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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.

February 12, 2013

Written by Leighton Vila

Remembering Senator Daniel Inouye

Today, I’m taking some time to write about the late Senator Daniel Inouye: Medal of Honor Winner, President pro tempore, Hawaiian Statesman, and Asian American Icon.  As an American of Asian descent, born and raised in Hawaii, Senator Inouye has been a familiar name, and his death was very personal to myself, and my family, and my state.

The late Senator Daniel Inouye

For those who aren’t familiar, Senator Inouye was born before WWII.  After Pearl Harbor, he joined the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team where his gallantry on the battle field took a back seat to his courageous leadership.  (Forbes has a much better account of the heoric Daniel Inouye than I could muster, check it out here.)  After the War, Inouye returned to Hawaii earned a degree from the University of Hawaii in Political Science.  He then wen onto George Washington University to earn his law degree.  He was elected to the Territorial House of in 1957, and became Hawaii’s first congressman upon statehood in 1959.  Since then, Inouye had moved up the ranks to become the highest ranking Asian American in the history of the United States.  This is only part of what I remember when I think of Senator Inouye.

Placing Sentaor Inouye into the Asian American experience is an all encompassing effort.  He was born to poor Japanese immigrants in Honolulu, Hawaii.  He worked and lived in territorial Hawaii, and survived both the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Anti-Japanese Racism that ensued.  He fought together, with his Japanese brothers, in a racialized war and created bonds that have improved life in Hawaii—alas, the link between Senator Inouye and Senator John A. Burns is another blog entry.

When I was first learning about Senator Inouye, I remember a distinct feeling… a feeling of ethnic pride.  Prior to “the story of Dan Inouye,” I thought American War heroes looked like Duke (G.I. Joe), Captain Miller (Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan) or George Washington.  Put simply, I though American war heroes were white men and  “the Story of Dan Inouye” challenged that myth.

The purpose of a leader is to provide space, either physical, economical, or psychological.  Senator Inouye, for me, provided a psychological space where the Asian American man could kick some but and be the hero.  His story showcased that an Asian American can fight for America, be a statesman, and go toe to toe with an unjust president.

The death of Senator Daniel Inouye is sad, but it provides an opportunity for the 21st century Asian American leader to “step up.”

The nation is facing new and different challenges.  As we graduate from college, the economy seems nevertheless daunting.  As our families join us from over seas, the process of immigration becomes more and more flawed.  As we talk with our unemployed family and friends, we see the brokenness of the welfare system, and witness the frustration of good people without good choices.

As time progresses, and the giants like Senator Inouye retire to a much deserved rest, there is an excitement surrounding the future of American leaders.  Recently, a survey has shown that the Republican party has declined among Asian Americans.  On the Democrat side, President Obama has seen a drop among his Asian American staffers, and outgoing cabinet secretary Christopher Lu says that it is time for “new blood” to step up to the challenge of leading.

It is time for us be the change.


November 7, 2012

Written by C.N.

Exit Poll Statistics and How Asian Americans Voted in the 2012 Presidential Election

I am relieved to report that after a hard-fought and expensive campaign, President Barack Obama has been reelected as President of the United States, having defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. Many of the major media outlets and blogs will describe in detail the different factors that led to President Obama’s victory and what his victory means for him in terms of moving forward with his agenda in his second term.

President Obama celebrating his 2012 victory © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For now, I just wanted to share a few interesting exit poll data and quick observations about this 2012 Presidential election as it relates to Asian American voters and compare it to the President’s 2008 victory. The exit poll statistics below come from both the New York Times and CNN.

How Asian Americans Voted

In the 2008 election, 61% of Asian Americans voted for President Obama. In this 2012 election, that percentage increased to 73% as reported by both the New York Times and CNN. In fact, this number is higher than the percentage of Hispanics/Latinos who voted for President Obama (71%).

Although I have not heard of any high-profile Democratic campaign to appeal to Asian Americans, I think this is a pretty remarkable performance by the President. Increasing his support among Asian Americans seems to suggest that even without a direct and sustained appeal that was specific to Asian Americans, the vast majority of Asian Americans still resonated with President Obama’s platform and message.

I also think that increasing his support from Asian Americans should also dispel the belief that Asian Americans are only concerned with economic success and financial issues. In other words, if the majority of Asian Americans thought that fixing the economy was the single most important issue in the election, more than likely they would have voted for Romney, since most surveys found that more than half of Americans thought that Romney would be better at fixing the economy.

Instead, it seems that most Asian Americans, while still concerned about the economy, also considered other policy and social issues to be important as well, which may include immigration reform, wealth inequality and economic justice, civil and LGBT rights, etc. Perhaps this is due to the demographic trends within the Asian American population and how Asian Americans are gradually become younger and more U.S.-born than in years past.

In the end, President Obama getting 73% of the Asian American vote should also demonstrate rather convincingly that most Asian Americans are solidly liberal. While the ideological pendulum will always swing back and forth and the percentage of Asian Americans who vote Democratic will fluctuate, data from the past several elections confirm that Asian Americans are a pretty solid Democratic constituency.

Along with the Hispanic/Latino community, this should be a wake up call for the Republican Party going forward — if they want to have a fighting chance to consistently capture the White House and Congress in upcoming elections, they need to reverse their swing to the far right and move more toward the center if they want to avoid alienating the growing Hispanic/Latino and Asian American communities.

Along with many other Asian Americans, I will savor this victory for now, but also look forward to using this reelection to enact policies that will move the country forward and make life better for Americans from all backgrounds.

Roundup of How Asian American Candidates Fared

Here is a listing of some articles from Asian American media and bloggers on how Asian American political candidates fared in the 2012 election:


January 2, 2012

Written by C.N.

New Books: Looking into the Future of Racial/Ethnic Relations

First off, Happy New year to everyone. Hopefully 2012 will bring you and your loved ones — and humanity in general — a little more peace, prosperity, and harmony. With that theme in mind, the following new books highlight some possible ways that racial/ethnic relations in the U.S. are headed in the new year and the near future. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

The End of Anger: A New Generation’s Take on Race and Rage, by Ellis Cose (Ecco Books)

'The End of Anger' by Ellis Cose

From a venerated and bestselling voice on American life comes a contemporary look at the decline of black rage; the demise of white guilt; and the intergenerational shifts in how blacks and whites view, and interact with, each other.

In the heady aftermath of President Obama’s election, conventional wisdom suggested that the bitter, angry, and destructive elements of discrimination were ebbing at last and America was becoming a postracial nation. But with this dawning age that promised so much came shifting demographics and a newfound seat of rage in the polarizing Tea Party movement, even as black optimism gained ground, giving rise to questions about assumed truths concerning race in America.

Combining the talents earned from a lifetime in journalism with the insights and thoughtfulness of a close observer of the American experience, renowned author Ellis Cose offers a fresh, original appraisal of our nation at this extraordinary time, tracking the diminishment of black anger and investigating the “generational shifting of the American mind.”

Weaving material from myriad interviews as well as two large and ambitious surveys that he conducted—one of black Harvard MBAs and the other of graduates of A Better Chance, a program offering elite educational opportunities to thousands of young people of color since 1963—Cose offers an invaluable portrait of contemporary America that attempts to make sense of what a people do when the dream, for some, is finally within reach as one historical era ends and another begins.

In short, The End of Anger is not just about blacks but about America—its past and its hoped-for future—and may well be the most important book dealing with race to be published in recent decades.

New Destination Dreaming: Immigration, Race, and Legal Status in the Rural American South, by Helen Marrow (Stanford University Press)

'New Destination Dreaming' by Helen Marrow

New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have long been shaped by immigration. These gateway cities have traditionally been assumed to be the major flashpoints in American debates over immigration policy—but the reality on the ground is proving different. Since the 1980s, new immigrants have increasingly settled in rural and suburban areas, particularly within the South. Couple this demographic change with an increase in unauthorized immigrants, and the rural South, once perhaps the most culturally and racially “settled” part of the country, now offers a window into the changing dynamics of immigration and, more generally, the changing face of America.

New Destination Dreaming explores how the rural context impacts the immigrant experience, how rapid Hispanic immigration influences southern race relations, and how institutions like schools and law enforcement agencies deal with unauthorized residents. Though the South is assumed to be an economically depressed region, low-wage food processing jobs are offering Hispanic newcomers the opportunity to carve out a living and join the rural working class, though this is not without its problems. Inattention from politicians to this growing population and rising black-brown tensions are both factors in contemporary rural southern life.

Ultimately, Marrow presents a cautiously optimistic view of Hispanic newcomers’ opportunities for upward mobility in the rural South, while underscoring the threat of anti-immigrant sentiment and restrictive policymaking that has gripped the region in recent years. Lack of citizenship and legal status still threatens many Hispanic newcomers’ opportunities. This book uncovers what more we can do to ensure that America’s newest residents become productive and integrated members of rural southern society rather than a newly excluded underclass.

Rallying for Immigrant Rights: The Fight for Inclusion in 21st Century America, edited by Kim Voss and Irene Bloemraad (University of California Press)

'Rallying for Immigrant Rights' edited by Voss and Bloemraad

From Alaska to Florida, millions of immigrants and their supporters took to the streets across the United States to rally for immigrant rights in the spring of 2006. The scope and size of their protests, rallies, and boycotts made these the most significant events of political activism in the United States since the 1960s. This accessibly written volume offers the first comprehensive analysis of this historic moment.

Perfect for students and general readers, its essays, written by a multidisciplinary group of scholars and grassroots organizers, trace the evolution and legacy of the 2006 protest movement in engaging, theoretically informed discussions. The contributors cover topics including unions, churches, the media, immigrant organizations, and immigrant politics. Today, one in eight U.S. residents was born outside the country, but for many, lack of citizenship makes political voice through the ballot box impossible. This book helps us better understand how immigrants are making their voices heard in other ways.

Rethinking the Asian American Movement, by Daryl Joji Maeda (Routledge)

'Rethinking the Asian American Movement' by Daryl Joji Maeda

Although it is one of the least-known social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the Asian American movement drew upon some of the most powerful currents of the era, and had a wide-ranging impact on the political landscape of Asian America, and more generally, the United States. Using the racial discourse of the black power and other movements, as well as antiwar activist and the global decolonization movements, the Asian American movement succeeded in creating a multi-ethnic alliance of Asians in the United States and gave them a voice in their own destinies.

Rethinking the Asian American Movement provides a short, accessible overview of this important social and political movement, highlighting key events and key figures, the movement’s strengths and weaknesses, how it intersected with other social and political movements of the time, and its lasting effect on the country. It is perfect for anyone wanting to obtain an introduction to the Asian American movement of the twentieth century.

Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and Their Political Identities, edited by Janelle Wong, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Taeku Lee, and Jane Junn (Russell Sage Foundation)

'Asian American Political Participation' edited by Wong, Ramakrishnan, Lee, and Junn

Asian Americans are the most heavily immigrant population and their numbers are steadily rising from less than a million in 1960 to more than 15 million today. They are also a remarkably diverse population representing a vast array of ethnic groups, religions, and languages and they enjoy higher levels of education and income than any other U.S. racial group. Historically, socioeconomic status has been a reliable predictor of political behavior.

So why has this fast-growing American population, which is doing so well economically, been so overlooked the U.S. political system? Asian American Political Participation is the most comprehensive study to date of Asian American political behavior, including such key measures as voting, political donations, community organizing, and political protests. The book examines why some groups participate while others do not, why certain civic activities are deemed preferable to others, and why Asian socioeconomic advantage has so far not led to increased political clout.

Asian American Political Participation is based on data from the authors groundbreaking 2008 National Asian American Survey of more than 5,000 Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, and Japanese Americans. The book shows that the motivations for and impediments to political participation are as diverse as the Asian American population. For example, native-born Asians have higher rates of political participation than their immigrant counterparts, particularly recent adult arrivals who were socialized outside of the United States. Protest activity is the exception, which tends to be higher among immigrants who maintain connections abroad and who engaged in such activity in their country of origin.

Surprisingly, factors such as living in a new immigrant destination or in a city with an Asian American elected official do not seem to motivate political behavior neither does ethnic group solidarity. Instead, hate crimes and racial victimization are the factors that most motivate Asian Americans to participate politically. Involvement in non-political activities such as civic and religious groups also bolsters political participation. Even among Asian groups, socioeconomic advantage does not necessarily translate into high levels of political participation. Chinese Americans, for example, have significantly higher levels of educational attainment than Japanese Americans, but Japanese Americans are far more likely to vote and make political contributions. And Vietnamese Americans, with the lowest levels of education and income, vote and engage in protest politics more than any other group.

Lawmakers tend to favor the interests of groups who actively engage the political system, and groups who do not participate at high levels are likely to suffer political consequences in the future. Asian American Political Participation demonstrates that understanding Asian political behavior today can have significant repercussions for Asian American political influence tomorrow.

Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America, by Jennifer L. Hochschild, Vesla M. Weaver, and Traci R. Burch (Princeton University Press)

'Creating a New Racial Order' by Hochschild, Weaver, and Burch

The American racial order–the beliefs, institutions, and practices that organize relationships among the nation’s races and ethnicities–is undergoing its greatest transformation since the 1960s. Creating a New Racial Order takes a groundbreaking look at the reasons behind this dramatic change, and considers how different groups of Americans are being affected. Through revealing narrative and striking research, the authors show that the personal and political choices of Americans will be critical to how, and how much, racial hierarchy is redefined in decades to come.

The authors outline the components that make up a racial order and examine the specific mechanisms influencing group dynamics in the United States: immigration, multiracialism, genomic science, and generational change. Cumulatively, these mechanisms increase heterogeneity within each racial or ethnic group, and decrease the distance separating groups from each other. The authors show that individuals are moving across group boundaries, that genomic science is challenging the whole concept of race, and that economic variation within groups is increasing.

Above all, young adults understand and practice race differently from their elders: their formative memories are 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Obama’s election–not civil rights marches, riots, or the early stages of immigration. Blockages could stymie or distort these changes, however, so the authors point to essential policy and political choices.

Portraying a vision, not of a postracial America, but of a different racial America, Creating a New Racial Order examines how the structures of race and ethnicity are altering a nation.


July 14, 2011

Written by C.N.

Posts from Years Past: July

If you’re the nostalgic type, you might be interested to read the following posts from July of years past:


December 31, 2010

Written by C.N.

End-of-Year Stories and Lists About Asian Americans

The end of the year naturally brings stories, articles, and lists from media organizations and bloggers that summarize noteworthy news events, topics, and issues from the past year. On this blog, you may have read my posts about “Racial/Ethnic Relations in 2010: The Best & Worst” and “The Most Significant Racial/Ethnic Issue of the Decade.

Along the same lines, other writers and bloggers around the internet have also posted their own end-of-year stories, articles, and lists related to Asian Americans, so I list and summarize the ones that I have recently come across (thanks to 8Asians for taking the lead on mentioning these lists):


Asian Pop’s 2010 Year in Review

  • My colleague and pop culture expert Jeff Yang reviews the most newsworthy stories about Asian and Asian American popular culture from this past year.


Top 10 Asian Americans in Pop Culture

  • Columnist Keith Chow at Pop Culture Shock counts down the top 10 Asian Americans who made newsworthy achievements this past year in mainstream American pop culture.


The Most Underreported Stories of the Decade

  • The good folks at New America Media compile their list of stories about people and communities of color that were largely ignored by the mainstream American media.


20 Essential Works of Asian-American Literature

  • A blog that promotes graduate education opportunities compiles a list of the 20 most important literary works related to Asian Americans.


Asia Pacific Arts’ Best of 2010

  • The writers of the online magazine Asia Pacific Arts (published by the University of Southern California U.S.-China Institute) select their favorite Asian and Asian American performers, film, music, TV dramas, choreography, video games, behind-the-scenes artists, etc. of 2010 (thanks to AngryAsianMan.com for mentioning this).


Top 10 Asian American Bachelors of 2010

  • The folks at Asiance make their case for the 10 hottest Asian American bachelors of 2010.


Best Asian American Songs of 2010

  • Over at Hyphen magazine, Los Angeles-based soul/R&B musician Dawen recounts his favorite songs from each month of 2010.


Top 10 Amazing Asian American Achievers of 2010

  • Columnist Nina Huang at Northwest Asian Weekly recounts the stories of 10 Asian Americans who made remarkable achievements this past year.


10 Best Asian Films of the Year

  • Again at Northwest Asian Weekly, Andrew Hamlin summarizes his list of the 10 best Asian films/movies of 2010.


Top 10 Asian American Sports Figures of 2010

  • The crew at Northwest Asian Weekly have been quite busy apparently, turning out another top 10 list, this time of the most newsworthy Asian American athletes and sports personalities of 2010.


Top 10 Asian American Cities

  • The best cities for Asian Americans to live in, as compiled by the blog Amped Asia.

December 22, 2010

Written by C.N.

First Results from 2010 Census

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau released its first official data from the 2010 census. They also produced the interactive graphic below where you can get more detailed numbers by state (you can visit the Census’s site for a full-screen version), but the main findings are:

  • As of April 1, 2010, the U.S.’s population is officially 308,745,538 — an increase of 9.7% from the 2000 census.
  • This 9.7% increase is much smaller than the 13.2% increase from 1990-2000 and actually is the smallest increase since 1940.
  • Nonetheless, the U.S.’s population is still growing faster than other industrialized nations: in the past decade, the populations in France and England each increased about 5%, about 6% in China, and 10% in Canada. Japan’s population is largely unchanged and is actually declining in Germany.

As news organizations such as MSNBC report, the 2010 Census data shows that several states in the South and West are gaining population (and some new seats in the House of Representatives) while a few states in the Northeast and Midwest are losing population:

The most populous state was California (37,253,956); the least populous, Wyoming (563,626). The state that gained the most numerically since 2010 was Texas (up 4,293,741 to 25,145,561); the state that gained the most as a percentage was Nevada (up 35 percent to 2,700,551).

Politically, Texas will gain four House seats due to a burgeoning Hispanic population and a diversified economy that held up relatively well during the recession. Other winners are GOP-leaning Arizona (1), Florida (2) . . . Georgia (1), South Carolina (1), Utah (1) and Washington (1).

States that lose seats are: Illinois (1), Iowa (1), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (1), New York (2), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (1). The Ohio and New York losses typify many of the Democratic strongholds carried by Barack Obama in 2008 that saw declines in political influence. And, for the first time in its history, Democratic-leaning California did not gain a House seat after a census after losing many of its residents in the last decade to neighboring states.

It would seem that these latest Census numbers favor Republicans in the 2012 election. But as the New York Times points out, much of the population increase is due to the fast-growing Latino population:

[P]opulation gains in the South and West were driven overwhelmingly by minorities, particularly Hispanics, and the new districts, according to the rules of redistricting, will need to be drawn in places where they live, opening potential advantages for Democrats, who tend to be more popular among minorities. . . . [T]he most lasting political impact for Republicans and Democrats alike is the rise in the influence of Hispanic voters, particularly across Arizona, Nevada and Texas, which underscores the urgency facing both parties in finding new ways to appeal to Hispanics. In future presidential races, Democrats believe they can make inroads into Arizona and Texas, which are traditionally carried by Republicans, particularly if voters speak out against Arizona’s tough immigration law.

The way it’s shaping up, it looks like the Latino population will play a big role in determining who wins or loses many elections in the South and West. Given that, just last week, Republicans fought hard to defeat the DREAM Act and given their history of supporting (or at least being largely indifferent to) numerous anti-immigrant movements and legislation, it’s too early to say that Republicans will have an easy time in the 2010 elections.

Stay tuned . . .


December 6, 2010

Written by C.N.

Racial/Ethnic Relations in 2010: The Best & Worst

As we near the end of 2010, it’s fitting to review the major events, developments, and trends in U.S. racial/ethnic relations during the past year. Therefore, below is my look back at some of the positive highlights as well as the setbacks in terms of achieving racial/ethnic equality and justice, with a particular focus on Asian Americans (my area of expertise). This list is not meant to be an exhaustive review of all racial/ethnic news in 2010, but rather the ones that I covered in this blog and ones that I believe have the most sociological significance.

The Best

The Worst


October 10, 2008

Written by C.N.

New Studies on Asian American Political Attitudes

As the 2008 Presidential campaign heads into the final stretch, two recently-released studies shed light on the nature of civic engagement and political attitudes among Asian Americans.

The first one is an electronic book entitled The State of Asian America: Trajectory of Civic and Political Engagement, published by the non-profit organization Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics. It contains several articles on various aspects of political participation and civic engagement among Asian Americans, written by several well-respected scholars of Asian American Studies.

For example, there are articles entitled “Political and Civic Engagements of Immigrants,” “Asian American College Students and Civic Engagement,” “Asian American Panethnicity: Challenges and Possibilities,” and “The Usual Suspects: Asian Americans as Conditional Citizens.” This free e-book can easily be used as a textbook by faculty like me who teach introductory/survey courses on the Asian American Experience and is certainly a valuable resource for anyone interested to learn more about the dynamics of political empowerment among Asian Americans.

The second report is entitled “2008 National Asian American Survey” and is jointly authored by scholars from Rutgers University, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, and the University of Southern California. In conducting a comprehensive national survey of political attitudes and presidential preferences among Asian Americans, the major findings of this report are:

  • Japanese American citizens are the most likely to vote (82%), followed by Asian Indian (73%), Koreans (72%), Filipinos (67%), Vietnamese (65 %) and Chinese (60%).
  • 41% of Asian American likely voters support Barack Obama while 24% support John McCain. However, 34% remain undecided.
  • 32% of all likely Asian American voters identify with the Democratic Party, 14% identify with the Republican Party, 19% identify as Independent, and 35% are non-partisan, saying they do not identify as Democrat, Republican, or Independent.
  • Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indians, Japanese, and Koreans tend to affiliate with the Democratic Party and therefore to support Obama, while Vietnamese are more likely to identify as Republicans and support McCain.
  • Asian American Democratic primary voters supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama by a 2 to 1 margin. More than half of former Clinton supporters (59%) plan to vote for Obama while 10% plan to vote for McCain and 29% are undecided.

These results confirm those I discussed in my earlier post on Asian American Presidential Preferences and reinforce the trend that among those showing a political preference, Asian Americans are overwhelmingly Democratic, although a significant number remain undecided.

Taken together, these two studies provide scholars like me and non-scholars like with valuable information and insight into the very important issue of political participation among Asian Americans. I would like to thank and congratulate everyone involved with both studies for their hard work and contributions.