Topics & Articles



Ethnic Groups




Viet Nam


or Browse the Archives

or Gets Posts by Tags

Most Popular Books on Asian-Nation


All posts copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le.
Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

Blog powered by WordPress

Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

May 30, 2005

Written by C.N.

Racial Slur at Amerasian Baseball Player

Danny Graves is an Amerasian (mother is Vietnamese, father is White) reilef pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds and has been one of their best players for the past eight years. However, last week, he was abruptly released (fired) by the Reds. Their explanation was of his recent slump and ineffective performances. However, most observers argue that it was because he cursed and flipped off a fan who was heckling him after a recent performance.

To make matters worse, the San Jose Mercury News reports that the fan’s heckling also contained a racial epitath: “”Go back to Vietnam, you slant-eyed (vile epithet)!” As noted in the article, Danny’s teammates were generally shocked to hear that their teammate’s employment with the club was terminated so abruptly: “As first baseman Sean Casey put it: ‘Put him on the (disabled list). Pitch him in mopup to let him try to get it right. Don’t throw him out like garbage.'” Another article at notes,

Stunned teammates sat in folding chairs in the clubhouse after learning of the move, which leaves the team without a proven closer. Several players said Graves should have been given a chance to work out his problems. “This is not his fault,” first baseman Sean Casey said. “We stink. For us to be 15-28 has nothing to do with Danny Graves. That’s the frustrating part for me.

“I know I’m a little emotional right now, but I think the Cincinnati Reds as an organization owe a lot more to Danny Graves for the eight years he stepped up every year. They owe him more than to just release him like this. I just disagree with it.”

Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. said he’s never seen anything quite like the move. “It’s tough,” Griffey said. “He’s not a troublemaker. He’s not a guy that complained. He wants the ball. It’s just upsetting. It’s a tough way to lose a guy that’s been here and dedicated himself to the organization.”

As one of the few Asian American (as opposed to Asian) professional baseball players in the sport, it is indeed sad to see his career take such an unpleasant turn. But considering that he played for the Cincinnati Reds, it’s probably not that huge of a shock that he would be treated is such an insensitive, callous, and indeed hostile way.

For those who don’t know, the Cincinnati Reds organization was onced owned and controlled by Marge Schott, whose racial insensitivites were legendary. For example, she routinely called her Black ballplayers her “high-priced niggers” and once said that Adolf Hitler was misunderstood — that he had “good ideas but went too far.” After a few of these embarassing incidents became public, Major League Baseball officials suspended her and ultimately forced her to sell her interest in the team.

But that’s not all — many community activists and scholars know Cincinnati to have one of the worst race relations problems in the entire country. It’s a city in which several young Black men have been shot by White police officers in recent years. It was also where Vincent Chin’s murderers were acquitted by an all-White jury of violating Vincent’s civil rights when they bludgeoned him to death with a baseball bat.

In short and in retrospect, I suppose it was only a matter of time until the city of Cincinnati and its residents showed their true racist colors. I hope Danny Graves signs with a better team that has a few less racist redneck fans.

May 25, 2005

Written by C.N.

The Future of Asian American Television

The Washington Post has an article that describe several recent efforts to develop TV programming aimed at the emerging Asian American population. As the article points out,

Over the past year, at least a half-dozen English-language, 24-hour cable and satellite networks targeting Asians have started or announced plans, such as Comcast-owned AZN and MTV’s three channels for Indian, Chinese and Korean immigrants. They are all clamoring to reach markets with large Asian populations. . . .

As competition intensifies, the networks have discovered that the programming of yesteryear (think amateurs croaking songs on Saturday mornings) no longer cuts it. Unlike the mammoth Latino market, Asians cannot be unified by language, so programmers are trying to lure an audience that straddles several niches. And they compete mightily to create content that will resonate across Asian subgroups and eventually into the mainstream, bringing in the viewers and advertising revenue they need to survive. . . .

In an industry with entire channels devoted to foodies and fashionistas alike, niche programming still needs to reach out and touch everyone. So shows are developed for Asians, as broad as such an audience already is, and sometimes taken even broader. With enough luck and buzz, they could be the next “Iron Chef” (Food Network) or “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” (Bravo).

I find it interesting that on the one hand, several “mainstream” media powerhouses apparently have an interest in developing programming aimed primarily at Asian American audiences, but on the other hand, many of these same media companies are so resistant and utterly clueless about incorporating Asian Americans into their own “mainstream” TV shows, as evidenced by the continuing criticism that they receive from APA organizations about the lack of Asian American characters in primetime TV.

In other words, they want our eyeballs and our money, but don’t want to spotlight us to a general audience — kinda like they’re ashamed of us or something. Hmmm . . .

May 20, 2005

Written by C.N.

Washington D.C.’s Emergent Chinatown

The Pacific News Service has an interesting story about the recent emergence of Washington D.C.’s Chinatown. It describes that in the past, this very small Chinatown was just another area of a neglected urban landscape, rife with crime and stagnation. However, in recent years, due to a pro-business mayoral administration and development, trendy and fashionable stores are now located right next to established Chinatown businesses:

As a popular tourist attraction, however, Chinatown still functions well. Every Chinese New Year, thousands of affluent Chinese American families from nearby Maryland and Virginia come to watch the annual parade. And on weekdays, the district’s dozen remaining Chinese restaurants are packed full with hungry office workers. . .

Affluent national retail chains like Starbucks, Ruby Tuesday, TGIF, Anne Taylor and Hooters have elbowed their way into the six square block ward, giving a flashy, plate-glass gloss to the neighborhood.

For China-born Heung Me Ie, 75, who has lived in Chinatown for 15 years and works as a caretaker in the small Kwun Yum Temple, the changes are welcome. “I think the new shops and restaurants are all good,” she says in Cantonese. “Even if they are not Chinese, they make the streets more lively.”

Time will tell if these new corporate-backed non-Asian businesses eventually squeeze the older, smaller, more established Chinese businesses out (as they have apparently already begun doing), but for now at least, it sounds like it’s a “successful” blending of new and old, Asian and non-Asian — just like America itself.

May 16, 2005

Written by C.N.

Latest Racist Radio Episode

A few weeks ago, the latest radio talk show controversy erupted over racist comments by a pair or DJs on the “Jersey Guys” radio show at NJ 101.5, based in New Jersey. The DJs ridiculed a Korean American policitian seeking local office in New Jersey and as usual, mocked Asian languages and accents. In response, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that two prominent advertisers, Hyundai Motors America and Cingular Wireless, has pulled their advertising from their show (and Hyundai has pulled their ads from the entire station):

Asian-American activists, who have been putting pressure on the station’s advertisers, hailed the decisions to pull the advertising, saying it signals a newfound maturity and strength in the community. . . . “Asian-Americans have always been seen as a passive group that won’t speak up too loudly,” said Veronica Jung, executive director of the Korean American League for Civic Action. “This flies in the face of that. The message is that we will no longer be the voiceless model minority. We represent significant buying power and a large consumer base, and we’ll use that weight.”

[NJ 101.5 representative] Santoro said the station has received hundreds of threats and has contacted local and state police and the FBI. The wave of protests caught the radio station off guard, Santoro said. The station has a meeting with Asian-American activists scheduled for May 19. . . .

Asian-American activists have also found support from elected officials. U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.) . . . Lora Fong, an Edison attorney and past president of the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, said the response from corporations and politicians shows the Asian-American community is organized and willing to speak out.

Let this once again serve as a lesson to all the racists and bigots out there — we Asian Americans are not going to sit around and let people ridicule us and question our American identity. You may have been able to get away with crap like this in the past, but it’s a whole different ballgame now, boy.

May 12, 2005

Written by C.N.

Fighting Crime in Boston’s Chinatown

The Boston Herald has an interesting article about the efforts of residents and business owners in Boston’s Chinatown to fight back against a wave of robberies, muggings, and purse snatchings in their neighborhood:

Chinatown residents are vowing to take back the streets with security cameras on crime-plagued corners, a nightly Crime Watch patrol and police details paid for by residents and businesses. In response to robberies, assaults and at least a dozen purse-snatchings in three months, the community is fighting back.

“We don’t want them to take over Chinatown,” said Kay Chin, longtime owner of the Cathay Corner, a Chinese gift shop on Beach Street. . . . Residents just this week formed Chinatown’s first Crime Watch. Each night until 10 p.m. five to 10 residents roam the streets, taking note of shady characters and and possible drug-dealing. The community even hired its own police detail officer with $15,000 they raised. The officer patrols the streets each night on a bike.

I wonder if thugs and criminals are targeting people in Chinatown based on the belief that Asians are powerless or at least less likely to resist or report the crimes to the police . . .hmmm. At any rate, it’s nice to see that Asian Americans, in this case Chinese Americans in Boston, are fighting for their rights and quality of life — just like any other “regular” American would be entitled to do.

May 9, 2005

Written by C.N.

Does the Future Belong to China?

The May 9 issue of Newsweek magazine has a feature story entitled “Does the Future Belong to China?” We’ve heard these sorts of proclamations before — that the 21st century will eventually be dominated by Asian countries and economies, most notably in the “Megatrends” series of books back in the early 1990s. But the recent emergence of China has put this question front and center on the international political and cultural stage:

Europeans prefer complexity and nuance, the Japanese revere minuteness and minimalism. But Americans like size, preferably supersize. That’s why China hits the American imagination so hard. It is a country whose scale dwarfs the United States — 1.3 billion people, four times America’s population.

For more than a hundred years it was dreams of this magnitude that fascinated small groups of American missionaries and businessmen—1 billion souls to save; 2 billion armpits to deodorize—but it never amounted to anything. China was very big, but very poor. All that is changing. But now the very size and scale that seemed so alluring is beginning to look ominous. And Americans are wondering whether the “China threat” is nightmarishly real. . .

China’s rise is no longer a prediction. It is a fact. It is already the world’s fastest-growing large economy, and the second largest holder of foreign-exchange reserves, mainly dollars. It has the world’s largest army (2.5 million men) and the fourth largest defense budget, which is rising by more than 10 percent annually. Whether or not it overtakes the United States economically . . . it is the powerful new force on the global scene.

The rest of article talks about China’s economic and industrial emergence, its emphasis on results rather than ideology, some of the problems it still faces, and how China is poised to eventually (i.e., not immediately) challenge the U.S. for cultural and political dominance around the world. For the most part, it’s a balanced article and an interesting summary of how China has been able to achieve its recent success.

As an American, I also have to admire China’s recent successes and emergence as a global superpower. As an Asian American, however, I am a little worried about where this will lead. I do not fear China’s power per se. Rather, I am worried about the consequences of China’s emerging power — how the U.S. and Americans will perceive and react to it.

In other words, as China becomes more powerful and presuming that it eventually challenges the U.S.’s political and cultural dominance around the world, more and more Americans are likely to perceive China not just as a rival, but as a threat. And as sociologists will quickly tell you and has history has consistently shown, when a group of people feel threatened, economic competition can turn into racial/ethnic hostility very quickly.

In this context, I can easily see Asian Americans being “caught in the middle,” not necessarily because many of us might cheer for China’s emergence and support its challenge to the U.S., but instead, many Asian Americans would be perceived by other Americans as being “disloyal” or even worse, “treasonous.” That is, our identity as “real” and “authentic” Americans would once again be called into question and as a result, an anti-Asian backlash is sure to erupt.

Where will all of this lead? We may have an entire century to find out but at the rate we’re going (and the rate China’s power is increasing), we might see signs of American uneasiness sooner rather than later.

May 5, 2005

Written by C.N.

Hard-to-Understand College Teachers

The Christian Science Monitor has a story about how many college students complain that they can’t understand their foreign-born instructors (many of whom are Asian-born graduate students). As the article notes, it describes the efforts of one parent in North Dakota to get legislation passed that requires stricter and more formal assessment of foreign instructors’ English fluency. But there are other issues involved:

Yes, some university officials responded, students should be able to understand instructors, but communication is a two-way street. “We live in a global economy … and here in North Dakota, we’ve been doing better [in recent years] at being able to create diversity, and perhaps this is just one of the growing pains,” says R. Craig Schnell, North Dakota State University’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. . .

Today, about one-quarter of the faculty in American universities are foreign-born, and that should be seen as an asset, says Akbar Marvasti, an economics professor at the University of Houston. “Communication skills are important, there’s no question about it, [but] one also needs to acknowledge [their] contributions,” he says, especially in science and math. A longtime US citizen who was born in Iran, he says the increasingly diverse student body will benefit from international role models.

At OSU all potential international TAs are evaluated, and many of them are placed in the Spoken English Program (SEP) for a year before they teach. Some need help with pronunciation and idioms, while others need cultural tips, says SEP director Susan Sarwark. Many are used to an authoritarian classroom, she says, so they find the interaction in America surprising. One new Korean TA commented that his students were lazy because they were always raising their hands. In his country, it would have been selfish to waste a professor’s time with questions in class, he told Ms. Sarwark.

As with most issues, there can certainly be a middle ground herre. On the one hand, it’s true that students should be able to understand their instructors because the quality of their education depends on it. Further, foreign-born instructors would definitely benefit from learning how the styles of teaching can differ between the U.S. and their home countries.

On the other hand, my impression is that many students are quick to complain or at least get frustrated at any type of foreign accent. Perhaps they were socialized to think that because American culture and influence are everywhere, that everybody should be fluent in English. As Prof. Marvasti point out, we live in global and multicultural world and that means that we need to accept and indeed, welcome non-Americans because they have a lot to offer us.

With a little respect and two-way communication, many differences can be overcome rather easily.

May 2, 2005

Written by C.N.

Bill Gates Wants More Asian Engineers and others report that Microsoft Chairman and richest man in the world Bill Gates made a rare trip to the nation’s capital to lobby legislators to end current restrictions on H1-B visas that are given to temporary foreign skilled workers. In this case, Gates wants to expand his ability to hire more foreign computer programmers and engineers from countries such as India, China, Taiwan, and Korea. As the article explains,

Gates and other leading technology executives have pressed Congress aggressively to let them hire more foreign employees by raising visa limits, but Gates hasn’t previously campaigned to abolish the immigration law entirely. Technology executives have argued they are unable to find qualified American workers, a contention disputed by U.S. labor groups and unemployed computer engineers. . .

The Commerce Department undersecretary for technology, Phil Bond, cautioned Gates during his talk that unemployment among U.S. computer engineers regularly exceeds unemployment in other industries. “The politics of that are real,” Bond said. Government figures showed 5.7 percent of information technology employees were out of work last year versus 5.5 percent of all workers.

I am personally torn about this particular issue. On the one hand, I support Gate’s proposal to raise the number of skilled Asian workers who are allowed to work in the U.S. They should be given the opportunity to utilize their skills to the fullest extent possible and to contribute to America’s economic and multicultural strength.

On the other hand, I remain a strong union supporter and part of that stance involves making sure that American workers are given fair opportunities to compete for jobs, rather than automatically giving jobs to workers who are willing to work for lower wages. I also think that the U.S. should not become overly dependent on foreign labor, especially when there seems to be plenty of American high-tech workers who are unemployed.

I don’t know what the best solution is, but I hope that there is some middle ground where both categories of workers are able to part of what they want, so that they all contribute to the same goal — keeping the U.S. economy and culture strong and vibrant.