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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.

July 28, 2005

Written by C.N.

Prostitution and the Korean American Community

Interesting article from the New California Media about recent events surrounding a sex trafficking bust in California, in which about a 100 women from Korea were working as prostitutes, many of them forced into it after being deceived with promises of legal jobs in the U.S. The article focuses on how the Korean American community is reacting to it and how they feel that since these activities reflect badly on them, they need to do more to stop such illegal activities in their community:

Hong Ik Kim, executive director of the Bay Area Korean American Community Center, said that the recent arrests were “very shameful for the Korean community.” He said these kinds of scandals ruin the image of Korean Americans in the United States. “So we need to be especially vigilant about halting these kinds of practices within our communities.” . . . He insisted that in order to eradicate the problem, Koreans should report to the authorities whenever they become aware of such establishments in their communities. . .

Despite these strong reactions, there is a prevailing attitude of acceptance of prostitution among Koreans. Though offically illegal, prostitution thrives in major Korean cities like Seoul and Pusan. . . . Sun Jung Cho, a San Francisco psychologist working with victims of domestic violence, said the Korean community needs to explore the origins of prostitution and trafficking in their country. She believes there is a lack of dialogue within the Korean community regarding the sex trade and issues of gender inequality.

It’s an interesting situation. On the one hand, I think that it’s commendable that the Korean American community is increasingly concerned about how these illegal activities affect their image in the U.S. and that they need to be more proactive in trying to stop them. At the same time, the point that Korean society still does not value the worth or equality of a woman and that this pervasive mentality contributes to the exploitation of women is also very well taken.

Like a good sociologist would point out, the problem has both more immediate and direct causes, along with more indirect, structural causes as well.

July 25, 2005

Written by C.N.

New Hate Crime Bill in CA

From Angry Asian Man (one of my favorite sites), here’s a news release from the Asian Pacific American Legal Center about new hate crimes legislation in California, inspired by recent crimes committed against Asian Americans in the state:

Hate Crimes Civil Remedies Act to Provide Justice for Hate Crime Victims Passes Senate Floor

LOS ANGELES – On Monday, July 11, 2005, AB 378, the Hate Crime Civil Remedies Act, authored by Assembly Member Judy Chu, passed the California State Senate with a vote of 23-12. Co-sponsored by CAA/Center for Asian American Advocacy, Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), Asian Law Caucus, and Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality, a collaborative project of the three organizations, AB 378 provides justice for hate crime victims by extending the time limit for which they can file a civil suit for a $25,000 civil penalty from one year to three years.

AB 378 was inspired by a 2003 case in San Francisco where five Asian American teens were brutally attacked by a mob of approximately 20 white youth while celebrating their impending high school graduation. The five teens were accosted with racial slurs and chased down by their attackers as they tried to flee the scene. Although three attackers were caught at the scene, only one attacker was identified and charged with a crime. Even then, it took one year to bring that perpetrator to trial. It was only at trial that the identity of the other attackers came to light.

Unfortunately, the lengthy process of identifying hate crime perpetrators and concluding a criminal trial creates obstacles that prevent hate crime victims from seeking meaningful civil remedies. Victims are advised not to file civil suits until the criminal case has concluded since civil suits can negatively affect the outcome of the criminal trial. The unfortunate consequence, though, is that many victims find themselves beyond the statute of limitation to file a civil lawsuit once the criminal trial has ended.

“AB 378 will give hate crime victims a fair opportunity to seek civil remedies,” stated Assembly Member Judy Chu. “Victims should not be forced to choose between seeking criminal justice or civil redress. My bill, AB 378 will allow adequate time for hate crime perpetrators to be identified and for the criminal trial to conclude prior to the victim’s loss of their rights to file a civil suit.”

“Hate crimes strike fear in our communities,” stated Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of APALC. “As a society, we cannot tolerate hate crimes, which assail not only the individual victim, but all members of the community. We all have a stake in providing meaningful justice for hate crime victims.”

“Despite the dialogue and achievements of the civil rights movement, many Californians continue to be violently targeted based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation,” cited Luna Yasui, acting Executive Director of CAA. “The civil penalty is a statement of our society’s opposition to these types of crimes, and AB 378 makes it meaningful by allowing more time for victims to seek it.”

“The broad-based coalition of supporters is a sign of the public sentiment to improve justice for hate crime victims. We want to thank Assembly Member Judy Chu and her staff for their tremendous leadership in addressing hate crime issues,” said Phil Ting, Executive Director of Asian Law Caucus.

Next, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will determine whether to sign AB 378 into law.

July 22, 2005

Written by C.N.

Native Hawaiian Sovereignty

The New York Times reports that there’s currently a bill in Congress that would recognize the sovereignty of hundreds of thousands of Native Hawaiians, and would them the same kinds of rights as Native Alaskans and Native Americans:

112 years after United States troops helped overthrow the independent Kingdom of Hawaii and 12 years after Congress apologized for it, that Hawaiian distinctiveness appears close to being formally recognized by the United States government. A bill that for the first time would extend sovereignty to the native Hawaiian people is poised for a vote – and likely approval – in the United States Senate despite opposition from many Republicans who denounce the measure as unworkable and as promoting racial Balkanization.

The bill, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, is considered the most significant development for native Hawaiians since statehood in 1959. The measure would give them equivalent legal standing to American Indians and native Alaskans and lead to the creation of a governing body that would make decisions on behalf of the estimated 400,000 native Hawaiians in the United States. . . .

But [the bill’s supporters] acknowledge there are basic questions that will take years of negotiations to answer, like how native Hawaiians would go about governing themselves, whether native Hawaiians in and outside the state would live under different laws from other citizens, and who would qualify as a native, given the large degree of assimilation through marriage and the many Hawaiians living on the mainland.

The article goes on to describe two groups that stand in opposition to the bill — each from both sides of the debate. On the one hand, many conservatives oppose the bill, saying that it promotes racial/ethnic separatism and a “rejection of the American melting pot ideal,” as Arizona Senator Jon Kyl put it. On the other hand, there are other critics who contend that the bill does not go far enough to end the “foreign colonialism” of the U.S. over Native Hawaiian rights.

As one of my favorite saying goes, “I don’t know what’s the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” On the other hand, the practical reality is that sometimes, compromise is the only way to get things done, particularly when it comes to politics. I’m not sure if this bill is trying to please everybody, but it does seem to be a workable compromise. In the end, I suppose that’s the best that both sides of the debate will get.

July 18, 2005

Written by C.N.

India Video Game Programmers

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the latest outsourcing pattern in the information technology sector involves shifting the development and programming of video games to computer programmers in India. This follows on the heels of software, technical, and customer support jobs already being outsourced to India.

Jason Robar, an Issaquah, Wash., consultant who brokers overseas deals between game developers and publishers, said India is climbing up the food chain of countries that make games. Its biggest advantage is its English-speaking, tech-savvy workforce. But its short history in games means that it’s behind countries such as Korea and China, he said. . . .

Rao wants Dhruva to eventually create original video games for the Indian market, which he believes will become a hot market for Western video game makers. . . . Dhruva will focus on both outsourcing and making games for the Indian market. As it improves its track record, Rao says, the company will continue climbing up the food chain, doing more original work.

The article also mentions that playing video games in India is apparently more popular than even in the U.S.: “About 30 percent of those polled in India said they spend half their leisure time playing games, compared with about 20 percent in Mexico and 24 percent in the United States.”

Like I’ve said in the past, outsourcing is inevitable within a capitalist system. But I have to admit that I’m getting a little uneasy myself — how long will it be before the job of university professor gets outsourced to India as well?

July 15, 2005

Written by C.N.

Latest Racist Radio Skit

It’s a pretty sad statement that racist comments and jokes against Asian Americans (and people of color in general) on the radio are becoming more and more commonplace in American society, and the latest example comes from Albany, NY (where I lived for six years during graduate school). Asian Media Watch reports that on June 21 and 22, DJs at WRCZ 94.5 made several derogatory comments and racial slurs at Asian Americans and Blacks:

Come to think of it I have it over at Bok Choy’s cleaning it. I have it over at Bok Choy’s Deluxe Cleaners on Western Avenue. And uh. He says “Man, dat big shirt. Big shirt. I neva seen such big shirt before. Preez shirt. Preez shirt. Big shirt.” [imitating Asian accent with Asian music playing in background] And your point is? You slant-eyed little gook. Just clean it.” Pi: “Want some chicken?” [imitating Asian accent] . . .

[Plays “When the Saints Go Marching In” by Louis Armstrong”] JR: [imitating Louis Armstrong] “Pick that cotton. [laughter] [sings imitating Louis Armstrong] Nobody knows the trouble I seen. Nobody knows my trials. You know I’ve been to the mountain top! Summertime and the living is easy. Catfish jumping and the cotton is high. Your daddy’s rich and your momma’s good looking. So ah hush little baby. Don’t you cry.”

Pi: Isn’t it a coincidence that Michael Jordan is doing commercials for cotton underwear? [laughter] What? Anyone else notice that? JR: Hi. I’m Michael Jordan. I’m wearing cotton underwear. I picked it myself.”

These are only selected excerpts — there are several more incidents of racist slurs and comments. Just because these kinds of events are becoming more common, we as Asian Americans should not get lulled into complacency and resign ourselves to being treated with such ignorance, disrespect, and hostility.

If you feel the same way, please visit the Asian Media Watch site and copy their complaint email to send to the radio station, Galaxy Communications (the station’s parent company), and most importantly, to the Federal Communications Commission.

July 13, 2005

Written by C.N.

Fat Thai Policemen has an article that describes how policemen in Thailand who have waists larger than 40 inches are being told that they need to lose weight and to slim down:

Recent medical examinations of 4,150 police officers in Bangkok found that 49 percent have high cholesterol and are overweight, which is “an obstacle” in directing traffic, said a statement from the Metropolitan Police Bureau. Eighty-eight of the overweight officers whose waistlines ranged between 40 and 49 inches were ordered to join the “Smart Police,” a one-month weight-loss program.

Participants will have to eat according to doctors’ instructions and meet for daily exercise and evening meals at the Bangkok hospital sponsoring the program. . . . Those who do not show progress will also undergo acupuncture, a Chinese medical practice believed to help cure many ills, including obesity.

Now if they could only do this for New York City police officers . . .

July 10, 2005

Written by C.N.

Tsunami Song Writer Back at Work

A reader just alerted me that as reported by the San Jose Mercury News, Rick Delgado, the guy behind the infamous Tsunami Song that ridiculed victims of the Asian tsunami tragedy and which contained racial epitaths against Asians, has just been hired to go a new morning show on “Wild 94.5” in the San Francisco Bay Area:

[Station executive Kim] Bryant says Delgado and the new show featuring local deejay “Strawberry” and Fay Carmona, last in Miami, will be more community-oriented and listener-friendly than the “Doghouse,” which she said got to be more about the hosts than the community.

In a surprising interview, Delgado said he thinks he was misinterpreted and wrote a song that was only in bad taste, but not racist, even though it used an epithet for Chinese people. He said he won’t do that again, “because I like their food and want to eat in their restaurants.”

That’s great. The next thing you know, he’ll claim that he can’t be racist against Asians because his girlfriend/car/rug/vase is “Oriental.” Real nice . . .

July 7, 2005

Written by C.N.

Welcome to the Neighborhood — Or Not

Devotees of TV reality shows may have heard about the ABC show Welcome to the Neighborhood that was to be aired this month. The premise was that seven families would have the chance to win a house located in an affluent suburb of Austin, TX, with three of the families already living in the neighborhood given the power to vote off one family each week until the winning family is “crowned.” The seven contestant families included Korean Americans, wiccan witches, Blacks, gay men who adopted a Black baby, tatooed rebels, a White family where the mom is a stripper, and a single Hispanic mother with four kids.

However, many civil rights groups were alarmed at the premise that White neighbors were given the power to determine who could be their neighbor, which is actually against the law. As a result of mounting criticisms and a threat of a lawsuit, Yahoo News reports that ABC has decided not to air the show at all, even though all the episodes have already been shot and were ready to go:

With a threatened lawsuit and accusations the network was tone deaf to bigotry, ABC may have traded a major headache for the temporary embarrassment of throwing out a series that was already finished. . . “Why should people of color and others … be humiliated and degraded to teach white people not to be bigots?” said Shanna Smith, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “That’s not good for race relations in America.”

Within the first two episodes, one man made a crack about the number of children piling out of the Hispanic family’s car. The citizenry of the business-owning Asian family was questioned and displays of affection between the gay men were met with disgust. . . . “I really think it’s such a positive show and such a good thing to put on TV and cause viewers to look at themselves, I’m surprised by the negative reaction to it,” said Andrea Wong, head of alternative programming at ABC.”

ABC’s lawyers gave “Welcome to the Neighborhood” the go-ahead, and it apparently didn’t disturb Wong when the family that shared her Asian-American descent was the first to be knocked out.

The show’s critics are completely justified in their outrage — it is indeed illegal to deny people housing on the basis of race/ethnicity, among a list of many factors. Based just on that, the show never should have been developed and shot in the first place.

Having said that however, I am a little disappointed that the show will not be aired because it means that the nation will not get to see just how judgmental, intolerant, and racist otherwise “normal” White Americans can be. This would have been a great opportunity to show people that contrary to popular beliefs, racial prejudice is alive and well in America and that given the power, many Whites will not hesitate in discriminating against people of color.

July 4, 2005

Written by C.N.

The Decline of Tech Jobs

CNN has an article that describes how many young college graduates who had planned on getting computer programming and other high tech jobs in the Information Technology industry have had second thoughts. Instead, many are now entering marketing, finance, sales, business consulting and other fields that are seen as more insulated from the threat of outsourcing to Asian countries:

As tens of thousands of engineering jobs migrate to developing countries, many new entrants into the U.S. work force see info tech jobs as monotonous, uncreative and easily farmed out — the equivalent of 1980s manufacturing jobs. . . . Career experts say the decline of traditional tech jobs for U.S. workers isn’t likely to reverse anytime soon.

The U.S. software industry lost 16 percent of its jobs from March 2001 to March 2004, the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute found. [By 2010], worldwide demand for technology developers — a job category ranging from programmers people who maintain everything from mainframes to employee laptops — is forecast to shrink by 30 percent. . . .

Thousands of U.S. companies have opened branches or hired contractors in India, China and Russia, transforming a cost-saving trick into a long-term business strategy. Offshoring may be a main factor in eroding enthusiasm for engineering careers among American students, creating a vast supply of low-wage labor in eastern Europe and Asia and driving down worldwide wages.

Although the article doesn’t really acknowledge it, a disproportionate share of these college students who used to dream of high tech jobs are Asian Americans. That brings us to a very interesting paradox — Asian American workers feeling threatened and potentially hostile toward Asian workers because these Asian workers are likely to be the beneficiaries of outsourcing at the expense of Asian American (and other American) workers.

How will this development affect racial/ethnic solidarity among Asian Americans and Asians? Stay tuned . . .

July 1, 2005

Written by C.N.

Fears Over China’s Bid for More Oil

Several news agencies such as report that China is seeking to purchase Unocal Corp., one of the largest oil companies in the world. You’ve probably heard that supposedly, one of the reasons why the price of oil (and as a result, of gasoline) is China’s increasing appetite for oil (nevermind that the U.S.’s demand for oil still far outweighs that of China’s). Some critics of China see this potential takeover as a national security threat, or at the least, the latest example of China’s economic imperialism:

The prospect of a Chinese oil company gobbling up an American one has stirred up fears that U.S. energy and national security are at risk, yet the supposed dangers — that China will hoard energy resources or use deepwater drilling technology for military purposes — appear far from certain.

The Chinese government is going after these energy supplies to control them and lock them up,” said Richard D’Amato, chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. D’Amato said the amount of oil and natural gas produced by Unocal — less than 1 percent of U.S. consumption — may not be enough to cause alarm, but he’s worried that after a couple more deals like this one China’s oil industry will have a worrisome level of influence in the market.

Economists . . . dismiss his underlying fear for two reasons: oil is a fungible commodity that CNOOC is likely to trade to accumulate wealth and, even if China does decide to use Unocal’s production for itself, it means the country will be that much less dependent on other supplies that the U.S. and others would consume.

I suppose it is inevitable that when an Asian company or country tries to buy a U.S. corporation, it’s look upon with significant suspicion, that somehow the Asians are taking over the country. This happened in the 1980s with Japan and led to tons of Japan-bashing and apparently, it’s now the latest rage among neo-conservatives here regarding anything China does.

You’ll recall that the Japan-bashing in the 1980s led to suspicions, hostilities, and violence against Asians, whether they were Japanese or not. How soon will history start to repeat itself here — if it hasn’t started already — regarding China-bashing?