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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 19, 2013

Written by Calvin N. Ho

Bilingualism, Signs, and Xenophobia

Strip mall sign in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Photo: Tyler Goss (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Strip mall sign in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Photo: Tyler Goss (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Two contrasting articles about bilingualism came my way this morning. In the first one, Los Angeles Times immigration reporter Cindy Chang writes about how the changing geopolitical context is pushing middle class parents to ensure that their kids are bilingual:

Nowadays, with China on the rise, it’s considered borderline criminal for Mandarin speakers not to pass on the language. Even parents who were born here address their children in less-than-perfect Chinese in hopes that some of it will stick. Bilingual mania has taken root among the Tiger Mom set, and not just among Chinese Americans. Many families go to great lengths to make sure their kids are fluent in another language, whether it’s Korean, Spanish, French or Swedish.

Bilingualism is great! Mandarin for everyone! But does this mark a wholesale change in the negative attitudes toward the use of non-dominant languages?
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September 30, 2012

Written by Calvin N. Ho

The Stigma of Immigrant Languages

Photo by Lulu Vision (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Photo by Lulu Vision (Flickr/Creative Commons).

As an undergraduate majoring in linguistics, I was fascinated with the concept of endangered languages. Colonization, genocide, globalization, and nation-building projects have killed off untold numbers of languages. As linguist K. David Harrison (my undergrad advisor) tells NPR, speakers of stigmatized or otherwise less-favored languages are pressured to abandon their native tongue for the dominant language of the nation and the market:

“The decision to give up one language or to abandon a language is not usually a free decision. It’s often coerced by politics, by market forces, by the educational system in a country, by a larger, more dominant group telling them that their language is backwards and obsolete and worthless.” (emphasis mine)

These same pressures are at work in immigrant-receiving countries like the United States, where young immigrants and children of immigrants are quickly abandoning their parents’ language in favor of English.

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September 14, 2012

Written by Calvin N. Ho

Balancing American, Mainland, and Taiwanese Influences in Chinese Language Schools

Students at a Chinese language school in Vancouver. Photo by Felex Liu (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Students at a Chinese language school in Vancouver. Photo by Felex Liu (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Thank you, C.N., for inviting me to write for Asian-Nation. I hope to contribute to this blog a perspective on Asian America that looks both within and beyond the United States. The Asian American experience has been transnational since the very beginning, and has only become more so with economic globalization, the increasing affordability of travel and communications technologies, and the acceptance of multiple citizenship. Though the boundaries of the nation-state have not become irrelevant, I believe that we must look at Asian Americans as situated in the United States and in the larger global context.

With that frame in mind, I would like to introduce you all to some of the transnational dimensions of my current research on extracurricular Chinese language schools. What kinds of influence do the US, Mainland Chinese, and Taiwanese governments have in these schools, and how do the schools handle these influences?

I am currently conducting an ethnography of two Chinese schools. One school is located outside of an ethnic enclave and serves a predominantly upper-middle-class student body. The other, in the heart of an urban Chinatown, serves mainly students from working-class backgrounds.

It is in the interest of the Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese governments to support extracurricular Chinese language programs like these. As anthropologist Gladys Nieto (2007) argues, these schools foment cultural and linguistic ties between children of immigrants and their ethnic homeland. Not only do these programs open up the possibility that these children “return” to their ethnic homeland and invest in the homeland state’s economic and political projects, but they may also make them more sympathetic advocates for the homeland in their country of residence.

The US government has been marginally involved in these schools for decades. For example, many schools do not have their own facilities and will rent public schools or community centers for the day. With the designation of China as the world’s emerging superpower, federal and local government investment in Chinese language programs has increased dramatically. There are national initiatives for teaching and learning “critical languages” such as Chinese, and at least one school district has mandated that all students learn the language. Though these initiatives have generally ignored privately-run extracurricular programs like the ones I am researching, the opportunity is wide open.

These extracurricular programs are often in need of space, financial support, and affordable materials. They will apply for help from the three governments as they are able. What kinds of assistance they seek and from whom they seek this assistance depends on community politics, language ability, and connections (or, in Mandarin, guanxi 關係). How they balance the competing influences coming from the three governments depends on the same three factors.

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January 4, 2011

Written by C.N.

Links, Jobs, & Announcements #36

Here are some more announcements, links, and job postings about academic-related jobs, fellowships, and other related opportunities for those interested in racial/ethnic/diversity issues. As always, the announcements and links are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of the organization or college involved.

Call for Participants: Study on Chinese, Korean, & Vietnamese Women

The Asian-American Women’s Health Initiative Project (AWSHIP) invites you to participate in a confidential, federally-funded research study of Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese women. Participants will be asked to complete a 45 minute user-friendly computer survey about family life, relationships, culture, and values. You will be compensated $20 for your time, and will be given the opportunity to participant in a follow-up in-depth interview for another $30. All interviews will take place at a location convenient and comfortable for you. You are eligible to participate if you:

  • Are an unmarried woman
  • Are between 18 to 35 years old
  • Identify as Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese
  • Are a child of an immigrant family (1.5 and 2nd generation)

For more information, please email the project coordinator, Yut Yang, at awship@bu.edu or visit: http://www.bu.edu/awship.

Call for Participants: Study on Relationship Satisfaction Among LGBT

Looking for lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals of ethnic diversity who would like to participate in a research study on Relationship Satisfaction with a focus on Personal, Relational Resources and Support Systems. The purpose is to add to the limited literature on the subject, and to be of assistance to psychologists, case workers, counselors, and social workers.

This research study is done as part of my final graduate project under the Social Work Master program at the California State University of Northridge. Those interested in participating can contact me at: amets65@hotmail.com; Subject: “MyCSUN Survey”, so I can send them a link to the survey. All information will remain confidential. Thank you for your interest and your participation!

American Sociological Association Minority Fellowship Program

The American Sociological Association’s Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) provides a pre-doctoral training program that delivers national coordination for minority students in institutions of higher education throughout the U.S. From recruitment and placement to training, mentoring, and monitoring, MFP offers graduate students support that complements and extends the education and professional development provided by their home departments. MFP takes seriously the need to train and mentor minority graduate students in their area of interest and to mobilize sociologists in graduate departments and research settings to make this ambition a reality. Deadline: January 31, 2011.

Job Announcement: Race & Science, Emory University

Emory University seeks nominations and applications for an open-rank faculty position — tenured or tenure-track — with research interests in Race and Science. We recognize the importance of complex and critical examinations of the social, political and ethical challenges raised by the use and misuse of concepts of race in the sciences. We are interested in scholars whose work bridges the sciences and the humanities and investigates socio-political concepts of race as they historically and currently have intersected with, and been constituted by, the biological sciences, medicine, and health more generally.

This new position will be located in the department(s) appropriate to the successful candidate’s research interests and background. While preference will be given to senior scholars, we will consider applicants at all ranks. In addition to playing a leadership role in his or her home department(s), the successful candidate is expected to work closely with Emory University’s university-wide strategic initiative on Race and Difference. This Initiative seeks to promote understanding of and generate new knowledge about race and other intersecting forms of human difference.

This new position will work closely with the leadership of the Race and Difference Initiative (RDI) to support the development of new research, campus programs, and undergraduate and graduate courses focusing on all aspects of race and difference. Candidates should have a distinguished academic reputation, demonstrated teaching and mentoring skills and an interest in or record of external funding (PhD or other terminal degree required). Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience.

Please mail applications or nominations to: Co-Director, Race and Difference Initiative, Professor Dorothy A. Brown, Emory University, Gambrell Hall, 1301 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30322-2770. Interested applicants should submit a letter of application, curriculum vitae, and names of three recommenders. Review of applications will begin on February 1, 2011. Preliminary inquiries may be directed to RDI co-director Amanda Lewis (amanda.evelyn.lewis@emory.edu).

Call for Nominations: Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize

The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize is a new annual awards program to honor individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment, and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change.

The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize directly reflects Grinnell’s historic mission to educate men and women “who are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good.” The Social Justice Action Group works towards peace, justice, and positive social change with efforts that fight hunger, promote volunteerism, and build understanding. The Wall Alumni Service Awards provide financial support for Grinnell alumni to engage in service projects, programs, and organizations dedicated to improving the lives of others.

Under Grinnell’s Expanding Knowledge Initiative, the College has introduced curricular innovations in the areas of environmental challenges, human rights, and human dignity. Now with the creation of the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize, the College is extending its educational mission beyond the campus and alumni community to individuals anywhere who believe innovative social justice programs create a better world.

Up to three individuals will be honored annually. Each prize carries an award of $100,000, half to the winning individual and half to an organization committed to the winner’s area of social justice, for a total of up to $300,000 in prize awards each year.

The deadline for 2011 nominations is Feb. 1. The first prize recipients will be announced in May 2011. For additional information about the program, please visit the program website at Grinnell College.

Boren Fellowship for Graduate Language Study

Boren Fellowships provide up to $30,000 to U.S. graduate students to add an important international and language component to their graduate education through specialization in area study, language study, or increased language proficiency. Boren Fellowships support study and research in†areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests, including Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Deadline: February 1, 2011.

Minority Graduate Scholarships, Society for the Study of Social Problems

The Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP), in keeping with its philosophy of active engagement with social problems, participation in social problem solutions, and advancement of knowledge through study, service and critical analysis, established the Racial/Ethnic Minority Graduate Scholarship at its annual meeting in August 1993. The purpose of the scholarship is:

  • To identify and support developing minority scholars who exemplify and give fresh voice to the SSSP history and commitment to scholar activism
  • To give renewed energy and wider lenses to diversity in scholarship
  • To increase the pool of minority social and behavioral scientists
  • To establish a formal commitment to diversity through support of a minority doctoral student in the social and/or behavioral sciences inclusive of course work or dissertation research support who demonstrates a commitment, through his or her scholarly examination, of any aspect of inequality, injustice and oppression

A $12,000 scholarship will be funded to one student with an additional $500 awarded for attendance at the annual meeting. Payments will be made in equal installments in September 2011 and January 2012. SSSP believes that the support of students will foster the commitment required to enable the student to fund living arrangements as well as academic or research costs. Deadline: February 1, 2011.

Call for Submissions: 4th Annual Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival

4th Annual Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival
June 11-12, 2011
Japanese American National Museum
369 East 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA

Now is your chance to submit your film, writing, workshop proposal, or performance act. There is NO submission fee if you submit your work by Feb. 14, 2011! So don’t wait — send us your stories of the Mixed experience NOW! For complete submission information visit the Festival website. You’ll find the submission forms on the left navigation bar.

The Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival is a non-competitive, annual arts festival dedicated to sharing and nurturing storytelling of the Mixed experience. The Mixed experience refers to interracial and intercultural relationships, transracial and transcultural adoptions, and anyone who identifies as having biracial, multiracial, Hapa or Mixed identity.

Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholars Program

The program is designed to increase the pool of university faculty by supporting the doctoral aspirations of individuals who are: current upper division or graduate students in the California State University system, economically and educationally disadvantaged, interested in a university faculty career, U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and leaders of tomorrow.

Students who are chosen for this prestigious award are designated Sally Casanova Scholars as a tribute to Dr. Sally Casanova, for whom the Pre-Doctoral scholarship is named. These scholars are exposed to unique opportunities to explore and prepare to succeed in doctoral programs. CSU and UC faculty members are an integral component of this program as they work closely with scholars to prepare them for graduate studies. Deadline: no later than March 25, 2011.


December 4, 2009

Written by C.N.

Links & Announcements #18

Here are some more announcements and links out that have come my way relating to Asians or Asian Americans. As always, links to other sites are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of their contents. (Previous similar posts were titled “Miscellaneous Links”).

Women’s Center Uses Music Video to Combat Domestic Violence

The New York Asian Women’s Center (NYAWC) has taken an improbable yet powerful new tack in their efforts to combat domestic violence: music videos. Recently, NYAWC lent its resources and non-profit status to the production of ‘Someday,’ a song by artist May Ling about a woman’s experience in an abusive home. The video, directed by award-winning video producer Scott Gabriel, will be used to raise awareness of domestic violence and promote the initiatives of the NYAWC.

“Domestic violence is often hidden behind the closed doors of perfectly ordinary, middle-class American homes,” says Gabriel. “We want to bring the issue into the public forum and make sure that people are aware that resources exist to help. We were ecstatic that the NYAWC were willing to be the first organization to help us reach the broad internet audience.”

“Music has the special ability to communicate issues that people normally do not want to discuss,” said singer/songwriter May Ling. “In the 70’s, many popular songs were about changing the world for the better. . . . My hope is that Someday will inspire social dialogue and positive change.” . . . Other songs, in May Ling’s collaboration with Bennett Media Studios, deal with child trafficking, the Khmer Rouge, and victims of the Sichuan Earthquake.

The music and clips from ‘Someday’ will be featured in a new public service announcement for NYAWC on NY 1. The group has also completed a Chinese PSA and is currently working to find a station interested in donating air time. They also hope to translate the PSA into other languages and make it available in other regions to help spread the word.

During their life time one hundred thousand Asian women in New York City will be abused by their partner – emotionally, financially, physically, or sexually. NYAWC helps victims overcome violence and govern their own lives, free of abuse. . . . The group’s 24 hour, multi-lingual help line provides assistance in 11 different languages and can be reached at 1-888-888-7702. Songs with a Voice is a collaboration of artists, who combine the mediums of film and music to reach those in need and inspire activism.

JACL Accepting Applications for “Active Choice” Intern

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is seeking to innovate and progress to keep up with the needs of the community. In order to do this, there must be an upsurge of young members to reinvigorate and redirect the organization on the local level. The JACL views the new reduced-rate Active Choice health insurance plan as a viable stimulus in the JACL’s efforts to develop its membership.

Furthermore, the JACL hopes to insure as many young members of the greater community as possible by providing an affordable health insurance option. By introducing the Active Choice Plan, the JACL hopes to mitigate the negative consequences of the uninsured lifestyle among this high-risk demographic and encourage social responsibility.

The Active Choice Intern will assist the JACL in the efforts outlined above. The position will be part-time with a negotiable time frame beginning the week of January 4, 2010; receive a stipend of $1,000 per month; and will report to the JACL National Membership Coordinator at the National JACL Headquarters in San Francisco.

Intern Tasks:

  • Create a database documenting all UC and CSU SHIP costs, contrasting them to comparable plans in the market and the JACL Active Choice Plan
  • Coordinate with JACL Membership Coordinator and JACL Health Benefits Trust Blue Shield Office to create a comprehensive marketing plan
  • Engage potential student subscribers in on-campus meetings
  • Work with Consul General’s office in reaching out to exchange students, and the Shin-Issei community
  • Pursue an aggressive social media campaign utilizing online networking sites
  • Develop language-specific advertising in coordination with the JACL Health Benefits Trust office
  • Some travel will be required

Outcomes/Goals:

  • Recruit 1,000 new JACL members through an appeal to the Active Choice PPO Plans
  • Promote social responsibility and wellness among the 18-39 year old demographic

Skills Required:

  • Good written and oral communication skills
  • Experience with spreadsheets and database management
  • Familiarity and comfort with public speaking and good one on one interactive skill
  • Some creative design experience

Click here for the application and please send all materials by December 23, 2009 to:

JACL National Headquarters
Attn: Active Choice Internship
1765 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
mbr@jacl.org
415.921.5225

Funding Opportunities for Grad Students and Others

Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship: The Jennings Randolph (JR) Program for International Peace awards approximately ten Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowships each year to support the research and writing of doctoral dissertations addressing the sources and nature of international conflict and strategies to prevent or end conflict and to sustain peace.

The Peace Scholar Fellowship is meant to assist emerging scholars at one of the most crucial points in their career. Awards may be used to support writing and research at their home institution or for field-work abroad. USIP welcomes proposals from all disciplines, however, they should be consistent with the Institute’s mandate and present a research agenda with clear relevance to policy issues. Peace Scholars receive $20,000 for 10 months.

Deadline is January 5, 2010.

Blakemore Freeman Fellowships for Advanced Asian Language Study: Blakemore Freeman grants are awarded to individuals pursuing professional, academic, or business careers that involve the regular use of an East or Southeast Asian language. The grants fund a year of advanced language study at an institution in Asia such as the Inter-University Center for Japanese Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the International Chinese Language Program at National Taiwan University in Taipei, or similar structured programs in Asia. Deadline is December 30, 2009.

Registration Open for East Coast Asian American Students Union (ECAASU) Conference

Registration for the ECAASU National Conference 2010 at the University of Pennsylvania is up! Register now until December 15th for the best rate. Get your friends to join you and the rest of your school at the largest intercollegiate Asian American conference in the country.

When? March 4-6, 2010
Where? University of Pennsylvania
Why? Because you want to meet all the great workshop facilitators, phenomenal speakers, artists, writers, and student leaders across the country
How? Go to the ECAASU website

We’re not just coming together because we’re Asian Americans, but we’re at the forefront of larger minority and leadership movement that is closing the gap between ethnic minorities and the divide between the majority and minority, to make those contemporary issues that concern the minority the priorities of our country and our future, to make the face of Asian Americans in the realms of art, literature, politics, business, social media, academia, etc… the norm rather than the exception.


April 13, 2009

Written by C.N.

Questioning the ‘American’ in Asian American

I previously wrote about the evolution of the American identity and how in the context of American society becoming more diverse and globalized, we as Asian Americans now have the opportunity to use our transnational cultural ties and networks to make meaningful contributions to moving American society and its economy forward into the 21st century. In other words, our “foreignness” may finally be seen as an asset, rather than a liability.

Having said that, I also recognize that there are still “traditional” beliefs about what it means to be an American that we need to overcome and persistent stereotypes about our Asian identity and loyalty to the U.S. that we still need to dispel once and for all. This week, we saw three examples on this kind of “traditional” assumptions about our community and questions about the validity of the “American” part of our identity as Asian Americans.

The first example involves Lori Phanachone, a Laotian American high school student in Des Moines Iowa, who refused to take an English fluency test, arguing that as an Honors student for several years and one who speaks perfect English, the test is insulting, demeaning, and discriminatory. She was initially suspended by her school district and her National Honor Society membership was revoked. Earlier this week, after a lawsuit threat by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Iowa school district finally relented, reclassified Lori as an English proficient student, will waive the test requirement, and reinstate her National Honor Society membership:

Lori Phanachone, a senior who ranks seventh in her class of about 119 and has a 3.9 grade point average, refused to take the English Language Development Assessment several times last month, saying the test was demeaning and racist. Previously, the school district’s curriculum coordinator, Lori Porsche, said taking the test was mandatory for Phanachone because she indicated on her school registration that English was not the first language spoken in her home.

Her parents are Laotian and still speak little English. Phanachone, who was born in California and lived in upstate New York before moving to Storm Lake with her family in 2006, said she has never been enrolled in any English Language Learning or English as a Second Language program.

In the second example in which Asian Americans were questioned on their American identity, as the Houston Chronicle reports, Texas state Republican representative Betty Brown recently urged Asian Americans to change their names to “simpler,” more Americanized names that would be “easier for Americans to deal with”:

A North Texas legislator during House testimony on voter identification legislation said Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.” The comments caused the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday to demand an apology from state Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell. But a spokesman for Brown said her comments were only an attempt to overcome problems with identifying Asian names for voting purposes. . . .

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said. Brown later told [Organization of Chinese Americans representative Ramsey] Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”

Finally, the third example involved an incident that unfortunately, too many Asian Americans (especially students) are familiar with. As described in a newly-created Facebook group, this particular example occurred at Tufts University in Boston:

There was a bias incident involving members of the Korean Students Association (KSA) that took place in the early morning hours on Thursday, April 9, in Lewis Hall Lounge, while the club members were practicing for their culture show.

At approximately 1:45AM, a white freshman male living in Lewis Hall approached five male members who were practicing their dance. He had been drinking at a bar prior to arriving at Lewis Hall. He insisted several times that the KSA members teach him the moves to their dance and was repeatedly asked to stop. Despite this request, he continued to molest the dancers, imitating the dance moves and declaring, “This is the gayest shit I’ve ever done.”

The KSA members then asked him to leave, to which he responded, “Fuck you. Fuck you, I could take all of you. I’ll kill you all.” He then threatened to get his fraternity brothers to help him retaliate. At this point, he began to physically harass the dancers, spitting at one member and shoving another one of the guys. An altercation ensued during which the freshman ripped two shirts and inflicted minor cuts to a member’s forehead. In order to restrain him, the KSA members pinned him to the floor and put him into a headlock, at which point the freshman mentioned that he could not breathe and the person holding him down immediately let go.

At this moment, the freshman’s friend and his girlfriend, who watched from the side, stepped in to take him away. When he got up, he started cursing “Fuck you, fuck you” and spitting at the dancers again. As he was being dragged away, he shouted, “Fuck you all, you fucking chinks, go back to China! Go back to your fucking country, you don’t belong in this country.”

His friends took him to the bathroom, where he could be heard repeatedly shouting, “If I see them again, I will fuck them all.” The fight was reported to an RA, who wrote and sent in a bias incident report. According to the RA, submitted within the report was testimony from his girlfriend supporting the fact that her boyfriend initiated the altercation.

In all three incidents, the assumption is pretty clear — that because we may happen to speak a language other than English at home (even though we are still completely fluent in English), or because we don’t have Anglicized “American” names like Smith or Jones, or because we don’t want to indulge the whims of a drunken frat guy, that we as Asian Americans are not real or legitimate Americans. Instead, we’re considered foreigners, outsiders, and troublemakers who make unreasonable demands.

Beyond the sheer ignorance and ethnocentric beliefs fundamentally embedded in these assumptions, what the Iowa school district, Rep. Brown, and the drunken frat guy all fail to see is that contrary to the stereotype that we are intent from being separate from mainstream society, our history and experiences consistently show that we’ve been trying to integrate into mainstream American society all along. In these three cases, it involved using our bilingual skills to help ease our parents into American culture, trying to make sure voting records are correct so that we can participate in the American democratic process, and putting on a performance that bridges Asia and America.

But as with previous incidents and examples over the past 150 years or so since the first Asians immigrated to the U.S. in large numbers, even as we attempt to become Americans and integrate into mainstream American society, we are questioned, challenged, and prevented from doing so time and time again by those who consciously or unconsciously believe that only one group qualifies to be a “real” American — Whites.

Unfortunately, as these three recent incidents demonstrate, this kind of ignorant, narrow-minded, and short-sighted thinking is still with us today and still confronts us as Americans of Asian descent.