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All posts copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le.
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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.

March 28, 2008

Written by C.N.

Visits Back to Viet Nam by Andrew Lam

My colleague Andrew Lam has created a YouTube video channel that features short documentaries related to his journey back to Viet Nam a few years ago, entitled My Journey Home, produced by PBS. Part one of the series is below:

I encourage everyone to check out Andrew’s work and his journey back to his homeland.

March 26, 2008

Written by C.N.

Wal-Mart Catering to Muslim Americans

Is it a another sign of the power of capitalism, or that a bastion of American society and culture is increasingly accepting of Arabs and Muslims, or both? You can judge for yourself: as the Associated Press reports, Wal-Mart is catering to the Arab and Muslim American population in the Detroit area:

Aisle 3, which also features Eastern European and Hispanic food, represents many of the 550 items geared toward Arab-American shoppers in the store that opened last week.

It might be statistically tiny in a store with more than 150,000 items, but it’s symbolically huge for the world’s largest retailer as it seeks to change from a cost-is-everything monolith to one that customizes its stores to meet neighborhood needs.

Managers say they seek peace with the neighborhood’s merchants — and vow not to undercut them on Middle Eastern specialties. . . . the modifications go beyond merchandise: It has 35 employees who speak Arabic — noted in Arabic script on their badges. The store also has hired a local Arab-American educator to teach the staff cultural sensitivity.

Overall, I applaud Wal-Mart for taking this step to make at least one of their stores more appealing to Arab and Muslim Americans and to reflect the demographics of its surrounding community, even if their ultimate motivation is to make more money.

For me, the alternative — ignoring the changing demographic and cultural changes in the local community — would be worse than trying to rake in a little more money. As we should know by now, American society and American capitalism are not perfect but they are a practical reality of the society in which we live.

With that in mind, we should find ways of coexisting and engaging all sides, rather than taking a take-it-or-leave-it approach that only breeds more distrust.

Then again, that’s just me. What do you think?

March 24, 2008

Written by C.N.

Korean Americans Going to Korean Colleges

Asian Americans know that the competition to get into the top colleges and universities is quite intense these days. With that in mind, as the Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily reports, many Korean American students have decided to skip the U.S. entirely and instead, attend the top universities in South Korea:

A year ago, 19-year-old Korean-American Choi Joo-eun chose Korea¡¯s Yonsei University over the prestigious University of California system in her home state. Having gotten into both UC San Diego and UC Irvine, she had earned a place in two schools even many California teenagers dream of entering.

So far she has no regrets. On campus, she takes classes taught entirely in English while spending her spare time learning Korean culture and language. Off campus, Choi, who had never visited Korea before deciding to study here, keeps busy building a new network of friends and pursuing her dream of working for the United Nations one day. . . .

While it is well known that many Koreans opt out of the highly competitive race to get into a top local university like Yonsei for an American university, an increasing number of Korean-Americans and overseas-educated Koreans are heading in the opposite direction. . . .

Still, regardless of Korea being the land of their parents, it is far from home, and the students have to overcome their share of hardship and difficulties in adjusting to a new country and culture.

The article highlights the many advantages associated with such a process — reconnecting with one’s ancestral ethnic roots, exposure to an international climate, becoming fluently bilingual in English and Korean, etc. But as the last line of the quote I cited above alludes to, there can also be loneliness and cultural adjustment issues.

Nonetheless, this particular trend of Korean Americans “going back” to Korean schools is likely to accelerate in the coming years, as the world in general but American society in particular become increasingly globalized and transnational. As such, such transnational Korean American students are likely to have a competitive advantage.

However, it is worth noting that as the article points out, being Korean American does not automatically mean that you will have an easy time in Korea — being Asian and Asian American are two difference things.

Nonetheless, seen another way, being Korean American does provide another avenue of personal and academic enrichment when it comes to having the cultural international connection to Korea — one that can be seen as an asset rather than a liability as we move forward into the 21st century.

March 16, 2008

Written by C.N.

Temporary Hiatus: Going on Spring Break

I’m not shy about it — even professors need a spring break too. So I’m off to visit some friends and do some camping in North Carolina for a few days. Hopefully I’ll return in one piece and be back blogging on Friday. See you then.

March 13, 2008

Written by C.N.

Pan-Asian Production of Vagina Monologues

I received the following announcement about the upcoming performance of the only pan-Asian production of The Vagina Monologues for those of you in the Los Angeles area:

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I am one of the producers of the only Pan Asian production of The Vagina Monologues with Tamlyn Tomita, Takayo Fischer, Cher Calvin (KTLA anchor), and Janet Choi (KTLA reporter) among many other wonderful API actresses and community leaders. We hope to raise awareness about the problem of domestic and sexual violence in API communities where less than 10% of such crimes are ever reported because of shame or cultural stigma.

This show will be at the Aratani Japan America Theatre in Los Angeles this Saturday, March 15th, at 2pm and 8pm. We are all volunteering our time so every penny of the proceeds will go to Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF), the only shelter in Southern California offering shelter and hotline services to API women and children survivors of domestic and sexual violence, in honor of their 30 year anniversary this year. You can see the flyer for the show at www.cpaf.info.

Plus, there is a pre-launch party at Blue Velvet in downtown hosted by Asian Professional Exchange (APEX) and producer Teddy Zee on Friday, March 14th. All of the cover charges will be donated to CPAF as well. Click here for more information about this event.

Because of APEX and Teddy Zee’s generosity, we are able to offer free tickets to the show to students and seniors. I would love to extend an invitation to our show and pre-launch party to you if you are in town and hope you can spread the word to help us raise awareness of the violence against women and girls in our APIA communities as well as funds to help them.

Best,
Grayce Wey Liu
Producer
graycewey@yahoo.com

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It certainly sounds like a very worthwhile event, so for those of you in the area, I hope you make an effort to check it out and to support a very worthy cause.

Written by C.N.

Vietnamese American Student Conference

Following up on yesterday’s post, I’d like to make another plug for the fourth annual national Vietnamese American Student Conference (VASCON4), taking place at Georgetown University and the Marriott Conference and Hotel from April 4-6, 2008:

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VASCON4 is hoping to bring nearly 300 students from universities, colleges, and high schools to discuss the most pressing domestic and international issues facing the Vietnamese American community today.

4th annual Vietnamese American Student Conference

Themed “Planting Seeds”, our mission this year is to educate, inspire, and equip attendees with the knowledge and resources to develop personal growth and leadership skills. The ultimate goal is to encourage participants to go back to their respective communities and plant their own “seeds of change” — fostering the advancement of the Vietnamese American community and beyond.

Planting seeds at home or abroad, the issues will take on new life as they become exposed to the energy of our community, and together we hope to contribute to and continue the cycle of a quickly blossoming student activist movement.

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The organizers tried very hard to get me to participate but for various reasons, I will not be able to this year. Nonetheless, I completely support their efforts and encourage everyone to make an effort to attend and start making a difference in their community.

March 12, 2008

Written by C.N.

Midwest Asian American Student Conference

I’d like to make another plug for another very worthwhile Asian American student conference: MAASU (Midwest Asian American Student Union):

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The MAASU Spring Conference will be held in Lawrence, Kansas from March 28-29, 2008, which will bring together around 600 Asian-American college students across the Midwest.

The goal of the conference will be to discuss and share issues, strategies and programs that support Asian-American student organizations. The program will provide students with networking opportunities, insights, and motivation to take back to their respective campuses.

Our goal will be accomplished by having a two-day format featuring an institute, workshops and speakers addressing the issues facing the Asian Pacific Islanders American (APIA) community. Conference participants will have a chance to network and discuss what
is happening on their campus and abroad.

On Friday night, we will have The Friday Night Variety Show, which consists of unique talents from different schools across the Midwest. On Saturday, we will feature various workshops that will consist of Asian American issues. For example, some of the topics are Interracial Relationships, Coming Out in Double Minority: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Asian Americans & Legal Issues.

Also, students will get an opportunity to participate in a career fair. During the evening, we will feature Magdalen-Hsu Li, Danny Cho, Parry Shen, and the Ken Oak Band in our Saturday night banquet. Many of these people are prominent musicians and actors in the entertainment industry.

March 11, 2008

Written by C.N.

Marching for a Free Tibet

Many of you are probably familiar with the protests of many around the world against China’s occupation of Tibet, symbolized most publicly by the Dalai Lama. This past week, many exiled Tibetans and their allies have embarked on a historic march from India to Tibet to focus international attention on their issue.

Unfortunately, as the Associated Press/Salon.com reports, their efforts are being blocked by Indian authorities:

Indian police barred hundreds of Tibetan exiles from marching to Tibet to protest Beijing hosting this summer’s Olympic Games Monday, while Tibetans in other countries commemorated their 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Protesters rallied in the Indian capital, New Delhi and Katmandu, Nepal, where hundreds of activists clashed with police. Pro-Tibet demonstrations also took place in San Francisco and Olympia, Greece, birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games. . . .

The India-to-Tibet march was to be one of several protests around the world before the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games, Tibetan exile groups said. The exile groups say China is attempting to stamp out Tibetan Buddhist culture and increase the government’s presence in Tibet. Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically part of China. . . .

India, which had been sympathetic to the Tibetans’ cause, has clamped down on public protests in recent years, fearing they could embarrass Beijing and damage relations between the two Asian giants.

A former student of mine is involved in the India-to-Tibet march and sent me the following email update on the situation there:

I just got back from the Temple where HH The Dalai Lama gave his annual March 10th speech. After, our core marchers about 150 personals had a “sangsol” (burning of juniper leaves and Tibetan barely) to make offerings for victory to the gods.

I came in time to wait with the crowd for our core marchers to show up. After a few minutes wait they showed while the crowd cheered and the chanting for “FREE TIBET” started. . . . Today is a big day, today Tibetans here in exile will not walk some distance and return back home, they will march on towards HOME.

The marchers will be heading to Delhi to meet up with other marchers to continue on for the next 6 months. I hope you guys will be tuning in keep up with our news and our hopes to return HOME.

As a Vietnamese American who knows a little something about being exiled away from your community’s ancestral land, I completely sympathize with my student and others who are working hard, and in many cases putting their lives at risk, to work toward a free and independent Tibet.

I also deplore the Indian authorities’ efforts to stop such protests. I understand that they want to maintain good diplomatic relations with China but it’s especially sad to see that their current actions are in total opposition to their historical support of the Dalai Lama and the Free Tibet movement.

At the least, the marchers have already succeeded in achieving one goal — bringing this issue back into the media spotlight. But I know they’re not going to stop there.

March 10, 2008

Written by C.N.

Online Survey: Japanese Women

As happens quite frequently, I received another request from a reader to help publicize her online research survey, this time about eating habits of Japanese and Japanese American women:

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My name is Stephanie Calloway and I am a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This semester I am trying to finish my Master’s thesis and I really need your help! My project involves an anonymous, online survey for Japanese women living in Japan and the United States.

I am interested in learning more about how family, society and culture influences women’s eating habits. As you may know, anorexia is the number one mental health problem for women in Japan, and Asian American women are the number one risk group for disordered eating in the United States.

In order to complete my project, I need 100 Japanese and Japanese American women aged 18 years and older to take my survey. The survey is available in English and Japanese and takes less than 30 minutes. It is completely anonymous, and no information about your age, weight or birth country will be released.

The survey is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=LmZ1hv9WA2S3LxYdbEM3NA_3d_3d

If you have any questions about my survey, or would like to be notified of results, please let me know.

Sincerely,
Stephanie Calloway, B.A.
edwards9@uwm.edu

March 6, 2008

Written by C.N.

Giveaway Contest: What If Democrats Lost?

I’ve been given the opportunity to conduct the first (and hopefully not last) giveaway contest on this blog — a chance to win a free DVD of Blue State. Featuring Academy Award winner Anna Paquin, Blue State is an independent film about a disgruntled John Kerry campaign activist that vows to move to Canada if Bush is re-elected.

Blue State DVD

Here’s how to enter: go to my “Contact Me” page and in 20 words or less, send me a message on what you would do if the Democrats lost the 2008 Presidential election.

The deadline to send your entry is Friday, March 21, 2008 at 11:59pm. I will pick the best, most creative answer as the winner (remember to also leave me your email in the message so that I can contact you in case you’re the winner).

FYI, I am cross-promoting this contest on my other blog, CNLe.net, and therefore, you are allowed only one entry on either blog. Good luck!

March 5, 2008

Written by C.N.

New Asian American Radio Show

A former student of mine, Nate Bae Kupel, has been hard at work on helping to create a new radio show devoted to Asian Americans and is happy to report that the show is finally ready. His announcement is below:

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As I Am: Asians In America Radio Pilot

As I Am is an hour-long program, hosted by author-activist Helen Zia, that examines the American experience – present, past, and future – with an Asian American lens. Through politics, arts, popular culture, history, and everyday encounters with the famous and not so famous, As I Am offers listeners a unique opportunity to learn from and about the nation’s dynamic Asian American community. In the process, those who tune in from all backgrounds will gain fresh perspectives on their own lives and experiences.

The program is produced by the Institute for Asian American Studies and WUMB Public Radio at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

About the Pilot
The As I Am pilot features reports, analyses, and commentary on social, political, cultural and artistic topics seldom heard on traditional public radio broadcasts. Hosted by the award-winning journalist, author and scholar Helen Zia, public radio audiences will hear unique voices and perspectives on a variety of issues from across the country.

The Pilot features up and coming author Min Jin Lee as she discusses her new book Free Food for Millionaires with Boston College’s Professor Min Hyoung Song. As I Am’s Paul Niwa reveals the effects of gentrification on Boston’s Chinatown through one man’s battle against his landlord’s rent increase.

Minnesota Public Radio’s Angela Kim’s journey from California to the Midwest reminds us that no matter where we may move we are often searching for something, anything, to remind us of where we came from. Nationally recognized slam poet Regie Cabico performs a piece that challenges the notion that we can be easily defined by a census box. Known for his cookbooks and popular television show Yan Can Cook, Chef

Martin Yan steps out of the kitchen to talk with the award-winning broadcast journalist Sydnie Kohara. A group of UMass Boston students’ trip to the Gulf Coast is chronicled as they discuss rebuilding the Vietnamese American communities ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. And International Studies Professor at Trinity College Vijay Prashad comments on why his ideal home isn’t in the present, it is in the future. You can hear these stories and more, on As I Am: Asians In America.

The program will be distributed on the Public Radio Exchange and is expected to have national carriage on non-commercial radio stations across the country. The program will be available for listening and downloading on our website soon. For now, listeners may go to the Institute for Asian American Studies’ website to download or stream the program.

Musical consideration for the pilot has been provided by Boston Progress Radio a community-based online radio station and blog focusing on independent Asian American music and art.

For more information on As I Am, please visit our website: www.asiam.us

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Kudos to Nate and his crew for putting this project together. As I’ve said many times in the past, we Asian Americans need to create more outlets like this where we can express ourselves however we want, instead of relying on others to do so however they want.

March 4, 2008

Written by C.N.

Government Apologies to Native Populations

Normally, governments do not officially apologize for past actions or policies that may have negatively impacted particular racial, ethnic, or cultural groups. As one example, here on this blog, I have written numerous times about the consequences of the Japanese government’s inability or unwillingness to apologize for its atrocities during World War II. The one notable exception was when the U.S. government apologized for the unjust imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

However, two recent news items show that maybe, just maybe, governments around the world are becoming more open to acknowledging the unjust nature of their past actions targeted at particular groups.

The first example concerns Australia. Similar to the experiences of Native American Indians and Blacks in the U.S., the history of how aborigines in Australia have been treated is well-documented. This history includes blatant and systematic discrimination, physical brutality, and the forced separation of mixed-race aborigine children from their parents to be raised “White,” referred to as the “stolen generation.”

Within this context and as CBS News reports, in a move that has strong symbolic — if not practical — meaning, the Australian government will now issue a formal apology to aborigines for the historical practice of forced child-parent separation (portrayed in the critically-acclaimed 2002 movie Rabbit Proof Fence):

Australia will issue its first formal apology to the country’s indigenous people next month . . . a milestone that could ease tensions with a minority once subjected to policies including the removal of mixed-blood children from families on the premise that their race was doomed. . . .

[Government leaders] have previously ruled out financial compensation for the impoverished minority. . . . Australia’s original inhabitants, Aborigines number about 450,000 among a population of 21 million. Aborigines are the poorest ethnic group in Australia and are most likely to be jailed, unemployed and illiterate. . . .

From 1910 until the 1970s, around 100,000 mostly mixed-blood Aboriginal children were taken from their parents under state and federal laws based on a premise that Aborigines were a doomed race and saving the children was a humane alternative.

A national inquiry in 1997 found that many children taken from their families suffered long-term psychological effects stemming from the loss of family and culture.

The second example involves our own American government. As the Associated Press reports, Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan) has proposed legislation that would officially apologize to the American Indian population for centuries of mistreatment from the federal government:

“For too much of our history, federal-tribal relations have been marked by broken treaties, mistreatment and dishonorable dealings,” said Brownback, a Republican. “We can acknowledge our past failures, express sincere regrets and establish a brighter future for all Americans.”

The resolution says the federal government forced Indians off tribal lands, stole tribal assets and is responsible for “official depredations, ill-conceived policies and the breaking of covenants” with tribes. The Senate added the resolution as an amendment to the health care bill by voice vote Thursday night. . . .

It is unusual for Congress to apologize for official government acts, though there have been exceptions, including a 1988 apology for interning Japanese-Americans in detention camps during World War II and a 1993 apology to native Hawaiians for the unlawful overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. . . .

The Indian apology resolution in the Senate bill is careful to state that it is not meant to authorize or support any claim against the U.S. government or serve as a settlement of any claim.

I commend both the new Australian government and our own Congress for taking these actions, although I am disappointed that financial reparations are not included in either case. Nonetheless, both examples are a positive symbolic step forward into acknowledging the injustices of the past.

To be honest, I am also rather shocked that a conservative Republican (Sen. Brownback) is leading this effort and that Congress is well on its way to approving such a measure and I give huge props to Senator Brownback for having the conviction to lead this effort.

Maybe things have changed, who knows — governments acknowledging their past mistakes and conservatives recognizing systematic racial injustice. Stranger things have happened.