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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.

November 4, 2010

Written by C.N.

2010 Election: Results for Asian American Candidates

I presume that by now, you don’t need me to summarize how the Republican Party made significant gains in the House of Representatives along with state and local races around the country. Instead and in keeping with this site and blog’s main focus, below is a brief summary of how some Asian American candidates (both Democratic and Republican) fared around the country this past week (feel free to add more information and updates about other Asian American candidates not listed here in the ‘Comments’ section). For a more complete list of Asian American candidates, see APIAVote.


Indian American Nikki Haley is New South Carolina Governor

  • Staunch conservative and Tea Party-backed Republican Nikki Haley (her parents are both Sikh immigrants from India) becomes South Carolina’s new governor, joining Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal as the second Indian American governor in the U.S.


Vietnamese American Joseph Cao Ousted from LA Seat

  • “Cao [the first Vietnamese American ever elected to Congress] cast himself as a bipartisan friend of Democratic President Barack Obama. But votes against two key Obama initiatives, the economic stimulus and health care overhaul, were among Richmond’s attack points in a mostly Democratic district that supported Obama for president.”


Hansen Clarke and Colleen Hanabusa Win House Races

  • “Hansen Clarke[MI, Democrat] will be sworn in as the first Bangladeshi American to serve in the US Congress. Trained as both a fine artist and a lawyer, he has two decades of experience serving the state of Michigan as a legislator. . . . Colleen Hanabusa [HI, Democrat] is a national trailblazer in her own right, as she is the first woman to preside over either chamber of the Hawai’i State Legislature, and the first Asian-American or Pacific Islander woman in the nation to preside over a state legislative body.”


Jean Quan Elected as Oakland’s New Mayor

  • “City Councilwoman Jean Quan won the final tally Wednesday in Oakland’s ranked-choice mayoral election, capping a dramatic eight days in which she came from behind and surged to victory because she had more second- and third-place votes than rival Don Perata.”


Filipino American Tani Cantil-Sakauye Elected as California’s New Supreme Court Chief Justice

  • “Cantil-Sakauye, daughter of a Filipina farm worker and a Filipino-Portuguese plantation worker, thus made history as the first Asian-American, and also the youngest jurist, to hold the highest position in any state judiciary in the United States.”


Vietnamese American Candidates Generally Fare Poorly

  • “Across the country, except for a few bright spots, most Viet candidates fall flat, losing their races, sometimes spectacularly. Now, of course, there is such a thing as a “Vietnamese bounce” – late absentee ballots cast mostly by Vietnamese – which has caused people to sometimes prematurely announce the death of some campaigns. But, from the way things look, even the ‘Vietnamese bounce’ won’t help this time.”


Indian American Amil Bera Loses CA House of Representatives Race

  • “[Democratic candidate] Bera took the stage . . . Tuesday night like a rock star. About 250 supporters — Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, California Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, Caucasians young and old chanted ‘Bera! Bera! Bera!’ Bera, who lost to [incumbent Republican] Lungren 51 percent to 43 percent told The Bee, ‘We are winners – look at the enthusiasm in this room. As the son of immigrants who came here in the 1950s, this is the culmination of the American dream.'”


Kamala Harris Leads in Contest for CA Attorney General

  • “With nearly 7 million ballots counted, Democrat Harris, daughter of an Indian mother and African-American father, was holding a lead of fewer than 38,000 votes over Republican Steve Cooley in the race for state attorney general. But with thousands of late absentee and provisional ballots remaining uncounted, she has not been declared a winner. If her victory holds, Harris would become the first Indian-African-American and first woman ever to hold the job of California attorney general.”

April 12, 2010

Written by C.N.

Updated List of White Backlash Examples

Following up on my earlier post entitled “White Backlash: Yes, It’s Real,” I will use this post to maintain a continually updated list of news stories that highlight and exemplify various examples of this kind of direct and indirect anti-minority, anti-‘foreigner,’ and pro-‘traditional American’ mentality and behavior that is increasingly on display throughout American society. The list in in reverse chronological order (most recent stories first). Also, feel free to mention any other examples I missed in the comments section at the bottom.

  • Secret Service to Probe Bullet-Ridden Picture of Obama (Jan. 2012)
    A photograph showing a group of men with guns posing with a bullet-riddled T-shirt containing an image of Barack Obama’s face is to be investigated by the Secret Service. The picture originally appeared on the Facebook page of an Arizona (surprise!) police officer.
  • Kansas Republican Leader Calls Michelle Obama ‘Mrs. YoMama,’ Prays She Becomes a Widow (Jan. 2012)
    Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal (R) was forced to apologize to First Lady Michelle Obama after forwarding an email to fellow lawmakers that called her “Mrs. YoMama.”
    Earlier that same week, O’Neal said “Let [President Obama's] days be few” and calls for his children to be without a father and his wife to be widowed.
  • Arizona Teenage Girls Post Racist YouTube Denigrating Immigrants (Jan. 2012)
    A group of Arizona girls post a video on YouTube about “Mexican immigration” and the “new Arizona law that just passed the legislator (sic).” The video was pulled from YouTube and the creators deleted their YouTube account shortly after their inboxes and social media accounts were flooded with video responses and hate mail.
  • California Libertarian Politician Calls for Obama to be Assassinated (Jan. 2012)
    Jules Manson, who ran for city council in Carson (CA), posts about President Obama on his Facebook page, “Assassinate the fucken nigger and his monkey children.”
  • Fox Sports Sports Segment Mocks Asians With an Accent (Sept. 2011)
    Fox Sports deliberately singles out Asian students who have a foreign accent at USC to suggest that USC students are clueless about sports.
  • Muslim American U.S. Citizen Removed from Flight for Saying “I’ve Got to Go” (March 2011)
    Racial Profiling 1010: a Muslim American graduate student was removed from a Southwest flight after a crew member thought they had overheard the passenger say something vaguely threatening over her cell phone — “I’ve got to go.”
  • Posters for Students of Color Vandalized at Univ. of Utah (March 2011)
    Candidates of color running for student government at the Univ. of Utah have their campaign posters torn down or vandalized with racist terms such as “terrorists,” “ghetto,” and other offensive stereotypes.
  • Blond UCLA Student Majoring in White Privilege (March 2011)
    Clueless UCLA student Alexandra Wallace thinks it’s cool to post a video on YouTube where she mocks and stereotypes Asians (yes, the tired, old ‘ching chong’ routine) and makes light of the catastrophe in Japan. [Insert blond joke here].
  • Kansas Lawmaker Suggests Hunting Illegal Immigrants Like ‘Feral Hogs’ (March 2011)
    Murder is so funny, isn’t it — State Rep. Virgil Peck cracks, “Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem,” refuses to apologize.
  • British Prime Minister Calls Multiculturalism a Failure (February 2011)
    Cameron stereotypes and indicts entire religious, ethnic, and cultural groups by arguing that “hands-off tolerance” in Britain and other European nations has encouraged Muslims and other immigrant groups “to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”
  • Asian American Legislator Receives Death Threats for Criticizing Rush Limbaugh (January 2011)
    Rush Limbaugh mocks China’s President Hu Jintao using juvenile “ching chong” gibberish, refuses to apologize, and his supporters threaten the life of an Asian American legislator who calls for a boycott of Limbaugh’s advertisers.
  • Ohio Mom Sent to Jail for Sending Kids to Suburban School (January 2011)
    A single African American mother tries give her kids a better life by sending them to a predominantly White school, only to be arrested, convicted of “tampering with school records,” and sentenced to 10 days in jail.
  • Virginia Republican Chair Compares Blacks to Dogs (October 2010)
    Virginia’s Republican Party Chairman Bob McDonnell sent around an email in which he draws on racist stereotypes about Blacks on welfare.
  • Billboard in Colorado Portrays President Obama as Terrorist, Gangster, Mexican Bandit, and Gay (October 2010)
    An anonymous individual or group puts up a billboard on Interstate 70 in Colorado that has cartoon caricatures of President Obama as an Arab terrorist, a gangster, a Mexican bandit/illegal immigrant, and as a homosexual.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Multiculturalism has ‘Utterly Failed’ (October 2010)
    Germany’s leader declares that attempts at building a multicultural society has “utterly failed” and that, basically it is entirely the responsibility of non-Germans (i.e., non-Whites) to integrate into the German mainstream. Didn’t we hear a similar message from another high-profile German Chancellor back in the 1930s?
  • Islamophobia Reaches a Fever Pitch (August 2010)
    Racist and xenophobic opposition to a mosque near Ground Zero and calls by some Christian leaders to burn the Koran on 9/11 illustrates America’s rising hatred of Islam.
  • “Yup, I’m A Racist” T-Shirts for Sale (July 2010)
    Celebrate Independence Day 2010 by proudly proclaiming your racism and do your part to make racism cool.
  • U.S Hospital Fires 4 Filipina Nurses for Speaking Tagalog on Their Lunch Break (June 2010)
    Four Filipina ex-staffers of a Baltimore City hospital haven’t gotten over the shock of being summarily fired from their jobs, allegedly because they spoke Pilipino during their lunch break. . . “They claimed they heard us speaking in Pilipino and that is the only basis of the termination. It wasn’t because of my functions as a nurse. There were no negative write-ups, no warning before the termination,” [Nurse Hachelle Hatano] added.
  • South Carolina State Senator Calls President Obama a “Raghead” (June 2010)
    Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts refers to President Obama and Nikki Haley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate of Indian descent: “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.”
  • Arizona Passes Law Censoring Ethnic Studies Programs (May 2010)
    On the heels of the law that critics argue would legalize racial profiling against Latinos, Arizona’s new anti-ethnic studies bill “prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.”
  • Alabama Governor Candidate Declares “We Speak English” (April 2010)
    Tim James, Republican candidate for Governor of Alabama, releases a TV ad in which he declares, “This is Alabama; we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it” (you can watch the actual ad at the link above).
  • Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration (April 2010)
    Arizona’s new legislation would allow police to question anyone suspected of being an unauthorized immigrant. Critics charge that it basically amounts to legally-sanctioned racial profiling and plan demonstrations, boycotts, and lawsuits to protest and block its implementation.
  • Asian American Legislator Receives Racist Threats After Questioning Palin Visit (April 2010)
    California State Legislator Leland Yee summarizes the racist threats he received from Sarah Palin supporters after questioning her planned visit to a Cal State University campus.
  • John Jay College Accused of Bias Against Noncitizens (April 2010)
    The Justice Department files a lawsuit against John Jay College of Criminal Justice, accusing it of violating provisions of immigration law by demanding extra work authorization from at least 103 individuals since 2007.
  • McDonnell’s Confederate History Month Proclamation Irks Civil Rights Leaders (April 2010)
    The Governor of Virginia revives a dormant proclamation that April is “Confederate History Month,” with the initial version of his proclamation omitting any mention of slavery.
  • Male Studies vs. Men’s Studies (April 2010)
    A group of White male academics are trying to create a new academic discipline that highlights the ways in which males (by implication, White males) are apparently an underrepresented and oppressed group in contemporary American society.
  • Racist Fliers Distributed at UW-Oshkosh, St. Norbert College (March 2010)
    An example of how White supremacist hate groups are increasingly capitalizing on this White backlash.
  • UC Regents Sorry for Acts of Hate on Campuses (March 2010)
    Summarizing numerous racist incidents at numerous University of CA (UC) campuses, students and faculty try to get the UC Regents to see that racial ignorance and intolerance is a serious and endemic problem.
  • Meeting Space for Muslim Students at Brandeis is Vandalized (March 2010)
    On the heals of the racist incidents at the University of CA campuses, a newly renovated meeting space for Muslim students at Brandeis University is vandalized.
  • The Year in Nativism (March 2010)
    The Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes notable recent hate crimes against immigrants in 2008 and notes that nativist extremist groups have more than tripled in number, from 144 in 2007 to 309 in 2009.
  • Justice Department Fights Bias in Lending (January 2010)
    Under a new initiative from the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department begins targeting the rising predatory practice of “reverse redlining” aimed predominantly at minorities in which “. . . a mortgage brokerage or bank systematically singles out minority neighborhoods for loans with inferior terms like high up-front fees, high interest rates and lax underwriting practices. Because the original lender would typically resell such a loan after collecting its fees, it did not care about the risk of foreclosure.”
  • New Basketball League for Whites Only (January 2010)
    The “All-American Basketball Alliance” announces plans to create a minor league basketball league in which “only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.”

August 3, 2009

Written by C.N.

The Social Significance of Asian Americans in the News

Two recent news stories involving Asian Americans caught my attention. The first is an announcement about an Indian American seeking to become South Carolina’s new Governor:

Nikki Randhawa Haley, 37, who is in the fray for the post of governor of South Carolina in the US, says she is in the race to win. If she gets elected, Nikki will be the first Indian American woman to become governor in the US, and the second Indian after Bobby Jindal of Louisiana state. A member of the South Carolina state assembly since 2004, Nikki is one of the three candidates to seek nomination from her Republican party for the 2010 elections. . . .

Asked whether her Indian background will matter in the race, she said: “What matters most in South Carolina — and I imagine elsewhere in the country — is not the personalities of the candidates but the message they carry.” . . . Reminded of her maiden campaign in 2004 when her opponents had raised the issue of her ethnic background, she said: “I imagine my opponents will throw everything they can and more at me over the course of the campaign.

“That said, those opponents will not be the focus of our campaign — we will keep our focus on reforming the backward way South Carolina’s government operates and bringing good government back to the people.” Nikki added: “I am very proud of my background and how I was raised. Just as in 2004 I will hold my head high and focus on what I can do for the people of this state.”

To be honest, this is the first that I’ve heard of Nikki Randhawa Haley. It is interesting to see that like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, she is both Indian American and a Republican. As with Jindal, being a Republican makes her a minority within her own ethnic group, who strongly lean Democratic and with the overall political preferences of Asian Americans in general.

Nonetheless, as with Jindal, I think it’s great that more Asian Americans are participating in the political arenas on the state and federal levels and that they are increasingly vying for — and achieving — the highest political offices and positions available (as a reminder, in addition to Jindal, we have Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Joseph Cao (the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress), Michelle Rhee (high-profile Chancellor of Washington DC’s public schools), and most recently, Councilman Sam Yoon running for Mayor of Boston, Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress), and Jacqueline Nguyen, recently nominated by President Obama to become our country’s only current Asian American federal judge.

I find it very encouraging that Asian Americans are becoming more fully integrated into mainstream American institutions such as politics. This actually leads me to the second news story that caught my eye: I was watching the CBS Evening News the other day and the following segment came on, profiling Edward Tom, Principal at the Bronx Center for Science and Math, a magnet school in New York City:

After watching the segment, I basically thought, “Hey, that’s pretty cool — a principal who gave up a cushy job to work with inner-city kids and to try to help them succeed in life and overcome the obstacles in front of them. Good for him.”

It only dawned on me a little bit later that he was Asian American.

I had to take a few minutes to reflect on this quick realization. Combined with the first part of this post about the emergence of new Asian American politicians, I struck me that perhaps I am now beginning to see what I hoped I would see one day in my lifetime: Asian Americans are so much an integral part of American society that it’s no longer a surprise when I see them in the news or in other media.

In other words, perhaps we are beginning to see that mainstream American society no longer thinks of Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners, as “the other,” or as completely invisible altogether. Instead, with the recent examples of Randhawa Haley, Jindal, Chu, Shinseki, Locke, Rhee, Cao, Yoon, Chu, Nguyen, Tom, and other Asian Americans increasingly attaining high-level and high-profile positions, maybe we as a community have turned the corner in our quest for true integration into American society.

Having said that, I am under no illusions that we no longer experience racial prejudice or outright discrimination or that our identities as “real” Americans will no longer be questioned (you only have to read my recent posts for examples of that). There is still plenty of statistical and anecdotal evidence that Asian Americans are still underrepresented and under-appreciated in many aspects and institutions of American society.

Nonetheless, I think these are very positive developments and it gives me hope that despite the struggles still to come, American society is moving in the right direction.