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.
The following is guest post by Louise Baker, a freelance author and journalist. Her post is a brief profile of Five Asian Americans Who Changed the World. Feel free to nominate other possible famous Asian Americans who changed the world in the comments section.
1. Bruce Lee: One of the most famous martial artists of all time, and one of the most influential pop culture figures of the twentieth century. An athlete, actor, and philosopher, Lee’s exceptional talent and pan-racial appeal helped him to break many color barriers for protagonists in American cinema. During his lifetime, Lee’s name became synonymous with Asiatic martial arts, and remains so to this day, nearly forty years after his death. Lee’s enduring legacy and cross-cultural personal appeal place him in a rarified pantheon of iconic American actors of ageless popularity.
2. Jerry Yang: Co-founded Yahoo!, one of the first popular search engines of the internet era. Debuting in the mid-1990’s, Yahoo! offers both experienced and novice web users a way to search for entertainment and information, and did double duty in its early days as a web directory for a variety of topics. One of the architects of the internet as we know it today, Yang’s massive contribution to the world began as a side project with his friend, David Filo, while both were pursuing doctoral degrees at Stanford University. Today, Yahoo! remains one of the most popular sites and networks on the web.
3. Tiger Woods: One of the best golfers of all time, and one of the first minorities to achieve superstardom in that sport, Woods’s youth, charisma, and star appeal brought an element of glamour to his profession that had previously been absent. Having shattered the stereotypes of the typical professional golfer in both age and race, Woods has singlehandedly made his sport of choice seem far more accessible, more inclusive, and more glamorous to the general public than ever before. The global influence of Woods on golf can be seen in the popular champion’s vast number of endorsement deals.
4. Steven Chu: A Nobel Prize winning physicist, who won the aforementioned award as the result of his groundbreaking work in laser cooling technologies, Chu is the current Secretary of Energy of the United States. Chu’s current focus as Energy Secretary is largely on the development of alternative fuel technologies, with particular attention to the possibilities of a “glucose economy,” wherein the various byproducts of sugar might be cultivated and used as fuel on a scale large enough to power the modern world. Chu’s vision, precision, and commitment to excellence might just set the tone for new technologies to come.
5. I.M. Pei: Considered one of the masters of modern architecture, Pei is responsible for designing such iconic buildings as the Bank of China building in Hong Kong, the Louvre Pyramid, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Boston’s Hancock Tower. With his work firmly ensconced as part of the backdrop for many world-class cities, Pei’s work has been an unmistakably powerful influence on art and architecture around the globe.
Louise Baker is a freelance author and journalist. She currently writes about online degrees for Zen College Life, where she most recently ranked the top online colleges.
Here are some more announcements and links out that have come my way relating to Asians or Asian Americans. As always, links to other sites are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of their contents.
To celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, APIAVote is kicking off the Norman Y. Mineta Leadership Institute (NYMLI) Speaker Series in Washington, D.C. This Speaker Series will bolster our NYM Leadership Institute, by bringing the dialogue about AAPI political involvement and political participation to a national stage. Chaired by the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, NYMLI’s mission is to increase the leadership and organizing capacity of AAPI communities by training and equipping leaders with the skills to successfully engage AAPIs in electoral campaigns.
Join APIAVote on Monday, May 3, 2010, from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the National Education Association, as we kick off the Norman Y. Mineta Leadership Institute Speaker Series.
The Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, Chair of APIAVote’s Norman Y. Mineta Leadership Institute, will host a conversation with The New Faces of Leadership from our AAPI communities, Secretary Gary Locke, Department of Commerce (confirmed), Secretary Steven Chu, Department of Energy (invited), Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, Department of Veterans Affairs (confirmed), and other policy leaders as they will discuss opportunities and challenges they encounter in their work in the Administration and with AAPI communities.
A prominent broadcast correspondent has been invited to moderate. Please visit apiavote.org/newfaces to register today.
Congressional Democratic Leadership & the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) cordially invite you to attend the 2010 Asian American and Pacific Islander Summit — Strengthening Our Economy: Job Creation in AAPI Communities.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
8:00 AM-12:30 PM
Congressional Visitors Center, HVC-215
This is a national program for Japanese Americans of high school or college age who have a strong interest in Japan and would like to participate in a 12-day expenses-paid trip to the country of their origin. The purpose of the trip is to give 8 Americans of Japanese heritage (including those of a multiracial background) the opportunity to learn about modern Japan and thereby promote mutual understanding and friendship between Japanese and Japanese Americans of the younger generation. The requirements are as follows:
Must be of high school or college age (with preference given to high school students)
Must hold U.S. citizenship, and must not have dual Japanese citizenship
Must attend the full program from July 2 –July 13, including a pre-departure orientation
Please note that Japanese language proficiency will not influence the selection process. The travel period is July 2-13, 2010 and includes a pre-departure orientation in San Francisco. Please note that the application must be submitted to the Consulate General of Japan in Boston by May 7, 2010. The application form is available on our website.
For further information please contact Ms. Mika Iga (617-972-9772 x141 email@example.com; or Richard Winslow (617-973-9772 x137, firstname.lastname@example.org).
“Consuming Asian America”: 2011 Association for Asian American Studies Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, May 18-21, 2011. Submissions due by Monday, November 1, 2010.
The theme for the 2011 AAAS conference “Consuming Asian America” is inspired, in part, by the site of the conference itself—New Orleans, the city that measures the success of its Mardi Gras celebration by weighing the garbage collected the morning after and whose shopping and nightclub district for locals is called “Fat City.” We invite proposals to engage with all aspects of consumption, such as excess (after all, New Orlean’s tradition of Mardi Gras suggests an excess of consumption), labor material culture, technology, marketing, identity, assimilation, gender, popular culture, religion, music, or tourism.
The title “Consuming Asian America” has a double sense, referring both to the consumption performed by Asian Americans and the consumption of objects, people, and practices that are marked as Asian American. We are interested in the material practices, actions, and cultures of different versions of the consumer, such as eating, buying, viewing, as well as the larger metaphor of consumption.
For example, proposals might examine the material reality of food and its cultivation, production, labor, and marketing: agribusiness, the restaurant industry, our current fascination with television food shows or “authentic” ethnic eating. Others might examine consumption, purchasing, and power by examining chains of production, from the unseen labor of overseas and domestic Asian workers to how the advertising of various products specifically employs or ignores Asian and Asian American bodies.
This topic also encompasses the widespread consumption of goods and services identified as Asian or Asian American. These might include religious iconography, such as Mehndi and the Buddha, artistic traditions such as haiku, martial arts, or manga), or language and writing, such as Chinese writing in keychains, home decor, and body art. Consumption also can be thought of as a means of absorbing, reformulating, or challenging culture through various technologies: how images of Asians, from the yellow peril to the model minority have been circulated and consumed by a multi-racial America, and how one might control or resist the consumption of Asian America.
This is the first time AAAS will meet in New Orleans. Accordingly, we are interested in the ways in which New Orleans (and the Gulf Coast more broadly) has been the object of consumption post-Katrina, as well as the relative invisibility of Asian Americans in the public attention following the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. How might this conference steer us away from being unthinking consumers of New Orleans culture and instead engage us with the possibilities of critical
All paper and panel applicants must be members of AAAS in order to submit conference proposals. AAAS membership
number or confirmation of membership from JHUP will be required with all proposals. AV equipment will be available on request but on a limited, first-come-first-served basis due to budget restrictions. Please make your requests when sending in your proposals.
The AFL-CIO is very excited to announce that Union Summer will return for 2010! Since 1996, Union Summer has graduated over 3000 activists, many of whom continue to work in the labor movement. Union Summer will be looking to recruit and place student activists from colleges and universities across the country to take the fight for justice into the streets in support of our campaign to win good jobs!
Union Summer is a ten week educational internship in which participants are introduced to the labor movement. The Union Summer Internship will run from June 7th through August 13th. It will begin with a weeklong orientation and training, which will be held in Washington, D.C. June 7-June 13. After the training, interns will work in teams in support of the AFL-CIO’s Jobs Campaign in various parts of the country; there will also be classroom instruction on matters related to their activities.
Their activities could include assisting in organizing direct actions such as marches and rallies, talking with workers impacted by the jobs crisis, as well as assisting in building community, labor and religious support for the Campaign. Interns will play an important role in helping to build support for our top priority – making sure that everyone that wants a job can get one. Participation in Union Summer is also an ideal way for people to learn about unions and our work in the community.
Union Summer is looking to recruit students with a strong commitment to social and economic justice as and openness to working with people of various races, ethnicities, sexual and religious orientations. Participants should be enthusiastic, energetic and flexible to working long and irregular hours. We are accepting applications from rising juniors and seniors as well as graduating seniors. Women and People of Color are strongly encouraged to apply.
Participants will receive a stipend of $300 per week (minus taxes) to cover meals and other incidental expenses. Each intern will be responsible to getting to and from their orientation training. After the weeklong orientation, Union Summer will cover the costs of transportation to their internship site. Housing and local transportation costs will be provided by the host site.
Union Summer is a competitive internship and will have a limited number of available positions this year. Please encourage all interested students to apply soon.
Interested students should view and download the application on our website and return it to email@example.com. The application deadline is May 7, 2010. For more information, students should contact us at 1.888.835.8557.
Director, Voice@Work Campaign
Fred Azcarate, Director
815 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
The JACL is now accepting applications for its second annual JACL Collegiate Washington, D.C. Leadership Conference to be held on June 10-13, 2010. The program, which is patterned after the JACL/OCA Washington, DC Leadership Conference, is limited to Asian American college students who are in their freshman, sophomore or junior year in school.
The three-day program is designed to give Asian American student leaders an inside glimpse of national policy-making arena in Washington, DC. The conference is structured to provide a broad overview of the decision-making process at the federal level, including meetings with key policy-makers, agency officials and advocacy organizations. The conference will also offer leadership training and issues workshops.
“The intent of the program is to provide student leaders with information, training and networking opportunities,” said Bill Yoshino, JACL’s Midwest Director who is coordinating the program. “We hope this program provides the participants with additional motivation to be active and involved at their campus and in their communities,” Yoshino added.
The conference is being funded through a grant from the UPS Foundation, which will cover airfare, lodging and meals for 12 participants who will be selected through an application process. Applicants must be full-time Asian Pacific American undergraduate freshman, sophomore or junior class students attending an accredited college or university.
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.
Time magazine has released its annual list of the World’s 100 Most Influential People and I highlight the Asians or Asian Americans on the list (descriptions are from Time magazine):
Leaders & Revolutionaries
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (President of Indonesia)
The country’s transition from authoritarianism has proved that as a democracy, Indonesia can be culturally vibrant and economically prosperous. Since winning the presidency in 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has managed to keep the nation afloat, even during the current global recession. . . The time is right for Indonesia, as the world’s most populous Muslim nation, to assume a more prominent position in Asia and throughout the Muslim world. In response to President Obama’s warm overtures to Muslim countries for a new phase in relations with the U.S., Yudhoyono can take the lead and chart a new course for the region.
Wang Qishan (Vice Premier of China)
He is the man China’s leaders look to for an understanding of the markets and the global economy. As a result, China has been supportive of U.S. actions to stabilize our capital markets and has not given in to those who advocate reversing economic reform to insulate China from the world. . . . Wang managed the largest bankruptcy restructuring in China’s history in 1998 and thereby prevented a banking crisis that could have crippled the country’s growth.
Ashfaq Kayani (Pakistan Army’s Chief of Staff)
General Kayani, 57, commands an army with troops fighting in what President Barack Obama has rightly called the “most dangerous place in the world.” He’s lost more than 1,000 soldiers in that fight. He knows the stakes. He’s got a plan.
Xi Jinping (Vice President of China)
As Vice President of China, Xi is considered the most likely candidate to assume the country’s presidency in 2012. You can already feel the Chinese system starting to flex as it prepares to make way for him. . . . Xi’s own experiences as a provincial leader and his firm politician’s instinct suggest that he is trying to knit the interest groups of China’s ruling Communist Party into something capable of executing the difficult political and economic reforms that have become essential. The running joke in Beijing is that anytime there is a potentially nasty task, Xi gets it: the Olympics last summer, and now an urgent new working group on social stability.
Builders & Titans
Nandan Nilekani (Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Infosys Technologies)
Infosys, the information-technology-services giant, was India’s first truly global company, and its core entrepreneurial insight was that spectacular success can be achieved through innovative, ethical and transparent business-management practices. In the process, Nandan, 53, became both a corporate icon and India’s brand ambassador. . . . As the new India, fueled by its robust democracy and favorable demographics, seeks to make the transition from a developing nation to a developed one, it will need the vision and talent of people like Nandan Nilekani.
Jack Ma (Chinese Internet Entrepreneur)
As founder and CEO of Alibaba.com, Ma, 44, runs one of the world’s biggest B2B online marketplaces, an eBay for companies doing international trade. Alibaba and Ma’s consumer-auction website, Taobao.com, did so well that in 2006, eBay shut down its own site in China.
Artists & Entertainers
Lang Lang (Chinese Pianist)
He has started the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, dedicated to supporting young pianists around the world. You hear him play, and he never ceases to touch your heart. And he’s fearless. He’s not afraid to burst the bubble of false élitism.
A.R. Rahman (Indian Musician)
A.R. Rahman, 43, dominates the music industry so totally that he has supplied the sound track for a whole generation. He enjoys the godlike devotion of India’s youth, but everyone from the street child who sweeps train platforms to the middle-aged doctor in Mumbai’s posh Malabar Hill hums his tunes. . . . Renowned for his immense range, he’ll do a traditional score for a conventional film, then blend exotic vocals with Japanese music and Western classical arrangements in his next project. A veritable Pied Piper, he has no competition, yet he makes it a priority to discover new talent and promote it.
Heroes & Icons
Somaly Mam (Cambodian-French Activist and Humanitarian)
[As a result of the Khmer Rouge’s genocide], 12-year-old Mam was sold into sexual slavery by a man who posed as her grandfather. She eventually ended up in a Phnom Penh brothel, beginning a decade of horrific rape and torture. She describes this period of her life simply: “I was dead. I had no affection for anyone.” . . . In 1996, Mam created a nonprofit organization called AFESIP (Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire, or Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances) that works with local law enforcement to raid brothels and reintegrate the trafficked women into society. . . . She has paid a terrible personal price for doing so, enduring death threats and assaults. In an effort to deter her work, brothel owners even kidnapped, drugged and raped Mam’s then 14-year-old daughter in 2006. Most people would have walked away. Mam continues to fight back so that others can be spared the pain she once suffered.
Suraya Pakzad (Afghani Activist and Humanitarian)
It is difficult to name a more committed advocate for women’s rights in Afghanistan. A recipient of the 2008 International Women of Courage Award, Pakzad is the founder of the Voice of Women Organization, committed to providing Afghan women with shelter, counseling and job training. Her shelters give abused women safe haven, legal services and long-term protection. She has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about gender-based violence that victimizes Afghan women.
Tiger Woods (American “Cablinasian” Golfer)
You rarely see an athlete who single-handedly changes an entire sport. When Tiger couldn’t play last year because of an injury, golf ratings suffered. He has changed the way golfers train and prepare themselves and has brought huge numbers of new fans to the sport. . . . We should all enjoy it. We may never see a golfer like this again.
Manny Pacquiao (Filipino Championship Boxer and Humanitarian)
Pound for pound, Manny Pacquiao is the best boxer in the world. But even more important than holding that distinction, Manny has connected with the people of his home country, the Philippines, to the point where he’s almost like a god. The people have rallied behind him and feel like they’re a part of him, because they can see his talent, his dedication, his grace and his class. The grip he holds over the Philippines is similar to Nelson Mandela’s influence in South Africa.
Scientists & Thinkers
Steven Chu (Chinese American Secretary of Energy)
Chu, 61, won the Nobel Prize in 1997 for his esoteric studies in physics. . . Perhaps Chu’s greatest impact, however, has been in the area of energy. Long a vocal advocate of weaning the U.S. from its dependence on fossil fuels, he was picked by President Barack Obama for both his ability and his candor. With the future of the earth’s climate dependent on rethinking the ways we consume energy, both skills will be needed in equal measure, but it’s the candor part that might be the most refreshing.
Yoichiro Nambu (Japanese Physicist)
Scientists have always sought symmetry in nature, meaning laws that are the same in all circumstances. Nambu realized that when a situation occurs that defies symmetry, a new particle is born. . . . A major task of the Large Hadron Collider, the particle accelerator near Geneva that was turned on last year, will be to search for a particle known as the Higgs boson that, according to Nambu’s theory, is responsible for breaking the symmetry between electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force. . . . Nambu shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Following up on his recent nomination of Eric Shinseki to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Barack Obama has named another Asian American — Steven Chu — to be his Secretary of Energy. As news outlets report, Professor Chu shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics and is the latest Asian American political trailblazer:
Chu, [director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory], shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics and is a former chairman of the physics department at Stanford University in California and head of the electronics research laboratory at Bell Labs.
The Lawrence Berkeley Web site says Chu was an early advocate for finding scientific solutions to climate change and has guided the laboratory on a new mission to become the world leader in alternative and renewable energy research, particularly the development of carbon-neutral sources of energy.
I have to be honest again and admit that I had not heard of Professor Chu before today but nonetheless, as always, I trust Barack Obama’s judgment and based on Professor Chu’s recent accomplishments, I have no doubt that he would be an excellent choice.
More specifically, I am also very pleased to see that President-Elect Obama has chosen an academic for a cabinet position. I have long been an advocate for making academic research and data relevant and accessible to as wide of an audience as possible. This very website and blog is my modest attempt to make good on that promise.
Hopefully this position as Secretary of Energy will be an opportunity for Professor Chu to use his expertise to apply academic knowledge to address real-world issues. In other words, knowledge isn’t much good unless it’s turned into action.
Congratulations to Professor Steven Chu and I wish him the best success.