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.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States of America, my fellow sociologist (and wife BTW) Miliann Kang has written a ‘Love Letter to America’ (first published at The Massachusetts Review) that captures many of the sentiments that many Americans from diverse background feel about the what’s been happening in the U.S. these past few months.
I sat down to write you a breakup letter. But I can’t tell if I want to break up with you, or if you have already broken up with me. Does this election mean that we are going through a rough period, or that we are fundamentally incompatible? Do we as a nation need therapy, a divorce lawyer, or a restraining order? Should we just call a babysitter and go see a movie?
Or is it time for us to call it quits and start seeing other people? I have to admit, I’ve always had a thing for Canada.
I am mad at you and disappointed in us, America. I am still processing the fact that while you say you love me, you have jumped into bed with Donald Trump, a man who openly insults women, Blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, people with disabilities, and basic principles of civility and civil liberties. On November 9, I woke up and realized that I didn’t know the country I thought I married. I felt like I had shared my deepest hopes and fears with you, and in return, you had punched me in the gut, spat in my face, and were ready to throw me out on the street.
This election has not brought out the best in us.
I know, you are going to call me ungrateful. After all, my parents came as immigrants from a war-torn country and you welcomed us—tired, poor, hungry, and huddled. You turned us into doctors, lawyers, artists, people who can speak and vote and stand up for what we believe in! We are now Made in America—but you still do not fully own us as part of the family. We don’t quite fit the image you have of yourself, and you still have such a hard time with that. We have stretched the way you look, talk, worship, dress, dance, and eat (and even though we have improved your palate immeasurably, at the end of the day, you just want your meat and potatoes—with ketchup, not Sriracha).
I’m getting a little confused writing this: who do I mean by “you” and who do I mean by “us?” Does “you” mean Red State, Republican, rural, non-college educated, racist, sexist, anti-queer, xenophobic, neo-Nazi, white supremacist Neanderthals? Does “us” mean Blue State, Democrat, urban, suburban, college-educated, liberal, elitist, nearing enlightenment do-gooders?
Is the dividing line those who voted for Trump and those who didn’t? If so, what happens when “we” lump all of “you” together, and you do the same to us? What is left if only one of us wins, and the winner takes all: the house, the car, the pension, the wedding pictures, the college friends? And the kids, what about the kids? We shouldn’t just stay together for their sake—or should we?
It seems like we don’t know who we are and what we want from each other anymore, or maybe we never really did. We manufactured this big, beautiful, poetic dream of a more perfect union, and it feels like we are on the verge of falling apart.
But I am still in love with you, you crazy, magnificent, flawed idea of a country, you. And I think, deep down, you still love me, too. It’s just your fear of commitment to a truly equal, free, and democratic relationship that is making you say and do mean things right now. This makes me feel unloved and want to cry sometimes, but I know it is because you too are feeling hurt and confused. We can talk about it.
I know I haven’t appreciated enough how hard you work, how firmly you believe in your principles, how tired you are of not getting respect, and how insecure you feel about the future. I know I have also felt like you don’t listen to me and take me for granted, and I hate to have to say this, but you scare me sometimes. You do seem to have some anger management issues that you need to work through.
Am I kidding myself that we can work this out? Is this the self-delusion too often seen in dysfunctional, abusive relationships, or is this true love? Metaphors can be tricky, especially when people get hurt, so I proceed with this one very cautiously.
We need to recognize the danger signs that we are at high risk for some form of national domestic violence. And just as licensed marriage and family counselors know that prevention is much more effective than trying to stop harm once it has escalated, we need to intervene before things get out of control. I’m not sure exactly how this intervention looks, but we—meaning everyone with a stake in keeping us together—need to get immediate and intensive training in conflict resolution, public education, knowing our rights and the rights of others, being active bystanders, and when necessary, martial arts.
We can get through this, but both of us are going to have to change. We are going to have to work harder than we ever imagined.
I remember all our road trips together, where we drove from Hollywood, to Little Saigon, to Brownsville, to Standing Rock, to Ferguson, to Hershey, PA, from Yosemite to the Everglades, from the Golden Gate to the Brooklyn Bridge, from the Lincoln Memorial to the National Museum of African American History, from the Superdome to the Ninth Ward, from Angel Island to Ellis Island.
Who else can contain such multitudes?
I can’t break up with you because I am you. Nor will I let you break up with me.
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.
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.
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.
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:
In my last post, I looked at books that examine immigration at the institutional level. To complement that list, below are some recently-released books that highlight the issue of immigration on the community and individual level and provides a more ethnographic and personal account of how political, economic, and legal dynamics operate in the daily lives of immigrants and the neighborhoods in which they live. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.
Can the recent influx of immigrants successfully enter the mainstream of American life, or will many of them fail to thrive and become part of a permanent underclass? Achieving Anew examines immigrant life in school, at work, and in communities and demonstrates that recent immigrants and their children do make substantial progress over time, both within and between generations.
From policymakers to private citizens, our national conversation on immigration has consistently questioned the country’s ability to absorb increasing numbers of foreign nationals–now nearly one million legal entrants per year. Using census data, longitudinal education surveys, and other data, Michael White and Jennifer Glick place their study of new immigrant achievement within a context of recent developments in assimilation theory and policies regulating who gets in and what happens to them upon arrival.
They find that immigrant status itself is not an important predictor of educational achievement. First-generation immigrants arrive in the United States with less education than native-born Americans, but by the second and third generation, the children of immigrants are just as successful in school as native-born students with equivalent social and economic background. As with prior studies, the effects of socioeconomic background and family structure show through strongly. On education attainment, race and ethnicity have a strong impact on achievement initially, but less over time.
Looking at the labor force, White and Glick find no evidence to confirm the often-voiced worry that recent immigrants and their children are falling behind earlier arrivals. On the contrary, immigrants of more recent vintage tend to catch up to the occupational status of natives more quickly than in the past. Family background, educational preparation, and race/ethnicity all play a role in labor market success, just as they do for the native born, but the offspring of immigrants suffer no disadvantage due to their immigrant origins.
Although the picture is mixed and the continuing significance of racial factors remains a concern, Achieving Anew provides compelling reassurance that the recent wave of immigrants is making impressive progress in joining the American mainstream. The process of assimilation is not broken, the advent of a new underclass is not imminent, and the efforts to argue for the restriction of immigration based on these fears are largely mistaken.
What is it like to do the back-breaking work of immigrants? To find out, Gabriel Thompson spent a year working alongside Latino immigrants, who initially thought he was either crazy or an undercover immigration agent. He stooped over lettuce fields in Arizona, and worked the graveyard shift at a chicken slaughterhouse in rural Alabama. He dodged taxis—not always successfully—as a bicycle delivery “boy” for an upscale Manhattan restaurant, and was fired from a flower shop by a boss who, he quickly realized, was nuts.
As one coworker explained, “These jobs make you old quick.” Back spasms occasionally keep Thompson in bed, where he suffers recurring nightmares involving iceberg lettuce and chicken carcasses. Combining personal narrative with investigative reporting, Thompson shines a bright light on the underside of the American economy, exposing harsh working conditions, union busting, and lax government enforcement—while telling the stories of workers, undocumented immigrants, and desperate US citizens alike, forced to live with chronic pain in the pursuit of $8 an hour.
With the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States at an all-time high and Congressional immigration reform seemingly at a standstill, cities and states across the nation have leapt into the fray, creating a wide range of policies—some more controversial than others—to address illegal immigration within their jurisdictions. These policies, both anti- and pro-immigrant in nature, run the gamut. Some call for the involvement of city police in immigration enforcement, debates over day laborer markets, the establishment of employer sanctions laws, and the implementation of anti-immigrant ordinances. Other policies call for cities and states to declare themselves “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants, passing laws to extend locally-funded health care and social services, offer English language training, and improve wages and working conditions.
While these state and local immigration policies continue to receive wide coverage in the popular press, they have received very little attention in the scholarly literature. This volume aims to fill the gap by offering perspectives from political scientists, legal scholars, sociologists, and geographers at the leading edge of this emerging field. Drawing on high profile case studies, the contributors seek to explain the explosion in state and local immigration policy activism, account for the policies that have been considered and passed, and explore the tensions that have emerged within communities and between different levels of government.
This timely entrant into the study of state and local immigration policy also illuminates the significant challenges and opportunities of comprehensive immigration reform, highlights the range of issues at stake, and charts a future research agenda that will more deeply explore the impacts of these policies on immigrant communities.
There are now nearly four million children born in the United States who have undocumented immigrant parents. In the current debates around immigration reform, policymakers often view immigrants as an economic or labor market problem to be solved, but the issue has a very real human dimension. Immigrant parents without legal status are raising their citizen children under stressful work and financial conditions, with the constant threat of discovery and deportation that may narrow social contacts and limit participation in public programs that might benefit their children.
Immigrants Raising Citizens offers a compelling description of the everyday experiences of these parents, their very young children, and the consequences these experiences have on their children’s development. It challenges conventional wisdom about undocumented immigrants, viewing them not as lawbreakers or victims, but as the parents of citizens whose adult productivity will be essential to the nation’s future. The book’s findings are based on data from a three-year study of 380 infants from Dominican, Mexican, Chinese, and African American families, which included in-depth interviews, in-home child assessments, and parent surveys.
The book shows that undocumented parents share three sets of experiences that distinguish them from legal-status parents and may adversely influence their children’s development: avoidance of programs and authorities, isolated social networks, and poor work conditions. Fearing deportation, undocumented parents often avoid accessing valuable resources that could help their children’s development such as access to public programs and agencies providing child care and food subsidies. At the same time, many of these parents are forced to interact with illegal entities such as smugglers or loan sharks out of financial necessity. Undocumented immigrants also tend to have fewer reliable social ties to assist with child care or share information on child-rearing.
Compared to legal-status parents, undocumented parents experience significantly more exploitive work conditions, including long hours, inadequate pay and raises, few job benefits, and limited autonomy in job duties. These conditions can result in ongoing parental stress, economic hardship, and avoidance of center-based child care which is directly correlated with early skill development in children. The result is poorly developed cognitive skills, recognizable in children as young as two years old, which can negatively impact their future school performance and, eventually, their job prospects.
Immigrants Raising Citizens has important implications for immigration policy, labor law enforcement, and the structure of community services for immigrant families. In addition to low income and education levels, undocumented parents experience hardships due to their status that have potentially lifelong consequences for their children. With nothing less than the future contributions of these children at stake, the book presents a rigorous and sobering argument that the price for ignoring this reality may be too high to pay.
Decades of military oppression in Burma have led to the systematic destruction of thousands of ethnic minority villages, a standing army with one of the world’s highest number of child soldiers, and the displacement of millions of people. Nowhere to Be Home is an eye-opening collection of oral histories exposing the realities of life under military rule. In their own words, men and women from Burma describe their lives in the country that Human Rights Watch has called “the textbook example of a police state.”
Below are some recently-released books that highlight the issue of immigration on the institutional level and how political, economic, and legal dynamics operate at the level of social institutions. A corresponding overview of books that look at immigration at the community and individual level is coming shortly. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.
The ease of transportation, the opening of international immigration policies, the growing refugee movements, and the increasing size of unauthorized immigrant populations suggest that immigration worldwide is a phenomenon of utmost importance to professionals who develop policies and programs for, or provide services to, immigrants. Immigration occurs in both the wealthy nations of the global North and the poorer countries of the global South; it involves individuals who arrive with substantial human capital and those with little. It has far-reaching implications for a nation’s economy, public policies, social and health services, and culture.
The purpose of this volume, therefore, is to explore current patterns and policies of immigration in key countries and regions across the globe and analyze the implications for these countries and their immigrant populations. Each of its chapters, written by an international and interdisciplinary group of experts, explores how country conditions, policies, values, politics, and attitudes influence the process of immigration and subsequently affect immigrants, migration, and the nation itself.
No other volume explores the landscape of worldwide immigration as broadly as this does, with sweeping coverage of countries and empirical research, together with an analytic framework that sets the context of human migration against a wide backdrop of experiential factors that take shape long before an immigrant enters a host country. At once a sourcebook and an applied model of immigration studies, Immigration Worldwide is a valuable reference for scholars and students seeking a wide-ranging yet nuanced survey of the key issues salient to debates about the programs and policies that best serve immigrant populations and their host countries.
The international mobility of people and elites is a main feature of the global economy of today and yesterday. Immigration augments the labor force in receiving countries and provides many of the bodies and minds that are essential to any vibrant economy. Talented people are critical to the transfer of knowledge, ideas, fresh capital, contacts, and entrepreneurial capacities. This book is based on a blend of theory, varied country examples, and rich historical material ranging from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century.
It discusses the conceptual underpinnings of the push and pull factors of current migration waves and their impacts for development on the source and receiving countries. The analysis reviews the historical context under which various migration experiences have taken place – both in periods of internationalism and in periods of nationalism – in order to contribute to debates on the desirability of and tensions and costs involved in the current process of international migration and globalization. These issues are relevant during both times of economic slumps and times of economic growth.
At first glance, the U.S. decision to escalate the war in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, China’s position on North Korea’s nuclear program in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the EU resolution to lift what remained of the arms embargo against Libya in the mid-2000s would appear to share little in common. Yet each of these seemingly unconnected and far-reaching foreign policy decisions resulted at least in part from the exercise of a unique kind of coercion, one predicated on the intentional creation, manipulation, and exploitation of real or threatened mass population movements. In Weapons of Mass Migration, Kelly M. Greenhill offers the first systematic examination of this widely deployed but largely unrecognized instrument of state influence. She shows both how often this unorthodox brand of coercion has been attempted (more than fifty times in the last half century) and how successful it has been (well over half the time). She also tackles the questions of who employs this policy tool, to what ends, and how and why it ever works.
Coercers aim to affect target states’ behavior by exploiting the existence of competing political interests and groups, Greenhill argues, and by manipulating the costs or risks imposed on target state populations. This ‘coercion by punishment’ strategy can be effected in two ways: the first relies on straightforward threats to overwhelm a target’s capacity to accommodate a refugee or migrant influx; the second, on a kind of norms-enhanced political blackmail that exploits the existence of legal and normative commitments to those fleeing violence, persecution, or privation. The theory is further illustrated and tested in a variety of case studies from Europe, East Asia, and North America. To help potential targets better respond to–and protect themselves against–this kind of unconventional predation, Weapons of Mass Migration also offers practicable policy recommendations for scholars, government officials, and anyone concerned about the true victims of this kind of coercion–the displaced themselves.
In a book of deep and telling ironies, Peter Schrag provides essential background for understanding the fractious debate over immigration. Covering the earliest days of the Republic to current events, Schrag sets the modern immigration controversy within the context of three centuries of debate over the same questions about who exactly is fit for citizenship. He finds that nativism has long colored our national history, and that the fear–and loathing–of newcomers has provided one of the faultlines of American cultural and political life.
Schrag describes the eerie similarities between the race-based arguments for restricting Irish, German, Slav, Italian, Jewish, and Chinese immigrants in the past and the arguments for restricting Latinos and others today. He links the terrible history of eugenic “science” to ideas, individuals, and groups now at the forefront of the fight against rational immigration policies. Not Fit for Our Society makes a powerful case for understanding the complex, often paradoxical history of immigration restriction as we work through the issues that inform, and often distort, the debate over who can become a citizen, who decides, and on what basis.
In her research on popular culture of the Vietnamese diaspora, Nhi T. Lieu explores how people displaced by war reconstruct cultural identity in the aftermath of migration. Embracing American democratic ideals and consumer capitalism prior to arriving in the United States, postwar Vietnamese refugees endeavored to assimilate and live the American Dream. In The American Dream in Vietnamese, she claims that nowhere are these fantasies played out more vividly than in the Vietnamese American entertainment industry.
Lieu examines how live music variety shows and videos, beauty pageants, and Web sites created by and for Vietnamese Americans contributed to the shaping of their cultural identity. She shows how popular culture forms repositories for conflicting expectations of assimilation, cultural preservation, and invention, alongside gendered and classed dimensions of ethnic and diasporic identity.
The American Dream in Vietnamese demonstrates how the circulation of images manufactured by both Americans and Vietnamese immigrants serves to produce these immigrants’ paradoxical desires. Within these desires and their representations, Lieu finds the dramatization of the community’s struggle to define itself against the legacy of the refugee label, a classification that continues to pathologize their experiences in American society.
In case you’re the nostalgic type, here are some posts in this blog from December of years past:
2009: How Immigrants Contribute to American Society Within the partisan an emotional debates on the cultural and economic effects of immigration, several new studies point out that immigrants ultimately make several important contributions to American society.
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.”
As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience and to practical, everyday social issues, I highlight new sociological books about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.
A common theme in many of my posts is how globalized and transnational the world in general and American society in particular have become. Within this evolving process, the lives and identities of Asians and Asian Americans also reflect these cross-national formations. The following new books shed light on some specific examples of how these forms of globalization and transnationalism affect different aspects of American society as they relate to Asians and Asian Americans.
Ends of Empire examines Asian American cultural production and its challenge to the dominant understanding of American imperialism, Cold War dynamics, and race and gender formation.
Jodi Kim demonstrates the degree to which Asian American literature and film critique the record of U.S. imperial violence in Asia and provides a glimpse into the imperial and gendered racial logic of the Cold War. She unfolds this particularly entangled and enduring episode in the history of U.S. global hegemony—one that, contrary to leading interpretations of the Cold War as a simple bipolar rivalry, was significantly triangulated in Asia.
The Asian American works analyzed here constitute a crucial body of what Kim reveals as transnational “Cold War compositions,” which are at once a geopolitical structuring, an ideological writing, and a cultural imagining. Arguing that these works reframe the U.S. Cold War as a project of gendered racial formation and imperialism as well as a production of knowledge, Ends of Empire offers an interdisciplinary investigation into the transnational dimensions of Asian America and its critical relationship to Cold War history.
Claiming Diaspora explores the thriving contemporary musical culture of Asian/Chinese America. Ranging from traditional operas to modern instrumental music, from ethnic media networks to popular music, from Asian American jazz to the work of recent avant-garde composers, author Su Zheng reveals the rich and diverse musical activities among Chinese Americans and tells of the struggles and creative searches by Chinese Americans to gain a foothold in the American cultural terrain.
In doing so, she not only tells their stories, but also examines the transnational and racialized experiences of this musical culture, challenging us to take a fresh look at the increasingly plural and complex nature of American cultural identity. . . . She unveils the fluid and evolving nature of music in Chinese America, discussing current cultural struggles, while acknowledging an unavoidable connection to a history of Asian exclusion in the U.S. . . .
The book delineates the introduction of each music genre from its homeland and its subsequent development in New York, and explains how Chinese Americans express their cultural longings and belongings. Ultimately, Zheng reveals how Chinese American musical activities both reflect and contribute to local, national, and transnational cultural politics.
Examining a variety of intriguing issues, this sociological study analyzes the impact global culture has had on the flora and fauna, people, economies, languages, and cultures of the Pacific for many centuries. The survey draws on findings from a 40-year research partnership, illustrating the effects of globalization from the perspective of a typical Samoan village and documenting the country’s shift from baskets to buckets, from religious authority to a questioning democracy, and from in-kind work to a cash economy.
Delving into questions such as When do Pacific emigrants stop sending money to their home village? Do villagers stop giving away fish when they get a refrigerator? and How do cell phones change villages? this argument contends that contemporary changes are presenting a more profound challenge to Samoan social institutions and society than at any other time in the past. Comprehensive and accessible, this guide is essential for those interested in the way global forces are shaping change in small Pacific nations.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Lai was trained as an engineer but blazed a trail in the field of Asian American studies. Long before the field had any academic standing, he amassed an unparalleled body of source material on Chinese America and drew on his own transnational heritage and Chinese patriotism to explore the global Chinese experience.
In Chinese American Transnational Politics, Lai traces the shadowy history of Chinese leftism and the role of the Kuomintang of China in influencing affairs in America. The result is a nuanced and singular account of how Chinese politics, migration to the United States, and Sino-U.S. relations were shaped by Chinese and Chinese American groups and organizations.
Yesterday was Election Day and there were many Asian American candidates running for office throughout the country. For those who are curious, APAs for Progress has a summary of how individual Asian American candidates did in their particular contests. Perhaps the biggest win for Asian Americans came with the victory of John C. Liu to be New York City’s Comptroller. As the New York Times summarizes, Liu’s win is significant in many ways:
New York City Councilman John C. Liu was elected city comptroller in 2009, becoming the first Asian-American elected to citywide office in New York City. Mr. Liu’s victory could quickly make him a strong contender for mayor in 2013. . . .
In 2001 Mr. Liu, then a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, became the first Asian member of the City Council. The election was hailed as a watershed for the Chinese-American community, which had long been shut out of the political mainstream. Mr. Liu easily won re-election in 2003 and 2005.
These sentiments and early speculation about Liu’s plans for the future are echoed in another news report from New York City’s WCBS TV news station:
[Liu’s successful campaign] is a big deal to many. “He is also an immigrant like me, is not American-born like me, so it’s very exciting,” said supporter Wing Ma. Some see his victory as a fitting reflection of national politics in the age of Obama. “I see a parallel, for him to make history,” said Henry Singleton. . . .
Of course four years is a long way off and no one becomes mayor in this town without a fight, but on Tuesday night, New York’s new comptroller-elect is giving off the glow of a political rising star.
Indeed, a lot of good and bad things can happen to Liu in the next four years, so it is rather early to pencil him in for any higher political office at this point. Nonetheless, he is definitely a rising star in the Democratic party and among many Asian Americans and is worth keeping an eye on in the upcoming years.
I congratulate John C. Liu and wish him the best success.
You might be interested to read the following posts from September of years past:
2008: What Exactly is a Hate Crime? How a recent racial attack against an Indian American symbolizes the injustices people of color have experienced through the years.
2007: Using Religion to Unite Racial Groups In times of economic insecurity, demographic change, and political conflict, common religious beliefs might be the social glue that bonds groups from different backgrounds together.
2006: Indian Americans: Model Immigrants? The socioeconomic success of many Indian Americans in recent decades is due to their individual and collective hard work and existing advantages that they brought with them as immigrants.
2005: “Anti-Asian” Laws Passed by APA Politicians Looking at the racial, ethnic, and political complexities of laws and regulations proposed by Asian American politicians that seem to disproportionately hurt other Asian Americans.
For a while now, I’ve written about how the demographic increase in the size of the Latino American and Asian American populations will inevitably also lead to increased political, economic, and cultural power and influence as well. I also hypothesize that one example of this burgeoning political power was how Latinos and Asians voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in the presidential election and as a result, helped to put him over the top.
In other words, Latino and Asian American voters are becoming increasingly important as voting blocs — a sizable constituency group that, if mobilized to voter overwhelmingly for a particular candidate, can make the difference between victory and defeat in a close election. For years, groups such as African Americans, Jewish Americans, and “NASCAR dads” have been important voting blocs.
Latinos represented 7.4% of all Americans who voted in the 2008 election (about 9,745,000 out of 131,144,000 total voters). This represents an increase from being 5.4% (about 5,934,000) of all voters in the 2000 election.
Asian Americans represented 2.8% of all Americans who voted in the 2008 election (about 3,627,000 out of 131,144,000 total voters). This represents an increase from being 1.8% (2,045,000) of all voters in 2000.
Non-Hispanic Blacks comprised 12.3% of all voters in the 2008 election, an increase from 11.5% in the 2000 election.
Conversely, non-Hispanic Whites made up 76.3% of all voters in 2008, a decline from 80.7% in 2000.
The data comparisons between 2000 and 2008 clearly show that Latinos and Asian Americans (and to a slightly lesser extent African Americans) comprise an ever-increasing proportion of the American electorate. Just as important, their power as a voting bloc are increasingly becoming evident as well, as noted by the following quote from the Immigration Impact blog post:
In Indiana, Obama won by roughly 26,000 votes, and received the votes of nearly 24,000 more Latino New Americans than John McCain. Similarly, in North Carolina, Obama won by approximately 14,000 votes, yet received the votes of nearly 26,000 more Latino New Americans than McCain.
We should note that Whites are still the largest racial voting group by far. Nonetheless, the rise of Latinos and Asian American is likely to become even more pronounced as both both groups continue to increase in population size, particularly among those who become naturalized citizens and the second generation (the U.S.-born).
Those outside the Vietnamese community may see the defendants’ accusations of communist sympathies as modern day McCarthyism. But in this case, both the defendants and plaintiffs have fought against actual communists during the Second Indochina War.
All those interviewed invoked a word commonly used among the Vietnamese émigré community to describe the act of accusing someone of communist sympathies: chụp mũ. As this trial brought to light, chụp mũ is a widespread practice among Vietnamese community leaders. However, it is very rare for a person who has been chụp mũ to sue his/her accusers.
“Many people in our community have been chụp mũ, but they don’t dare go to court,” the plaintiff Duc Tan said. “Everyone wants to forget or to make amends instead of going to court. But we couldn’t tolerate it any longer. We had to take a stand, to file a lawsuit.” . . .
Also real are the fears of becoming vulnerable to chụp mũ if one decides to be a leader in the Vietnamese community activities. Duc Tan said one of the reasons he decided to sue was because he saw that “young people were scared to take part in community organizing, weary of the politics around chụp mũ.” . . .
The defense lawyer said that his clients were exercising their freedom of speech. . . . The prosecutor Gregory Rhodes said the defendants “presented their opinions as statement of facts.” “This wasn’t just defamation,” said Rhodes. “These were downright lies and for the defendants to do this was so callous and extremely sad for the whole community.”
As I describe in my chapter mentioned above and as any Vietnamese American can attest to, politics and community activism is a contact sport in the Vietnamese American community. Sentiments, loyalties, and accusations can fly indiscriminately and can turn on a dime. As another example of this ethnic turmoil, San Jose Councilwoman Madison Nguyen recently defeated attempts by a group of Vietnamese American constituents to recall her, many of whom enthusiastically supported her election several years prior.
I find it ironic that, in my academic research and my personal experiences, the Vietnamese American community seems to have both some of the highest levels of ethnic solidarity among all Asian American ethnic groups, but as incidents like these illustrate, some of the deepest and most volatile divisions and differences as well. If nothing else, these divisions among Vietnamese Americans obliterates the stereotype that all Vietnamese Americans, let alone all Asian Americans, are the same.
On this specific issue of individual freedoms, my opinion has always been that Vietnamese Americans certainly have rights to freedom of expression. Their experiences as refugees of a costly and controversial war that ultimately cast out of their homeland are very real, have left many emotional and physical scars, and it is understandable that many have strong emotions associated with communism as a result.
At the same time, there is a limit to such expressions. As the saying goes, “With freedom comes responsibility.” As citizens of the U.S., Vietnamese Americans should remember that verbal criticisms and mass demonstrations are perfectly legitimate expressions of dissent, but threats and acts of violence are not, nor are defamation and slander. The laws of this country are clear and there are no exceptions, regardless of how angry one feels or one’s level of past suffering.