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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.

June 29, 2007

Written by C.N.

Asian Immigrants and High-Tech Entrepreneurship

I’ve written before that research continues to support the notion that in general, immigrants produce more benefits than drawbacks for American society and its economy. As further reinforcement of this argument, Diverse Education reports on a new study that again demonstrates that immigrants –particularly from Asia — create a disproportionate number of high-tech businesses in American society:

[O]f 2,054 hi-tech companies founded during 1995-2005, around 500, or 25.3 percent, were founded by immigrants. The companies had more than $1 million in sales, 20 or more employees, and company branches with 50 or more employees. Out of the 500 companies, 144 were surveyed and it was found that 96 percent of founders held bachelor’s degrees, 47.2 percent held master’s degrees and 26.8 percent held a doctorate degree. More than half (53 percent) of the immigrant founders completed their highest degrees from U.S. universities.

“Census data shows immigrants are better educated than average Americans,” says Vivek Wadhwa, co-author and adjunct professor at the Pratt School of Engineering. “No one can refute this data. If the U.S. wants to be a world leader in technology and innovation, then we have to support them.”

The study also found that very few immigrant founders came to the United States with the intention of starting a new company. Around 52 percent came to study, 39.8 percent came for a job opportunity and only 1.6 percent for the sole purpose of entrepreneurship. Immigrants from India, China and Taiwan were interviewed for the survey, but Indians founded more companies than any other group combined. . . .

“As foreign-born engineers start businesses, they collaborate with former classmates and colleagues from their home countries, sharing the business contacts and know-how as well as market information that support entrepreneurial success,” Saxenian says. “Successful entrepreneurs not only contribute to the regional economy, but also become powerful role models and mentors, attracting subsequent generations of immigrants to the area.”

These immigrant-founded high-tech companies are most visible in California but their effects can be seen on the national and international levels since, as the article notes, such entrepreneurs draw resources from all around the world and directly or indirectly attract more highly-educated immigrants to the U.S., all of which lead to numerous benefits for American society.

We should note, as the article does, that such findings do not reflect directly into the current debates on immigration reform. If anything, it strengthens the argument that we should let in more of these highly-educated and skilled immigrants. I certainly do not oppose that particular suggestion, but I do oppose it when it comes at the expense of reducing the number of immigration visas for family reunification, which as I’ve argued before, is a severely short-sighted plan that disproportionately hurts Asian Americans and ignores the significant benefits that family members bring with them to the U.S.

In short, the solution is to keep family reunification immigration visas at their current levels (if anything, they need to be increased to reduce the significant backlog of current applications) and also increase the number of H1-B visas for highly educated immigrants because, as research continues to show, both sets of immigrants produce notable benefits for American society and its economy.

June 26, 2007

Written by C.N.

Eating Disorders Among Asian Americans

For many Asian Americans, the quest for assimilation and acceptance as “full” Americans unfortunately leads them to consider changes in their physical appearance, with cosmetic surgery being one option. But unfortunately, as author Devon Haynie writes for Audrey Magazine (reprinted by New American Media), the quest for physical perfection can become dangerous for many Asian Americans, in the form of eating disorders:

It’s not just white girls throwing up in dorm bathrooms anymore. Due to a variety of factors — ranging from the quest to look “more Western” to the quest to keep up with their counterparts back in Asia — minority and immigrant adolescents are increasingly shedding pounds in an effort to emulate the tall, thin women exalted in fashion and pop culture.

Asian American women, an ethnic group that traditionally has one of the highest suicide and lowest self-esteem rates in the country, may be more prone to eating disorders than previously imagined. . . [M]any Asian American women, long stereotyped as the nation’s “model minority,” feel pressured to achieve academic and professional excellence. These expectations, combined with acculturation pressures, an aversion to seeking mental health services, and the desire to be thin, may be more than many women can endure. . . .

While many Asian women were once admired for their fuller figures and faces, Hall says today many feel pressure to look like blonde, blue-eyed celebrities. Unable to change their Asian features without footing high bills for plastic surgery, some focus on the easiest thing they can control: their weight. . . . From Seoul to Hong Kong, Singapore to Tokyo, physicians report that eating disorders are on the rise.

The article goes to to describe many personal examples of young Asian American women who struggled with two sets of pressures — trying to assimilate into American culture in general, along with the perceived need to be thin in order to be more fully accepted. Many times, academic pressures also contributed to feelings of low self-esteem. All combined, they make for a dangerous convergence of stress and for many, mental and physical illness.

The article also lists a couple of organizations and resources that readers can contact to get more information and help with such issues. The article also notes that since such western images of physical beauty are becoming more common and accepted in Asian societies, the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better, among Asians and Asian Americans.

Nonetheless, as I’ve written about before, I happen to think that as the world in general and American society in particular becomes increasingly globalized and transnational, hopefully the overwhelming march of American culture around the world will eventually be countered by the increasingly powerful influence of Asian culture.

In other words, I think that eventually, Asian Americans will hopefully begin to see that being “American” does not always have to mean being “White.” As American society changes to reflect the inevitable effects of economic and cultural globalization, the definition of what it means to be “American” will hopefully include more diverse images that reflect the change face of American demographics.

Within that process, hopefully young Asian Americans will come to see that being Asian — culturally and physically — makes them just as “American” as anybody else, even Whites.

June 24, 2007

Written by C.N.

Survey of Young People in California

In many ways, California is the trendsetter for the rest of the country. This applies not just to fashion, media, or other popular culture trends, but also demographic and socio-cultural patterns as well — the influx of legal and illegal immigrants, interracial marriage, affirmative action, demographic changes, etc. With that in mind, New American Media recently completed a comprehensive survey of young people in California. In general, the data show that across all racial groups, the vast majority of respondents are optimistic about their lives. However, there are a few interesting differences:

White Anglo young people name family breakdown as number one, followed by poverty and global warming. Family breakdown is also the top issue for Asian youth, but violence in their neighborhoods is nearly as important, while global warming and poverty are tied for third. African American and Latino young people say that violence in their neighborhoods or communities is the most pressing issue facing their generation.

Interestingly, Asian American respondents are much more likely than other groups to cite pressures related to school as their biggest source of stress:

Sources of stress by respondent's race/ethnicity

Asian American respondents are also tied with Whites in having the largest percentage who responded that most of their friends are of a different race/ethnicity:

Race/ethnicity of friends by respondent's racial identity

Young Asian Americans are also the least likely to judge their mental health status as “very healthy”:

Self-judgments of mental health by race/ethnicity

Overall, while tentative, one result of the survey seems to suggest that while they’re generally happy and optimistic about their lives, compared to their counterparts of different races, young Asian Americans in California are more likely to be stressed about their education (perhaps the pressures to succeed that they experience, or possibly related to a fear of violence at school) and that this concern contributes to slightly lower self-assessments of their overall mental health than other racial groups.

In fact, I have posted about both of these issues before — the pressures to succeed in school and being targets of violence at school. In other words, there is mounting evidence that these two issues are a concern for young Asian Americans. With that in mind, we as Asian Americans and American society in general, should be much more cognizant of situations when these issues become overwhelming and have programs in place to address them in an effective and culturally competent manner.

After all, if our children are our future, we need to do what we can to ensure that have the best possible chances at being happy and successful.

June 22, 2007

Written by C.N.

Food Safety in Asia

I previously wrote about how food and household products contaminated by poisonous chemicals coming from China is not just bad for consumers’ health, but also for China’s image and attempts to legitimize its status as respectable economic superpower. To give you a larger perspective of the state of food safety in Asian countries, the Associated Press reports that what’s shocking for us as Americans is frequently commonplace for Asians:

While the discovery of tainted imports from China has shocked Westerners, food safety has long been a problem in much of Asia, where enforcement is lax and food poisoning deaths are not unusual. Hot weather, lack of refrigeration and demand for cheap street food drives vendors and producers to find inexpensive — and often dangerous — ways to preserve their products.

What’s exported, for the most part, is the good stuff. Companies know they must meet certain standards if they want to make money. But in the domestic market, substandard items and adulterated foods abound, including items rejected for export. Formaldehyde, for instance, has long been used to lengthen the shelf life of rice noodles and tofu in some Asian countries, even though it can cause liver, nerve and kidney damage. . . .

Borax, found in everything from detergent to Fiberglas, is also commonly used to preserve fish and meats in Indonesia and elsewhere. Farmers in various countries often spray produce with banned pesticides, such as DDT. . . . Some countries, such as Thailand, are trying to improve domestic food safety. In bustling Bangkok, where pots bubble and woks sizzle at makeshift kitchens pitched on sidewalks, markets are issued test kits that can detect up to 22 contaminants. . . .

Some Vietnamese have been so shaken by news of tainted Chinese foods, they are changing their eating habits. They are avoiding Chinese-made products and paying more — up to $2 a bowl — for pho at an air-conditioned chain restaurant with signs promising no formaldehyde or borax.

The bad news keeps piling up — the latest recall of dangerous Chinese products is the very popular “Thomas the Tank Engine” toys that have been found to have contain leaded paint.

Seriously, the quality of food and household products made in Asian countries needs to significantly improve immediately, both for import to countries like the U.S., but just as importantly, for the health and well-being of their own citizens at home. That’s probably easier said than done, especially since when the overall standard of living in many Asian countries continues to languish compared to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, who are already industrialized.

Nonetheless, if countries such as China, India, and Viet Nam want to see any improvement in their overall standard of living — let alone receive respect as an emerging international economic power — basic issues such as the health of their own citizens should not be in question.

June 20, 2007

Written by C.N.

Obama’s Anti-Asian Goof

A little while ago, you might remember that Hillary Clinton’s campaign ran into some hot water with Asian Americans for refusing to allow Chinese American journalists to attend a press conference. Well, now it looks like it’s her main Democratic opponent’s turn to piss off Asian Americans. As CBS News reports, Barack Obama’s campaign raised the ire of Indian Americans over a leaked memo in which they ridiculed Clinton’s ties to Indian and Punjabi businesses:

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama on Monday disavowed a memo criticizing rival Hillary Rodham Clinton’s financial ties to India, blaming his campaign staff for a “dumb mistake.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Obama labeled the memo and its headline — “Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)” — as “unnecessarily caustic.” The memo had referred to Bill and Hillary Clintons’ investments in India; her fundraising among Indian-Americans; and the former president’s $300,000 in speech fees from Cisco, a company that has moved U.S. jobs to India.

“It was a dumb mistake on our campaign’s part and I made it clear to my staff in no uncertain terms that it was a mistake,” Obama told the AP in a brief interview. . . . “It is not reflective of the long-standing relationship I have had with the Indian-American community,” Obama said in the interview.

“The issue of outsourcing is a genuine and important issue but to refer to one particular country was, I think, an error and I let all of us know that we’ve got to be more careful about how we communicate,” he said.

Not a good move on the part of Obama’s campaign, especially considering that among all Asian Americans, Indian Americans are the third largest and tend to be the most educated and the wealthiest, meaning that they represent a potentially powerful constituent group. Not to mention the fact that Asian Americans of all ethnicities are a little wary when one Asian group is attacked because we know from experience that such prejudice can easily be transferred to all Asian Americans.

As I wrote after Hillary Clinton’s goof, I will accept Obama’s apology for now, but like all candidates — Democratic or Republican — he needs to make sure something like this will definitely not happen again and second, to demonstrate his sincerity through actions, not words.

June 19, 2007

Written by C.N.

Jerry Yang is Back to Lead Yahoo

Since the dawning of the Internet Age (I suppose that would be starting in the mid-1990s), one of the brightest entrepreneurial stars — Asian American or otherwise — has been Jerry Yang, co-founder of Internet giant Yahoo. As the San Jose Mercury News reports, he left the company he helped to create several years ago but is now dramatically being called upon to return and lead it once again:

Earlier this decade Yahoo gambled that content and Hollywood would be the key to its success. Google banked on technology. Monday’s dramatic shake-up at Yahoo, with the ouster of showbiz veteran Terry Semel as CEO and the installation of co-founder Jerry Yang and financial wizard Sue Decker at the helm, is a long-awaited acknowledgment that Yahoo’s bet was the wrong one. Yang as chief executive and Decker as president are expected to refocus the Sunnyvale Internet giant on technology. . . .

Yahoo’s value has fallen by more than 35 percent since early 2006. A delay of new advertising software and a steady exodus of talent have prompted concern that the company has lost its competitive edge. . . . Although Yang, 38, has never been chief executive of Yahoo, he has been part of the management team – with the title “chief Yahoo” – since co-creating the site with David Filo in 1994. . . .

Yang and Decker endorsed Yahoo’s current strategy and said deals with eBay, Comcast and a consortium of 12 newspaper companies, including MediaNews, the owner of the Mercury News, would lead to significant growth in the years ahead. “Yahoo is a company that started with a vision and a dream, and make no mistake, that dream is very much alive,” Yang said during the conference call.

Obviously, my expertise is not in Internet business analysis, so I can’t authoritatively comment on Jerry Yang’s chances of success in turning Yahoo around. But as an Asian American Studies scholar, I can say that Yang’s promotion to Yahoo CEO instantly makes him one of the highest profile CEOs in the country and most certainly, the highest profile Asian American CEO in the country (not that there are that many to begin with, but nonetheless).

In that sense, for better and for worse, Jerry shoulders a little extra burden because his success or failure is likely to have some reflection on the leadership abilities of Asian Americans in general. It’s a rather unfair burden to carry, but that is the practical reality of the situation, mainly because (1) there are relatively few Asian American business executives out there and (2) there is still the lingering stereotype that the actions or characteristics of one or a small group of prominent Asian Americans somehow can be generalized to the entire Asian American population.

I wish Jerry the very best in his efforts and from what I know about him, I am confident that he is indeed the person to get the job done.

June 18, 2007

Written by C.N.

Hmong American Arrested for Anti-Communist Conspiracy

As products of the Viet Nam War, many Hmong Americans share similar experiences with Vietnamese Americans of being political refugees from their native country. As such, many Hmong have very strong anti-communist beliefs and hopes of overthrowing the communist government in their homeland. In that context, as the New York Times reports, the arrest of a prominent Hmong political leader has created much controversy among the Hmong American community:

Vang Pao, a military general in Laos, was lauded for leading forces backed by the Central Intelligence Agency in the “secret war” against communists there during the Vietnam War and had, for 30 years since, made no secret of his hopes for a democratic Laos. But [his] arrest has also revealed a split in the Hmong population that has sprung up in this country: between old and young, between those who fled Laos and those who grew up here.

A younger generation of Hmong-Americans, more skeptical of Gen. Vang Pao’s fund-raising tactics and controversial groups, said they respected the man but did not wish to return to a homeland they had never seen and worried that the charges might stain the Hmong people here.

Federal authorities said their six-month investigation revealed a plot to purchase AK-47 rifles, plastic explosives, anti-tank rockets and surface-to-air missiles in order to overthrow the government in a violation of the Neutrality Act, which bars Americans from taking military action against countries with which the nation is at peace. . . .

Cy Thao, 35, a Minnesota state representative, one of the few Hmong-Americans serving in a state legislature, said many of the older generation felt confused, even betrayed. “For them, too, his arrest signals the end of an opportunity for them to ever go home to a free Laos,” Mr. Thao said. “He was their best hope of ever going back so this is sort of the closing of a book.”

Obviously I don’t know the specific details of his case, so at this point, I cannot conclude whether he is guilty or innocent of these charges. What I can comment on is, as the article notes, how his arrest — more specifically, the Hmong community’s reaction to his arrest — seems to highlight a large generational gap between older Hmong who have direct memories of their refugee experiences, versus younger Hmong Americans who have little if any memory of such and have basically been socialized as Americans.

In fact, this is a very common theme across many immigrant communities, Asian and non-Asian. But in this case, this generational different is particularly poignant when it comes to ethnic and immigrant groups that have experiences of being political refugees because the emotions surrounding their departure from their home countries tend to be much more sudden and emotionally traumatic.

As such, when such a visible symbol of their long-lost lives of being free in their homeland (their “glory days”) is removed, perceived to be disrespected, or even desecrated — whether it’s General Pao in this case, or the old South Vietnamese flag for Vietnamese Americans — strong emotions are bound to be provoked.

As someone who researches such issues, it would be a mistake for me to say something like, “Oh, just get over it. The past is the past — you’re living in the U.S. now, so act more like a regular American” because doing so would negate and dismiss the very real trauma that many political refugees have experienced. The emotional and physical pain and suffering that many have have felt, and may still feel, are real and cannot be so easily dismissed by those who have not experienced them themselves.

In the same way that people of color become enraged when they hear Whites dismiss their experiences of racism, so too must the younger generation respect the feelings and perspectives of their older community members when they speak of their painful experiences of what it was like having to leave their homeland in such traumatic circumstances.

At the same time, all members of such political refugee communities should remember that even given their strong anti-communist perspective, living in the U.S. means that we must abide by its laws. In other words, being a refugee and being here in the U.S. involuntarily does not give anyone license to ignore laws that are applied to everyone.

In the end, regardless of how General Pao’s case turns out, I hope that all of us can learn from this experience and become a little more understanding and tolerant — on both sides of the issue.

June 17, 2007

Written by C.N.

First Gay Internet Show in China

China has generally not been known to be a socially-progressive society. Democracy? Uhhh, no. Religious tolerance? Still working on it. Uncensored Internet? Check back later. Tolerance for gays and lesbians? Actually, as Reuters reports, China’s first show explicitly focusing on gays and lesbians is all set to go, albeit on the Internet rather than television:

“Tongxing Xinglian” [is] China’s first gay chat show, an interactive online forum hosted by gay presenters and accessible to more than 130 million Internet users across the country. With the title a loose play on words of a Chinese idiom “people with the same afflictions sympathize with each other,” the weekly 12-episode show, produced by, aims to open minds in a country where homosexuality was listed as a mental illness until 2001.

“Of course, not everyone will be able to accept this show,” producer Gang Gang, told Reuters after the Web cast. “But 90 percent of people think we’re doing meaningful work here,” Gang said, who also appeared on the show. . . . Since Mao Zedong rule, when homosexuals were persecuted and imprisoned, China has slowly become more accepting, opening support hotlines for gays and lesbians, and offering free tests for sexually transmitted diseases in recent years. . . .

“Of course, discrimination remains … The kind of pressure on gay people in China is different to the pressure in Western countries,” Gang said. . . . “Of course, it will not change some people’s attitudes toward homosexuality, but we hope that it might teach them not to take issue with their family members’ choices.”

Hopefully this will be another step along the way toward greater acceptance and tolerance for gays and lesbians in China. Who knows, maybe China is slowly on its way toward becoming more socially progressive on those other issues as well. We can always hope.

June 15, 2007

Written by C.N.

Trying to Reduce Suicides in Japan

I knew that Japan has a relatively high suicide rate, but I was a little surprised to learn just how high it is. As the BBC News reports, it’s 24 per 100,000, which works out to about 30,000 suicides a year, second in the industrialized world after Russia and twice as high as the U.S.’s. Apparently, it has reached epidemic proportions, so much so that Japanese officials are finally trying to do something about it:

Experts blame a number of factors. Japanese companies and schools are often run without much flexibility; and non-conformity is not tolerated – for those who fail there is often no second chance. The samurai custom of taking one’s life is sometimes given as a reason for modern suicides. Others kill themselves to protect loved ones from embarrassment or to save face. And the lack of religious taboos against suicide are also, no doubt, a factor. . . .

Now, though, the government has set itself a target of reducing the suicide rate by more than 20% over the next 10 years. It plans to try to block access to websites which promote mass suicides, to offer better mental health counseling in the workplace and to organize public campaigns to raise awareness of the problem. . . . Although the latest figures show a slight fall in the overall numbers of suicides in Japan, the number of young people killing themselves rose sharply – up by 23%.

Better late than never, I suppose. I’m a little skeptical however, about the ability of lawmakers and others concerned about this issue to actually make fundamental changes in the Japanese mentality. Electronic gadgets aside, Japan really isn’t known for quick changes in national social philosophy — just witness how many Japanese still revere their World War II military leaders who have been shown to be war criminals, or how they continue to deny the existence of sex slaves during the war.

At any rate, I wish the Japanese the best of luck in tackling this very serious issue.

June 14, 2007

Written by C.N.

Muslim Americans Today

One cultural group in the U.S. that has been under increased scrutiny in the past several years has been Muslim Americans. For better and for worse, many segments of American society are paying much closer attention to their social, economic, and political characteristics these days. In this context, as described by the Christian Science Monitor, the well-respected Pew Research Center has just released a comprehensive report about the Muslim American population:

While the great majority of Muslims are foreign-born and have come to the United States fairly recently, they are happy with their lives, largely assimilated, and remarkably American in outlook. As a whole, they mirror the general population in education and income, and in the role religion plays in their lives. . . .

Almost two-thirds of Muslim-Americans see no conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society. When asked if they see themselves as a Muslim or American first, 47 percent said Muslim. That compares with 42 percent of American Christians (and 62 percent of evangelicals) who say they are Christians first. . . . One unusual development is that Muslims under 30 attend mosque more regularly than older generations, exactly the opposite of Christian youths. . . .

More than 75 percent of Muslim-Americans express concern about Islamic extremism around the world, and only 8 percent say that suicide bombing can ever be justified. Yet 15 percent of Muslim youths say it can sometimes be justified. . . . The survey reveals that native-born African-Americans are the most alienated portion of the Muslim population. Dealing with racial and religious intolerance, they are less satisfied with American life and believe more than others that Muslims should remain distinct from society.

Despite positive views of their communities, most Muslims feel their lives have become more difficult since 9/11. Some 54 percent say the war on terror singles out Muslims. Prejudice, being viewed as terrorists, and ignorance about Islam top their list of problems.

To summarize, the report findings describe Muslim Americans as largely assimilated into the American mainstream and generally satisfied with their lives as Americans. However, because of international events and the war on terrorism, they have some apprehensions about their position in the context of these volatile times. In terms of their cultural identity, they are more likely to assert an American identify first and a religious identity second than are evangelical Christians.

But something tells me that the piece that anti-Muslim critics will pick up on is that 15% of Muslim American youths say that suicide bombings can sometimes be justified, or that only 40% accept that a group of Muslims committed the 9/11 attacks. In other words, like any piece of data or research, this report is likely to be used to both welcome and ostracize Muslims Americans, depending on which piece of data one chooses to focus on.

Personally, I believe Muslims Americans are just like any other Americans and should be treated just like any other American. They are largely integrated into the mainstream of American society, they contribute to its economic and cultural strength, and like the rest of us, they have a range of opinions on different issues. This country is supposedly founded on principles of freedom of speech and religion, so in that sense, Muslim Americans fit in perfectly.

June 12, 2007

Written by C.N.

Michelle Wie’s Recent Problems

Golf fans will remember that up until recently, Michelle Wie could do no wrong. She jumped into the limelight as a 16 year old phenom and was touted as the female equivalent of Tiger Woods who would revolutionize the sport of women’s professional golf. I say up until recently because for various reasons — failing to win any major tournaments, wild inconsistency, and most recently, mysteriously withdrawing from a tournament in which she was in danger of being disqualified for playing so badly — as reports, criticisms about her are beginning to mount:

That the 17-year-old from Honolulu would walk out of the Ginn Tribute last week with only two holes left in the first round is suspicious enough. The LPGA Tour has a rule that nonmembers who don’t break 88 – and Wie was two bogeys away from that – cannot play again for the rest of the year. Worse yet was showing up at Bulle Rock on the weekend to hit balls. . . .

That didn’t sit well with the LPGA Tour’s biggest star – Annika Sorenstam – who happened to be the tournament host at the Ginn. “I just feel that there’s a little bit of lack of respect and class just to leave a tournament like that and then come out and practice here,” said Sorenstam, who soldiered on for four days despite returning from a back and neck injury. . . .
Sorenstam was quick to note that Wie received a sponsor’s exemption to the tournament. That means she was invited. The feeling on the LPGA Tour is that Wie has mistaken invitation for entitlement.

Only it is becoming apparent that Wie doesn’t see it that way. She opened her press conference Tuesday afternoon wanting to clarify a few issues from last week. One suspected there might be an apology to the tournament sponsors for a situation beyond her control. Instead, she explained when she injured her wrist during the tournament (first hole), how she injured her wrist in the first place (running in a park) and that she still wasn’t 100 percent. . . . .

Asked about Sorenstam’s criticism, Wie said nothing was said to her and she had nothing to say back. “I don’t think I need to apologize for anything,” she said.

The article goes on to conclude, “She is 17, but no longer a kid. There was a time the LPGA Tour needed Wie a lot more than Wie needed the LPGA Tour. That might not be the case anymore. People are far more willing to forgive a bad round than bad manners.”

I’m not much of a golf fan, although I do tend to follow how Tiger Woods is doing. Nonetheless, Michelle Wie is certainly no ordinary golfer. And I think that’s where the problem lies — on both sides. In other words, it was almost inevitable that people would become disappointed or even disillusioned with Michelle’s actual golf performance, since the expectations about her were so overwhelmingly high, even stratospheric. After all, she is only human.

Having said that however, the other part of this equation is that it seems as though Michelle also needs to understand that people expect a little more out of her than the ordinary golfer — on the links and off of them. More specifically, I’m certain she tries her best when she’s playing on the course, so like the article says, fans will forgive a bad performance on the course. But it’s a little harder to be sympathetic towards her when pulls out of a tournament claiming injury, only to be back hitting balls two days later.

In other words, the appearance that people are seeing is that she’s taking advantage of, and taking for granted, the special treatment she’s been receiving and acting like she can do whatever she wants without repercussions. Ultimately, it sounds like Michelle needs a little more humility. We can be patient if an athlete is struggling with his/her performance on the field, but as recent cases regarding inappropriate behavior by professional athletes show, how an athlete conducts him/herself off the field is increasingly become much more important.

Michelle is, after all, only 17 years old and only human. That being said, I hope she can be honest with herself and her sport before she ends up as an underachieving and ostracized castoff in the trash heap of sports history.

June 11, 2007

Written by C.N.

Marking 25th Anniversary of Vincent Chin’s Death

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin. For those who aren’t yet familiar, he was a Chinese American living in Detroit, MI in 1982. The night before his wedding at a local bar, he got into a confrontation with two White autoworkers who mistook him for Japanese and blamed him for the recession in the auto industry at the time. These two men subsequently bludgeoned Vincent to death with a baseball bat.

The second part of the tragedy was that neither man spent one day in jail for his murder, as Vincent’s case galvanized the entire Asian American community against institutional discrimination in the criminal justice system and systematic discrimination against Asian Americans in general. Many scholars point out that the modern pan-Asian American identity was solidified by the events surrounding Vincent Chin’s murder, as Asian Americans finally saw that hatred directed against any Asian group could easily be directed at them as well.

Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, a small grassroots organization who nonetheless recently conducted a telephone conference with John Edwards’ wife and were featured in a Christian Science Monitor article, is one group who is commemorating the anniversary by holding several town hall meetings across the country. One of their co-founders, Curtis Chin, sent me the following announcement:

These five cities have confirmed. There are another five who will be doing something as well. The event will be a screening of Who Killed Vincent Chin, to be followed by a panel on hate crimes.

1) Date/Time – June 19, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
2) Location – MOCA (70 Mulberry Street, 2nd Floor)
3) Panelists – John Liu (New York City Councilman), Debra Ouyang (staff attorney, AALDEF/ Executive Vice President, OCA), Darwin Davis (President and CEO, New York Urban League)
4) Co-sponsors – Museum of Chinese in the Americas,
5) Organizers – Nancy Bulalacao & Ron Kim

1) Date/Time – June 19, 6:00-8:00 PM
2) Location – St. Mary Magdalen Family Center, 1213 52nd St., Kenwood
3) Panelists – Dan Levy (Chief Legal Officer, Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights) Pravina Ramanathan (Asian American Liaison, Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights), Ingrid Scott-Weekly (Director, City of Grand Rapids Equal Opportunity Dept.)
4) Co-sponsors – Asian Victims Relief Fund
5) Organizers – Christina Fong

1) Date/Time – June 20, 6:30 – 9:30 PM
2) Location – Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, 800 South Halsted, Chicago
3) Panelists – Bill Yoshino (Midwest Director, JACL), Diana Lin (Attorney), Myron Quon (Legal Director, Asian American Institute)
4) Co-sponsors – Japanese American Citizens League, Organization of Chinese Americans
5) Organizers – Theresa Mah

1) Date/Time – June 23, 10:30 AM
2) Location – Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 901 G. Street (Chinatown)
3) Moderator – Eric Byler (director, Americanese and Charlotte Sometimes)
4) Co-sponsors –
5) Organizers – Clarence Tong, Ha Hoa Dang

1) Date/Time – June 24, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
2) Location – Japanese American National Museum
3) Panelists – Hamid Khan (Executive Director, South Asian Network), Stewart Kwoh (Executive Director, APALC), Robin Toma (Executive Director, LA County Human Relations Commission), Renee Tajima (Director, “Who Killed Vincent Chin?”)
4) Co-sponsors – National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, South Asian Network, Muslim Public Affairs Council
5) Organizers – Vivien Hao

Kudos to the organizers and participants of these town hall meetings and their efforts to keep Vincent Chin’s memory alive and well, and to everyone out there who is still involved in the fight for justice and equality for Asian Americans.