Tag Archives: asian

Missing Identities: Racialicious Revisits Secret Identities

By Guest Contributor Sunny Kim

secret2 I first learned about Project Secret Identities over two years ago when a call for story submissions started to float around my corner of the interwebs. My excitement was limitless! No more waiting for some white guy to come save me! Now I could have my own superheroes. Secret Identities promised to fill the need for comics that cast us as the superheroes and I waited with bated breath for the release.

Here we are in 2009 and the book has been released to much fanfare. And yet, I feel disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the nerd specs on the pleasing green cover (I rock my own pair everyday). There are some real gems in this anthology including the oft-cited “The Blue Scorpion and Chung” (Bruce Lee hated being Kato) and the true-to-life stories in the section From Headline to Hero (“Taking Back Troy” re-imagines Vincent Chin’s story in a way that doesn’t let us forget it). Despite the many great stories found within this anthology there are some glaring holes that I can’t seem to fly over.

The editors of the book tell us that Asian Americans have more in common with Clark Kent than just his geek chic appearance and as such present an opening for our superheroes. Yet the editors define Asian American by the stories they chose, and it seems like they define Asian as “East Asian with a sprinkling of Filipino and a drop of Indian.” In other words Secret Identities is more East Asian than Asian, and Shen and Yang have — I’m sure unintentionally — deleted most of the Asian continent in their selection process.

Continue reading

Menace II Society (Allen and Albert Hughes, 1993)

by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown

Sixteen years after its release, its easy to look back and pick apart Menace II Society, even easier to accept it nostalgically as the dope film we all thought it was back then. But the feeling of being in your early teens watching this flick, surrounded by folks who bang (pause) or did knucklehead shit remains, and it’ll always be a classic to me. Moreso these days for being a historical document than a dope film.

There are plenty of memorable scenes in the film affectionately known as Menace. But today, on the 17th anniversary of the 1992 LA uprsising/Sa-I-Gu, I’ll dwell on one in particular: the opening scene. For those not familiar: two young Black men, Caine and O-Dog, stop for some 40s at the cornerstore run by a Korean couple in South Central L.A. The lady spies em and utters the first of the films countless immortal quotables, “Hurry up and buy.” After a tense exchange at the counter, the Korean dude makes a fatal mistake, uttering the second quotable under his breath, “I feel sorry for your mother.” O-Dog turns around and asks “what you say about my momma?” before murdering them and robbing the joint as Caine watches in exasperation. O-Dog grabs the surveillance tape as a souvenir he’d later show to the homies.

A powerful, graphic scene (except for the fact that you can see the filming crew in the mirrors: FAIL). But what did the Hughes brothers intend to say with this? That Koreans are racists who deserve this cinematic execution, perhaps a fantasy retribution for Latasha Harlins? Or to jar and shock the viewer into feeling sympathy for the Korean couple who are merely trying to get by in the same fucked up conditions that the Black community lives in? Does it advocate or justify violence, or does it condemn it? Whatever their intent, this is the effect on others I saw: no sympathy for the Koreans, fanning the flames of Black/Asian tension (to this day: look at the comments on the YouTube clip) and convincing everybody that Larenz Tate is actually a G.

This scene reminds speaks volumes about how much those tensions still remained after April 29, 1992. In retrospect, mainstream media did everything to fuel this tension, which was a very real thing. And still is, even though it’s no longer evening news material. Too much of it bought into that myth that Koreans (and all Asians) and Black folk are just natural enemies like that. I refuse to think so, and though I question the Hughes brothers’ intent with this scene, I still find it telling and deserving of revisiting, to ask ourselves: how far have we really come?

The Secret’s Out: Secret Identities Is Here And It’s Awesome!

by Guest Contributor Jenn, originally published at Reappropriate

The first few pages of Secret Identities chronicle an exchange between Jeff Yang (writer of Asian Pop! at the San Francisco Chronicle) and Keith Chow (freelance writer) that originally inspired the Asian American superhero anthology released today. Yang, researching his now well-cited article on Asian American pop culture and comic books (Look… Up in the Sky! It’s Asian Man!), asks Chow about the appeal that comics have had for Asian American youth. Chow replies: “Comics have always been a refuge for kids who are shy or socially awkward. And I think for Asian Americans, the parallels are even stronger. You’re an outsider. You don’t fit in. But then you go to school and meet other people like yourself. You discover your secret heritage – the thing inside you that makes you special.”

Yet, it is frustrating that the comic book industry has failed to identify and acknowledge their loyal Asian American fan-base. While the number of Asian/Asian American superheroes has slowly increased over the last few decades, these heroes remain massively overshadowed by an overabundance of Caucasian protagonists (for a chronological listing of Asian/Asian American superheroes in comics, check out my site Outsiders). Those Asian/Asian American superheroes who do achieve the pinnacle of comic book success – their own ongoing title or mini-series – are frequently written in a one-dimensional (or even stereotypical) manner (often by non-Asian writers overwhelmed by the pressure to write a realistic portrayal of a person with a hyphenated racial and cultural identity). Instead, many contemporary Asian American superheroes end up as a tragic East-meets-West cliché, before they (or their title) meet an untimely (but ultimately predictable) end.

Enter Secret Identities, an anthology of comic short stories about Asian/Asian American superheroes written and illustrated by a superstar cast of Asian/Asian American comic fans, and edited by Yang, Chow, Jerry Ma (founder of Epic Proportions, an independent studio) and Parry Shen (Better Luck Tomorrow). A whopping 190 pages, Secret Identities runs the gamut from classic origin stories of a variety of Asian American superheroes (e.g. Sampler by Jimmy Aquino and art by Erwin Haya) to quirky commentaries on the roles Asian American characters play in today’s mainstream comics (e.g. The Blue Scorpion & Chung by Gene Yang and art by Sonny Liew). And what an amazing diversity of stories it is! Secret Identities is a spirited and gleeful act of protest against the invisibility of Asian Americans in the pages of mainstream comics: each story is a fresh reminder that we Asian Americans can be iconic superheroes, too. Continue reading

DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! Hipster Runoff

by Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

From time to time, we use satire to talk about race issues. Often we do so because life is so unfunny, it’s a joke. Or because the only way to get people to think about uncomfortable things is not to beat down the gates but to distract them with some kind of Trojan Horse. Other times, it’s simply the most expedient way to spit out the metallic taste of bile and blood that ignorance leaves in our mouth.

This week, Hipster Runoff, a satirical blog about all things “alt” and “authentic” (“What is the most authentic body part 2 do blow off of?”) that reveres hipsterdom while simultaneously underscoring how it’s just as full of mindless followers as the mainstream, published a post called “Should I h8 AZNs?” Here are a few excerpts:

Sad about the economic crisis, and how AZNs have been smarter than us about saving ‘money’ and only spending what they have. I think America is beautiful. We’ve had a good run, but maybe we’re not as special as we thought we were. Kinda sad. I still feel ‘cooler’ than a lot of foreigners, and like smarter…

Is it cool to ‘be better’ towards AZNs who live in America, or are they ‘one of us’? Or should we construct some ‘internment camps’ in the middle of the USA where we force all AZNs to live and do manual labor, even if they are respected within society? Not trying 2 be radical, just know that we have 2 hold some1 accountable for our crisis, and it might ‘unite’ our country if we single out a group of people who are responsible. Kinda like when they had 2 find communist actors in Hollywood.

I don’t really know much about China, except that they are ‘commie reds’, violate a lot of human rights, and pollute a lot. Learned that from the newspaper…

Should I h8 azns and hold them responsible for the destruction of my country? Or should I move out of the USA and move to an authentic city like Paris/Beijing/Tokyo/Cairo?

There are several Hipster Runoff posts that begin similarly with a question–“Should I Vote?” or “Is it ALT 2 watch the Super Bowl?”–where the answer is patently obvious, and “Should I h8 AZNs?” was probably intended to fall into that category.

Unfortunately, “Should I h8 AZNs?” is not satire. Continue reading

Interracial Marriage Rate Declines Among Asians

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

The Washington Post has an interesting story on recent trends in interracial marriage in America — specifically, a decline in the rate of Hispanics and Asians marrying partners of other races in the past two decades: Immigrants’ Children Look Closer for Love.

Sociologists and demographers are just beginning to study how the children of recent immigrants will date and marry. Conventional wisdom has it that in the open-minded Obama era, they will begin choosing spouses of other ethnicities as the number of interracial marriages rises.

But scholars are coming across a surprising converse trend. According to U.S. Census data, the number of native- and foreign-born people marrying outside their race fell from 27 to 20 percent for Hispanics and 42 to 33 percent for Asians from 1990 to 2000.

Scholars suggest it’s all about the growing number of immigrants. It seems that the large immigrant population fundamentally changes the pool of potential partners for Asians and Hispanics. Thus, the second generation is more likely to marry people of their own ethnicity.

It’s not quite like it was before, when there were only two Asian kids in your school — you and this other boy/girl — and everyone thought you two should go together to the prom. Forced coupling. Now half the school is Asian, so it’s not such a big deal. Something like that.

Binary Soul

by Guest Contributor John Jihoon Chang

I often feel as though I’m two men living one life. Many of my peers and contemporaries from an immigrant background have learned how to blend their twin heritages, their cultures passed down from their parents and their cultures locally acquired and somehow become a coherent whole. In my case, an Asian American or more specifically, a Corean American. I won’t say this is true for everyone or even most people, but many have navigated this tricky path or perhaps have chosen one culture to adhere closely to in neglect or abandonment of the other.

Growing up, I was one who had never nurtured the Corean in me, rather concentrating on the present reality that I faced as a young person growing up with almost entirely white American peers. There was little value in my Coreanness, especially as it served to distance me from the only society I’d known. It was an inescapable part of my identity, as my genes had mapped my Asian roots upon my face, but it provided little to no advantages in my daily life, rather often distancing me as a “stranger”, though the life I’d known was, outside of food, language and minor household traditions, largely the same as my peers. Nevertheless, the appearance of difference combined with the few elements that my household practiced always seemed to divide, even as each white American household, I found, had different sets of cuisine, traditions and even occasionally the use of language.

As such, I was an all-American type, as it proved the path of least resistance. My sister naively would label me as “whitewashed” or a “banana”, claiming my abandonment of my Corean heritage while she, all the same adopted the similarly American “AZN” identity, one of the Asian American subcultures defined by heavy adoption of urban mainstream American media tied together with that of a mainstream Asian media as well.
Such a moment left me defensive at the time, but to some extent, she was correct.

Back to that later.

After high school, I’d move on to college and discover my Asian American identity. I found myself socializing a lot more with other Asian Americans, built upon the shared experiences of being differentiated from mainstream white America and often (but not always) upon the shared upbringing by immigrant parents. It’s certainly a comfortable place, where those around you don’t expect you to be different and share the same racial angst as you. And it also created a space for a new part of me to grow: the Corean me. Continue reading

joss whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

I don’t really like Joss Whedon.

Phew, there I said it. Sure I admire Whedon’s gender politics, but I find his dialogue and characters glib and unbelievable.

But my real problem with Whedon is much more superficial.

While most people were enjoying the full use of their patella, I spent last July lying in front of the TV after having the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee repaired. To cheer me up my loving roommates bought me the boxset of Firefly. I loved the movie Serenity and I will always have a soft spot for Buffy (well, seasons 1 & 2) so I was pretty thrilled. But after the first episode opened with a coupla blonde actors speaking some sort of mangled hybrid of Mandarin and Cantonese, I wasn’t so sure.

After screening several episodes where – apart from being space cowboys and quasi-anarchists – the cast of the show wear kimonos, carry paper parasols, and talk about making pau, I started to get more and more annoyed. But was I just being a jerk? What was so wrong with the array of East Asian symbols and decor on the set of Firefly? Was I preventing myself from enjoying a perfectly good TV show by being some sort of yellow fever watchdog? Continue reading

Quoted: Jaemin Kim on Stereotypes, Asian Women, and Hate Crimes

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson


During a one month period in Autumn 2000, the predators abducted five Japanese exchange students, ranging from age 18 to 20. Motivated by their sexual biases about Asian women, all three used both their bodies and objects to repeatedly rape – vaginally, anally and orally — two of the young women over a seven hour ordeal.

In Spokane, one of the attackers immediately confessed to searching only for Japanese women to torture and rape — and eventually all pled guilty and were convicted. It clearly was a racially-motivated criminal case. The victims also believed they were attacked because of their race, the prosecutor told me.

What is astonishing, however, is that the district attorney failed to bring an additional charge that would have tagged the crimes as motivated by racial bias. The police also neglected to report the crime as a “hate crime,” as demanded by the Justice Department to keep accurate statistics of all bias-driven crimes. Although the attackers all received long sentences, an important opportunity to raise the nation’s consciousness was lost. We, as a society, were told that it’s not a hate crime to rape an Asian woman because of her race. Continue reading