Tag Archives: Vincent Chin

Meanwhile, On TumblR: The Role Of Asian Greeks Today?

By Andrea Plaid

Via binghamton.edu.

Via binghamton.edu.

While I’ve been away adjusting to my new professional position(s) and some intensely lovely life changes, Owner/Editor Latoya Peterson has been so gracious in taking care of the R’s Tumblr. This week, she found a post that, to say the least, is a conversation-starter. From 8asians’ Akrypti on the how Asian fraternities and sororities are failing to live up to their activist history and principles:

The first Asian American fraternity was formed in upstate New York around the time of World War I to combat the racial discrimination that Asian college students faced. Basically, because Asians were excluded from the white people’s clubs, the guys decided to form their own. In the late 40s, a group of Japanese American women in Southern California formed the first Asian American sorority to support one another in the face of anti-Japanese sentiments and racism.

After the murder of Vincent Chin in the 80s, Asian American fraternities and sororities were at the helm of college-level coalitions pushing for federal prosecution of the perpetrators. They organized vigils, raised money, passed out pamphlets to inform people of what happened, back before the days of YouTube, Facebook, and blogs, and led protests.

By the 90s, the idea of starting your own cultural interest Greek (“Asian Greek”) went viral and today there’s a gazillion of them. In the 90s, Asian Greeks led the charge on many campus political fronts. They had the clout to round up crowds of Asian Americans to rally for change. Many of those fraternity brothers and sorority sisters were activists. They challenged white-dominant student associations when minority interests were subjugated. I recall one incident during my stint in college where this happened and the Asian Greeks united in a positive and uplifting way that did bring about change.

So where are the Asian Greeks today?

Are they the superheroes that the Asian community turns to when shit gets racist? Heck no. The Asian Greek voice has been silent in the wake of the last decade’s eyelid pulling, Asian-men-shoot-up-schools stereotyping, racist receipts, abysmal APIA voter turnout, and the other daunting social and civil issues Asian Americans face in 2013. I do not deny that individuals who happen to be affiliated with an Asian fraternity or sorority have contributed, but there has been no national scale mobilization, which these organizations are highly capable of if they’d only give a damn. Re-imaging popular (effeminate) conceptions of Asian masculinity is still unfinished business for APIA activists and I would think Asian fraternities would feel a personal stake in doing more to be positive public Asian male role models.

I do not write this to condemn Asian Greeks. I write this to critique them. There needs to be an active engagement in the politics and social issues that involve Asian Americans. These fraternities and sororities are in the best position to mobilize on a large scale in response to iniquities and offenses against Asians.

::Long whistle::

I’mma leave this here for people to chime in on what Akrypti said. And please check out what and who else are starting conversations on the R’s Tumblr!

Friday Announcement: Watch Vincent Who? For Free And See It Live

Thanks to the Asian Pacific Americans for Progress (APAP) for the heads-up: you can now watch the seminal 2009 documentary Vincent Who? for free online at vincentwhomovie.com through the end of July.

The film will also be screened live on the following dates:

Friday, July 8, 8 p.m.: Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, Los Angeles, Calif. Salon 5/6. Free screening as part of the inaugural Japanese American Citizens League conference.
Wednesday, August 3: Queens College, Queens, NY. Details TBA.
Saturday, August 13, 10 a.m.: Detroit Chinese Community Center, Detroit, Mich.. Free screening as part of the Asian American Journalists Association national convention.

Of course, we also encourage you to buy the DVD. If you’re not familiar with the film or the story behind it, here’s the details:

VINCENT WHO? (2009, 40 min): In 1982, Vincent Chin was beaten to death in Detroit by two white autoworkers at the height of anti-Japanese sentiments. The culprits received a $3,000 fine and no jail time. Outraged by this injustice, Asian Americans around the country galvanized for the first time to form a pan-Asian identity and civil rights movement.

VINCENT WHO? explores this important legacy through interviews with the key players at the time as well as a new generation of activists impacted by Vincent Chin. It also looks at the case in relation to the larger narrative of Asian American history, in such events as Chinese Exclusion, Japanese Internment, the 1992 L.A. Riots, anti-Asian hate crimes, and post-9/11 racism. Ultimately, the film asks how far Asian Americans have come since the Chin case, and how far we have yet to go.