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

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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 17, 2016

Written by C.N.

Chris Rock at the Oscars: An Asian American Mother’s Critique

By now, you’ve heard of the controversy surrounding how all the acting nominees at the 2016 Academy Awards were entirely White, with no actor of color nominated. And you probably saw host Chris Rock’s take on the situation throughout the Oscars awards ceremony. And hopefully you saw the skit in which three Asian American children were used as props for a rather weak and ultimately offensive skit.

Chris Rock anti-Asian skit © Robert Deutsch

Lots of people and many Asian Americans have rightfully called out Chris Rock’s skit as downright racist. One of the best critiques (in my biased opinion) comes from fellow Asian American professor, UMass Amherst colleague, and my wife Miliann Kang in her piece at Contexts magazine, titled “An Asian American Mother’s Question to Chris Rock and the Academy.” An excerpt:

Out walked three Asian American children, wearing tuxes and thick glasses. Chris Rock introduced them as accountants from the prestigious firm of Pricewaterhouse Coopers—Ming Zu, Bao Ling, and…David Moskowitz? Then anticipating the pushback, he added that if anyone was upset they should “just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids.”

I looked over at my sixteen year-old daughter who looked stunned. Was this really happening? She loves Chris Rock. She loves movies. We were right there with him, so what happened? . . .

These are the oldest tricks in the racial playbook -— kick the next person down on the rung. Divide and conquer. Shame and blame. Dump the pain on someone else. I know Chris Rock did not create these problems, and he has done much to try to address them. And whether or not Chris Rock made racist jokes about Asians, Hollywood would still have a race problem. But on this night, he also added to them. . . .

I thought we were further along than this. I thought my child would not have to endure the same inane, stupid racist jokes that I grew up with, not on the playground, not in the movies, not on a night that was supposed to highlight the importance of diversity in the movies.

Again, I am obviously biased since the author happens to be my wife, but I think her valuable contribution to the discussion of this incident is to both put it in the larger institutional context of the U.S. racial landscape while also personalizing its effect on our family as well.

December 1, 2015

Written by C.N.

Online Survey: International Separation During Childhood

Below is a solicitation for respondents for an online survey about Chinese Americans who were internationally separated from their parents. As always, the announcement is provided for informational purposes and does not necessarily imply an endorsement of the research study being conducted.

We are seeking Chinese Americans for a new paid research study that looks at international separation between parents and children. You may qualify if you: 1) are 18 years or older; 2) lived in China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong as a child for at least six months while both of your parents were in North America; and 3) can speak about your experiences at length.

You will receive a $30 Amazon gift card for filling out an online survey and participating in a phone interview. The researchers are affiliated with Wellesley College, Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, and the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Please visit http://goo.gl/forms/2Q4N9aKYt2 for more details. Thank you from the Family Development Research Team!

International Separation Study

February 11, 2010

Written by C.N.

Individual and Collective Success in India

The other day, I was flipping around the network evening news broadcasts and landed on CBS News. Apparently, they have a regular segment titled “Everybody Has a Story” in which they randomly pick a location in the U.S., travel there, and then the reporter takes out a phonebook and randomly flips to a page and puts his finger on a name on that page, and then they profile that randomly-chosen person and tell his/her story.

Also apparently, CBS News expanded this segment to “Everybody in the World Has a Story” and enlisted the help of an American astronaut to randomly point to a location on a globe where they would go and repeat the same procedure to profile the randomly-chosen person. In the segment I watched the other day, they ended up in Rewari, India (just outside Delhi). The video of their segment and the person they profiled is below:

As seen in the video clip, the person they profiled is Khushi Ram Goyal, a 78 year-old patriarch of a four-generation family who all live in the same house. Mr. Khushi also happens to be blind. But instead of being debilitated and resentful (although I am not suggesting that all blind people feel that way), Mr. Khushi actually leads a very fulfilling life. This is possible because his children and extended family members share everything — one house, one bank account, and one set of eyes as family members take turns watching over Mr. Khushi, not to do everything for him, but to give him a hand in case he needs it.

In watching this segment, I was very touched by Mr. Khushi, his family, and how they work together to share in their collective success as a family. Although it’s a different matter to generalize one example to an entire society, I suppose Mr. Khushi’s life does reinforce the notion that traditional Asian cultures such as India do indeed place a higher priority on familial duties and the importance of the family unit over the individual.

I’ve written about how this collective focus can sometimes be dysfunctional and actually lead to tragic consequences. Many Asian Americans can also attest to how difficult it is for parents and their children (even once they become adults) to express their love for each other.

Nonetheless, in this case, Mr. Khushi’s story is a nice example that sometimes, there are more important things in life than maximizing an individual’s economic success. Instead, his story shows us that the sharing of success and responsibilities throughout an extended family can be just as rewarding and nurturing for a person’s soul.