Tag Archives: asian-american

What Bill O’Reilly gets wrong about Asian Americans

What Bill O'Reilly gets wrong about Asian Americans

Credit: Frank Micelotta/invision/AP

By guest contributor Kevin Wong (originally posted at Salon.com)

Bill O’Reilly went to Harvard and grew up in Levittown, a Long Island town that is 94 percent white. He attended a private boy’s school on Long Island that is 90 percent white and currently costs more than $8,000 a year to attend. And yet he recently remarked that white privilege is a lie — that being white gives a person no inherent advantages in America. Irony is dead.

It is obvious, to anyone paying the slightest attention, that white privilege does exist, that legal equality is different from equality in practice. But then, O’Reilly has a long history of making ill-advised statements about race. What really stood out to me, though, on a personal level, is how O’Reilly used Asian-Americans to support his argument against white privilege. Just to recap:

Here are the facts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for black Americans is 11.4 percent.  It is just over 5 percent for whites; 4.5 percent for Asians. So do we have Asian privilege in America? Because the truth is that Asian-American households make far more money than anyone else… Also, just 13 percent of Asian children live in single parent homes compared to a whopping 55 percent for blacks and 21 percent for whites. There you go.  That’s why Asian-Americans, who often have to overcome a language barrier, are succeeding more than African-Americans and more than white Americans. Their families are intact and education is paramount.

From what experiences, exactly, does O’Reilly draw these conclusions? Allegedly, his own encounters with Asians are less than enlightened. In her sexual harassment suit against the pundit, Andrea Mackris made the following allegations: that O’Reilly recounted his foreign sexual experiences to her; that a “little brown woman” masseuse in Bali, Indonesia, had asked to see his penis, to which O’Reilly obliged; that a “girl” at a Thailand sex show took O’Reilly to a back room and “blew [his] mind.” When a man pursues colonialist fantasies and exploits women in Asian countries for his own pleasures, he loses the moral high ground to lecture anyone on race privilege.

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ABC’s “Fresh off the Boat” could be a disaster for Asian Americans

By Kevin Wong, cross-posted from Salon

I can’t speak for all Asian Americans, but personally, whenever I see a new Asian face on television, I panic. My blood pressure goes through the roof. There’s a vague unease and anxiety, even before the character opens his or her mouth. Because I’m ready to see yet another shticky Asian stereotype.

Some of the questions running through my mind: Is this Asian a main character? Does this Asian character have an arc? If the Asian character is a woman, does she have an Asian significant other? If the Asian character is a man, does he even have a significant other? Does this Asian man have sex, in a non-comedic fashion?

Or I worry that the Asian character is “too good” – an overcorrection for political correctness. There’s an ironic flaw to perfection – it doesn’t allow for the quirks that make a character compelling. Every American minority group has this stock, “perfect” caricature: for Asian Americans, it’s the Model Minority – the hardworking, emasculated genius. He’s the support for the protagonist, but never the protagonist himself.
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Barack Obama as our first Asian American President?: Part I

Barack Obama with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng from their earlier days

By Guest Contributor Jennifer; originally published at Mixed Race America 

It has been two months since I last wrote a post in this blog–which is embarrassing (sigh).  For all my good intentions, I have not felt compelled to write in this space, even though I, ostensibly, have the time since I’m not teaching.

But this is, perhaps, the reason why I haven’t been writing in this space–because I have been immersed in trying to finish my book manuscript on racial ambiguity and Asian American culture (which also happens to be the title of the book).  I’m fortunate enough to have a research and study leave, which means I’ve been reading and thinking and writing and trying to make the most of my time out of the classroom.

And then, of course, as I realized how much time had passed from when I last blogged, the pressure to write something meaningful or at least intelligible increased after so much silence (sigh)–always the dilemma of the writer–the blank page and wondering if there is an audience out there.

But as I tell my students, sometimes, whether you’re feeling it or not, you just have to write it.  Good advice.  So I thought I should share what I’m working on, since it has applicability to this blog.  For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about the coda to my book–which is also the title of this blog post.  If race is a social construction–if it doesn’t have a basis in biology or blood, then could we imagine that Barack Obama is not only our first African American president, our first (openly) mixed race president, but our first Asian American president of the United States?

This might seem like an odd way to end a book on racial ambiguity and Asian American culture.  Yet if we think about taking the idea of racial ambiguity to its furthest extremes, if race is not just limited to what you “look” like–if you can be Asian American without Asian American family (as transracial adoptees would seem to prove), if one’s racial identity is as much about culture and community as anything else, then it would seem that there are clear markers of Asian American racialization that correspond to Obama’s life narrative.  For example:
*He was born and spent his formative adolescent years in the only state in the union that has a majority Asian American population.  The local culture in Hawaii is steeped in Asian American culture from the various Asian immigrants who have come to the island archipelago from the 19th C.  He can speak pidgin, he eats local food, he grew up with his grandparents preparing sashimi for guests and with Asian American neighbors and classmates.
Obama’s fifth-grade class photo from The Punahou School
*He is the child of an immigrant father who came to the US to be educated (first, a BA at U of Hawaii and then a PhD at Harvard), and his name reflects these immigrant roots, with people who find it odd, foreign, and hard to pronounce (something many children of Asian immigrants with Asian names understand all too well).
*He lived for four years in Indonesia (from the ages of 6-10) thus experiencing life in an Asian country.
*He has family members–a sister (Maya Soetoro-Ng–Indonesian-white), a brother-in-law (Konrad Ng–Chinese-Malaysian from Canada) and nieces who are Indonesian-Chinese-Malaysian-white–who are Asian American.
The Soetoro-Ng family
In October 1998, writing for The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” about the ways that President Bill Clinton was being targeted by special prosecuters for potential impeachment after revelations of his affair with Monica Lewinsky became public, Toni Morrison famously (or infamously) wrote:

Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.

Until Barack Obama was elected to office in 2008, it was believed, in certain quarters, that Morrison had claimed blackness for Bill Clinton, thus dubbing him our first black president.  But if you read the above quote (and the entire article) carefully, you will see that it is the “trope of blackness” that Morrison refers to rather than claiming that Clinton’s identity is that of an African American man.

In similar fashion, claims for Barack Obama as our first Asian American president have been made by Rep. Mike Honda and Jeff Yang – mine is not the first observation made in this regard.  
Yet what does it MEAN for me to imagine, that Barack Obama could be considered Asian American based on the trope of Asian-ness–the ways in which parts of his life narrative contain similarities to those of Asians in America?  Is this an anti-racist move, one that can remind us that race is a fiction, a social construction designed to elevate one racial group above others?  Can knowing that race is this fluid and flexible become a means to dismantle structures of institutional racism?
Stay tuned for Part II (which I promise to write this weekend!) and, of course, if there are any readers out there, I welcome your thoughts and comments, your agreements and disagreements.  I welcome dialogue, because that’s the reason I started this blog to begin with–and Barack Obama was the topic of the third blog post I wrote back in May 2007.

 

Walking the Tightrope: Good Indian Girls, Race, and Bad Sexuality

By Guest Contributor Chaya Babu; originally published at Feminist Wire

Image by xpgomes11 on Flickr

Image by xpgomes11 on Flickr

I was a few weeks into my freshman year at Duke when my sister, a senior at the time, said to me, “Indian girls who date black guys are sluts.” Just like that.

We were sitting in her car in the circular driveway behind my dorm. The night was warm and wet in the late North Carolina summer. I had just told her about the budding flirtation with a boy from Memphis who lived across the grassy quad. I would spy him coming back from class and get the jitters. He asked me to help him study Spanish. I got excited just talking about it. And her sisterly response? Indian girls who date black guys are sluts.

I think I was already mildly aware of this idea. It had lurked in the periphery of my consciousness in high school because of the way my family looked suspiciously upon my adolescent tryst with a lanky, dark-skinned boy from a neighboring town and even my interest at a young age in hip hop music. They didn’t say anything, but they didn’t have to. The unspoken messages about how they viewed blackness and sexuality and the intersection of these two things – and how I was attaching myself to it – were successfully transmitted. And lately, at 30 years old, I wonder if I’m still working through them somewhere deep beneath the surface as I finally try to reclaim and redefine this part of my identity as my own.

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What’s in an Asian American Name?

by Guest Contributor Theresa Celebran Jones, originally published at Hyphen

Baby!

I’m a full-time remote worker. Most of the people I work with on a daily basis have never seen my face, and know me only by my emails and my phone voice. I often wonder about what these people picture, of the face they try to attach to my name. And I wonder if they’d be surprised to know I’m Asian.

I’d been a little conflicted about my name since getting married (as evidenced by this comment I posted on this blog long ago), but my maiden name did not sound particularly ethnic either, and since the baby came before the wedding, I had, in my mind, changed my name to match my family’s — not just my husband’s.

Before all that, my husband (then boyfriend) and I had tons of added baggage about naming our daughter. We didn’t want to give our child a name too similar to any family members, and we wanted to steer clear of any names on a Top 100 list. We wanted to ensure our kid wouldn’t be stuck in a class with five other people of the same name, and have to take on an awful nickname like “Mike Jones 2.”

Additionally, I wanted a meaningful Asian-sounding name that would flow well with Jones, the 5th most common surname in the United States. Truthfully, and probably because I went to a predominantly white school system in the 80’s and 90’s, I was picturing a teacher reading “Firstname Jones?” off of a roster on the first day of school, seeing an Asian kid raise his or her hand, then saying, “That’s not funny; where is Firstname Jones?” Continue reading

“The Census: Get Counted” PSA by Arowana Films

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Last night, I filled out my Census form. Have you filled yours out yet? Here’s a fun PSA just launched by our friends at Arowana Films, who try to break it down in a way people can understand: it all comes down to $$$.

Asian Americans are one of the most likely groups to throw out their Census forms. This only hurts our own community in the long run. Less numbers, less money. Let’s get it right this decade and make sure we GET COUNTED!

The PSA features folks like Far East Movement, Wong Fu, Randall Park and more. With goofy voiceover work from Anson Ho. Watch it here. And spread the word! In 2010, make sure the Asian American community gets counted.

Secret Identities Superhero Contest Winner: Hush

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

I apologize that this took so long… At long last, here’s the final winner from our Secret Identities Superhero Contest, where readers were asked to submit their own original idea for an Asian American superhero. We would have posted this sooner, but understandably, superstar comic book artist Bernard Chang is a busy man. So without further ado, here is Hush by Juli Martin, as rendered above by Bernard Chang.

EDITORS’ NOTES

We apologize for the long delay, but we were set on having Bernard Chang, the superstar artist behind Greg Pak’s THE CITIZEN in SECRET IDENTITIES, bring this last winning hero to life–in part because he also happens to be the artist for DC’s WONDER WOMAN, making him the perfect guy to visualize this powerful female hero. Unfortunately, as you might guess, Bernard’s a busy guy!

As for why we picked Hush as a winner in our contest: We loved the uniqueness of Hush’s background–how many other lesbian, transracially adopted superheroines are there in comics? Not enough!–and the rich emotions at play in her characterization. We did end up editing aspects of her power and origin, however, both to make her code name make sense and to bring her power away from that of other characters.

We also liked the notion of turning a vulnerability into a power: In this edit, Jane goes from self-imposed isolation and emotional repression to becoming superhumanly empathic; we thought that it was really interesting that such an ability would turn her into a formidable opponent. Think about it: If you could instantly read a person’s emotions and responses, and react with exactly the right physical or verbal cue, you’d be both a killer hand-to-hand combat artist and a devastating manipulator, wouldn’t you?

All in all, a great character, like the other three we discovered through this contest. With any luck, this won’t be the last we’ve heard of any of them!

HERO DESCRIPTION

Abandoned as a newborn, Jane was adopted from Korea by a wealthy white couple at four months. After unexpectedly having two biological children, Jane’s adoptive parents feel they have no use for her, and when she comes out as bisexual at age 13, they kick her out. She is shuffled through the foster care system until aging out, at which point she moves to The Center, a cooperative home for homeless LGBTQ youth. Abandoned so many times, she now calls herself “Jane Doe.”

Jane is a queer femme woman, slim build, 20. Her black hair is cut choppy and asymmetrical, streaked with electric blue. Her style is edgy and futuristic, in black, gray and blue. Continue reading

Freaking love this target commercial

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Spotted this awesome Target commercial on the tube last week and absolutely fell in love with it. I just watched the 30-second spot like five times in a row. It features Shannon, a Cool Asian Mom doing all sorts of Cool Asian Mom stuff for her family (with the help of products she purchased at Target, of course). She does it all…

Playing tetherball, working at the travel agency, beatboxing for her groovin’ kid, taking fabulous all-American family portraits. Sure — nobody’s mom is this cool, but it’s so friggin’ cute, you cannot resist. It’s just refreshing to see a nationally-televised commercial where Asians are not the butt of the joke.