital Leadership Weekend.
We need your support to make this training accessible to as many organizers as possible. Will you join us?
We view this training as an imperative for the AAPI community. Our opponents are all over the Internet—but our community is there too. We are missing a critical opportunity to build power and voice for ourselves.
By the end of this training, our community will have 20 more skilled practitioners and strategists ready to enhance their on-the-ground organizing with digital advocacy. No, we aren’t teaching people how to make hashtags go viral. We’re taking traditional organizing to the Internet, building community, developing a voice, engaging an audience, telling our stories, using smart technology, and applying elegant analytics to advance long-term goals. This is a low-cost, high-energy, high-impact curriculum that has never been tailored to the AAPI community before. We’re looking forward to recentering the status quo.
You can donate to our campaign to invest in the future of AAPI advocacy!
If you can’t contribute financially, there are other ways you can help:
The AAPI Digital Leadership Weekend application and further information will be available in late April. The training will happen in late July/early August (we’re finalizing the exact dates right now). Drop us a line or connect with us online and we’ll keep you updated!
The Brain Trust is a digital strategy startup for Asian American & Pacific Islander change-makers.
Founded in 2012, we came together to help solve one problem: that AAPI communities were growing exponentially but our political power wasn’t represented online. As digital strategists, data practitioners, field organizers, and community advocates, we realized that the best way to build political power was to take control of our story and tell that story online.
Thanks in advance for your support!
Deepa, Olivia, Rohan, & Vincent
The Brain Trust
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.
18 USC students are occupying the Bovard Auditorium to tell USC’s President to cut its relationship with Jansport, a brand whose parent company VF Corporation has killed 29 workers in Bangladesh and has since refused to take responsibility for the working conditions in its factories.
In their letter, the students write:
Dear President Nikias,
Students are occupying your office today because of USC’s refusal to take action by cutting its contract with JanSport, a brand whose parent company VF Corporation has killed 29 workers in Bangladesh and has since refused to take responsibility for the working conditions in its factories. Your own students have been campaigning for eight months to let you and your administration know that we are outraged about USC’s continued relationship with a company that has such an abysmal track record for worker safety.
We have yet to receive any sort of acknowledgment from you personally, President Nikias. From your lower administrators, we have been told that USC will not terminate its relationship with JanSport/VF despite the overwhelming evidence students have provided that they are a corporation that does not represent Trojan values.
As students, we are saddened that it has come to this. While we would prefer to work amicably with USC’s administration – however, your continued inaction on this issue has made that an impossibility.
President Nikias: the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, the Sweat-Free ‘SC Coalition, and our broad base of student, faculty and community supporters will continue to fight until the University of Southern California cuts or pledges non-renewal of its contract, with JanSport, subsidiary of VF Corporation, over their human rights abuses in Bangladesh.
One last time, we have printed and attached for your reference the relevant information regarding this campaign and look forward to your prompt response.
The Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, USAS local #13
Call Nikias right now at (213) 740-2111 and demand that he listen to the students in his office and cut USC’s contract with JanSport now. Eight months is too long to wait for justice. #Trojan18 #CutJanSport