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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.

April 12, 2010

Written by C.N.

Updated List of White Backlash Examples

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

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

February 5, 2010

Written by C.N.

Posts from Years Past: February

You might be interested to read the following posts from Februarys of years past:

  • 2009: New University of California Admissions Rules
    Changes to University of California’s admissions rules are predicted to lead to declines in the number of Asian Americans admitted.
  • 2008: The Good and Bad at College Campuses
    Two incidents involving Asian Americans on college campuses highlight the “two steps forward, one step back” process of achieving racial equality.
  • 2007: Ten Things to Know About Asian American Youth
    A group of Asian American performers list 10 interesting things to understand young Asian Americans better.
  • 2006: The Rise of India
    A Newsweek article describes some of the opportunities and challenges facing India as it strives to become a global superpower in the 21st century.
  • 2005: Report on Asian American LGBT
    A new comprehensive report on Asian American LGBT highlights how many face multiple challenges based on their race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual identity.

May 4, 2009

Written by C.N.

Where Affirmative Action Stands Today

Despite — or perhaps because of — Barack Obama’s election as President, affirmative action remains one of the most controversial and divisive issues in American society today. It’s an issue that can divide not only different racial/ethnic groups, but even members of a single racial group like Asian Americans. In fact, some of the most heated arguments I’ve had with people over affirmative action has been with other Asian Americans.

The issues and controversies surrounding affirmative action are not going to be resolved any time soon and perhaps not even in my lifetime. For now, I hope that we can all look at the issues from a more sociological and objective, rather than personal, point of view and at least understand each side’s positions, even if we don’t agree with them. To help in that process, MSNBC as an article that does a nice job at describing the current state of affirmative action in the U.S. in an objective and balanced way:

Strict racial quotas were unconstitutional, the court said — affirmative action was not. But that ruling far from decided what many considered the big-picture issue: Does protecting minorities discriminate against the majority? More than 30 years [after the famous Bakke v. University of California lawsuit], and scores of lawsuits later, the question remains unanswered. . . .

“The laws that Congress wrote are clear — everyone is protected from racial discrimination,” said Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank that advocates eliminating race and ethnic considerations. “Not just blacks, but whites. Not just Latinos, but whites.”

Those who favor affirmative action say race divisions still exist in this country, 40 years after the civil rights movement. “Race so permeates society that you can’t ignore it,” said Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Racial Justice Project. . . .

Twenty years later, a more conservative court declared that public school systems cannot try to achieve or maintain integration based on explicit race rules. . . . At issue in the case were programs in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., that tried to maintain racial diversity by limiting transfers and admissions.

“The Supreme Court case law isn’t clear. There aren’t bright lines and clear guidance,” said attorney Deborah Archer, director of the Racial Justice Project at New York Law School. “It’s very difficult to extract a rule from those cases that can be applied across the board.” Instead, “they have tended to be concerned with a specific aspect, and the decisions are made on case-by-case basis,” said Archer.

To summarize, through the years, the Supreme Court has basically ruled that consideration of an applicant’s race/ethnicity is legal, if there is a direct and specific reason supporting it, which includes the goal of creating a racially and ethnically diverse student population at colleges and universities and in private sector companies. However, the Supreme Court has also ruled that blanket policies such as quotas and allocating points to minority candidates are illegal and unconstitutional.

As the article also mentions, the Supreme Court is not likely to make any broad or sweeping decisions on affirmative action in general any time soon, instead preferring to make judgments about specific programs and policies on a case-by-case basis.

Within this ongoing debate about affirmative action, MSNBC has another recent article that seems to coincide with arguments of affirmative action supporters — that racial inequalities continue to persist in terms of pay between Whites and Blacks/Latinos even among workers with similar educational qualifications:

Blacks and Hispanics lag behind whites for higher-paying jobs at the largest rates in about a decade . . . Blacks overall slightly narrowed the gap in 2007 with whites in average salary, but the pay disparity widened for blacks with college degrees. Blacks who had a four-year bachelor’s degree earned $46,502, or about 78% of the salary for comparably educated whites.

It was the biggest disparity between professional blacks and whites since the 77% rate in 2001, when the U.S. fell into a recession due to the collapse of the tech bubble and the Sept. 11 terror attacks. College-educated blacks had previously earned as much as 83% of the average salary of whites in 2005.

Hispanics saw similar trends. . . . Hispanics with bachelor’s degrees had an average salary of $44,696, amounting to roughly 75 cents for every dollar made by whites — the lowest ratio in more than a decade — after hitting a peak of 87 cents to every dollar in 2000.

The numbers highlight some of the barriers for minorities, said Mark Mather, a demographer for the Population Reference Bureau. He said the pay disparities could widen further since blacks and Hispanics tend to be relative latecomers to the professional world and thus more vulnerable to layoffs in the current recession.

This finding that Blacks and Latinos are especially vulnerable in times of economic recession has been consistently documented. Some of this disparity has to do with the fact that many Black and Latino college-educated workers have less seniority and overall years of experience than many White workers, and therefore earn less.

At the same time, as social science research has also shown, even among workers in the same occupation and same area of the country with almost identical educational qualifications and years of experience, Blacks and Latinos still lag behind Whites in terms of pay. As many sociologists argue, once you control for all these variables that might affect differences in pay, the only thing left to explain such disparities and pay inequalities is racism, pure and simple.

On the flip side of this issue about affirmative action, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the University of California has officially approved changed to its policies on eligibility for admissions (i.e., on who qualifies to be considered for admissions, not who actually gets admitted). Many Asian Americans and other people of color argue that these changes will disproportionately hurt the chances of Asian American applicants and other applicants of color and that these policies basically amount to “affirmative action for Whites.”

All of these developments illustrate the complex and often contradictory nature of this issue. Like I said, as a sad legacy of our country’s racialized history, it’s an issue that will unfortunately continue to perplex use for years and likely generations to come.


February 11, 2009

Written by C.N.

New University of California Admissions Rules

A popular topic on this blog is university admissions and the representation of students from all racial/ethnic groups, especially at the University of California (‘UC’), the nation’s largest, most diverse, and in many ways, the most controversial higher education venue in the country. With the debate on affirmative action still on high boil and as American society continues to become more diverse, the issue of university admissions is likely to be on the front burner of American educational policy for the foreseeable future.

The latest flare-up involves recently-approved changes to the University of California’s admissions requirements that tries to expand the pool of students who are eligible for admissions (as opposed to the actual criteria for deciding who actually is admitted). As Inside Higher Education reports, according to data from the UC itself, they project that under these new eligibility rules, the racial/ethnic group that would be affected most negatively in terms of admissions are Asian Americans:

36 percent of those admitted to the university system in 2007-8 were Asian Americans. Applying the new admissions standards, that percentage would drop to 29-32 percent. In contrast, white applicants made up 34 percent of those admitted in 2007-8. Under the proposed reforms, they would have made up 41 to 44 percent of the entering class. . . .

But university leaders are playing down the demographic projections and defending the admissions plan, which emerged from the Academic Senate, a system-wide faculty group. . . . The proposal before the Board of Regents today would do the following:

  • End the requirement that applicants submit two SAT Subject Test scores.
  • Narrow from the top 12.5 to the top 9 percent of high school graduates the percentage who will be guaranteed admission to the university system (although not necessarily to the campus of their choice).
  • Expand the definition of applicants eligible for a full admission review to include all who complete 11 of 15 required high school courses by the end of their junior year, and achieve a grade-point average of at least 3.0

The last shift is expected to greatly expand the pool of those entitled to a full admissions review, where personal qualities and other factors may help some win admission. Indeed those deemed eligible for a full review would go up in all racial and ethnic groups. But the gains in eligibility are not necessarily going to translate into gains in admissions for all groups. . . .

Mary Croughan, an epidemiologist at the university’s San Francisco campus and chair of the systemwide Academic Senate, said that the apparent disadvantage for Asian Americans is actually a result of their success. Such a large share of Asian American high school students already are eligible to be considered and win admission that their numbers couldn’t go up as much as those of other groups, she said.

It appears that there are two separate issues here. The first is, changing admissions eligibility rules so that more students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups (specifically, African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians) will be eligible for admissions. On that count, I have always and continue to wholly support such efforts.

If these changes do in fact allow students from a more diverse set of backgrounds to have a chance at admission, they would be very similar to the kind of “holistic admissions” changes that I and other scholars support that do not focus specifically on an applicant’s race/ethnicity but would still give underrepresented minority students a better chance at admissions. So in this context, I think everybody involved is basically on the same page and share the common goal of wanting to improve the admissions chances of underrepresented students.

But it’s the second issue here that is much more controversial — will these proposed changes affect Asian Americans in a disproportionately negative way and will their proportions of all admissions decline as a result? The first question to ask is, how accurate are the UC’s own estimates and predictions? How likely is it that Asian American applicants will be hurt by these new changes? If it turns out that these changes do not affect the proportion of Asian Americans, the question is basically moot.

A regular reader of my blog (Oiyan Poon, graduate student in Education) is writing an analysis paper on this issue and makes several good points. First is that because the new eligibility rules basically expands the number of California students eligible for admissions (from 46,795 to 76,141), in terms of raw numbers, all racial/ethnic groups, including Asian Americans, will see an increase in the actual number of students eligible (about 4,000 for APAs).

But since the number of the increase for Asian Americans is small in proportion to their existing number of eligible students, the percent change represents an increase relative to the new overall total of students eligible for admissions. However, Oiyan points out that these projections are very tentative (projected to affect the first eligible class four years from now) and are based on several debatable assumptions — for instance, not all eligible students actually apply for admissions to the UCs. Finally, most of the increase in eligibility for APAs will benefit low-income and first generation students.

So as Oiyan points out, there are valid questions over whether the dire projections about fewer APA students being admitted under these new rules. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that the new rules do end up lowering the proportion of each entering class that is Asian American. If so, the question then becomes, how fair are these changes? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to that particular question.

On the one hand, as the article points out, the number of Asian American applicants to the UC’s is already disproportionately high so that as a matter of simple mathematics, there’s not much room to go any higher and almost by default, their numbers would decline somewhat as a result of these changes.

On the other hand, we can validly argue that even if Asian Americans as a whole have disproportionately high application and admissions numbers, the fact is that every one of those Asian American students has worked hard and earned that position. Therefore, these changes would unfairly hurt them when in fact, they did everything right.

Inevitably, if these changes result in lower Asian American admission rates, there would certainly be a loud outcry from many critics of affirmative action — many of whom are already Asian American — that once again, “good” students are being denied admissions in favor of “mediocre” ones.

My position on affirmative action has always been two-fold: first, whether it relates to university admissions, government contracts, job preferences, etc., these areas of contention do not have to be zero sum propositions. That is, one person’s gain does not automatically have to mean another person’s loss. Instead, we can have a system that includes plenty of opportunities for everyone.

I understand that the number of university admission spots is not infinite and you have to draw the line somewhere, but if we as a society make higher education a higher priority, we can provide more opportunities for more students. In the process of doing so, we can also depressurize this atmosphere of intensity and hostility over a resource that in many ways, has been artificially limited.

My second point is that rather than focusing disproportionate attention on the symptoms of the problem, we need to address the fundamental cause of it — the unequal quality of education that underrepresented groups such as African Americans and Latinos face. In other words, through no fault of their own and even if they are extremely bright and hardworking, many such students receive a substandard education that puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to university admissions.

For this reason, affirmative action was created to help them overcome these structural (as opposed to individual) disadvantages. So to really cure the root problem, we need to focus more attention on ensuring that all students, regardless of their race or where they live, receive access to a high quality education that will ultimately put everyone on the same level of competitiveness.

These are issues that we as a society have been dealing with and trying to address for generations and obviously, such solutions are easier said than done. However, for the first time in a long time, I think we have a realistic chance at making such changes. Hopefully this new administration can begin to take constructive steps toward more equality in elementary and secondary schools that can put underrepresented students in a better position to compete for university admissions.

With any hope, such disagreements around these admissions eligibility changes and the entire debate around affirmative action will fade into the background, if we tackle the root of the problem, rather than just trying to alleviate the symptoms.