February 27, 2008

Back to Black

I saw this interesting commentary in the New York Times about how black people around the world see Obama and his race. The author basically sees “African American” as a term that excludes, rather than includes, people. She says that she is happy to go “back to black” because the term is much more inclusive of the many black people around the world, and because so many black people around the world would like to see a black person achieve something that has never been done before.

The Asian version is a good question for “Asian Americans.” China used to go crazy when Michael Chang played tennis, and they had a big banquet for entrepreneur Charles Wang when he visited. I remember living in Japan during the Winter Olympics and hearing Japanese people go crazy over Michelle Kwan. People still want to see people of their ”own kind”breaking historical barriers of achievement.

So does it make sense to just go “Asian?” Or are the cultural issues significant enough so that Asian people around the world have issues that are too different for any meaningful overlap?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/27/opinion/27dilday.html

February 27, 2008

Op-Ed Contributor

Back to Black

By K.A. Dilday

London

I’M black again. I was black in Mississippi in the 1970s but sometime in the 1980s I became African-American, with a brief pause at Afro-American. Someone, I think it was Jesse Jackson, in the days when he had that kind of clout, managed to convince America that I preferred being African-American. I don’t.

Now I live in Britain where I’m black again. Blacks in Britain come from all over, although many are from the former colonies. According to the last census, about half of the British people who identify as black say they are black Caribbean, about 40 percent consider themselves black African, and the rest just feel plain old black. Black Brits are further divided by ancestral country of origin, yet they are united under the term black British — often expanded to include British Asians from the Indian subcontinent.

The term African-American was contrived to give black Americans a sense of having a historical link to Africa, since one of slavery’s many unhappy legacies is that most black Americans don’t know particulars about their origins. Black Americans whose ancestors arrived after slavery and who can pinpoint their country of origin are excluded from the definition — which is why, early in his campaign, people said Barack Obama wasn’t really African-American. Yet, since he has one parent from the African continent and one from the American continent, he is explicitly African-American.

Distinguishing between American black people based on their ancestors’ arrival date ignores the continuum of experience that transcends borders and individual genealogies and unites black people all over the world. Yes, scientists have shown that black means nothing as a biological description, but it remains an important signal in social interaction. Everywhere I travel, from North Africa to Europe to Asia, dark-skinned people approach me and, usually gently but sometimes aggressively, establish a bond.

When, early on in the race for the Democratic nomination, people wondered if black Americans would vote for Mr. Obama, I never doubted. During the last two years I’ve learned to decipher his name in almost any pronunciation, because on finding out that I’m an American, all other black people I meet, whether they are Arabic-speaking Moroccans in Casablanca, French-speaking African mobile-phone-store clerks in the outer boroughs of Paris, or thickly accented Jamaican black Brits, ask me eagerly about him. Black people all over the world feel a sense of pride in his accomplishment.

It’s hard to understand why black Americans ever tried to use the term African-American to exclude people. The black American community’s social and political power derives from its inclusiveness. Everyone who identifies as black has traditionally been welcomed, no matter their skin color or date of arrival. In Britain, in contrast, dark-skinned people who trace their relatives to particular former colonies can be cliquish. Beyond the fact that blacks make up a smaller share of the population here, this regional identity may be a reason that the British black community isn’t as powerful a social and political force.

I’ve never minded not knowing who my ancestors are beyond a few generations. My partner is an Englishman whose family tree is the sort that professional genealogists post on the Internet because it can be traced back to the first king of England in the 11th century. To me, it’s more comforting to know that, through me, our children will be black, with all of the privileges and pains.

On Mr. Obama’s behalf, American blacks have set aside their exclusive label. Polls show that about 80 percent of blacks who have voted in the Democratic primaries have chosen him. And all of the black people in the mountains of Morocco, the poor suburbs of Paris, the little villages in Kenya and the streets of London are cheering Mr. Obama’s victories because they see him as one of their own.

Black Americans should honor that. It’s time to retire the term African-American and go back to black.

K. A. Dilday is a columnist for the online magazine Open Democracy.

February 20, 2008

Jake Shimabukuro


Got this on AAM. Pretty amazing stuff.

February 13, 2008

So what do your parents think about the White Guy?

This is reposted from my blog at The Fighting 44s. It's similar to my last entry.


Props to “uRB4N” on his post:

http://www.thefighting44s.com/forum/showthread.php?p=36815#post36815

Russell Peters was doing a comedy show here last week and he noticed an Asian woman and man in the front row. If you’ve ever been to a comedy show, you know better than to sit in the front. Anyway, he asked this Asian guy his name and he made the usual racial joke that his real name must sound like a kungfu move. He asked them if they were together. He said no and that they were just coworkers. He asks him if he’s single and he responds yes. He turns to the Asian woman and asks if she’s single. She responds no.

Without hesitation, he then asks how her parents feel about her dating a white guy. The whole audience was just laughing their asses off. She didn’t do anything except look down. He did manage to stick up for Asian guys though. He said that at least he knows why Indian women might flee Indian men because of arranged marriages but he also joked about body odor and being boring engineers but he actually said that there was no real reason for Asian men to get the shaft.

I was laughing like crazy when I read Russell Peter’s joke. It’s soo true, and it’s refreshing to see someone of non-Asian (or maybe non-East Asian) descent acknowledge our experiences. Especially in a place like NYC, an Asian woman dating or marrying anything other than a white guy is an anomaly. According to John Tierney in his New York Times blog page, an Asian man on average needs to make $24,000 more money than a white man in order to be viewed as equally attractive to Asian women. How is the average Asian American male expected to compete with such a strong race preference? ($24k is half the average income in the U.S. for non-Hispanic Whites.) Dialectic and xian have both blogged about this issue, and I agree with them on their important commonality; it’s an issue that cannot be ignored given the significance of the trend in the Asian American community. I understand that the interracial dating issue comes up often in the black community, but in the Asian American community, I would argue that it probably is the most significant issue.

I think it’s great that Russell Peters is blowing the silence on the issues that affect Asian American men. Oftentimes, society with its emphasis on masculinity intimidates us into remaining silent. It’s mostly the Kingstonian feminists who are responsible for this. Go to any university with a sizable Asian population, and you can hear them speaking.

“Asian women are making choices. After years of sexism and Asian chauvanism, what did you expect?”

“Oh, if you have trouble with women, maybe it’s because of you personally!”

“Don’t question my white boyfriend; you don’t own our sexuality!”

“Well, Asian American men just have to learn to step up! I don’t see white guys having a problem stepping up.”

“Racism? I’m race-blind. And so is my white boyfriend!”

It’s time for us to take control over our culture by talking about issues that really affect us. Model minority? Yes, that affects us somewhat. Job discrimination? That too. Racial violence? Yes. But nothing affects Asian Americans quite like the Eurocentric racial preference in dating. It affects us through alienation and misunderstanding. It causes a societal loss of spirit, a zeitgeist of hopelessness that permeates everything that we do. Between Asian men and women, it has caused countless misunderstandings and mischaracterizations, even in interactions that are not sexual in nature.

Those Amy Tan types are correct–it’s a personal preference, and no one should dictate what race a person should or shouldn’t marry. I don’t own their sexuality, and if a person just loves the White race, it’s not up to me or anyone else to condemn that preference. But their right to express a racial preference shouldn’t affect my right to question why that preference exists in such large numbers according to so predictable a trend, nor should it affect my right to discuss the way in which their racial preference affects me or millions of Asian men around the world.

The time for silence is over. We need dialogue.

You too?

From a guy called "uRB4N" on the 44's:

http://www.thefighting44s.com/forum/showthread.php?p=36815#post36815

Russell Peters was doing a comedy show here last week and he noticed an Asian woman and man in the front row. If you've ever been to a comedy show, you know better than to sit in the front. Anyway, he asked this Asian guy his name and he made the usual racial joke that his real name must sound like a kungfu move. He asked them if they were together. He said no and that they were just coworkers. He asks him if he's single and he responds yes. He turns to the Asian woman and asks if she's single. She responds no.

Without hesitation, he then asks how her parents feel about her dating a white guy. The whole audience was just laughing their asses off. She didn't do anything except look down. He did manage to stick up for Asian guys though. He said that at least he knows why Indian women might flee Indian men because of arranged marriages but he also joked about body odor and being boring engineers but he actually said that there was no real reason for Asian men to get the shaft.


I'm sorry, but I was laughing like crazy when I read Russell Peter's joke. It's soo true. Especially in a place like NYC, an Asian woman dating or marrying anything other than a white guy is an anomaly. As John Tierney points out in his New York Times blog page, an Asian man on average needs to make $24,000 more money than a white man in order to be viewed as equally attractive to Asian women.

Now enter the Asian Playboy:



http://www.asianweek.com/2008/02/08/proselytizing-‘the-game’/
This guy has been on the 44's before, and he's talked up his game. I actually have nothing against what he's doing other than the fact that I think his approach objectifies women and lacks compassion. But one has to admit that he definitely makes a statement. He's dressed for the part, and he definitely forces people to think about the issue.

February 12, 2008

The APA Vote and the Kristof Technique



This is being discussed on the message board here (thanks, yellowdawg), but I thought I’d repost it on the main page. Above is the youtube version.

I think this segment does a great disservice to Asian Americans. It’s the Nicholas Kristof technique, where they pick harmless token examples of Asian Americans to represent the many. (For more information about the Kristof technique, check out his article here, as well as his response to angry Asian Americans here ,where he tells us what’s best for us.) CNN picked the newest immigrants to interview. They chose people who don’t speak English very well, who do not occupy positions of power, and who do not yet have the confidence or knowledge to work the system. They chose people who are new to this country and who are still in survival mode, and they used them as a vehicle to generalize the whole culture. There are so many people who were born here, some of us two or three generations ago, and yet they chose to ignore us.If they had asked one of the 44’s or anyone from any of the big Asian American blogs/message boards, they would’ve had a better story. They could’ve interviewed people at the many universities in Washington or California. They could’ve spoken to professionals or politicians of Asian descent. They could’ve spoken to community leaders. They could’ve easily done better than getting a woman voting for Hillary because she’s a “white lady” or a 14 year old boy saying that he would vote for Lincoln.

What I find especially mind-boggling is that these media companies are not racially homogenous anymore. Every news station has an Asian female anchor, and I’m sure there are tons of Asian guys working as grips and editors in the newsroom. If they want the Asian American news, why don’t they ask Asian Americans? If Kristof himself wanted real answers about Asian Americans, why doesn’t he just ask his Chinese wife? As you can see from Kristof’s original blog, we complain all the time (and yes, I was actually one of those Asian Americans who sent him an angry letter and got dismissed), but whenever we bring up complaints or suggestions, we get brushed off with the same Kristofian answer: “I don’t buy it.” I love how he supposedly gives us the last word, and yet two years later, the NY Times still doesn’t have a prominent Asian American Op-Ed writer.

The media is supposed to report the news. So why don’t they get of their butts and report the news instead of yapping about the same old orientalist nonsense?

February 7, 2008

Romney Drops Out

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/02/07/romney.campaign/index.html

Mitt Romney suspended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination Thursday, saying if he continued it would "forestall the launch of a national campaign and be making it easier for Sen. Clinton or Obama to win."

"In this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.


Yup, that's right, because if you vote Democratic, you're agreeing to "surrender to terror." These fear tactics would be funny if only they didn't work so well. Well, it looks like Bush's closer counterpart just dropped out. The Huck-ster is still in, but McCain is going to eliminate him too pretty soon.

February 6, 2008

February 4, 2008

Money and the Ivy League

Saw this article today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/04/education/04endowment.html

It's about the enormous amount of wealth amassed by Harvard and other Ivy League schools. I've seen a number of articles discussing this topic. I'm not sure what the solution is.

One thing which struck me in the article though is this statement:

“These institutions continue to build up their kitties,” said Representative John F. Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts. “They say it is the schools’ money. But it is not all the schools’ money. Some of it is. But when a donor gives them money, he is able to give more because he is not paying taxes. So some of what they have is federal money, every student’s money, every family’s money.”

I don't know if I agree that the tax policy should be changed for schools--maybe it should--I haven't yet formed an opinion on that (though companies might stop matching our school donations). But Tierney's implication seems to be that the schools, because donors are receiving a tax break, should have to spend it since it supposedly doesn't belong to the school. It's such a typical governmental way of seeing things. I for one would be glad if the government would build up a surplus the way Harvard has. Now of course there may be a conflict on interest if government were to invest in private companies as Harvard does, so things are probably not so simple...

Couple Gives UCLA $1 million to further Chinese American Studies

This is good news, and it’s related to my last blog post about Asian American Studies at Harvard. It looks like Asian American philanthropy is really starting to pick up, and it’s good that people are doing this in a way that promotes a public benefit related to education. The money will be good for research, and hopefully it will also encourage more Asian American philanthropists to give.

When it comes to the quality of education, I think that change may eventually come from people like us (i.e. people who don’t own one of the world’s largest plastic piping firms). We’re the ones who can best see things on the ground level and know the issues that affect us. Billionaire activism for Asian American literature would be nice, but eventually the change has to come from the bottom up rather than the top down.ation, I think that change may eventually come from people like us (i.e. people who don’t own one of the world’s largest plastic piping firms). We’re the ones who can best see things on the ground level and know the issues that affect us. Billionaire activism for Asian American literature would be nice, but eventually the change has to come from the bottom up rather than the top down.


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-wang2feb02,1,5480777.story
From the Los Angeles Times
Couple Gives UCLA $1 million to further Chinese American Studies
Bel-Air residents intend the gift to broaden understanding and educate the public and policymakers.
By Teresa WatanabeLos Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 2, 2008
Headlines about dangerous toys from China dominated the news for months last year, prompting congressional hearings and consumer questions about the Asian manufacturing giant’s product safety.
But Walter and Shirley Wang, Bel-Air residents with three children, asked a different question: Where were the headlines pointing out that some of the problems were caused not by shoddy Chinese manufacturing practices but by American design flaws?
Concerned that China and ethnic Chinese are not always understood, the Wangs have stepped forward with a remedy.
On Friday, the Chinese American couple said that they would donate $1 million to UCLA to establish the nation’s first endowed academic chair on U.S.-China relations and Chinese American studies.
The gift will also fund a media program to educate the public and policymakers. The program will establish a website, media and policy handbook, and a database of experts about Chinese American issues.
“We’re not saying we want people to be biased for China,” Shirley Wang said. “But in every situation there are different views. We just want more understanding.”
The gift marks the latest effort by the Wangs, owners of one of the world’s largest plastic piping firms, to promote understanding of Chinese Americans and U.S.-China relations.
In 2000, they donated $1.5 million to help finance the acclaimed PBS series “Becoming American: The Chinese Experience.”
The couple’s interest in public perceptions and media portrayals of Chinese Americans is in part a product of Shirley Wang’s background: She is a 1990 UCLA graduate in communications, with an emphasis on business.
But their concerns were fanned by a 2001 survey of American attitudes toward China and Chinese Americans commissioned by the Committee of 100, a group of prominent Chinese Americans. That poll reported 68% of Americans surveyed viewed China as a future threat and nearly half believed that Chinese Americans were probably more loyal to China.
The survey also showed, however, majorities that viewed Chinese Americans as honest and as patriotic as other Americans, with strong family and educational values.
But the Wangs — he a 42-year-old Taiwan native; she a 39-year old New York native raised in Taiwan — have also given beyond the Chinese American community. A $1.5-million donation established an endowed chair in pediatric surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
They are currently involved with the Earth Institute to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars of plastic piping to bring clean water to destitute villagers in Africa.
Why give? “It’s very clear,” Walter Wang said. “The strong helps the weak. The rich helps the poor. It’s a great thing to give to others.”
The Wangs’ donations, which began eight years ago, reflect the emerging force of Chinese American philanthropy.
In recent years, a growing cadre of ethnic Chinese who came to the United States as immigrant students or entrepreneurs have begun giving back. Chinese Americans have donated millions of dollars, for instance, to construct the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
The garden is set to open later this month.
“The Wangs represent a new breed of young, successful Chinese immigrant business people who want to give back to American society and . . . use their money to positively address important issues,” said Don Nakanishi, who heads the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
Nakanishi said the endowment would generate about $50,000 a year to support the media program, offer scholarships and support the research of the chair holder, who has not yet been named.
The center has the largest Asian American studies program in the nation, with 45 faculty members, two academic journals, extensive archives and endowed chairs for research on Japanese Americans and Korean Americans.
Walter Wang said his charitable giving is “100%” inspired by his Christian faith.
His grandfather, the family’s first Christian, used to take in homeless people to bathe, clothe and feed though he himself was poor, Wang said.
His father began a successful plastics firm and proceeded to use much of the profits for charity, building four hospitals.
Shirley Wang, too, recalls her grandmother always cooking extra and inviting hungry neighbors to share a meal.
“It’s just an extra pair of chopsticks,” Wang recalled her grandmother saying.
Walter Wang’s near-fatal bout with nasal cancer three years ago — and what both Wangs call a miraculous recovery — deepened their passion to use their wealth to help others. “We rediscovered how precious life is,” Walter Wang said.
“Through the love of God, we have to make a difference in people’s lives.”