January 31, 2008

Obama Signs the 80/20 Questionnaire

Saw this on the Reappropriate website (and fellow 44 skrips also mentioned it as well.).

So if the 80/20 site is correct, basically Obama signed the 80/20 questionnaire with some minor modifications. From the 80/20 website:

“OLD Q4 If elected, will you within your first term of office increase the nomination of qualified Asian Americans to serve as Article III life-tenured federal judges, whenever such vacancies are available until the current dismal situation is significantly remedied? [To put things in perspective, not meaning to imply quota, presently there are 0.6% Asian Am. Federal judges, while the Asian Am. population is 4.5% and the % of Asian Am legal professionals in laws firms of 100 or larger is at least 5.3%.]

NEW Q4: If elected, will you make it a top priority of your Administration to nominate qualified Asian Americans to serve as Article III life-tenured District Court federal judges, whenever such vacancies are available?

OLD Q5: If elected, will you nominate within your first term of office qualified Asian Americans to serve as Article III Circuit Judges, whenever there are vacancies in those positions, until the current dismal situation is significantly remedied? [To put things in perspective, none of the 179 Article III Circuit judges is an Asian American.]?

NEW Q5: If elected, will you make it a top priority of your Administration to nominate qualified Asian Americans to serve as Article III Circuit Judges, whenever there are vacancies in those positions?”

Yes, it’s basically what Obama has said from Day One, with the added requirements from two of the other four questions that Obama will meet with 80/20 in the future if he wins. But that’s not the point. The point is that it’s a really sad day in politics when a politician caves in to special interest groups–especially a special interest group whose tactics have been unethical, whose demands have been unreasonable, and whose e-mail propagandists don’t even know how to use spell check. I totally understand that it’s a tight battle and that the stakes are high since we’re less than a week away from Super Tuesday. I understand fully that politics involves some compromise at certain levels. I understand that 80/20, regardless of the organization’s ethical conduct, is the most powerful Asian American political organization out there, and that Obama may have felt compelled to answer them based on his considerations of repercussions from the slanderous lies and threats that S.B. Woo was throwing out. But nevertheless I’m disappointed.

I remember watching one of the Republican debates a few months ago. It was a CNN Youtube debate, and one of the Youtubers was a member of some special interest group. He asked the Republican field whether they would make a promise to his group. I don’t remember exactly what the promise was, but one by one the Republicans gave their versions of the same statement. Each one basically said, “I may agree with your position, but I won’t pledge anything to any organization. I don’t work for you. I only make pledges to the American people.”

This is why Reagan is still so popular. This is why W beat Kerry. These Repubs have hard principles and stick to them. They cultivate their values to the point where they have no trouble pushing them on others, and they have no trouble voicing them (even if those values are wrong–but that’s a whole different conversation). In “The Anatomy of Power,” Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith points out that there is “a greater conservative instinct for discipline” and that it therefore leads to conservatives being disproportionately powerful relative to their absolute numbers. I’m a Democrat, but the charge is true: these Republicans stick to their guns. We can accuse W of being arrogant, dangerous, divisive, ignorant, and wrong, but he definitely sticks with what he believes is right.

I’ve read some of the other blogs, and it looks like I’m not the only Asian American disturbed by this change of events with 80/20 and Obama. Hope is great, but the most ideal kind of hope is one which always does what is right, one which always strives for perfection, one which always tries to be fair and fights back against low-hitting bullies like Mr. Woo. I’m not going to put all the blame on Obama either; if we Asian Americans had had a stronger political organization based in proper ethics and funded by good money, we could’ve taken out S.B. “Swift-Boat” Woo and his attack hounds. But we didn’t have such organization. Perhaps through the 44s and other organizations, we can now start to set the foundations so that we can have a greater influence on our own culture in the future. So we take our blows right now in hopes that we’ll be stronger and more powerful in the future.

As I mention above, eventually we have to put this behind us. Those of us who have supported Obama so far have an election to win. I may be disappointed, but, as I also mention above, we all have to compromise sometimes.

And I’ll still take Obama over Hillary anyday.

January 30, 2008

The Fight for Asian American Studies

From my 44's blog:

So here's the topic article:


The story:

Harvard, America’s oldest university, does not yet have an Asian American Studies department, even though their student body is 18% Asian. There are only four Asian American studies courses at Harvard and not a single full professor. Harvard’s student faculty argues that there is neither interest nor funding to justify a full concentration or full time professor, and so they haven’t taken any steps to institutionalize Asian American Studies. Naturally, the Asian American students want recognition and continue to fight for the program.

My post:

The history of the fight for Asian American studies is long. The great Frank Chin fought for Asian American Studies during the early 1970’s because he strongly believed that Asian Americans needed an outlet through which they could study and develop their own culture. Both the logic and desire make sense; since Asian Americans are a marginalized part of the population, it would seem rational that we could use a program which focused specifically on Asian American culture. After all, African American Studies has created a space in academia to learn about African American history and to contribute to the growth of their culture, and teachers like Toni Morrison and Cornel West have contributed their works to the dialogue as well as have helped to coach and educate the next generation of black leaders. Seeing what African American Studies has done for African Americans, it would seem rational that a similar program could do similar great things for Asian Americans. We could use Asian American Studies as a platform to develop the arts, political awareness, and intellectual growth of Asian America. At least that was the original intent.

However, there are two crucial historical differences between Asian American Studies and African American Studies. First, African American culture, literature, and activism predated African American Studies by over two hundred years, while the Asian American conscience developed at around the same time during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when our cultural studies programs started. Asian Americans didn’t get the same “running start” outside of academia that African American culture had. Second, African American culture started in a tradition of work and struggle for recognition, while the main proponents of Asian American public “culture” come from a background in postmodernism. Rather than recognizing history and logical discourse, as leaders in African American culture do so well, our “leaders” in academia have deconstructed and attacked it.

This duality has put Asian American culture in a bind. Without the “running start” outside of academia, much of our Asian American discourse takes place among academics in the Ivory Tower. There is nothing wrong with being an academic, but the sheer lack of diversity of voices contributing to the dialogue limits the diversity of ideas. And because our “culture” is rooted in academic postmodernism, our “leaders” often take on typical hostile deconstructionist attitudes that hinder serious dialogue and progress. Rather than trying to understand and interpret history, many of our “leaders” attack history as sexist, racist, classist, or hierarchical, without a thought as to what history might be able to teach us. Many of our “artists” make a living by distorting traditional myths for non-Asian audiences, and our systems reward the people who manage to distort the most history and make the most money in doing so. Asian American organizations have pushed progressive thinkers like Frank Chin, Shawn Wong, and David Mura to the fringes of our culture, while they have bestowed accolades on people like David Henry Hwang, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Amy Tan. Many of our “leaders” produce and perpetuate stereotypes rather than fight them. They silence our voices rather than encourage us. The result has been a “culture” geared towards non-Asian Asiaphiles rather than us Asian Americans. The effect on us has been disasterous. We now have an Asian American population skeptical of its leaders, a population which has trouble getting excited over being Asian American or being part of an Asian American movement, and a people stymied by confusion and mistrust.

I think that Asian American Studies is important, and I agree that schools need Asian American Studies. How else can we progress without education specific to our own issues? However, I also think that any additional programs need a great deal of forethought before instituting yet another Hong Kingston style deconstructionist propaganda outlet which only pretends to be a serious academic department. We need Asian American Studies departments which will provide instruction in the critical thinking our young people need to create change, not departments that aim to please a white audience with distorted representations of Asian history and Asian people. We need Asian American Studies departments that will teach our young people to learn from the past, rather than attacking the past. We need critical intelligent thinkers, not critical deconstructionist propagandists. The stakes are simply too high.

So the Harvard students are right–we do need more Asian American Studies departments. But we need quality too. Education is a critical part of any empowered society. It’s where we set the foundations of human creativity. The struggle ahead will be for all of us–not just the students, but all Asian Americans and people who care about Asian Americans–to set our standards high when making demands for quality education.

The Fighting 44s

I am now a blogger at The Fighting 44s. Please check it out. I will most likely be reposting my 44 stuff here as well.