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.
To regular and new readers of Asian-Nation: I wanted to let you know that back in late November, unfortunately someone hacked into my Asian-Nation web hosting account and inserted malware code into many of my website files. I only learned of this once I began my three-week family vacation to Viet Nam over the winter break, so only after I returned to the U.S. about a week ago was I able to remove all instances of the malware code that I could find.
Unfortunately, in the meantime, Google blacklisted Asian-Nation as an attack site, which means that when you visit the site again, your browser might inform you that it’s an attack site as a result of it being blacklisted by Google. Like I described, I’ve cleaned and removed the malware code from my site and hopefully Google will remove it from being blacklisted soon, but in the meantime, you can trust that Asian-Nation is not an attack site.
Alas, instances like this seem to be an increasing part of the digital age in which we live. Thank you for your patience and look for a post about my visit to Viet Nam soon.
Here are some more announcements, links, and job postings about academic-related jobs, fellowships, and other opportunities for those interested in racial/ethnic/diversity issues, with a particular focus on Asian Americans. As always, the announcements and links are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of the organization or college involved.
The Asian Pacific Student Association (APSA) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is hosting its 27th Annual Asian Pacific American Awareness Conference at the UCI Student Center on Saturday, January 28, 2012. For over 30 years, APSA has been a progressive voice for Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) students in Orange County and Southern California. Through a commitment to advocacy, education, community outreach, and active political participation, APSA strives toward the establishment of equality in a multicultural society.
The 27th Annual Asian Pacific-Islander American Awareness Conference (APAAC) is a day-long event devoted to addressing the issues and redressing the questions raised in the contemporary society of the United States. This year’s theme is “The Movement: Then and Now.” This year we explore cross-cultural activism, intersections of struggles faced by People of Color, and the need to bring back the foundations of the Asian Pacific-Islander American Movement to address the issues that pervade our communities today.
The 27th Annual Asian Pacific American Awareness Conference
January 28, 2012
UC Irvine Student Center – University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697
Check-In starts at 8:00AM
Keynote Speaker: Glenn Omatsu
Indoor Lunch and Performances
Workshop and Breakout Sessions
West Coast API Student Coalition Kick-It
Performances by Hoodini & KinG!, Beau Sia, Andrew Figueroa Chiang, forWORD, Nghiem Le, Victoria Lee, Jazzmine Farol, and more!
Early Registration (until January 23, 2012) – $7
Late/On-site Registration – $10
Special Discounts for delegations of 10 people or more. Contact Elaine Won at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a delegation.
Lunch and concert are included in registration.
Register Online Here: registration.apaacuci.org
Pre-Doctoral Fellowship: Ithaca College
The School of Humanities and Sciences at Ithaca College announces a Pre-Doctoral Diversity Fellowship for 2012-13. The fellowship supports promising scholars who are committed to diversity in the academy in order to better prepare them for tenure track appointments within liberal arts or comprehensive colleges/universities.
Applications are welcome in the following areas: Anthropology, Art History, Communication Studies, Environmental Studies and Sciences, History, Philosophy and Religion, Psychology, and Sociology. The Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity, which houses the African Diaspora Studies and the Latino/a studies minors, also welcomes applications. The School of Humanities and Sciences houses additional interdisciplinary minors that may be of interest to candidates: Jewish Studies, Latin American Studies, Muslim Cultures, Native American Studies, and Women’s Studies.
Fellows who successfully obtain the Ph.D. and show an exemplary record of teaching and scholarship and engagement in academic service throughout their fellowship, may be considered as candidates for tenure-eligible appointments anticipated to begin in the fall of 2013.
Position Responsibilities and Terms of Fellowship: Fellowship is anticipated for the academic year (August 16, 2012 to May 31, 2013) and is non-renewable. The fellow will receive a $30,000 stipend, $3,000 in travel/professional development support, office space, health benefits, and access to Ithaca College and Cornell University libraries. The fellow will teach one course in the fall semester and one course in the spring semester and be invited to speak about her/his dissertation research in relevant classes and at special events at Ithaca College.
Position/Job Responsibilities: Continued enrollment in an accredited program leading to a Ph.D. degree at a U.S. educational institution, evidence of superior academic achievement, and commitment to a career in teaching at the college or university level required. Candidates must also be authorized to work in the United States. Prior to August 15, 2012, the fellow must be advanced to candidacy at his or her home institution with an approved dissertation proposal. Preference will be given to those candidates in the final writing stages of their dissertation.
Position/Job Qualifications: Successful candidates will show evidence of superior academic achievement, a high degree of promise of continuing achievement as scholars and teachers, a capacity to respond in pedagogically productive ways to the learning needs of students from diverse backgrounds, sustained personal engagement with communities that are underrepresented in the academy and an ability to bring this asset to learning, teaching, and scholarship at the college and university level, and a likelihood of using the diversity of human experience as an educational resource in teaching and scholarship.
Instructions for submitting your application: Interested individuals should apply online at www.icjobs.org, and submit a C.V./Resume, a cover letter, two sample syllabi, a list of references and a transcript. Questions about the online application should be directed to the Office of Human Resources at (607)274-8000. Screening of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Quick Link apply.icjobs.org/applicants/Central?quickFind=177781
Call for Participants: HBO 2012 APA Heritage Month Documentary
As mentioned on AngryAsianMan, following up on HBO’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month documentary series East of Main Street last year, HBO is conducting another search for Asian American participants for their 2012 edition to commemorate APA Heritage Month. This year however, they are looking for children ages 4-10, to interviewed for the project:
HBO is seeking Asian American children in the age range of 4-10 to be interviewed for their 2012 installment of their Asian Heritage documentary series, brought to you by the producers and director of HBO’s “East of Main Street” that began in 2010.
If you have ever been around small children, you will know that they have as uncensored a view of life. They are wide-eyed, open, curious, and completely unjaded by life and what is “appropriate.” They have not yet been exposed to the harsh realities of racism, sexism or discrimination.
HBO will interview a cross section of Asian American children ranging in age from 4-10 about everything from their heritage, what being Asian American means, how their grandparents differ, what sets them apart from other kids in their schools, religion, their foods, customs and what their hopes and dreams for the future are. The piece would be filled with humor, sweetness and poignancy and help highlight just how insightful and intelligent children really are.
This year, the production will hit the road and interview children in 3 different cities at the end of February. One city will be New York, while the second will either be Los Angeles or San Francisco. The third city is yet to be determined, and will ideally be less metropolitan, to see a cross section of the Asian American experience.
If you’d like to enter your child as a candidate for the series, please upload a short sample clip of your child to a YouTube or Vimeo link and send it to email@example.com with a description of your family’s background as well as the name of the city and state which you currently live.
Deadline for submission is January 31.
Postdoc: Korean Families, Univ. of Illinois
The 5-year Korean Family in Comparative Perspective (KFCP, 2010-present) Laboratory for the Globalization of Korean Studies at the University of Illinois, funded by the Academy of Korean Studies, and housed in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, is pleased to announce its second KFCP Postdoctoral Fellowship starting August 16, 2012. This one-year position, with the possibility of a one-year extension, is open to: (1) recent PhD recipients (within the last 5 years) and (2) those who will deposit their dissertation by August 15, 2012.
The KFCP Laboratory aims to bring the Korean family to the center of comparative East Asian and general family studies, highlighting Korea as a productive comparative case of interest to non-Koreanists across a range of disciplines and scholarly locations. KFCP Fellows must be scholars interested in comparative work on the Korean family. Scholars with primary expertise in the family of other East Asian countries (e.g., China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan) are particularly welcome to apply. Scholars with primary research emphasis on the Koreas must have a concrete plan to conduct comparative research (i.e., with another country/region). The Postdoctoral Fellowship is open to scholars in any humanities or social science discipline.
The KFCP Laboratory is directed by anthropologist Nancy Abelmann and includes 3 KFCP Laboratory Fellows: Jungwon Kim (EALC and History, University of Illinois), Seung-Kyung Kim (Women’s Studies, University of Maryland), and Hyunjoon Park (Sociology, University of Pennsylvania). The 2011-13 current Postdoctoral Fellow is historian of China, Elizabeth LaCouture (History, Colby College)
The Postdoctoral Fellow will be welcomed to an active Koreanist community at the University of Illinois that includes a biweekly Korea Workshop (that will actively engage the themes of the Laboratory). The KFCP Fellow will be provided the opportunity to participate in organizing a Korean Family Colloquium Series which graduate students will be able to attend for partial credit. The KFCP Laboratory will be guided by a National Advisory Board (See list below). KFCP Laboratory Director, Fellows, and National Board Members will take an active role in nurturing the comparative scholarship of the Postdoctoral Fellow. The Postdoctoral Fellow will also have the opportunity to “workshop” his or her manuscript/s with experts from both on and off campus.
The KFCP Fellow will be paid $40,000 and benefits. To ensure full consideration, all required application materials must be submitted electronically by February 10, 2012 at http://go.illinois.edu/KFCP_Application Referees will be contacted electronically upon submission of the application. Only electronic applications will be accepted. Applications must include:
A cover letter reviewing your research history, including your dissertation and other publications
A statement of interest in the Korean family in comparative perspective, including a publication plan that includes the submission of one article for each postdoctoral year (OR a single- or co-authored book manuscript) (this can be integrated into the cover letter)
A statement of commitment to active participation in KFCP Laboratory events, including the Korean Family Colloquium Series (this can be a simple statement in the cover letter)
One writing sample, 25-40 pages
Contact information for three referees who can speak to your scholarly work and abilities and to the feasibility of your research and publications plans for comparative work on the Korean family. Referees will be contacted electronically and asked to submit their letters
The 5th Annual Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival takes place:
Sat. June 16, 2012 – Sun. 17, 2012
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Now is your chance to submit your film, writing, workshop, or performance proposal.
There is NO submission fee if you submit your work by February 15, 2012! So don’t wait–send us your stories of the Mixed experience NOW! For complete submission information visit the Festival website. You’ll find the submission forms in the brown navigation bar on the home page.
Please tell your friends via tweets; like us on Facebook; post this call to Facebook; post this announcement on your blog; and forward this email to friends, family and coworkers!
Position: Immigration Policy Special Assistant
Special Assistant for Immigration Policy
Reports to: Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy
Department: Domestic Policy
The Center for American Progress has an immediate opening for an Immigration Assistant. The qualified applicant will be a self-starter and a fast learner with strong written and verbal communications, solid research skills, and the ability to juggle multiple tasks in a fast-paced environment. In addition to providing administrative support to the Immigration Team, she/he will help coordinate CAP’s work with key immigrants’ rights organizations and provide assistance in research projects that address gaps in information and data related to immigration.
Responsibilities include but are not limited to the following:
Provide administrative support to the Immigration team
Help coordinate work with key partners
Use available research tools to identify important issues related to immigration
Assist with the development of immigration-related short reports
Excellent written communications skills
Ability to think strategically and to anticipate and orchestrate next steps
Ability to initiate, prioritize, and follow through on plans
Ability to work under pressure/tight deadlines in a fast-paced environment
Ability to initiate projects and balance multiple projects at once
Strong interpersonal skills and ability to work well on a team
Strong attention to detail
Bachelor’s degree in social sciences
Familiarity with the issue of immigration a plus
Excellent research and writing skills
Top-notch organizational skills
Commitment to organization’s mission and goals
Proficiency in MS Word, Excel
Nonprofit experience a plus
Familiarity with the Salesforce CRM system a plus
Experience working with 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations a plus
American Progress operates two separate nonprofit organizations to maximize our progressive agenda: The Center for American Progress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. This job posting refers collectively to the two organizations under the name “American Progress.” The Center for American Progress is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) tax-exempt research and educational institute. It undertakes research, public education and a limited amount of lobbying.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund is a non-partisan 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization dedicated to achieving progress through action. It works to transform progressive ideas into policy through rapid response communications, legislative action, grassroots organizing, political advocacy, and partnerships with other progressive leaders. The organizations share office space and employees.
American Progress provides a competitive compensation and benefits package. American Progress is an equal opportunity employer; women, minorities, and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply. To apply, simply e-mail your Word resume and cover letter attachments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or you may write to:
Center for American Progress
1333 H Street, NW, 10th Floor – Domestic Policy Search
Washington, DC 20005
In your correspondence, please reference the exact title of the job you are applying for in the subject line. This announcement will remain posted until the position is filled. No phone calls please. Please note that only those individuals whose qualifications match the current needs of this position will be considered applicants and will receive responses from American Progress.
Are you planning for an exciting summer abroad? Join us to make an impact through our leadership service project.
Mission Southeast Asian Service Leadership Network’s (SEALNet) mission is to bring service and to promote the spirit of service leadership among Southeast Asian communities in the US and abroad. We strive to accomplish this by building and nurturing a community of service leaders who are committed to serve, equipped to lead, enterprising in action, and plugged into a network of like hearted individuals who are passionate about social development.
SEALNet was founded at Stanford University in 2004. In 2006, SEALNet became a 501(c)(3) organization with a board of directors which oversees the organization and chapters at various universities. In 2008, SEALNet registered a branch in Singapore as a Company Limited by Guarantee.
Project Vietnam 2012
SEALNet projects normally start recruiting during March. However, Project Vietnam 2012 will recruit early this year. The deadline for the application will be on March 10th.
Project Site: Long Hoa Orphanage, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Expected date: 2 – 3 weeks between August 11th and August 31st
We will cover all food, transportation and boarding. However, you are responsible for your airfares to and from Vietnam.
Project Vietnam 2012 seeks to collaborate with Gentle Fund Organization (GFO) in bringing in a sustainable source of local Vietnamese volunteers to support the development of an orphan-led Scout Club for Long Hoa Orphanage. Founded by GFO on the belief that improving self-esteem of orphaned youths will prove vital for their success in school, character development and career choices, the Scout Club is a place where orphaned youths feel safe, free of stigma, encouraged to serve others, and supported through skills workshops. The SEALNet team hopes to supplement and further support GFO’s endeavor at Long Hoa by training a group of local volunteers, committed and capable, to become the program assistants to the GFO administration of the Scout Club and building partnership between the orphanage with a local university.
Community Challenge: Orphans are a large under-served population in Vietnam. 1.4 million Vietnamese orphans (2009) under 18 years old often live in small unregistered institutions and on the streets. During adolescence, orphans’ need for adult guidance and high self-esteem are not met due to the lack of support programs for this special population and their quiet needs. In Long Hoa Orphanage, Ho Chi Minh City, there is currently a lack of support for adolescent orphans who need meaningful extra-curricular activities to develop themselves at the age of 12-16, when they begin to develop their self-worth, character, social skills and self-motivations. Gentle Fund Organization, which has been running a community Learning Center on the orphanage campus for three years, would like to extend their service to providing some psychosocial support for the orphans of this group age. However, challenges remain as their character development program faces a lack of high-quality manpower support from within the organization, the orphanage and external sources.
For more information about SEALNet, please go to http://www.sealnetonline.org/
For more information about Gentle Fund Organization, please go to http://www.gentlefund.org/en/home.xhtml
For more information about Project Vietnam 2012, please email PV12 Co-Leaders:
Minh Vo: mvo1(at)swarthmore.edu
Phy Tran: tphyntran(at)gmail.com
Summer Internships: Organization of Chinese Americans
The Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), a national organization dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), is now accepting applications for its 2012 Summer Internship Program.
Celebrating its 23rd year, the OCA Internship Program seeks to cultivate future leadership by providing students from all over the country an opportunity to be involved in the political process through one of the largest national advocacy organization for APAs. The program has successfully led past interns to become more actively involved in their college campuses and joined the growing movement of APA leadership at the cross section of government, nonprofits, and business.
“As one of OCA’s prestigious programs, the Summer Internship is truly a unique experience. It exposes students to issues affecting the APA community while gaining valuable working experience in the heart of Washington DC,” said Tom Hayashi, Interim Executive Director of OCA.
Participants of this program will be placed in a paid internship in a federal agency, nonprofit, congressional offices, and corporations that matches their backgrounds and interests—including some placements at the OCA National Center. In addition to their work assignments, summer interns will be heavily involved in variety of activities and programming including direct advocacy for critical issues faced by APAs on the Hill.
In addition to connecting interns with the APA community and developing their leadership skills, summer interns are invited to take part in the OCA National Convention. This year’s National Convention will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada from August 2 – 5 at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. The Convention will feature inspirational speakers, thrilling entertainment, numerous workshops, and our signature gala to celebrate the impactful and pioneering achievements of community leaders.
Interns are expected to commit to working full-time for ten weeks between the dates of May 28 – August 17, 2012. (Participation in the National Convention is mandatory and applicants are strongly encouraged to make sure they are able to attend.) Applications will be reviewed by the Internship Committee and a telephone interview will be scheduled for qualified applicants.
For more information on the OCA Summer Internship and to apply, go to OCA’s website and click “Internship” under “Programs.” You can also click here to go directly to the online application form. Applications and all materials need to be submitted by March 12, 2012.
Please contact the OCA National Center at 202.223.5500 or email Mary Dynne Montante at email@example.com if you have any questions. Your journey towards empowerment and fulfillment for your personal best starts with the OCA Summer Internship…apply today!
We serve as co-chairs of the Race/Ethnicity section for the Social Science History Association (SSHA). The meeting is scheduled to take place in Vancouver, Canada, November 1-4, 2012. Our theme this year is “Histories of Capitalism.”
Our main goal is to structure sessions so that they explicitly draw on an interdisciplinary group of scholars who hail from different institutions. The deadline for submission of abstracts is March 1 2011. Note, all SSHA requires at this point is an abstract. We are hoping to put together a number of sessions related to the conference site that were discussed at the planning meeting:
Indigenous Communities, Land Rights and Natural Resources
The Rise and Decline of Multiculturalism and/or Cosmopolitanism
Race and Collective Violence
Anti-Asian Discrimination and Asian Integration on the West Coast
The Underground Railroad
Racialized Immigration Policy
Bilingualism and Racialized Language Struggles
Conflicts and Contradictions in Anglo-French Conceptions of Race
Multiracial Identities and Racial Boundaries in Historical Perspective
Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism in Contemporary America
Race and Capitalism
Race and Eugenics
You are welcome to submit papers regarding any of these topics, or on a topic relating to your own research. If you are interested in putting together an entire session, let us know and we would be happy to provide you with details as to how to do this. Feel free to forward this call widely, particularly to graduate students (there is funding available for graduate students to travel to the conference).
We also had three wonderful Author Meets Critics panels at the 2011 session and are looking to “recreate the magic” this year in Vancouver. So if you have read any great books that you would like to seen discussed and meet the author, please let us know. Or if you would just like to volunteer to be a critic for books to be decided within the next month, please let us know.
Finally, please feel free to check our Facebook page, which you can find by searching for “Race/Ethnicity Network – Social Science History Association.” If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Election Day Officers Needed Throughout Boston for 2012 Election Cycle
Have you ever gone to vote and thought that you might enjoy being an Election Officer “someday,” or have you thought that the poll workers at your precinct are a great group, and you would love to have the opportunity to work with them? The City of Boston Election Department is seeking to expand its pool of available election officers for the 2012 Election cycle, beginning with the March 6 Presidential Primary.
There are a number of openings for Election Day Officers throughout the City. Poll workers in particular are needed in East Boston, Charlestown, South Boston, the North End, and Allston-Brighton. While there is a particular need for bilingual workers, there are also available opportunities for other positions as well. From Wardens, who are responsible for the smooth operations of their polling locations, to Clerks, who oversee the checking in of voters, and keep written records of the day’s events, to Inspectors who direct and assist voters; the need for talented workers exists at all levels.
Requirements include the ability to follow directions precisely, attentiveness to detail, a strong commitment to fairness and impartiality, and a desire to serve. Election Officers must be registered voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and can come from any city or town. Ideally, potential candidates should have a strong voter history as well. Election Officers work from 6AM-9PM, which includes an hour before and an hour after the polls are open for voters. In some cases there is an allowance for part-time shifts, although a shift must be at least six (6) hours long. Attendance to one of our paid training sessions is mandatory.
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.
The Migration Policy Institute is a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. that studies immigration issues, trends, and policies in the United States and around the world. They also maintain an online journal called the Migration Information Source. They have recently compiled a collection of summary reports (“spotlights”) on numerous immigrant populations and communities in the United States, including about immigrants from Mexico, China, India, Vietnam, El Salvador, and other countries. Definitely worth a look.
My name is Pat Clark and I am a graduate film student at San Diego State University. I am producing a documentary film which centers around individuals involved in the evacuation of Saigon April 29, 1975. I am interested in telling the story from both the American and Vietnamese perspective.
I have already secured interviews with a few individuals but I am looking to find as many as possible. If you know of anyone who would be willing to share their story on camera please give them my contact information or I would be happy to contact them and explain my project in greater detail. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. I appreciate your help!
The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington is honored to be one of 25 finalists for a share of the $1 million National Trust for Historic Preservation/American Express Partners in Preservation grant for noteworthy historic sites in Puget Sound!
It’s fast and easy to help the JCCC win the grand prize: Vote for the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington – and please vote once a day until May 12! Please invite everyone you know to help by joining our Facebook page, our Twitter page, or our website.
As the legacy home to the oldest “continuously” operating Japanese Language School in North America and safe haven for displaced Japanese Americans after World War II, to today’s lively, active center of cultural programs, the NW Nikkei Museum, Japanese Language Library and more, the Partners in Preservation grant will help renovate the National Historic Register buildings and support the center’s Japanese heritage programs to grow and flourish.
Programs and issues we are actively addressing include Multiethnic and multicultural families and heritage, Asian American family genealogy and histories, local NW Nikkei history, LGBTQQIA in the API community, Shin Issei, incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during WWII and many others.
Our past special events have included traditional arts, crafts, games and music including origami, making windsocks (koi nobori), family heritage day, calligraphy and lawn water games; NW Nikkei Museum exhibit of more than 1,700 wooden dolls (kokeshi); display of samurai armor (yoroi) and more, with special performances of Karate, Taiko and Judo.
I have started a petition to designate a new federal holiday as National Immigrants Day to commemorate the contributions made by all nationalities of immigrants in the building of our country and would like to forward the link here to you for possible publicizing or signing.
In light of the recent emergencies due to natural disasters in the Philippines, Viet Nam, Samoa and American Samoa, Indonesia and other parts of Asia and the Pacific, if you would like to make a donation to help those in need, here are some links to respected organizations to make your donation:
Earlier this month, my family and I attended the annual Family Retreat at the Deer Park Monastery. The monastery was founded by the well-known but sometimes controversial Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn and is set in the hills and desert just outside of Escondido, California. Some of our friends in the Los Angeles have attended this retreat for yours and this was the second year that we attended.
Overall, we really enjoyed the retreat and its nature-centered activities and sessions of relaxed meditation and discussions on being mindful in our daily lives, geared towards adults, children, and both together. We also enjoy being able to camp with other families (dorms are also available) and socializing with like-minded friends and newly-made friends. It’s a nice and much more relaxed change of pace from the more traditional and strict Vipassana Meditation Center that we also participate in.
Modern Buddhism seems to be an increasingly popular and multicultural practice among many Americans and around the world, particularly forms related to the less formal Mahayana version (as opposed to the stricter monastic Theravada version). As a reflection of such, this retreat was truly a multicultural and multiracial event — of the 120-150 or so people in attendance (from babies to grandparents), about 40% were Asian/Asian American, 40% were White, and the rest were African American, Latino, and other races/ethnicities.
With this in mind, it was truly gratifying to see everyone interacting with each other in a very mindful, mutually-respectful, and genuinely peaceful way throughout the event, in contrast to some of the sad examples of racial hostility that still exists in other parts of American society. Within this environment, I and my family felt very comfortable and refreshed and certainly, this is one of the main reasons why we plan on attending in future years.
At the same time, there were a couple of incidents that again highlighted for me the nature of racial differences that still pervade American society, even within the confines of a insulated and “conscious” environment like this. Both of these incidents are not significant or upsetting enough for me to stop attending — it’s only because I am a sociologist that I focus on them.
The first involved a group of families visiting from Viet Nam (as distinguished from Vietnamese American), about 20 individuals in all. For the most part, they were indistinguishable from the rest of the attendees and in fact, as a Vietnamese American, I was very pleased to see them participating in the retreat (although I regret that because of my lack of fluency in Vietnamese that I couldn’t really personally communicate with them).
Unfortunately, their “foreignness” became apparent at the end of each day’s events.
Each day’s activities generally concluded around 9pm, after which attendees would prepare to go to sleep, either in their tents in the campground area or in the dorm area. At 9:30pm, the guidelines called for “noble silence” when everyone is expected to stay quiet for the night.
For whatever reason, this group of Vietnamese families did not understand these guidelines or chose to ignore them because each night, almost everyone could hear them staying up and being quite loud in both the dorm and tent areas. This involved not just talking, but often included shouting, yelling, and arguing very loudly and disruptively well into the night.
Needless to say, this made getting a good night’s sleep rather difficult for many of us. The other part of these incidents were that even though many of us talked to the monks about this situation, for whatever reasons, it continued every night until the end of the retreat.
This leads me to wonder whether the monks (who were about 80% Vietnamese American and the rest were White) felt shy in confronting the Vietnamese group, perhaps fearful that they (and perhaps by implication, the rest of us as attendees) were being too harsh or authoritarian towards them as foreigners visiting the U.S. Symbolized by Barack Obama as our President, these days many Americans are more mindful not to come across as judgmental and “superior” towards others around the world.
But on the other hand, the Vietnamese group’s behavior may have reinforced the notion of them as loud and crude foreigners and “outsiders” to the rest of the attendees. As such, failing to confront their behavior could have caused more harm than good in terms of helping to bridge social divisions and dispel lingering cultural stereotypes toward non-Whites and/or foreigners.
For me personally, this is a complicated issue that highlights some of the ironies and contradictions involved in being Asian American, as I wrote about earlier in regards to a similar incident in an airport security line — standing up for and defending Asians in racial solidarity, but also being embarrassed and even annoyed by their “foreignness” as an American myself.
In contrast, the second “racial” incident at the retreat does not involve much ambiguity at all.
Specifically, during the retreat, families were assigned to different “service meditation” work groups, helping the monks with different tasks involved with running the retreat, such as cleaning bathrooms, setting up the meditation hall, etc. Our family was assigned to one of three teams who helped to clean up, wash, and dry plates, pots, and utensils after one meal each day.
My family and I actually enjoyed this work as it allowed us to give something back to, or at least directly help in the mundane, behind-the-scenes operation of the retreat — a sense of ownership perhaps. We also felt a sense of community in working as a team within not just our family, but with the other families in our group, each of us doing our part to contribute to the larger purpose and becoming closer to each other in the process.
However, after the last meal (lunch) on the last day of the retreat, there were no teams assigned to clean up afterward and instead, the monks asked for volunteers to stay a little bit to wash dishes, etc. Our family was not in a rush to leave so we joined in the effort.
As it turned out, of the 15 or so people who stayed to help clean up, all but one was a person of color — there was just one White person who helped in the cleanup.
In particular, I took notice of one young White couple who came to the morning activities (apparently on the last day of the retreat, the monastery invites those from the surrounding community to come in and participate in a group walk and lunch). During lunch, this couple actually raised their hands when the monks asked for volunteers to stay and clean up, but for whatever reasons, just walked away and left once they finished their lunch.
I hate to say it, but the actions of this particular couple and the White attendees present at this last lunch seem to be a microcosm of the White-privileged notion that service work should be left to people of color and that unless they are specifically assigned to do so, many Whites seem to think that they are “above” such “demeaning” work and physical labor.
These two incidents go to show that even at an event that shows us the peace, harmony, and mindfulness that exists in American society and among people from all kinds of backgrounds, in many ways, American society is still quite racialized, even if most of us may be completely oblivious to such dynamics.
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.
Many of us know that politics in Asia can be a rough-and-tumble affair. Criticisms against China have been documented and continue to make the news. The nuclear threat from North Korea still hovers over much of the world also. Unfortunately, we now have to add Thailand to this list.
For a country steeped in Buddhism, Thailand is accruing terrible karmic debts. News reports, including those by the Thai press itself, indicate systematic abuse of refugees fleeing from its neighbor, Myanmar.
Tourists have seen and photographed Thai troops abusing members of a Muslim minority group who were fleeing Myanmar by boat to Thailand’s southern shores. . . . CNN recently confirmed with a Thai military source that Thailand is practicing a dump-at-sea policy: towing boats back to the sea, often without giving refugees food or water.
UN refugee agency spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey expressed the gravity of the situation: “The reports that we are hearing are very alarming. That the [boat people] were detained in Thailand and then towed out to sea on unseaworthy boats and left to die basically.” . . .
Thailand’s long antipathy toward its neighbors is notorious. UN records are full of documents, describing how Thai pirates used hammers, machetes, and guns to massacre entire boats of refugees, including children and women [in the wake of the Viet Nam War]. . . . Despite international protest, the Thai government made few attempts to prosecute those accused.
During the Cold War, Thailand also supported the Khmer Rouge, the genocidal regime responsible for the death of more than 2 million Cambodians. . . . Last year, when the world condemned Myanmar for its inaction after the cyclone Nargis devastated half of its country, Thailand spoke in favor of the junta.
I must admit that I had not heard of these developments until now. Like most everybody else, I presume, much of my attention regarding news and current events in Asia center around China, Japan, and/or North Korea and the mainstream media doesn’t seem to mention much about Thailand, besides the occasional reports of popular uprisings and political instability.
If anything, the picture that many Americans have of Thailand is of a tourist vacation hotspot with warm, sunny beaches and a teeming nightlife in its large cities such as Bangkok. But news like this is a wake-up call for us to look beneath the surface and to examine Thailand’s history in more detail. In doing so, we see that Thailand is not always the tropical paradise we had imagined.
In fact, the incidents described are rather disturbing and prompts me to drastically alter my idea of Thailand as a true democracy. On top of that, as Andrew Lam points out in his article quoted above, as Buddhism is the official state religion, the Thai government and military seem to be failing miserably in living up to their Buddhist ideals of compassion and non-violence.
I hope its leaders find their way out of this karmic jungle soon, for everybody’s sake.