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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.

August 31, 2006

Written by C.N.

Latest ACT Scores by Racial Group

As the ACT test continues to gain in popularity at the expense of its increasingly-maligned competitor, the SAT, aggregate results from the latest rounds of ACT tests show that while test scores improved for all racial/ethnic groups from last year, some groups’ improvement is notably higher than others:

No ethnic or racial group showed decreases this year. But Asian Americans — already the highest performing group on the ACT — posted larger gains than other groups, increasing the gaps among groups. During the last five years, Asian Americans have seen their average composite score increase by 0.7 — compared to gains of 0.2 for American Indians and Hispanics and 0.3 for black and white students.

This related article discusses some other trends from the recent results and gives the following statistical breakdown of median scores for each racial/ethnic group:

Group Critical Reading Mathematics Writing
American Indian 487 494 474
Asian 510 578 512
African American 434 429 428
Mexican American 454 465 452
Puerto Rican 459 456 448
Other Hispanic 458 463 450
White 527 536 519
Other 494 513 493
Race unknown 487 506 482
All 503 518 497

To summarize, not only do Asian Americans have the highest average scores of all the major racial/ethnic groups to begin with, but their scores increased the most this past year as well. It just goes to show that in terms of standardized test scores, this particular aspect of Asian Americans being the “model minority” does have some validity.

August 29, 2006

Written by C.N.

Latest Survivor Divides Teams by Race

I’m not a big fan of reality TV series but for those of you who watch Survivor, you may have heard that for their upcoming season, they will be dividing up teams based on racial/ethnic identity, with separate teams of Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians. Several politicians are raising concerns that this structure will only lead to further racial divisions and tensions in American society:

“The idea of having a battle of the races is preposterous,” City Councilman John Liu said Thursday. “How could anybody be so desperate for ratings?” Liu, who is Asian-American, said he was launching a campaign urging CBS to pull the show because it could encourage racial division and promote negative typecasts. He and a coalition of officials, including the council’s black, Latino and Asian caucus, planned to rally at City Hall on Friday.

In a statement, CBS defended the ethnic twist, saying it follows the show’s tradition of introducing new creative elements and casting structures that reflect cultural and social issues. “CBS fully recognizes the controversial nature of this format but has full confidence in the producers and their ability to produce the program in a responsible manner,” the statement said. “‘Survivor’ is a program that is no stranger to controversy and has always answered its critics on the screen.”

I certainly agree that there is a potential for viewers to interpret the new team structure as a reflection of American society in general and that therefore, different racial/ethnic groups should stick with each other and be wary of others who aren’t like them. But I also think that for better or for worse and in many ways, American society is already at that point — we only need to look at the hateful vitriol directed at illegal immigrants (in essence, directed at Mexicans) as proof.

In other words, I don’t see Survivor as really inciting Americans to divide themselves by race — Survivor only seems to be the latest example of that increasing trend. For better and for worse, I have long ago given up hope that the mainstream entertainment industry can be positive engines for social change. Instead, as the Asian American Justice Center’s annual reports indicate, they continue to woefully lag behind the rest of American society when it comes to incorporating and portraying America’s true racial/ethnic diversity.

In that context however, in this upcoming season, Survivor’s producers have the opportunity to either inflame existing tensions even more, or to demonstrate that racial differences do not necessarily have to lead to prejudice or hostility. Is there still a glimmer of hope that the entertainment industry can rise to the occasion, or will it just be the same old, same old? As they say, stayed tuned to find out . . .

August 27, 2006

Written by C.N.

The Viet Kieu in Viet Nam

The term Viet Kieu in general refers to overseas Vietnamese and more specifically, to Vietnamese who were basically forced to flee Viet Nam at the end of the war and resettle elsewhere around the world (and to the children born outside of Viet Nam of these refugees). In recent years, more and more Viet Kieu have returned to Viet Nam for various purposes and in the process, have stirred up mixed feelings from both sides:

Not unlike the “ugly American” stereotype that hangs over the head of every Yankee visitor to Paris, stories about wicked Viet Kieu have been woven into the fabric of local urban legends since the country opened its doors to the outside world nearly two decades ago.

Such tales usually star a pleasantly plump middle-aged Vietnamese American fresh off the plane, overdressed and flaunting his purported wealth for all hungry eyes to see. He’s come back, we are told, to wed a young virgin and whisk her back to a life of manicures and spa treatments in southern California.

He can’t speak a word of his mother tongue, but money still talks in the former Saigon, and instead of visiting his relatives, Mr. VK treats himself to a suite at the Las Vegas-style Rex, special “massages,” lavish dinners and bottles of the finest liquor before stepping gingerly over the beggars who stare up at him from the sidewalk and ask why he has been chosen instead of them.

The rest of the article contains excerpts of interviews conducting with about a dozen Viet Kieu on various issues concerning their experiences of living and working in Viet Nam. There are many very interesting insights that the Viet Kieu share, such as how their Vietnamese coworkers may appear to be “lazy” workers, how they’re treated with either disdain or exaggerated deference, and how language difficulties inhibit their full assimilation back into Vietnamese culture.

I found the article very fascinating and definitely recommend all Asian Americans — not just Vietnamese Americans — to check it out and to get a detailed, ethnographic look at how ethnic identity and solidarity can be segmented by geography, language, and culture. If anything, the article brings home what I’ve been saying all along — being Asian (or Vietnamese) is not the same as being Asian (or Vietnamese) American.

August 24, 2006

Written by C.N.

Discrimination Against Asian American Teachers

Soon-Ja Kim is a Korean American teacher in Maryland who has taught third grade at the same elementary school for over 20 years and has been nominated for Teacher of the Year several times. Nevertheless, a recent peer review labeled her as an “underperformer” and she feels that she is being targeted for possible termination because she speaks English with an accent:

Brian Edwards, spokesman for Montgomery County Schools said that Kim’s Korean accent would not have a bearing on the case. “As the evidence of underperformance is the only matter the peer panel considers in making this determination,” Edwards said. Kim said she feels she is being forced out.

“When I retire, I would like to retire with honor — not in shame or disgrace,” Kim said. Her lawyer is representing Kim for free. He said he has had two children in her class. “It’s age discrimination and it’s race discrimination — and it’s ugly. The school system has systematically refused to listen to parents,” said attorney Gary Tepper.

Some parents said they have written the school superintendent on behalf of Kim. “Mrs. Kim found a way to touch my daughter and to get her to feel really interested in reading. She encouraged her. She motivated her,” said parent Ralph Kahn.

Unless there is overwhelming evidence that she is incompetent or committed some severe transgression, it seems pretty clear that she is indeed being targeted because she is Asian, an immigrant, and speaks English with an accent. Also, let’s not discount some degree of jealousy among her so-called “peers,” some of whom may be trying to force her out because they feel that as an Asian American, she might keep quiet and not put up a fight.

This particular story follows on the heels of an earlier controversy in which a Vietnamese American woman, Kimoanh Nguyen- Lam, was initially hired to be the first Vietnamese American Superintendent of Orange County, CA — in the Westminster school district, home to Little Saigon, the largest Vietnamese community outside of Viet Nam. However, shortly thereafter and without any reason, the school board who hired here rescinded their offer:

Board member Judy Ahrens, who voted May 23 to hire Nguyen-Lam, changed her position Tuesday. “My only comment is I felt the process was too rushed,” she said. Board President Blossie Marquez voted to hire Nguyen-Lam. “I’m so hurt and very upset,” she said of the reversal. “This decision is very disappointing and very prejudiced. Race played an issue.”

Marquez said she and the other Hispanic board member, Sergio Contreras, wanted to hire Nguyen- Lam on Tuesday but that the three white members – Ahrens, Jo-Ann Purcell and James Reed – did not.

Unfortunately, these two incidents highlight how the field of education is not immune to racism, prejudice, and xenophobia. What should alarm us even more is that we as citizens have implicitly entrusted these “authorities” to make decisions on our behalf that will have direct consequences on our younger generation and our community.

But instead of representing the wishes of their constituents and reflecting the changing demographics of their community, these “educational leaders” are apparently retreating into fear, ignorance, and plain old racial discrimination. In other words, as the old 1980s song “Some Things Never Change” by Devo goes, “Small minds play big time games, and everybody else pays.”

August 22, 2006

Written by C.N.

Immigration Fraud in Little Saigon

By now, we should know that because of various push and pull factors, many people are desperate to immigrate to the U.S. In that context, there are several illegitimate ways in which people have tried/are using in order to come to the U.S. Recently, authorities have busted a scam that involved Vietnamese American citizens fraudulently sponsoring women from Viet Nam as wives:

The scam targeted in Operation Newlywed Game, allegedly spearheaded by defendant Julie Tran and others, was dismantled in late 2005 after investigators arrested 43 people on suspicion of conspiracy, misuse of visas and marriage fraud. Of those, 18 have been convicted or have pleaded guilty and 25 are facing trial. . . . Authorities said she was linked to 75 phony marriages and the filing of about 100 bogus visa petitions.

The scams are popular in Little Saigon, where immigrants learn of them through word of mouth, agents say. The perpetrators recruited U.S. citizens mostly at casinos — those who were on a losing streak and needed quick money, agents said. The immigrants trying to get into the United States would pay the “facilitators” organizing the scams, who then would pay the U.S. citizens willing to pose as husbands. . . .

Authorities say many Vietnamese families in the U.S. will pool their money — up to $60,000 in cases involving Tran — to bring over relatives, hoping the bogus marriages will help the relatives obtain citizenship.

This particular story is rather tragic on both sides. On the one hand, Vietnamese women and their families are lured into this scam, given false hope that this is an easy way to immigrate to the U.S., and end up paying thousands of dollars (which in Viet Nam can amount to several years if not decades of earnings), only to have their hopes dashed.

On the other hand, the organizers of this scam were also apparently preying on Vietnamese men with a gambling addiction and desperate to earn some money. Instead of trying to help these men with their addiction, they exploited their vulnerabilities for their own gain. In other words, the Vietnamese community lost out twice with this scam — three if you also count the fact that the Vietnamese were scammed by those within their own community.

Indeed, this particular story is tragic in many different ways and the perpetrators deserve to be punished. At the same time, I see this story as a symptom of the larger problem — that the immigration system is broken, in many ways too restrictive, and needs to be reformed immediately.

Many in the Asian American community have called for easing the backlog of family reunification applications that are currently languishing within the administrative bureaucracy and only serve to heighten the desperation that many Vietnamese (and others) feel to come to the U.S. In other words and as this story describes, there are many ways to immigrate to the U.S. illegally.

As I’ve written before, in order to address these symptoms once and for all, we need comprehensive immigration reform, not narrow-minded kneejerk proposals that may only temporarily decrease illegal immigration or only shift the flow somewhere else.

August 20, 2006

Written by C.N.

More Anti-Indian Politician Comments

First we had Senator Joseph Biden’s careless remarks about Indian American business owners in Delaware. Now, Republican Senator George Allen is under fire for singling out an Indian American at a recent rally and calling him “macaca,” a derogatory slur meaning “monkey”:

In addition to a scathing New York Times editorial, Virginia papers such as the Roanoke Times, the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot and the Charlottesville Daily Progress have spoken out against Allen’s choice of words and questioned his future political, including possible White House, aspirations. The U.S.-Indian Political Action Committee (USINPAC) told Allen in a phone call Tuesday that his comments have angered the Indian-American community. . . .

Webb’s campaign distributed a video clip of Friday’s appearance to reporters, which shows Allen telling the crowd: “Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.” . . . Sidarth, who was born in Virginia, said he felt the senator “was singling me out as a person of color when the rest of the audience was Caucasian.”

You can view the actual clip yourself below and judge for yourself whether Allen’s comments are racially offensive:

My opinion is that in most cases involving politicians like Allen, he probably did not purposely intend his comments to be racially offensive. Nonetheless, they can certainly be interpreted that way and ultimately, that makes Allen guilty of being racially insensitive and ignorant to the cultural and demographic realities of contemporary American society.

In that sense, he has no place being a representative for the people of Virginia or any other state. If he wants to be a representative for only racially ignorant Whites, then he’s more than qualified to do that. But in terms of representing the entire spectrum of Americans that are of all different kinds of races, ethnicities, and cultures, hopefully the citizens of Virginia will realize that they can do a lot better than him.


Update: Sen. Allen has since personally apologized to Sidharth. Unfortunately, the latest anti-Indian, anti-Muslim comment comes from Senator Conrad Burns of Montana who recently said the U.S. is up against a faceless enemy of terrorists who “drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night.” It’s getting almost comical at how the racial profiling and racial prejudice doesn’t seem to ever end. Why should I ever be surprised?

Second Update: On Nov. 9, 2006, Allen conceded defeat in his reelection contest against James Webb. To top things off, Burns was also defeated in his quest for reelection in Montana. Clearly there were several factors responsible for their defeats, but making xenophobic slurs against people of color certainly didn’t help their cause. As the old saying goes, what comes around goes around. Take a seat, George and Conrad!

August 17, 2006

Written by C.N.

Michelle Wie Criticisms

Now that Michelle Wie is a professional, expectations about her performance are sky-high. She has generally played well but has yet to win a tournament. But what’s attracted a lot of attention recently is a series of controversies surrounding her, including a disqualification, a two-stroke penalty at the recent British Open, and now, the unceremonious firing of her caddie. Recently, both SportsLine and Sports Illustrated take her to task for her “unprofessional” behavior:

She has pocketed nearly $720,000 in seven LPGA starts this year, finishing third, fifth and third in the first three majors. But the 6-foot-1 prodigy hasn’t been able to close the deal, and the excuses from the Wie camp have been piling up high. Bad luck. Bad bounces. A bee sting. Heat exhaustion. Too much golf. Too little golf. It’s always something.

LPGA observers have suspected it was only a matter of time before someone — besides Michelle — would be held accountable. It would either be her swing coach, David Leadbetter, or her putting coach, Kelly Leadbetter. Or Johnston [her caddie that she just fired].

One thing is certain: The Wies, despite an increasingly unsavory reputation of treating people like, well, jackals, won’t have any problem finding a replacement. “The upside is too great,” one veteran looper told me when asked if he’d drop his current pro for Wie.

Wanted: caddie. Pay: great. Thick skin a must. Eventual termination: certain. On your way out the door, don’t expect a handshake or a pat on the back.

Are people jumping off the Michelle Wie bandwagon too early? Or does Michelle (or more specifically, her parents) deserve some blame? At this point, I’m willing to chalk these controversies up to being a rookie and inexperience with the game and its norms of behavior. Let us remember that she is all of 16 years old. Her parents are also new to the game too and like Michelle, will hopefully settle into their role with time.

The one thing that I would say is a little disappointing about both the SportsLine and Sports Illustrated articles is that while their criticism of Michelle and her parents seems to be fair, I can’t help but detect a little “Dragon Lady” tone to them, that as an Asian woman, Michelle is more likely to act in an arrogant or selfish way, although I concede that neither article ever brought up her Asian identity.

I may be overreacting, but I hope everyone involved keeps their comments focused on the actual incidents in question, not on her racial/ethnic identity.

August 13, 2006

Written by C.N.

Housing Discrimination Against Non-Koreans

For those of you who follow basketball, you may know that Donald Sterling is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who recently concluded their best season ever, even outperforming their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. Sterling has many business ventures, one of which is rental properties. He and his employees are now accused of discriminating against Blacks and Hispanic renters, in favor of Koreans:

In the seven-page complaint, Justice Department lawyers said Sterling’s agents at various times have refused to rent to non-Koreans at their buildings in Koreatown, and have been guilty of “creating, maintaining, and perpetuating an environment that is hostile” to existing non-Korean tenants.

According to the lawsuit, the Sterling companies also have refused to rent to African Americans at properties in Beverly Hills, and have misrepresented the availability of units to blacks and families with children. . . .

The case is an echo of a private lawsuit filed against the Sterlings in 2003 on behalf of about 20 mostly black and Latino tenants or prospective tenants. According to that suit, filed by the Housing Rights Center, a Los Angeles nonprofit group, Sterling had told members of his staff that he did not like to rent to Latinos or African Americans because “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” and “black tenants smell and attract vermin.”

Early in the case, U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz ordered the Sterlings to stop using such words as “Korean” and “Asian” in building names, as they had done in changing the name of their “Mark Wilshire Towers” to “Korean World Towers.”

On the surface at least, it appears that Sterling and his representatives have some explaining to do. If in fact he is guilty of these charges, he is in fact guilty of committing two wrongs. The first is the direct discrimination against Black and Latino renters. Unfortunately, housing discrimination like this is still rampant and perpetrators like Sterling (if in fact he is guilty) need to be exposed, punished, and made an example of for other landlords to notice.

But just as important, the second injustice committed here is fanning the flames of intergroup tension and hostility between Koreans on the one hand, and Blacks and Latinos on the other hand. While some Asian Americans and others may say that the scope of such anti-Korean hostilities is overblown, the fact is that perceptions that Koreans are getting preferential treatment — unbeknownst to them we should note — will not help to improve relations between these two sets of groups.

All of us as Americans, including Korean Americans, should forcefully denounce these practices committed against all racial/ethnic groups, but particularly against Blacks and Latinos, and demand that landlords abide by the Fair Housing Act or otherwise get thrown in jail. As Martin Luther King, Jr. put it so eloquently, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

August 11, 2006

Written by C.N.

New Evidence of Atrocities in Viet Nam

As the U.S. prepares to begin prosecuting several high profile incidents of atrocities against Iraqi civilians by U.S. soldiers, CBS News reports that new unclassified government data from the Viet Nam War documents that atrocities committed against Vietnamese civilians were much more numerous than previously thought:

The abuses were not restricted to one rogue Army division, but were committed by soldiers in every Army division operating in Vietnam, the Times reported Sunday. Among the incidents documented in the files:

  • Seven civilian massacres from 1967 to 1971 that left at least 137 dead.
  • Seventy-eight additional attacks on unarmed civilians that left at least 57 dead, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.
  • 141 incidents in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees and prisoners of war.

In one incident detailed in the report, members of one company in February 1968 rounded up and gunned down a group of villagers that included women and children after being ordered by a lieutenant to “kill anything that moves.” Retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns, who was part of the task force that gathered the files, said he no longer thought the atrocities should remain in the dark.

“We can’t change current practices unless we acknowledge the past,” said Johns, 78. The files show investigators found enough evidence to charge 203 soldiers with crimes related to the mistreatment of Vietnamese civilians and prisoners. But only 57 soldiers were court-martialed and 23 convicted, the Times reported. Fourteen soldiers received prison sentences ranging from six months to 20 years, but most served much less time.

This new evidence only confirms what many of us have suspected all along — that war crimes and atrocities committed by U.S. troops against Vietnamese during the war were much more common than the U.S. was willing to admit. So what does this new information teach us?

First, it’s pretty sad that it took more than 30 years for this information to come to light. As the article notes, everybody wanted to just forget the Viet Nam War immediately after the U.S. pulled out, and focusing attention on these war crimes would have opened even more new wounds for American society. But what about the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Vietnamese who were needlessly tortured, raped, and murdered? What about their wounds and their deaths? Their suffering should not have been so easily discarded.

Second, why haven’t we (or more specifically, the U.S. military) learned from these incidents? Just because these documents have not been publicized until now doesn’t mean that the military did not already know about them. In fact, there were over 9,000 pages documenting these atrocities. The point is, despite having this information, the U.S. military apparently has done little to implement its lessons and to teach its soldiers and personnel that torture, rape, and murder are not acceptable means to conduct a war.

Whether it’s the Abu Graib scandal, recent charges of rape and murder against Iraqi families, or several other incidents of war crimes committed by U.S. troops, the ultimate tragedy is that these atrocities continue to happen, perpetrated over and over again by under-trained troops in the midst of a controversial and divisive war, engineered by an arrogant and cavalier presidential administration.

What will it take and how many more innocent civilians are tortured, raped, and murdered before we learn our lesson?

August 9, 2006

Written by C.N.

Portraying Asian Americans in Video Games

A student at the University of British Columbia has just completed a detailed study of how Asian Americans are portrayed in many popular video games and probably not surprisingly, found that in virtually all instances, such portrayals were stereotypic and even racist:

Kung fu warriors and faceless, yellow-skinned victims are two prevalent images of Asian males found in top-selling video games which tend to trade in racist stereotypes that society generally condemns in other media, says a University of British Columbia student researcher.

“Parents, government and media watchdog groups have protested the widespread violence and sexism in video games, but the blatant racism has gone largely unnoticed,” [says Robert Parungao]. . . . For his study, Parungao looked at four titles that span two decades of video game design: Kung Fu, Warcraft 3, Shadow Warrior and Grand Theft Auto 3.

Grand Theft Auto has been a best-selling franchise for more than 10 years, says Parungao, and features non-white characters who are mainly triad members, yakuza gangsters, Latino gangs or Black hoods. “These stock characters are seen in a lot of games and function as narrative obstacles to be overcome, mastered or ultimately blown to smithereens by the white hero.”

Further, Parungao says games designers like to use a mix and match grab bag of Asian stereotypes that are often nonsensical. “The villain in Shadow Warrior goes by a Chinese name, Lo Wang. But when he fires his rocket launcher at his enemies, he screams ‘just like Hiroshima.’”

Bravo to Robert for finally documenting what many of us have suspected all along. He provides rather convincing evidence that the video game industry has a long way to truly reflect the demographics of North American society and in particular, the demographics of its core audience, many of whom are young Asian Americans.

It is also interesting to note how these findings about the racist portrayals of Asian Americans in video games meshes with (and perhaps contradicts) an earlier post claiming that young Asian Americans see themselves as having a notable impact on the video gaming culture of American society.

This story also highlights the need for Asian Americans and other people of color to become more involved and active in creating their own video games and influencing the images of themselves, rather than leaving it up to young White males who are more likely to rely on stereotypes and ignorant historical images of us.

That’s an idea that we as Asian Americans should all strive toward — portraying ourselves rather than letting others portrays us however they want.

August 7, 2006

Written by C.N.

Marketing Genghis Khan in Mongolia

Among many Asian Americans and students of Asian history, few names command more reverence and respect than Genghis Khan. History shows that he and his Mongols established one of the largest empires in world history, conquered pretty much all of Asia and were poised to overrun Europe as well. As Mongolia prepares to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the start of his empire, issues concerning how to best celebrate his legacy have moved to the forefront:

Images of a steely-eyed Genghis Khan are ubiquitous in the capital of Ulan Bator — with the national icon commanding his citizens and foreign tourists to buy a myriad of products that are named after him. The 13th century emperor was famously fond of alcoholic, fermented mare’s milk, so it is perhaps fitting that he is being used to endorse at least four different brands of vodka, while a beer is also named after him.

The Mongols’ extraordinary stamina as they roamed across the world conquering cities and civilizations has not been lost on the modern-day makers of a local energy drink, with that man once again on the label. Across the city, it seems everyone is out to make a buck from Genghis Khan, with antique shops, hotels and restaurants named after him and his image appearing on products as diverse as postage stamps and matchstick boxes. . . .

However with Mongolians revering Genghis Khan as a near God-like figure, there is growing disquiet about the exploitation of his name. “Everything is named after Genghis Khan. It’s too much,” the president of Ulan Bator’s Chinggis Khaan University, Kh. Lkhagvasuren, told AFP. “There needs to be significant things done to remember him and learn about him. But people are only interested in making a business out of him… it doesn’t respect his reputation.”

Apparently, Mongolia is experiencing one of the “trademark” (no pun intended) issues associated with capitalism and consumerism: how do you best use a historical legacy to promote a product without diluting and cheapening its historical meaning and impact? It seems that wherever capitalism goes, history gets rewritten and cultures are fundamentally transformed.

Welcome to 21st century globalization, Mongolia.

August 3, 2006

Written by C.N.

Tensions Between Asian American Communites

Recently, a series of incidents originally precipitated by police brutality in Edison, NJ has brought to the surface some very interesting and in many ways unfortunate inter-Asian tensions between community members and the city government:

After an Asian-Indian resident claimed he was beaten by an Edison police officer in July, Mayor Jun Choi reached out to Asian-Indian community leader Peter Kothari, in an effort to defuse tensions over the alleged incident. . . . But the two leaders themselves couldn’t see eye-to-eye.

The night before their joint meeting was to take place, the township broke off. Choi decided Kothari was not an honest broker and could not provide security for him and Police Chief George Mieczkowski. Instead, the mayor said he would hold his own meeting.

An infuriated Kothari said it was Choi who broke terms, bringing in other officers and the police union when the talk was to be only with Choi and Mieczkowski. Kothari said he would not organize a meeting that would “sing a song for Choi.” His group’s meeting would go on, he insisted.

The article goes on to describe that not all Indian Americans in the Edison community support Kothari and that he does not necessarily speak for the entire Indian American community there. Let us also remember that Jun Choi was the first Asian American mayor ever elected in New Jersey.

Obviously I don’t know all the details of this situation and can only speculate on the different factors that have contributed to the misunderstandings and tensions between the two sides. However, I would like to note that I am not surprised that this type of situation has occurred.

Why not? Because even though Choi received strong support from the Indian American community in his bid to get elected mayor, there is inevitably going to be some form of jealousy among other Asian Americans and Asian American ethnic groups that it was not them who became NJ’s first Asian American mayor.

I’m not saying that Kothari is jealous of Choi. Rather, I’m just pointing out that on a group level, perhaps many Indian Americans in Edison felt that after they helped get Choi elected, he “owes” them something. And when Choi did something with which they did not agree, then perhaps they felt betrayed. In fact, the article quotes Kothari saying words to that effect.

Ultimately, I bring up this incident as another example of the type of inter-ethnic rivalry and differences among Asian Americans that still unfortunately stands in the way of true pan-Asian unity and collective power. Is it realistic to expect that these sorts of tensions and conflict will never happen between Asian Americans? Of course not.

But can we use this example as a way to learn more about how the intersection of politics and ethnicity can have a significant effect on unity within Asian American communities? Absolutely.