11.1.12 Links Roundup

No one will be surprised if Asian students, who make up 14 percent of the city’s public school students, once again win most of the seats, and if black and Hispanic students win few. Last school year, of the 14,415 students enrolled in the eight specialized high schools that require a test for admissions, 8,549 were Asian.

Because of the disparity, some have begun calling for an end to the policy of using the test as the sole basis of admission to the schools, and last month, civil rights groups filed a complaint with the federal government, contending that the policy discriminated against students, many of whom are black or Hispanic, who cannot afford the score-raising tutoring that other students can. The Shis, like other Asian families who spoke about the exam in interviews in the past month, did not deny engaging in extensive test preparation. To the contrary, they seemed to discuss their efforts with pride.

They also said they were puzzled about having to defend a process they viewed as a vital steppingstone for immigrants. And more than a few saw the criticism of the test as an attack on their cultures, as troubling to them as grumblings about the growing Asian presence in these schools and the prestigious colleges they feed into. “You know: ‘You’re Asian, you must be smart,’” said Jan Michael Vicencio, an immigrant from Manila and a junior at Brooklyn Tech, one of the eight schools that use the test for admission. “And you’re not sure it’s a compliment or an insult. We get that a lot.”

To me, the real issue is that the filmmakers seem to have a sensitivity and style deficit. Let’s consider their experience:

The Simone biopic’s director, Cynthia Mort, is best known for writing for and producing the sitcoms Roseanne and Will & Grace and for co-writing the underwhelming 2007 Jodie Foster revenge film The Brave One.

Interscope Records founder Jimmy Iovine, who co-produced the melodramatic Eminem vehicle 8 Mile and the cheesetastic 50 Cent tale Get Rich or Die Tryin’, will serve as executive producer.

Mort originally cast Mary J. Blige, a popular singer with medium brown skin, narrow eyes, an aquiline nose—and limited acting skills—to play Simone. When Blige left the production due to scheduling conflicts, Mort tapped Saldana, a serviceable actress who also looks nothing like the title character.

It is not Zoe Saldana’s fault that Hollywood and mass media prize light skin, straight hair, very thin female bodies and keen facial features. Nor is it Mary J. Blige’s fault that filmmakers continually give movie roles to singers, rappers and television hosts who aren’t strong actors. I get it: Hollywood is about maximum profits and minimum risks.

On the evening of October 17th, 1992, (18th in Asia) a 16-year-old Japanese exchange student named Yoshiro Hattori went with his homestay brother, Webb Haymaker, to a Halloween party organized for Japanese exchange students. With a love for classic American movies, Hattori was dressed up as John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever. The boys arrived at the wrong house just a few doors down. Hattori rang the doorbell as the wife Mrs. Peairs saw them from the side door and called her husband to get a gun. Rodney Peairs opened the front door holding a gun with a laser sight and told the boys to freeze. While Haymaker ran, Hattori turned around and said, “We’re here for the party.”

Right out of The Terminator, Rodney Peairs, a six-foot-two armed man, shot the 130-pound Japanese teenager dressed up as John Travolta. If Hattori had dressed up as Olivia Newton John instead, would he have met the same fate?

I seem to recall I had read somewhere that one of the Paeirs made a comment about “a Jap at the door” before picking up the gun. For years, I contemplated about the possible racist motivation behind the murder that has fascinated me since I first heard about it. Perhaps it was because I too was a “foreign student.” Imagine me being in Baton Rouge dressed up as a witch knocking on the Paeirs’ door. Would I have met the same fate?

Eddie Murphy, who was cast by Lee to play Brown, once told BlackTree TV that the script was a “great, great piece.”
However, Glazer decided to fire Lee and hired Tate Taylor. Taylor was the director of the film The Help.

Although the movie was critically-acclaimed, it lacked in story structure and failed to give a complete view of black life during that era. Essentially, it was a black story told from a white person’s point of view.

Before The Help, Tate only directed the lackluster film Pretty Ugly People.

His credentials are not adequate for a film as enormous as James Brown.

  • Elton

    Re: For Asians, School Tests Are Vital Steppingstones

    There is a perennial question in education about why so many Asian immigrants have such a strong cultural drive to study particular subjects (math, science, engineering, and medicine rather than humanities and arts) and study them in a particular way that focuses so strongly on tests and grades. There is much to be said about Confucianism and its lasting impact on Asians, as well as the limitations Asians face in American society. But I believe it is the pioneering generations–the first generation to immigrate to a new country and start a new life from the ground up, the first generation to attend college and attempt to navigate a completely different world from their parents’–that face particular socioeconomic pressures and are constrained by those pressures. Only generations later, once a small measure of social and financial security has been attained, are we more free to pursue the liberal arts and creative endeavors.

    My parents are immigrants and I am the first member of my family to go to college. I was frustrated when I was younger because I didn’t understand why I had to spend so much time studying and working when other young people seemed more free to hang out, date, play music, go to movies, etc. Now I understand. Their grandparents and great-grandparents did what my generation is trying to do–they laid a foundation for their descendants to have easier, freer lives. We must not forget the struggles of generations which are newer to America–the immigrant generations, the pioneering generations. It is because of their sacrifices that we have inherited our privileges and freedoms.

    I think John Adams said it best:

    “The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
    - Letter to Abigail Adams (12 May 1780).