E(RACE)D But Not Forgotten is an all-day conference on April 19th, exploring the racialization and politicization of Asians in America. The schedule consists of two addresses by Mee Moua and Juliet Shen, a performance by Crystal Lee at Asian Arts Fest, as well as workshops throughout the day that explore topics such as the development of the Asian American identity, Asian Americans as people of color, and racialization of Asian immigrants in the United States. All are welcome!
Our Mission Statement
E(RACE)D But Not Forgotten is a conference, organized by Brown University and RISD students, on the Asian experience in the United States. The conference strives to explore the racialization of Asians as people of color within the Black/White racial paradigm. We seek to challenge all attendees to rethink notions of identity by contextualizing personal experiences within a social justice framework and a broader political history of Asians in the U.S. We hope this conference will create a base for exploring personal/political identity and provide accessible spaces for transformative dialogue and action.
8:30-9:20 am / Breakfast/Registration and Opening Remarks
9:30-10:20 am / Keynote Speaker – Mee Moua
10:30-11:50 am / Breakout Session 1 – History and Identity Formation
12:00-12:50 pm / Lunch
1:00-2:20 pm / Breakout Session 2 – Contemporary Issues
2:30-3:50 pm / Critical Reflections
4:00-4:30 pm / Closing Remarks – Juliet Shen
6:45-9:00 pm / Asian Arts Fest presented by the Asian American Students Association - feat. Crystal Lee
We will be located at Smith-Buonanno Hall, 95 Cushing St
Brown University’s conference on Asian Pacific American identity and organizing is happening on April 19! I’ll be making the closing remarks, and you can register for the conference here.
Register today for this year’s conference through our website!http://www.nycaasc.com/attend.html.
The New York City Asian American Student Conference (NYCAASC) is a free, all-day, student-run conference on Saturday, April 26th, bringing together youth in the metropolitan area and providing a space to discuss racial and sociopolitical matters pertaining Asian/Pacific/America through a series of inspiring and empowering workshops.
Our theme this year for our 8th annual conference is Roots. We want to remind everyone of our roots by examining our past and current struggles in order to prepare ourselves as students, organizers, and budding activists to educate and promote further community action in ways that are meaningful to both ourselves and to others.
NYCAASC is a great chance for exciting networking opportunities with conference speakers and student attendees. Complimentary breakfast and lunch will also be provided.
This year’s conference will be held at New York University’s Kimmel Center for University Life (60 Washington Square) on Saturday, April 26th, 2014 from 9AM to 6PM.
Do you want to take part in helping make NYCAASC successful? Sign up to volunteer for the day of the conference! You get a free t-shirt, free food, and a chance to know what it’s like to be part of one of the largest east coast Asian American conferences!
Register to attend/volunteer RIGHT NOW at http://nycaasc.com/attend.html!
Be sure to like NYCAASC’s Facebook page to get all the updates as we approach conference day: http://www.facebook.com/NYCAASCpage
“Do some Kung Fu moves, like Jackie Chan! “
It happened when I went to elementary school; I must have been about seven or eight years old. While I was standing on the playground in recess, some kids from my class started to gather around me. “Can you do some cool moves, like Jackie Chan?” I was intimidated by their request – I notoriously sucked in PE, and I had never tried any martial arts. But I knew why the other kids asked: because I was Asian. I was the only Asian kid in my year. I felt all kinds of awkward and alone.
Growing up with Vietnamese parents in a German town with a population of 17,000 was not always easy. The feeling I recall from those times was loneliness. Given that I was a weird child who was not too good at socializing (I still am not) but being one of the few Asians in the whole town made things even worse. Of course, there were a handful of other Asian families: Chinese, Korean, Philippino, some even Vietnamese. But the difference between them and us couldn’t have been greater. “Don’t play with those children”, my mom used to say, “They’re not refugees like us – they came as communist contract workers.” To my parents the Cold War had never ended, and there was a strong divide between the “good” Vietnamese and the “bad” ones. So I only had white middle-class friends.
“You speak such a fine German!”
The feeling of alienation stayed consistent during my whole school career: I was frequently questioned by teachers and other students how I could speak such good German. How I could ace in German because I was, you know, not German. The nationalistic view that you can only be German if your ancestors were German is still alive and kicking. Hence I was not German. In order to prepare me for the hardships of being a foreigner, my mom taught me: “We are outlanders, the Germans look down on us. So you have to prove them wrong, you need to do everything perfectly.”
I resented being different: Why couldn’t I just be like all the others? My skin and my hair color felt like a constant source of embarrassment. The fact that my parents don’t speak German very well was even more painful. “I have a hard time getting everything your parents say,” one of my best friends once confessed. So as a way of compensating I did everything to perfect my German. I read canonical German literature, from Goethe to Heine to Jelinek. My sentences were filled with the rarest German words imaginable – words that the average German would have to look up in a dictionary.
You can read part two here.
It started before a friend told me that he wanted to date white women and before another friend told me “fuck white people.” It started before two 14-year-old girls on their way to a birthday party were crushed to death on the Yangju Highway, before George Bush put North Korea on the Axis of Evil, and even before either of my parents was born.
The Korean government turned a blind eye to prostitution at American military bases so the soldiers would stop raping civilians and the Korean people boiled leftover hotdogs, spams, and beans from American military bases to create “military soups,” once known as the “Lyndon B. Johnson soup.” MacArthur was hailed as a national hero and phrases like “even shit tastes better American” were thrown around while, halfway around the world, America did its best to continue its worst by beating and killing its own people.
A decade later, people in both countries held hands and sang “All You Need Is Love” with four British boys from Liverpool, but neither really started confronting the growing hatred towards each other or their own people. And I am their child. I am the child of these two nations with unresolved past, with public love and private hate, with open disdain and secret fetish, and with sons and daughters who grow up to lose their parents.
Before I knew any of this, I knew I had two passports while my parents only had one. I had the blue passport that they didn’t have and was told that being born in Queens was a good enough reason for me to have it. I had no memory of the place because our family moved to Korea when I was three. But whenever New York City came on the news, my parents would call out and say “Look, there’s your city!”
They told me and my brother that Abe Lincoln and Neil Armstrong were part of our history. They told us that we belonged to the strongest nation in the world. History books said the same thing. Hollywood movies said the same thing. Olympic Games said the same thing. And when another Korean found out that I had this blue passport, I saw in their faces that they were thinking the same thing.
In 1998, I liked being Korean. I loved being American.
Sometime that year, Aunt June came from California with a giant bag of assorted candies. I had been saving up lollipops in my candy box for months and had only collected five or six. So when Aunt June came with enough candies to fill the box ten times over, the message I received was clear: Fuck saving, here’s three thousand candies – there’s more of these where I’m from.
Although I could never get myself to like the Laffy Taffys or the Lemonheads and ended up throwing most of the candies away, I wanted to go where Aunt June was from. And while I sat on the sofa opening a bag after another, tasting candies, and spitting them out, mom sat across from Aunt June and listened to her stories. She heard about Aunt June’s white engineer husband, her two story house with a peach tree in the back, and her son who had just skipped second grade. Three years later, Aunt June called my mom and asked if she wanted to send me to America. My mom and I were so enchanted by the illusion of America that we agreed in a heartbeat.
In 2001, I moved alone to Aunt June’s house in California and my dad told me over the phone that my new name would be David. And at this time, I was more ready to be David than any other. Aunt June bought me a pair of Jordans that she called “Nike IIs,” jean shorts with side pockets, and a bunch of polo shirts in different colors. She suggested that I slip a book in my side pocket to accentuate the cool, so I grabbed a yellow Nancy Drew book and slid it in my right pocket. And in the morning of my first class in America, I spiked my new “four on the top, two on the sides” hair with lavish amount of L. A. Looks Mega Hold.
Over the weekend, I watched cartoon episodes on Disney so I’d have something to talk about with the kids. But when I met the kids in Mrs. Drippes’s third grade class at Desert Christian, they carried Pokémon lunch boxes and backpacks. They watched Dragon Ball Z. Jackie Chan was still cool enough to have his own cartoon show and his Rush Hour 2 was one of the highest grossing films of that year. Even Jet Li had a number one movie alongside DMX around this time. When I arrived in America, kids and adults were already consuming Asian culture and other twisted, distorted, and untrue forms of Asianness.
So in 2001, I let others fetishize my Asianness, because I was desperate to become American.
Along with the rest of the boys, I just watched Dragon Ball Z in which the Asian martial arts gods fought aliens by turning supersaiyen. When a character goes supersaiyen, his skin become pale, brown eyes become blue, black hair turns blond, and the strength increases fiftyfold. I watched and enjoyed Asian characters transforming into white gods without being hurt, because that hierarchy made sense. And it made sense to Asian American kids across America, to the Asian kids in Asia, and to the Asian animators who created this visual endorsement of white supremacy. And after all, that’s what many of our parents wanted for us—to become white, become powerful, and become what they couldn’t be.
These were brave parents who packed their bags and moved their families to America or sent their children to live with friends, relatives, and strangers. But these were also scared parents who renamed their kids as Davids, Daniels, Jessicas, and Amys. They gave up on keeping their family together by sending their children to host families, or they left their careers to become storekeepers; dry cleaners; nail salon, massage parlor, and donut shop owners; cooks;, and domestic workers so that their children would have the choices and paychecks that they could never have. They wanted their kids to be able to permeate the white spaces and escape their horizon of Koreatowns, Chinatowns, and ethnic churches.
“If you’re not white, you’re missing out because this shit is thoroughly good. I’m not saying white people are better, but I’m saying that being white is clearly better. Who could even argue?” Louis C. K. says in “Chewed Up.”
And this is exactly what our parents thought. So when they saw that their children could perform as white, they encouraged it without teaching us or telling us to love our Asian side. And as the line between performing as white and being white blurred, so did the line between thinking white people are better and thinking that being white is better. In hindsight, our biggest mistake was having believed in the line at all.
In middle school, we grew out of the Dragon Ball Z phase and entered the Jackass phase. To us puberty-stricken Christian school kids, Jackass and its spinoff shows like Viva la Bam andWildboyz—in which white dudes ran around not giving a fuck about others, themselves, and the consequences—were not only funny, but even somewhat admirable. Aunt June had a son named Billy who I looked up to like my older brother, and he incorporated this not-giving-a-fuck mentality into himself in the form of Asian jokes. He was the funny Asian kid in his grade who didn’t care about saying racist jokes about himself and the other Asians. That gave him a pass on saying other racist jokes toward other groups of people as well.
As little brothers do, I learned from Billy and performed this character to my friends. On a daily basis, I told jokes involving Asian parents, bad driving skills, nerds, rice and eggrolls, small dicks, dog eaters, squinty eyes, accents, kung fu, and William Hung. And as long as my friends laughed, it felt great. I invited other kids to do the same with their race or ethnicity. There were only about 60 kids in my grade and soon, these racist jokes became a part of our language. Saying one more of these jokes became easier and easier. With no other Asian, black or Hispanic students to tell us that the jokes were hurtful, we just continued with white students laughing at our jokes and encouraging us on. The worst and most hurtful jokes, we often told ourselves. And we thought not giving a fuck, not being so sensitive, but, instead, being “cool with it” was our way of saying that we were not what we made fun of.
But every once in a while, I secretly feared that I wasn’t so different from what I made fun of. I was scared, despite all my Asian disses, that I was still an Asian boy who joked his ass off to become American and failed. So I overcompensated by over-consuming culture. I read books, listened to music, watched movies, and watched television more than any of my friends. I broke every Accelerated Reader record at my school, watched every movie in the IMDB Top 250 that I could find, listened to whatever album got over 8.0 on Pitchfork, and watched whatever television show that kids talked about in school. I figured that if I knew more, read more, watched more, and listened to more of American culture than any of my friends, no one could tell me that I wasn’t American.
In 2004, I hated being Korean, but I was obsessed with being American.
Around this time, however, my parents sensed that I was slipping away. They saw that I spoke English well, that I had white friends and girlfriends, and that I could become—as they wished—a part of “them.” But they missed being a part of my life. And they feared that they would lose a son and never get him back. They feared that I would lose a family and become lost.
So my parents found an international school in Korea where I could continue studying in English. They called me back to Korea in 2005 and I agreed, somewhat reluctantly, and returned to Korea.
The international school was filled with other Korean kids who had American citizenships. They were also sons and daughters of scared Korean parents who’d given them the most boring and safe American names. And even here, the kids didn’t blend in with other Korean kids, but formed their own community of Asian Americans. We were all fixated on consuming and learning American culture, and didn’t even try to learn or love the people and the culture we lived among.
These confused kids watched the Super Bowl without knowing the rules, called each other “niggas” and “G’s” and said shit like, “You’re from California? I’m so jealous!” Kids made fun of Korean accents, and the teachers sent students to the principal’s office for speaking Korean. The school sponsored programs like Habitat for Humanity and volunteer trips to South Asian countries, when, five minutes from the school, people lived in unauthorized housing, not knowing when the government or the landowners might force them to move out.
In 2005, these Asian-American kids and I were bad at loving our Korean side. And like many of our parents before us, we continued to uncritically accept all things American.
After two years there, I moved to Texas with my brother, to the house of a friend of my mom’s. My brother had stayed in Korea after our family left New York, so he spoke little English and had no idea what America would be like. But he had all the same illusions that I had. He willingly consumed American culture like me and dreamed about going to an American college and living up to his blue passport.
But at Paschal High School, teachers proudly talked about the existence of two different schools within one—one school with kids taking honor and AP classes and another with kids taking regular classes—and they didn’t care that the system separated most black and brown students from white students. They used phrases like “better opportunity” and “academic excellence,” but they didn’t love their students enough to teach or motivate all of them equally. The socioeconomic and racial divide was evident even during lunch times, when one group of students ate 40-cent government lunch while the other group ate homemade lunches or bought lunch from the in-school Pizza Hut vendor.
On my first day of school, my English teacher told me that I looked like “the Chinese kid inDisturbia.” I had no idea what that meant. Then a white student said to me during class: “Your eyes are so black, it’s almost like you don’t have an iris.” A couple days later, the school asked me to take an English proficiency test in which a lady asked “Man is big, bears are bigger, and dinosaurs are?” and “Grass is green and sky is?” My soccer coach, when I told him not to call me Bruce Lee, said “Other Asian kids liked it when I called them Bruce Lees.” Then a kid in my soccer team told me to show him my dick, because he’d heard Asian dicks were small.
When I asked for my college counselor’s help because I didn’t even know what SATs were, she laughed and said “That’s such an Asian thing to ask.” Then, the week before my college applications were due, she went on a vacation without writing my recommendation letter. The office ladies refused to call her cell phone, because we needed to “respect her privacy.” After the due date, she returned and said “Oops, sorry.” When I asked my English teacher if she could check my essay, she returned it the next day, unmarked, except for the comment “interesting.” A couple weeks before graduation, some students asked me to be in a photo and represent diversity so they could get Obama to come and speak.
For the first time, I started to feel something that I hadn’t felt when I was with other nine-year-olds in California or the confused Korean kids in Seoul. I knew that I wasn’t seen as an American by these people. And I thought, maybe, I had been deceiving myself into thinking that I was something that I couldn’t ever be. The term Asian American didn’t make sense to me. The people who we described as successful Asian Americans seemed to be the ones who successfully grew out of their Asianness and become Americans.
Nobody I knew had ever articulated what being an Asian American really was. Having an accent was a failure. Not speaking their parents’ language was not. Having no white friends was a failure. Having no Asian friends was not. Having a white partner was a success. Having black and brown partners was not. Many Asian American kids ate kimchi at home, loved ramen noodles, had Asian parents, and had exposure to Asian culture and language. Yet, they hid and distanced themselves from Asianness. They tweaked their last names on Facebook to sound white and separated themselves from Asian kids from Asia saying “I’m from New Jersey,” “I’m from North Carolina,” and “I’m just American.”
In 2010, I didn’t feel Korean. And I felt unwanted as an American.
I have taken language classes, econ classes, art classes, sociology classes, film classes, and English classes in college. I have learned to start sentences with “I feel like…” or “I think it’s interesting that…” I’ve learned to define people and their experiences. I’ve learned to use and misuse detached academic words like “diversity,” “privilege,” and “safe space” in my arguments and conversations. But I’ve never been asked to see my relationship to the people we defined. I was never asked to use “love” in the place of these impersonal words we leaned on.
I have written about gay marriages, black cinema, Asian images, woman’s rights, but never about love. And never with love. I have forgotten about that word for so long that I couldn’t remember how I wanted to be loved, how I loved, and how I failed to love. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I haven’t ever loved myself.
When I watched Bobby Lee, Ken Jeong, and Psy, I hated myself as a Korean. When I watched a YouTube video of white guys harassing a Korean girl saying “Why can’t you get plastic surgery like every other Korean bitches” and yelling “We gotta get the boobs in there,” I hated myself as an American. But even before these incidents, I have seen Korea failing to love its own people, America failing to love its own people, and both countries failing to love each other.
About four years ago, my brother went back to Korea, after three years in America. He started having nightmares, so he would stay up as long as he could until his body gave up to sleep. And when he sleeps, he shrieks. He wakes up crying. My mom called me one day to tell me that he drank alone at a bar and punched through five windows. “What happened in America?” she asked.
And a couple months ago, my friend Daniel said to me after watching Louis C. K. perform: “I think white people are just better.” A couple weeks later, I got a call from another friend saying that Daniel went crazy, ran around Third Avenue barefooted, and the police took him to a hospital. I went through two password-protected doors at Beth Israel to see him, and he told me that he ran for his life because he saw “I’m in your area” pop up on his computer screen. He said that when he tried to run away, a man in a red hoodie carrying a knife came to kill him. He said things that I couldn’t even understand, and then started writing down names of white artists that we idolized for years.
“They always knew,” he said.
What the fuck happens in America? What happens in America that my brother spends three years here and starts having nightmares too freighted to forget? What happens in America that my best friend who loved and consumed American culture all his life says, after spending two years in NYU, that white people are just better? What happens in America that makes him run for his life because he thinks someone is coming to kill him?
I couldn’t tell you what. But I can tell you how America failed to love. I can tell you that America doesn’t love its inarticulate. Instead of asking my brother “How can I help?” or “What can I do?” teachers suggested lower level classes and punished with words and grades. College professors did the same. When he turned in essays much more articulate than his speech, they asked “Who helped you?” and “What did you plagiarize?”
Instead of thinking about why all their friends and girlfriends are white, white students ask “Why do they only hang out with other black kids?” or “Why do they only date other Asians?” They say minorities are being exclusive. And in the classrooms, rather than trying to understand and love, we learn to define and patronize other people and their experiences.
America tries constantly to ignore the weak and break the strong. Korea has no love for itself or for the others. We worship, consume, and imitate forms of whiteness, forms of blackness, and forms of Asianness, but we still label them Yankees, niggers, chinks, and Japs. And America and Korea both don’t love their beautiful or the ugly. We define and limit beauty. Korea decided that double eyelids are beautiful, so we put them artificially on those who don’t have them. America can’t love a crooked smile, so our kids live with metal in their mouth for three years.
We’re bad lovers, so we continue the cycle of hate and self-hate. We let the producers of 21whitewash Asian characters. We let Spike Lee remake Oldboy and cast Josh Brolin as its lead. We let shows like Friends and Girls show only white relationships and use Asian and black actors and actresses to play interim lovers. We let SNL go thirty-nine years without casting a single Asian comedian. We make talented Asian actors come to America and play ninjas and yakuzas. We cast Asian actors and models with stereotypical Asian faces and un-stereotypical Asian bodies. We fetishize them by giving “sexiest man of the year” or “sexiest woman of the year.” And we ignore Baldwin’s warning that we could “lose our faith—and become possessed.”
We lose our faith in ourselves and lose our faith in our ability to love.
And instead, we partake in phony performances and dialogues of love. Drake singing “Shout out to Asian girls, let their lights dim-sum” is not love. A commercial saying “White, black, brown, yellow, purple, green, we’re all the same” is not love. I want to hear our pop culture honestly try to articulate love. I want to stop reading buzzwords like “safe space” that generate the false illusion of safety and the false sense of invasion. I want to see us love and fight for each other when no one is watching.
I have learned to perform love without loving, I hurt the people that I love. I wrote about them in stories and essays and talked about them in classes and meetings, but I failed to love them when I was alone. I didn’t return my mom’s calls and responded to her five paragraph texts with two sentences. “Sorry, I’ll call when I’m not busy” or “I’m working on an essay” were my responses to her love letters. I didn’t tell my friend to stop taking drugs until he was in the hospital. I didn’t listen to my dad’s stories when he was drunk. I didn’t tell my brother that I loved him. I never even asked how he was holding up. Yet I asked them to love me in all those ways. And, in all those ways, they unreasonably do.
This is a crazy-making environment, but some of us never go crazy—even if we want to. And it’s because we have people who love us too much to let it happen to us. We have people who give us calls, who miss meetings to talk to us, who fight for us, and who try to interpret our jumbled utterances and understand our quietest groans. We have people trying to love us in ways that won’t be on posters and t-shirts and in ways that won’t be written in emails or spoken about in meetings.
In 2013, I thought about love and talked about love. I tried to love, failed to love, tried again, and failed again. But the people who loved me unreasonably kept me sane and kept me trying.
In 2013, I could have been an orphan. But I remained a child of Korea. I remained a child of America.
Now it’s my turn to love.
David Byunghyun Lee is a junior at Vassar College
"Whose World Is This" -Jody Loud and Son Child
lead single from Jody Loud’s 2013 mixtape ‘The Last Summer’ soundcloud.com/jodyloud Directed by Marlo A. Custodio
My name is Juliet Shen and I am the Professional Development Coordinator for the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) National Board. As a national, student-leader run organization, ECAASU’s mission is to inspire, educate, and empower those interested in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues.
I wanted to let you know about two of ECAASU’s initiatives to connect with students, the Campus Ambassador Program (for individuals) and the Affiliate Organization Program (for organizations). These programs would be a great start to working with others and other organizations that work on AAPI work across the East Coast.
The Campus Ambassador Program allows students across the East Coast to network and organize on national and local scale initiatives actively contributing to projects, campaigns, coalition building and grassroots activism through ECAASU National.
The Affiliate Organization Program aims to connect organizations directly with ECAASU and other student organizations on the East Coast. Additionally, this program will work as a resource on how to successfully organize Asian American and Pacific Islander focused events and programs on both a national and local scale. The deadline for this application is October 27, 2013 11:59 PM EST. Feel free to contact email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
Please visit our website at www.ecaasu.org to learn more about our organization and programs and share this opportunity with other student organizations that have an interest in being more involved with the AAPI community.
We are currently accepting applications for these programs, and I didn’t want you to miss the chance to apply!
Please share this opportunity with other students who may be interested. We hope to see your application.
"We the undersigned, are distressed about the continuing divide that persists in the North American evangelical church in the area of racial harmony."
That’s the first line of a four-page open letter to American Evangelicals (“On cultural Insensitivity and Reconciliation in the Church”) from a coalition called Asian American Christians United. The letter was released earlier this week.
The roughly 700 signatories are a who’s who in Asian-American Christian circles: a seminary head, several professors of religion, dozens of pastors, even a few popular bloggers. It was drafted after a few weeks of painful missteps by one of the evangelical community’s most prominent members.
Rick Warren is the author of The Purpose-Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?, which stayed on the best-seller list for years. He’s also a pastor of the Orange County-based Saddleback Church. Saddleback is considered a crown jewel in the American evangelical diadem and Warren is one of the country’s most visible evangelical pastors.
(The first McCain-Obama debate in 2008 was held at Saddleback — a prestigious precedent-breaker, since no modern presidential forum had ever been held in a church.)
Warren has spearheaded outreach to multiple ethnic groups and invited them to join him in the cause of Christ. And he’s opening myriad Saddlebacks abroad, to spread the Gospel to what he calls a dozen “Gateway Cities” on several continents.
A Problematic Facebook Post
Pastor Warren returned from opening the church’s Hong Kong campus last month. Soon after, he posted a photo of a Red Guard, the young Communist cadres that policed their communities during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The poster showed a smiling, rosy-cheeked young woman in the drab gray uniform the Red Guard typically wore.
His post (since taken down) said “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.” (there are still several screen captures of it, though, like this one:)
Although the Saddleback pastor said he intended the photo to be a joke, many Asian-American evangelicals were not amused. Many come from Chinese immigrant families, some of which suffered greatly during Mao’s Great Leap Forward. (Some 15 million people are estimated to have died during that time, from “discipline” administered by the youngsters in the Red Guard, by the Red Army and from outright starvation, the product of nonsensical agricultural practices that, literally, bore no fruit.)
The Joke That Launched A Letter
Warren’s initial response on his Facebook page was to tell readers that sometimes people on the Internet didn’t get irony: “It’s a joke people! If you take this seriously, you really shouldn’t be following me!” That, in turn, was followed by what many consider to be a pro forma apology.
But a few weeks later, Warren spoke at a conference that featured a video in which a white pastor talked in a fake Asian accent, and engaged in goofy Karate with another character, replete with bows, and tinny “Asian” music.
That was too much for many Asian-American Christians. Hence, the letter.
"Over the past decade," it pointed out, "Christian evangelicalism has been the source of repeated and offensive racial stereotyping, and Asian Americans have been inordinately affected… Asians have been caricatured, mocked or otherwise treated as foreigners outside the typical accepted realm of white [evangelicals]. And the situation has not improved over time."
In fact, the letter cites about a half-dozen offenses in recent years. And it points out these are only the incidents that have been highlighted by the media. For every one of those, the writers believe, there may be myriad others that never capture the public’s attention.
Some of the letter’s signatories were as (or perhaps more) disturbed by the reactions they encountered when they expressed offense.
"Get A Sense Of Humor"
Kathy Khang, a minister and the author of More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith, wrote to Warren, saying his apology was about as offensive as the initial mistake. Kang asked Warren to “please reconsider your comments that essentially told many of your brothers and sisters in Christ to get over it, to get a sense of humor, to lighten up, etc….because you don’t get to tell me to laugh about the Communist Red Guard, because it isn’t funny.”
Comments like that struck home. Warren ultimately pulled the offending Maoist illustration and posted a longer apology:
"If you were hurt, upset, offended or distressed by my insensitivity I am truly sorry," he wrote. "May God richly bless you."
The point of the letter, according to many of the people who signed it, is to begin a much-needed, long-delayed dialogue within the evangelical church. And to acknowledge that although they are all one Christian family, Asian-American evangelicals are feeling a lot like unloved step-children at the moment.
When I was five I was put in a different school because there was an ESL (English as a Second Language) program there. You may be wondering, “what’s wrong with that?” Well, for starters, I was born in Ohio and English was my native tongue. I was reading novels by kindergarten (totally spelled that wrong the first time, fail) and I prided myself on the fact that I had an extensive vocabulary for a toddler. I had been speaking English with exquisite finesse up to that point in my life (okay, that may all be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point). So I didn’t know why I was being put in an ESL program, but I didn’t argue because who’s going to listen to a five year old? At that age, you don’t question things, you just accept. I carried forth with my days throwing raisins at the teacher and drawing cartoon characters on the desks. It wasn’t until later in life I tried to analyze the situation and came to this conclusion: I was put in that program for one reason, I was a shy Asian girl and everyone jumped to the conclusion that I couldn’t speak English. I know I tend to joke about this story, but there’s a lesson to be learned.
As a young child, I didn’t understand race or skin color. I assumed everyone was white, including me. I hope I can speak for most Asian-Americans here, but there is that earth-shatterning moment in our childhood when we realizewe’re not white.
You can take it two ways: embrace that you’re not white or try everything in your power to become white.
You start to realize that wearing shoes in the house wasn’t that big of a deal and not everyone ate rice for every meal. That when some people speak slowly to you, it’s not because they’re trying to be articulate, but it’s because they think you don’t understand English (as if speaking English slowly to a non-English speaking person helps). You notice that not every grocery store carries Pocky and not every family speaks a different language at home. You also realize that it’s not that common to call everyone who’s older than you Uncle or Aunt. When you learned about the Civil Rights movement again, you start to wonder what happened to Asians during that time or when people are describing you, the first thing out of their mouth is that you’re “oriental.” (On a side note, I hate being described as oriental. It makes me feel like a spice or dish).
Being Asian-American has always been a difficult part of me. I was (and am) proud of my heritage and how far my parents have come, but I had a hard time feeling as if I belonged somewhere. Experiencing first hand segregation and racism has made me despise my race for many years.I was trapped between two worlds.
Racism isn’t just black and white. In my experience, all my classes about race are taught by a black professor. I remember sitting in one of my media classes discussing race; we had spent weeks on how blacks and whites are portrayed in the media. As my professor went on and on, I sat there wondering when she was going to bring up Asians, Hispanics, or Middle Easterners. Finally, as if God had heard my plea, a thankfully inquisitive student in the front raised his hand, “What about Asians?”
There was five minutes left in class, and all she said was, “Well, they tend to be the ‘model minority,’” and carried forth with the discussion on blacks and whites.
Model minority?!?What about the shocking statistics of1.3 million Asians that are undocumentedor the fact thatSoutheast Asians have the highest high school drop out rate?
I’m not going to lie, I was flattered in high school when people I’ve never talked to asked me to be part of their group for a project. I felt included and thought they wanted to be friends, but I soon realized that many of them only picked me because I was the “Asian kid,” and instantly categorized as the smart one. My favorite (sarcasm) was when my peers would ask me how I did on a test expecting me to say “A,” or ask me to help them with their math homework… and most of the time I was just as lost as they were. But none of that mattered to me, I liked the attention and appreciated that people thought I was smart.It wasn’t until I couldn’t live up to the stereotype that the pressure truly manifested.I wanted to write stories and make music for a living or design t-shirts and play soccer, not become an engineer, doctor, or lawyer.
Now, I understand why the discussion on race tends to be about blacks and whites. America’s darkest days were about slavery and the civil rights movement. There’s a lot to be said about the resilient nature of the African-American people. Schools teach to let usnever forget where America came from and from the mistakes of our past, we can learn justice and tolerance. However, even to this day, as sad as it is, we still struggle with racism among the two.
But if race is such a huge topic in American studies, why is it that I never learned about the Asian & Chinese Exclusion Acts in my classes or the fact that we only briefly touched on the Japanese Internment camps?
Why is it that after the Virginia Tech shooting there was a huge controversy and focus on the shooter’s ethnic heritage. With racists slurs and comments being brought upon Asians in that time. Whereas race wasn’t ever thought about in other horrific school shootings committed by white people?
The very first day of college a young and bright lad who is going to go far in life (sarcasm again) asked me, “Why do Asians always travel in packs?”
Literal face palm. I snapped back with “Because of people like you. Let me ask you, why do white people always travel in packs?”
We’re not friends.
I digress. Let’s shimmy back up to the beginning. How did I respond to that decision I had to make during my life-changing epiphany? Growing up as a child of immigrants I felt trapped between two worlds. I guess for me, I tried both. I ignored the fact for much of my early life, just living life colorblind. But for a brief (let me stress brief) time in middle school I embraced my full on “Asianness.” I hung out with mostly Asians, I watched Asian dramas and listened to Asian music. I got bangs and camera-whored with a peace sign. That quickly ended when I realized the facade of it all. Yes, ethnically I’m Asian, but culturally I’m not. I can squeeze my way into that culture by learning it and copying it, but I’ll never trulybeit because I did not grow up in it. Visiting my parents’ homelands was a huge disappointment because people there did not accept me as fully Chinese. They could tell I wasn’t local just by looking at me. I had all the stereotypical facial features, but my composure, dress, and attitude was basically the equivalent of me wrapping myself in an American flag. Even my extended relatives joked about my American accent or lack of cultural respect. I’m Chinese, but I’m not.
After that heart-wrenching revelation, I betrayed that identity and landed myself on the flip side. I stopped speaking in Chinese, tried my hardest to erase my memory of those embarrassing Asian-washing times, and tried my best avoiding all FOBs (for you politically correct people, it’s a slang, and actually somewhat offensive term for immigrants: fresh-off the boat). I would tell my parents to keep quiet in public in attempts to save my face and stray from being different because I was scared their accent or what they say would embarrass me. My dad caught on to this pretty quick. Before I left for college he told me, “Hey, be nice to the international students, I was one of them.” It got to the point where I was making fun of the FOBs (but of course only Asians were allowed to make fun of Asians).
I thought this was all going well for me until one day in college, my friend runs up to me saying, “Connie! I just met the Asian version of you!”
After a few giggles and punchlines, I started to wonder. Why is it that I had to assimilate myself to become “white” in order to make friends and not the other way around? Why do people say “it’s ok, you’re so white-washed” as if it’s a good thing? Why do my friends and I think it’s funny to speak in an Asian accent? Why is it that the “tiger-mom” parenting tactic is so-called “bad”?
I believe that as Americans, we’re scared to accept difference, even in this day and age.We tell ourselves that we are more tolerant and accepting, looking to how far we have come, but in reality,we’re currently stuck in a rut.The ones who fall victim to this hallucination are actually the young people. We think we are America’s next great hope, blaming the intolerant ones on the older generation, when in reality we’re just as foolish as the generations before in relations of race.
All this is so counter-intuitive. America prides itself on being a melting pot (or for those who are really specific, tossed salad). So why is it that the whole image of the “ideal American” is, dare I say, white? I’m tired of taxi drivers asking where I’m “originally” from. If we’re being truly honest here, a white or black person may say they’re from Chicago and that’s the end of that, but I always get the followup question… “but where areyourpeoplefrom?” and then they go on forever about how much they love China. Let me ask, if a foreign European were to walk the streets of America how many times would they be stopped or stared at for being “foreign”? How many “Go back to where you came from”s would they hear? Just because I don’t look Anglo-Saxon or black, I instantly get an extra inquiry: immigrant, foreign, or native?
It’s no wonderJulie Chenfelt the need to undergo the knife to advance in her white-male dominated industry. Which, by the way, I totally understand her decision and don’t expect her to have to apologize for it. She did what she had to do and by coming out about it,she opened many more doors to the truth about racism toward the Asian-American culture.
In the end, I’ve decided that being Asian-American is all together another race and culture.We are the ignored minority.We currently don’t have a place in middle school textbooks or in sociology. Not enough people walk on eggshells when talking about the Asian race. I’m not going to apologize for the scent our food makes when we’re cooking (which is heavenly by the way), or that we do get a little overly excited when we interact with our loved ones. On one side, the Asian culture has taught me respect and honor for authority, to be self-less and encounter a holistic approach to life. I have learned to value education and diligence, to be resourceful and never wasteful. On the other hand, the American culture has taught me independence, consideration for even those I don’t know, and the importance of having goals in life. It has introduced me to diversity and faith into my life (but I’m not saying those who aren’t Asian-American haven’t learned this). Being Asian-American, is a world all in itself, and since we are a fairly young race, we’re still figuring things out, I’m just asking for a little acknowledgment from the rest of America.
So to the Asian-American awakening, Let this be the moment when you realize you’re not white nor are you solely Asian, you’re Asian-American (and cue cheesy sap music).
I connect with this a lot.
What was your Awakening moment?
The mention of “Chinatown” evokes many images. But for decades, Chinatown has meant home for immigrant families. Chinatown residents rely on networks of friends and relatives in the community and on affordable food and goods in nearby stores. Workers depend on jobs they find in the neighborhood and from employment agencies centered in these communities. Yet as land use struggles change downtown areas across the United States, Chinatowns are becoming increasingly destabilized as their future as sustainable low-income immigrant communities is threatened.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) embarked on a three-city study of Chinatowns in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia to determine the current state of Chinatowns. Whereas Chinatowns used to be disfavored places to live and dumping grounds for undesirable uses, luxury and institutional developers began targeting these previously shunned areas in the 1980s and 1990s for more luxury uses including high-end condominiums and stadiums. For decades, residents, workers, small business owners, and community organizations have fought against development that threatens to weaken immigrant networks and resources in these neighborhoods. In collaboration with these community partners, academic institutions, and hundreds of volunteers, AALDEF spent a year recording block by block and lot by lot the existing land uses in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia’s Chinatown and surrounding immigrant areas. The data was mapped by the University of Pennsylvania’s City Planning and Urban Studies Department.
This preview provides a snapshot of the land uses in New York’s Chinatown in 2011 and highlights the forthcoming three-city report using Census and land use data to describe the startling transformation of Chinatowns along the East Coast in the past three decades.
Without the fights against unfettered development led by members from groups like the Chinese Progressive Association in Boston, Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association in New York, and Asian Americans United in Philadelphia, these Chinatowns would likely contain even more high-end and institutional expansion. City governments removed and replaced working-class immigrant residential and commercial land uses in each of these Chinatowns. This land use study documents what currently exists to support the organizing and planning efforts to retain resources and networks in these Chinatowns for current and future generations of immigrants.
"This article studies the intersectionality of race and gender, examining it through the lens of Western imperialism. Even though both critical race and feminist scholarship have addressed this intersectionality, few if any offer a precise theory for understanding the imperialized experience. This article seeks to fill that void. The social inequality minority women face, in particular those of Asian descent, can be best articulated by a theory this article calls white sexual imperialism.
The history of Western imperialism in Asia and its lingering effects present the greatest source of inequality for Diasporic Asian women today. White sexual imperialism, through rape and war, created the hyper-sexualized stereotype of the Asian woman. This stereotype in turn fostered the over-prevalence of Asian women in pornography, the mail-order bride phenomenon, the Asian fetish syndrome, and worst of all, sexual violence against Asian women. These issues are each duly explored in the article, drawing on Professor Catherine MacKinnon’s dominance theory to support the white sexual imperialism principle.
The ultimate purpose of this article is to gain greater recognition from both critical race and feminist theorists of imperialism’s role in race and gender inequality.”