The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.
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.
The Asian American blogosphere and print media, which in many ways set the terms of the discussion around Asian American issues, rarely touches on issues outside the United States. I don’t remember the last time I read an article in an English-language Asian American blog about political or social problems in Asia. English-medium Asian American bloggers have been silent on issues like the island disputes in Northeast and Southeast Asia, Burma and Thailand’s unacceptable treatment of Rohingya refugees, and the election of a dictator’s daughter to the presidency in South Korea.
Even the Delhi gang rape incident, a tragedy that caught the attention of people the world over, scarcely got mentioned in Asian American media. Hyphen Magazine’s blog published a post about it, but it originally came from the Asia Society’s Asia Blog.
Are events in Asia outside of the scope of “Asian American” media, and if so, why? Is it a reaction to the unending accusations of being foreign and un-American? Is it because organizing around the pan-ethnic “Asian” label makes people loath to make statements on sensitive ethnonational conflicts across the Pacific, lest the solidarity built up in the American context breaks down? Does our US-born population’s general lack of language skills and knowledge of non-American history make these issues inaccessible and incomprehensible?
As another contributing author to the Asian-Nation team, I would like to introduce Justin Lockenwitz.
Justin graduated from UMass Amherst with a degree in Political Science and an Asian/Asian American Studies Certificate. Currently he is enrolled in a Master’s program in Intercultural Relations at Lesley University. He is also an office manager for a business research center at MIT Sloan and plans to pursue a career in International Education.
Welcome aboard, Justin. It’s great to have you be a part of the expanding Asian-Nation team and I and my readers look forward to reading your posts!
As another contributing author to the Asian-Nation team, I would like to introduce Eric Hamako.
Eric Hamako has been involved in Mixed-Race student- and community-organizing since 2000. Currently completing his doctorate in Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Eric studies how community education can support Mixed-Race people’s political movements and ways to incorporate stronger anti-racist frameworks into those educational efforts. Eric has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Stanford University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Ithaca College, and the Smith College School for Social Work. As an independent trainer & consultant, Eric has presented on Multiraciality and other social justice issues to universities, professional associations, and community organizations across the United States.
Welcome aboard, Eric. I am very happy you’re a part of the expanding Asian-Nation team and I and my readers look forward to reading your posts!
Hot on the heels of my earlier announcement about the first of Asian-Nation’s new contributing authors, I would now like to introduce Leighton Vila.
Leighton Vila is a Ph.D. Sociology student at Virginia Tech. He studies Asian American identity in the Pacific and U.S. South. His research interests include Colonial Mentality, Mental Health, and ethnic “Authenticity.” He has presented on Filipino Ghost Stories, Hawaiian Authenticity, and Asian Americans in the Hip Hop Scene.
Welcome aboard to Leighton — I am very happy you’re a part of the expanding Asian-Nation team and I and my readers look forward to reading your posts!
As regular readers to this site and blog may know already, Asian-Nation has been online for over 11 years now. I have been very proud of the work that I have done on this site and still feel very strongly in using it to bring sociological and academic theories, concepts, historical examples, and data to give as wide of an audience as possible a more comprehensive understanding and appreciation of Asian Americans. I am also very gratified when visitors to Asian-Nation — Asian American and otherwise, students and general readers — tell me how informative, useful, and even enlightening my articles and posts are to them personally.
I only wish I could post more often than I currently do. Alas, with my normal day-to-day schedule, I have only had time to post once or twice a week lately. With that in mind, I have begun inviting some of my colleagues and former students to become contributing authors on this blog. They all come from different backgrounds, but all of them share my passion for applying academic knowledge to better interpret and make sense of issues, news, and current events that relate to Asian Americans and to contribute to the public sociology movement.
I will be introducing them to you in the coming weeks and the first new contributing author to Asian-Nation is Calvin N. Ho.
Calvin N. Ho is a Ph.D. student in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. His academic work uses ethnography to explore questions of immigrant transnationalism and diasporic engagement, particularly among overseas Chinese. In addition to Asian-Nation, Calvin also blogs at The Plaid Bag Connection, which aims to bridge the gap between the Asian American blogosphere and Asian bloggers elsewhere in the West. He hopes to bring a transnational comparative dimension to all of these projects.
Believe it or not, this month marks the 10 year birthday of my website and blog, Asian-Nation.org. I hope you’ll forgive me if I take a few minutes to reflect on where Asian-Nation has been as it enters its second decade on the internet.
The Origins of Asian-Nation
Around 10 years ago, I was finished with my graduate school course work and was trying to finish my dissertation (‘ABD’ or ‘all but dissertation’ in grad school lingo). My wife, daughter, and I had just moved from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the calmer and less expensive environs of Albany NY where I lived previously when I was doing my graduate course work at SUNY Albany.
I just started a full-time job as a Research Associate at the Center for Technology in Government (an applied research center at SUNY Albany) in which I analyzed how state government agencies used information technology to improve their public services. The internet was also just beginning to realize its potential as a medium for groups and individuals to express themselves and to claim their voice in U.S. society.
I was also eager to kick start my dissertation-writing and my research on different forms of assimilation among Asian Americans. Also, I was (and still am) a firm believer in doing “public sociology” — making academic research and data relevant and directly applicable to addressing important real-world issues that people and our society face and in the process, not being afraid to take a stand on controversial issues, as long as I used objective data and examples to support my viewpoints.
With these factors in mind, I also saw a need for Asian Americans to represent ourselves in mainstream U.S. society, rather than allowing others to represent us however they wanted. In other words, I wanted to directly educate people about the Asian American experience myself instead of having them rely on distorted portrayals and ignorant stereotypes that were unfortunately common.
Throughout my life, I frequently found myself in the position of being one of the few Asians (or even pople of color) around. In those situations, I sometimes had to be a “spokesperson” for the entire Asian American community and educating people a little bit about Asian American history, culture, and issues at a time. So I figured, why not leverage the power of the internet to create an online resource where I can do just that as many people and as wide of an audience at once?
Putting It All Together
So I decided to create a website and on April 26, 2001, I registered the domain name Asian-Nation.org. Why did I name the site “Asian-Nation?” There was not one specific reason and actually, I chose that name somewhat on a whim and as a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. Basically I liked the sound of it and it generally represents the contributions that Asians have made to the history and culture of U.S. society.
My initial plans were modest — I was only going to put up a few articles on different aspects of Asian American history and culture. But the more I got into it, the more material and information I decided to include until I organized them into the structure that currently exists right now — roughly six main categories of static HTML articles (the articles in the “Ethnic Groups” category were added in 2008). Here’s one of the earliest versions of my front page banner:
Back in 2001, blogs were not as common and popular as they are now but nonetheless, in my “Issues” category, I had an article that I titled “Behind the Headlines” in which I regularly updated and commented on current events and news items related to Asians and/or Asian Americans, so it was basically an early form of blogging. In fact, the first such entry I wrote was in April 2001 titled, “War and Conscience” about Kansas Senator Bob Kerry’s participation in the Viet Nam War. In 2004 I switched my blogging from just static HTML entries over to the WordPress software that I use now.
Here’s to the Next 10 Years and Beyond
Over these past 10 years, I have received approximately 4,000,000 visitors (that averages to about 33,000 a month). My site statistics tell me that on average, each visitor stays a little less than 4 minutes on the site and views about 3.5 pages. But what is more important than the numbers are the reactions and messages I get from visitors, a few of which I list in the “What Others Are Saying” section of my main page. I always feel invigorated when readers from all backgrounds tell me not just how much they like my site but also that it’s opened their eyes to stuff they’ve never heard or learned about before.
As I celebrate Asian-Nation’s 10th birthday, I hope to continue to educate people one at a time about the history, experiences, culture, and contemporary issues of Asian Americans (and immigrants and people of color as well) and hope that people will still find it to be a useful information resource and perhaps even an enlightening experience for them.
Racial hatred and the extremist ideas behind White supremacy are not new. As my friend and fellow sociologist Rory McVeigh writes in his new book The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan: Right-Wing Movements and National Politics, hate groups come in all forms, sizes, and levels of formal organization and have played a role in American race relations for over a century.
However, with the election of Barack Obama as our first non-White President, the current recession and economic insecurities confronting many Americans who had been comfortably middle-class up to this point, and the continuing uncertainty of institutional trends such as globalization and demographic population changes, many Whites understandably feel a little destabilized these days.
It is within this context that many Whites see an opportunity to rail against what they perceive to be the “invasion” or “taking over” of their country by those who are different from them — immigrants and non-Whites. Most recently, this has taken the form of post-election racial incidents and of subtle and non-so-subtle forms of immigrant bashing.
But as many sociologists such as my blogging colleague Jessie at Racism Review and other observers point out, this upsurge in racial intolerance is different because with the advent of internet technology and the proliferation of social networking websites, the message of White supremacy is being broadcast much more widely to a growing audience of White Americans feeling destabilized. The following video report from ABC News last year summarizes this emerging trend (about 3 minutes long):
A recent MSNBC article goes into more detail about this trend of racial/religious extremists using internet and social networking websites to spread their message of intolerance:
Militants and hate groups increasingly use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube as propaganda tools to recruit new members, according to a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The report released on Wednesday noted a 25 percent rise in the past year in the number of “problematic” social networking groups on the Internet. . . .
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, said Facebook recently removed several Holocaust denial sites, including one that featured a cartoon of Adolf Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, whose diary written in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam is among the best known stories of the Holocaust. . . . He pointed out a YouTube user whose racist content has caused his postings on the site to be taken down repeatedly, but he simply creates a new user profile, or channel, and posts the material again.
Extremist groups are also setting up their own social networking sites, the report said, picking out one called “New Saxon,” described as “a Social Networking site for people of European descent” produced by an American Neo-Nazi group called the National Socialist Movement. Other groups have created online games such as one created by an Iranian organization and called “Special Operation 85 — Hostage Rescue,” and one called “Border Patrol” in which the player has to shoot Mexicans, including women and children, as they try to come over the border into the United States.
I’m not here to say that we should ban or further restrict such websites or other forms of internet, communication, or media technology just because they allow people to spread messages of hate and intolerance more easily than would otherwise be possible (although I urge the administrators of such sites and internet services to take quick and decisive action to remove such blatantly offensive material, as per their stated policies). In other words, the technology itself is not to blame — it’s how technology is used.
With that in mind, I hope that those of us who oppose such racial and religious intolerance will make full use of such websites and technologies to counteract messages of hate with our own messages of understanding, tolerance, acceptance, and peace. This very site is my own attempt to do just that and thankfully, there are plenty of other sites and efforts toward promoting greater racial diversity and respect as well.
In fact, a homemade furniture commercial hosted on YouTube that has apparently become an internet sensation shows us that racial tolerance and capitalism can coexist together and that yes, it is possible for all of us to “just get along”: