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.
Today, April 30, 2015, is the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, the day when the North Vietnamese officially overthrew the South Vietnamese government and ended the Viet Nam War. As summarized in more detail in my article “A Modern Day Exodus,” most immediately, the Fall of Saigon led to a series of events that resulted in the hurried departure of over 125,000 Vietnamese out of the country to be eventually resettled into western nations such as the U.S. For a detailed historical summary of the Fall of Saigon, I highly recommend the documentary being shown this week on PBS stations all across the U.S., the Last Days in Viet Nam.
My family was among those who left Viet Nam in this first wave of refugees in the days immediately after the Fall of Saigon. I would like to share a few memories and reflections on this occasion and relate it my life in the U.S. now, and what my life likely would have been if I had stayed in Viet Nam.
The Journey Out
I was only five years old around this time. People frequently ask me what it was like back then and back there, and I always tell them the same thing — I had no idea a war was going on. The few memories that I have of that time were all very happy and normal ones — I remember going to the zoo with my parents, traveling into the countryside to take pictures with my dad and his friends on the weekends, and riding around with my dad on his motorcycle (to the right is a portrait of me, my little sister, mom, and dad from 1973). Fortunately or unfortunately, I have no memories of our departure out of the country, so what I am about to describe is what my parents have told me through the years about our exit from Viet Nam.
Both of my parents had worked for the South Vietnamese military, and in close conjunction with the U.S. military up until the Fall of Saigon. After finishing his education as a Structural Engineer, my father enlisted in the South Vietnamese Army Corps of Engineers and several of his first projects involved working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After five years, his tour of service was complete and he left the army and eventually opened his own engineering firm in Saigon. My mother started working for the South Vietnamese government and U.S. military as an office clerk (her brother Trang, also an engineer, worked with my father and eventually introduced them to each other).
After a few years, she eventually was promoted to writing radio propaganda programs (the “Voice of Freedom” program, eventually renamed the “Voice of Mother Viet Nam”) for South Viet Nam that were broadcast throughout the country. She was still working at this job right up to the Fall of Saigon. In these capacities, both of my parents would have been obvious targets for retaliation and punishment by the North Vietnamese had they stayed in the country. Fortunately, her South Vietnamese and U.S. employers arranged for our family’s exit out of the country by first evacuating us to the island of Phu Quoc, located off the southwestern coast of Viet Nam and about 100 miles west of Saigon, a week before the Fall of Saigon.
The North Vietnamese forces officially toppled the South Vietnamese government and took over the country on April 30, 1975. They issued a public announcement that said all U.S. personnel and their South Vietnamese allies had 24 hours to leave the country. After this announcement, panic and chaos ensued as our family and the hundreds of other Vietnamese families on Phu Quoc with us tried to arrange passage off the island and onto any U.S. vessel that would take us out of the country. Later that night, a cargo ship was dispatched to pick us and all the other evacuees up from Phu Quoc island. But we needed a way to reach that cargo ship located in the Gulf of Thailand. Eventually, we and other evacuees were able to board a small fishing boat and set off toward the cargo ship.
My uncle Trang’s family (my mother’s brother, who introduced my mom and dad to each other) were also with us on Phu Quoc, since he had worked for the South Vietnamese government as well. The plan was for all of us to stay together and to leave the country together. However, in the confusion of the moment, my uncle decided that he needed to try to secure some food for everyone before we boarded the cargo ship, so he kept his most of his family behind while he got a loaf of bread from one of the local villagers. Unfortunately, after he returned to the beach, all of the fishing boats had left. He and his family were now stuck and left behind on Phu Quoc.
My grandmother (my mom’s mother) did leave with my family on one of the fishing boats. Once our fishing boat neared the cargo ship, there was a “traffic jam” of dozens of other fishing boats and hundreds of other Vietnamese who were also trying to board the ship. The only way to get closer to the cargo ship was to jump from boat to boat. In the process of doing so (also remembering that this was in the middle of the night), our family got separated from our grandmother. Our grandmother was not physically mobile enough to jump from boat to boat, especially after the boats began drifting away from each other. Unfortunately, she was also left behind after everyone left and no one was around to help her.
Although my family had successfully boarded the cargo ship and were now on our way to the Philippines to eventually be resettled in the U.S., both of my parents were in shock and traumatized over losing first, their homeland, the country of their ancestors. Second, they (especially my mother) were traumatized that many of our loved ones, including her mother, brother, and brother’s family, did not make it out of the country and were left behind and in my brother’s case, would ultimately be singled out for punishment and sent to one of the notorious “reeducation” camps.
Connecting the Past and the Present
It would be more than 20 before my parents were able to return to Viet Nam and to see their relatives again. Unfortunately my mom’s mother had passed away in the meantime and my mom was never able to see her again. Nonetheless, in the intervening years, we did everything we could to send money to my uncle’s family, support them to achieve a comfortable, middle class standard of living, and sponsor them to immigrate to the U.S. One of my dad’s brothers received a visa and immigrated to the U.S. about 10 years ago. But for various reasons, no one in my uncle’s family has been able to immigrate to the U.S.
In our case, because both of my parents were relatively well-educated and proficient in English, they were able to get relatively good jobs soon after we were resettled in southern California. After just two and a half years, we were able to save and borrow enough money to buy a house in the suburbs and take a big step toward achieving the American dream. As I reflect on the past 40 years, I am very thankful to have gotten out of Viet Nam, to become an American, and to have access to the kinds of social and economic opportunities that billions of people around the world can only dream about.
One of those billions is my cousin Bao, the only son of my uncle Trang (the one who made the fateful decision to get a loaf of bread at Phu Quoc). He and I were born only six months apart and growing up in Viet Nam, we were basically brothers. Bao is now married with three young children. With his parents, he has been able to achieve a comfortable middle class lifestyle. He’s even been able to buy two cars in recent years. Nonetheless, he has been, and continues to be, desperate to leave Viet Nam in order to give his children a chance at a better life.
As I compare my life with his on this 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, I can’t help but think that I easily could have been in his place. I easily could have been the one left behind while he was successful in boarding the ship to leave the country. I easily could have been the one to have suffered and been punished by the North Vietnamese. I easily could have been the one thinking that I and my family have no future as long as we stay in Viet Nam. I know that there are plenty of injustices and inequalities that I and others like me face in the U.S., but I cannot escape the fact that, compared to my cousin Bao, I am a very fortunate person to be where I am.
My cousin Bao recently told me that he is making one last ditch effort to leave Viet Nam by paying a labor recruiter to get him a job in the U.S. doing manual labor at a meat processing plant somewhere in the Midwest. If this employer is able to obtain a Labor Certificate for him (in which the employer can document that there are very few American workers available and willing to work in this job), supposedly Bao would be able to take his entire family to the U.S. while he works for at least one year at this meat processing plant and in the meantime, apply for permanent residency (i.e., a “green card”) for him and family to ultimately stay in the U.S. permanently. If everything goes according to plan, Bao will have to pay the labor recruiter around $40,000 by the end of this whole process.
Personally, I am a little skeptical at the legitimacy of this arrangement and have my suspicions that it may be a scam. I recently spoke to an immigration attorney who said that while the fees that this labor recruiter is charging are very high, this labor certification process is legitimate and if my cousin Bao is able to obtain such a certification, it could be a successful method for him and his family to immigrate to the U.S. But there are a lot of “ifs” along the way and many points within this plan where everything could fall apart and Bao would have basically no recourse whatsoever.
Nonetheless, I certainly cannot fault Bao for trying everything he can to leave Viet Nam. He too is aware of the multitude of barriers that he and his family would face if and when they come to the U.S. But his desire to leave Viet Nam is so strong that he is willing to endure all of these challenges so that his children can have a chance at a better life.
So on this anniversary of the Fall of Saigon and as I reflect on my life in the intervening years, I am reminded of the events and emotions that took place 40 years ago — the desperation and resilience of so many Vietnamese to leave for a better life for themselves and their families — and I see that these emotions and desires are still as strong today as they were back then. I also see that life can change in a split second and can lead to such dramatically different outcomes.
Within all of this, I am also very happy for being both Vietnamese and being able to draw on this history and community of strength and resilience, and to also be American and being in a nation that, despite its ample problems and shortcomings, is still the destination of choice for billions of people all around the world.
2009: Gary Locke and the Future of Asian American Identity As Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke prepares to become the U.S’s new Ambassador to China, I look at how he represents the forging of a new identity for Asian Americans as they contribute to strengthening American society in the 21st century.
In case you’re the nostalgic type, here are some posts in this blog from November of years past:
2009: The U.S. and China: A Love-Hate Relationship President Obama’s trip to Asia highlights some of the contradictory, love-hate sentiments that many Americans and its institutions seem to have with Asians/Asian Americans.
I don’t always have enough time to write full posts and sociological explanations about every news story or media article about Asian Americans that comes my way, but I would like to at least mention some of them to keep you, my readers, as updated as possible. So below is a sampling of some recent news items concerning Asian Americans.
Federal Authorities Find Merit in Students’ Claims Against School
In a letter to the district, the Justice Department advised school officials to take steps to settle the matter. It was not immediately clear what form a settlement might take, though it would require the district to improve the treatment of Asian students, who say they have been mocked, harassed, and beaten at the school.
The action follows a formal civil rights complaint filed in January by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, an advocacy group. Such complaints do not result in criminal penalties, but can bring broad changes provided that violations are found to have occurred. . . .
News of the Justice Department letter comes as South Philadelphia High readies for a new school year with a new principal, its fifth in six years. Southern, as the school is known, has long failed to meet state academic standards and has been labeled “persistently dangerous” under federal law. The settlement talks indicate an approaching end to a seven-month investigation.
Similar cases generally conclude in one of three ways: The subject of the complaint enters into a written agreement with the government to fix certain deficiencies; the Justice Department requires the signing of a formal consent decree, a court-monitored settlement backed by the threat of a lawsuit; or the Justice Department opts to sue to force change.
Why Abortion Rate Among Asian-American Women Is So High
New America Media reports that recent data show that 35% of all Asian American pregnancies end in abortion, which is the second-highest percentage among the major racial groups after African Americans, and is almost double the 18% rate for Whites. The article goes on to describe many possible reasons for the relatively high rate and also presents several details personal stories to illustrate the cultural conflicts involved in such decisions.
Asian Americans are at risk for unintended pregnancies in part because their knowledge about sex remains pitifully low (which is curious, considering that Asian-American teens start having sex later than other American teens). Clifford Yee, youth program coordinator at Asian Health Services in Oakland, CA, has been asked whether douching with Mountain Dew prevents pregnancy. . . .
A few were so inexperienced that they didn’t know what the withdrawal method was, the program’s former research director Amy Lam says. Unawareness about sexual health combines with risky contraception practices. The withdrawal method has been popular among Asian-American women, who tend to eschew both hormonal birth control and consistent condom use. . . .
The problem begins at home, according to Lam, who has researched sexual behavior in the Asian-American community. “When you come from a culture where your family doesn’t talk about sex, how can you talk to your partner about safe sex when you don’t have that role model?”
Linked to this point is . . . the model minority myth: Asian parents refuse to think their well-mannered, studious children are having sex. Yee remembers one angry mother who found her 15-year-old’s birth control pills and still claimed her daughter was too young to be sexually active. “There’s a little bit of stubbornness there,” Yee says. “Some parents truly don’t want to believe their child can be out there having sex.” . . .
Lam says, “In many Asian-American cultures, it’s not the abortion that’s taboo; that’s a white thing. Having sex is [what’s] taboo. Abortions are the strategies used to cover up that you’re having sex. At all costs, you’re not supposed to have sex.”
Fiorina addressed a crowd of about 400 during a voter-education forum hosted by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association at California State University, Sacramento. She noted California is home to more Asian-American-owned small businesses than any other state. The former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive said Boxer supports policies that have stifled private-sector job growth. She went on to say opportunities are no longer as plentiful in California because of high taxes and government regulation. . . .
[Boxer’s] campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, questioned Fiorina’s commitment to small businesses. She noted the Republican nominee opposes a bill designed to assist small businesses and give them greater access to credit. She said Boxer backs the entire small-business jobs bill, which will provide incentives to expand and hire.
Fiorina said she objects to a $30 billion fund that would be created under the bill and administered by the Treasury Department to increase lending. She said it amounts to another bank bailout. . . .
A Field Poll released last week showed Boxer with 52 percent collective support among Asian-Americans, blacks and American Indians, compared with 22 percent for Fiorina. About a quarter of those voters remained undecided.
Southeast Asians in Sacramento Area Making Strides
Taken as a whole, Southeast Asian Americans (particularly Hmong, Cambodians, and Laotians) have struggled in attaining socioeconomic mobility in the U.S., not from a lack of effort or hard work, but mainly due to their refugee experiences and relatively low rates of formal education, English fluency, and formal job skills. However, as the Sacramento Bee reports, new data and examples show that at least in Sacramento area that contains a large Southeast Asian American population, there are signs of progress and success.
In 1990, half the Sacramento region’s Southeast Asians were poor. Today, 52 percent own homes, according to a Bee analysis of census data. They enjoy a median household income of $50,000 annually, up from $17,350 in 1990 – about $28,500, adjusted for inflation. The regional average is $61,000. . . .
Most started at the bottom – without English or job skills – but through teamwork and the will to succeed have gone from roach-infested apartments in gang-controlled neighborhoods to suburban homes. Their children – including those at Florin High that hot August morning – have gone to America’s top universities and become doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers.
Indeed, the Southeast Asian American population in the Sacramento area have a lot to be proud of and should be congratulated. They are living examples of how the :American Dream” is still possible, despite the many inevitable challenges along the way. At the same time, their experiences cautions us to remember that there are still many members of their community who are still struggling and that we should not forget about them.
I’ve been a little remiss in mentioning that this year marks the 35th anniversary of the end of the Viet Nam War and the start of the eventual exodus of several million Vietnamese out of Viet Nam since South Viet Nam’s capital of Saigon fell to the communists on April 30, 1975. Around this time 35 years ago, my family and I were temporarily living in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, one of the four major housing centers set up by the U.S. government to process and eventually resettle the first wave of Vietnamese refugees arriving from Viet Nam.
After living in Ft. Chaffee for a couple of months, we moved to Camp Pendleton, CA to take custody of my cousin who had been separated from her parents in the chaos of trying to leave Viet Nam (her parents never made it out) and she was eventually “adopted” into our family. From there, we were resettled into the Los Angeles area and began our lives as Vietnamese Americans.
For me and many Vietnamese Americans in general, this annual reflection on the end of the Viet Nam War is a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, this occasion is a time of sadness as many of us mourn the devastation of the war, how many of our friends, relatives, and family members suffered and even died as a result, and how we had to make the difficult choice to leave our homeland behind, perhaps forever.
On the other hand, this occasion is also a time of thankfulness as many of us reflect on being able to escape to the U.S. where we had the chance to begin a new, and in many ways a better life for ourselves and our successive generations. We reflect on our gratitude of living in a country where our material lives are undoubtedly better but just as important, where we have individual freedoms that our counterparts back in Viet Nam can only dream of.
As a reflection of the two sides of this anniversary of the fall of Saigon and end of the Viet Nam War, two sets of stories capture both the anguish and the elation of this occasion. The first two links present a visual montage of the chaos, suffering, and sadness of the war’s end (some of the photos are rather graphic and may not be suitable for children). The first photo collection is from the Boston Globe.
The second photo collection comes from the Denver Post.
Reflecting the other side of this occasion, two stories represent how Vietnamese Americans have built their lives in the U.S. in the decades since while at the same time while still keeping in touch with the legacy of the Viet Nam War. The first article is by Andrew Lam and he profiles “Viet Kieu” (overseas Vietnamese) who have returned to the land they left and how they’re helping rebuild the country:
Nguyen Qui Duc, a Vietnamese refugee who became an American radio host and the author of the memoir Where the Ashes Are, has found yet another incarnation in his mid-50s: Bar owner and art curator in Hanoi, Vietnam. Why would he come back to the country from which he once fled? “Home is where there’s a sense of connection, of family, of community,” he said after struggling to find a single answer. “And I found it here.”
Duc is one of nearly 500,000 Viet Kieu — Vietnamese living overseas — who return to Vietnam yearly, many only to visit relatives, but others increasingly to work, invest and retire. The majority of the people who return are from the United States, where the largest Vietnamese population overseas resides. Indeed, 35 years after the Vietnam War ended, the Vietnamese diaspora is now falling slowly, but surely, back into Vietnam’s orbit. . . .
Vietnamese overseas are playing an important role in Vietnam’s economic life. According to Vietnam’s Chamber of Commerce, in 2008, despite the slowdown in the world economy, Vietnam received overseas aid of more than $7.4 billion. The Vietnamese government said that the diaspora is reducing poverty and spurring economic development. Official development assistance pledged to Vietnam in 2008 by international donors was $5 billion; the overseas population contributed $2.4 billion more.
The second article from the Denton Record Chronicle (TX) highlights similar experiences of “coming home” from the perspective of Vietnamese orphans who fled their country decades ago and are now looking to reconnect in a very personal way:
Thirty-five years ago, Ho and Cope left South Vietnam with the entire Cam Ranh City Christian Orphanage, a war-forced evacuation that would bring them all, improbably, to Buckner Children’s Home in Dallas.
Last week, Thomas Ho and Ty Cope each made their first trip back to Vietnam as part of a reunion of the Cam Ranh/Buckner orphans. Now, suddenly, they were in an identity drama, trying to determine whether a Vietnamese man who had been in touch via the Internet really might be Cope’s dad. Ho talked to the man in Vietnamese for a moment, then pulled away to translate. “He said, ‘I’m very happy. My son! My son!’ ” . . .
Life can take momentous turns, and no one knows that better than the Cam Ranh/Buckner orphans, who were together again last week in their homeland. There were 69 originally, and two dozen came to the reunion, nearly all traveling thousands of miles from Dallas or elsewhere in the United States.
They’re middle-aged now, and middle-class. Most have college degrees, and their professions include architect, banker, computer programmer, nurse, teacher and social worker. They represent a spectrum of assimilation. Many of the younger children were adopted out of Buckner and soon lost their language. The older kids would stick it out, attending Skyline High and speaking Vietnamese among themselves. But they all retained – and still do – a deep bond. . . .
They’ve been having reunions every five years in Dallas, but at the last one, they committed to going back to Vietnam. They raised money, created a website, established an archive of photographs from the Cam Ranh and Buckner days, and ordered reunion T-shirts and ball caps with the slogan “Get Love, Share Love.” After all the planning, the reunion got under way Wednesday, with a big contingent boarding a bus in Ho Chi Minh City (still popularly known as Saigon) heading north toward Nha Trang and Cam Ranh.
Thirty-five years ago, they were orphans on the run, headed the other way.
These two sets of stories and image illustrate not just the sadness and joy that many Vietnamese Americans experience as the reflect on their lives both in Viet Nam and the U.S., but they also represent the “duality” and transnational nature of our identities as Vietnamese Americans. That is, it does not have to be a contradiction to assert our identities as both Vietnamese and as American. As particularly exemplified in the two articles about Vietnamese Americans returning to their land of birth, our two sets of experiences actually complement each other.
In other words, Vietnamese Americans have benefited greatly from the generous opportunities available to us here in the U.S. to rebuild our lives and to enjoy freedoms that we otherwise would not have back in Viet Nam. Despite the past and ongoing struggles, our successes as Vietnamese Americans reinforces the best of what the U.S. can be — the “land of opportunity” for millions of people around the world. It is with these experiences as Americans that we can put our knowledge, skills, and resources to good use back in Viet Nam and around the world.
At the same time, our Vietnamese heritage has also enriched American society in many ways — culturally, as we share our food, traditions, and experiences with our neighbors and economically, as our “Little Saigon” and “Versailles” communities have revitalized urban areas to the benefit of residents from all backgrounds.
As Americans from all backgrounds reflect on this 35th anniversary of the end of the Viet Nam War, I think it’s important to acknowledge what has been lost, but also the many things that all of us have gained in the years since as well.
I know many of my recent posts have focused on the “bad news” — examples of tensions and hostilities when it comes to racial/ethnic and immigration news. However, there are certainly examples of the opposite — positive and improving relations between different groups in American society that illustrate how cultural differences can be bridged, or at least traditionally underrepresented groups achieving success. Here is a summary of some of the “good news.”
Lebanese American immigrant Rima Fakih is crowned Miss USA for 2010. Ms. Fakih resides in Dearborn MI, home of the largest Arab American community in the U.S. and a site of several controversies and tensions in recent years. Nonetheless, her victory is a positive symbol that such tensions can be overcome in this particular instance:
Fakih, a Lebanese immigrant, told pageant organizers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths. She moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in New York, where she attended a Catholic school. Her family moved to Michigan in 2003. Pageant officials said historical pageant records were not detailed enough to show whether Fakih was the first Arab American, Muslim or immigrant to win the Miss USA title.
The latest officially-named “Little Saigon” celebrates the Lunar New Year in Sacramento CA, home to about 50,000 Vietnamese Americans. As sociologists have documented, these newly-emerging suburban ethnic enclaves have revitalized stagnant areas by bringing in new businesses, customers, tourists, residents, and revenue for the city and state. However, as some of the comments in the Sacramento Bee story linked above show, many people still harbor hostile sentiments to anything that they perceive to be “un-American.”
Thirty-five years after the fall of South Vietnam, Sacramento’s growing Vietnamese community will ask the City Council on Tuesday to designate a two-mile stretch of Stockton Boulevard as “Little Saigon.”
The business corridor south of Fruitridge Road – chock full of restaurants, nail and hair salons, jewelry stores and Asian markets – would become Sacramento’s first official ethnic neighborhood. Community leaders hope the branding will provide an economic shot in the arm that will defuse some of the crime along Stockton Boulevard.
Along the barren airwaves of AM radio in Northern California, somewhere between gospel music and traffic updates, Yia Yang can be heard telling his devoted listeners to always be aware of their gun muzzles.
A 50-year-old Hmong immigrant from northern Laos, Mr. Yang is the host of a regular all-things-hunting program on KJAY 1430-AM. The station serves one of the nation’s largest Hmong populations — one for whom the link between hunting and survival is still palpable. “In Laos a main source of food was wildlife,” said Mr. Yang, who owns a used-car lot in Sacramento, a city with more than 16,000 Hmong residents. . . .
State officials praise Mr. Yang for translating the nitty-gritty of fish and game law for people from an ethnic group that can be wary of authority figures. Capt. Roy Griffith, who runs the fish and game agency’s hunter education program and has been an on-air guest of Mr. Yang, said Mr. Yang provided “a huge service to the state.” . . . State agencies overseeing hunting and fishing in Minnesota and Wisconsin have hired Hmong speakers to educate, translate and work as cultural ambassadors to the Laotian immigrant population.
More than 70 Japanese Americans whose college careers at California State University campuses were derailed when they were sent to World War II internment camps are getting their diplomas. Six CSU campuses are awarding honorary degrees over the next three weeks to former students who were unable to complete their studies once they were forced into the camps established by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942.
Some of the aging alumni plan to attend the special ceremonies and those who are deceased or unable to travel will be represented by their families. . . . Both the Cal State system and the University of California decided last year to belatedly honor the estimated 950 students of Japanese descent who were interned during the war. Students from four UC campuses – San Francisco, Berkeley, Davis and Los Angeles – received honorary degrees during winter commencement.
Goodwin Liu, Associate Dean and professor at the University of California at Berkeley law school, is poised to become only the second Asian American judge in the federal appeals courts after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass his nomination to the full Senate for a vote. More generally, his success represents the progress of Asian Americans entering the highest levels of the judicial system.
Asian-Americans are 5 percent of the U.S. population and 15 percent of the doctors, but about 3 percent of the lawyers. When it comes to lawyers becoming federal judges, which requires strong networks and political connections, Asian-American representation is even smaller.
Ten of 875 active federal judges, just over 1 percent, are Asian-American, according to the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). On the appeals court level, which has outsized influence in shaping the nation’s laws, only one of 175 judges is Asian: Denny Chin, who was confirmed just last month.
If Liu is confirmed, he would join Chin and Harold Koh, former dean of Yale Law School and currently a State Department legal adviser, as potential candidates to be the first Asian judge on the Supreme Court. . . .
Asian-Americans constituted 8.1 percent of law school students in the fall of 2009, up from 7 percent in the fall of 2000, according to the Law School Admissions Council. And Obama has accelerated the pace of Asian nominations to the federal bench. George W. Bush placed four Asians on the bench and Bill Clinton five; Obama has nominated eight so far, including Liu.
Annise Parker, mayor of the city of Houston, on Saturday proclaimed May 15, 2010 as “Houston-Nanjing Friendship Association Day”. In a proclamation to the newly-established association, Parker said Houston is a city of rich culture diversity and has been enriched by the presence and contributions of its citizens of Chinese ancestry.
“Houston recognizes their (Chinese ancestry) important role in the culture, civic, economic and spiritual life of our city,” Parker said, “A good relationship between Houston and Nanjing from economic, trade, tourism and culture exchange aspects would significantly benefit the citizens of these two cities, and also enhance the understandings and good relationships between the United States and China.”
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 Social Justice Fund currently makes 8 to 10 grants annually of up to $2,000 for grassroots activist projects in the US and around the world, giving priority to those with small budgets and little access to more mainstream funding sources. Please read these guidelines carefully and review our rosters of past grants on our website before applying to the Muste Institute for funding.
Next deadline: April 19, 2010 (for grants decided in mid-June). Subsequent deadlines to be posted after May 1, 2010. The Muste Institute’s Social Justice Fund considers proposals:
For new projects or campaigns, or efforts to expand existing work
For projects with expense budgets under $50,000
For projects which are local, regional, national or global in scope
From groups located anywhere in the world
From grassroots organizations with annual expenses of less than $500,000
From groups with limited or no access to more mainstream funding sources
From groups that may be unincorporated or incorporated*
From groups with or without 501(c)3 status or a fiscal sponsor*
From groups which have not received Social Justice Grants from us in at least two years
The Social Justice Fund’s priority is to support:
Direct grassroots activism and organizing
Groups with diverse, representative and democratic internal leadership structures
Groups which have or can obtain sufficient economic and in-kind support from a diversity of sources to carry out their regular work, but need additional support for a particular project
You can visit the A.J. Muste Institute website for more information on eligibility and how to apply.
Vietnamese Oral History Project
I’m emailing today because we all have one common interest — preserving Vietnamese history and culture. My friend Linh Tran and I are starting a new project and hope that with your help, we can turn our ambitions into a reality.
Our mission is to record, document and preserve the stories of every single Vietnamese refugee who fled the country after the Fall of Saigon. We as Vietnamese people have a very unique, important story and unless we make efforts to preserve those histories in some way, it’ll be lost in text books, in our children and our children’s children. Although there have been some attempts to document our story, not one project has done it on the global scale that we want to reach.
This is why Linh and I want to start to collect individual stories of this journey — modeled after the nationally recognized StoryCorps and Steven Spielberg’s Jewish Film Archive. We are compiling a video documentary, archive and multimedia-driven project that will serve the Vietnamese people, let them tell their stories and also be a platform to educate others from different origins and backgrounds about our story. It’ll temporarily be called “From Vietnam to Freedom” and will be housed online.
We’re emailing you because we’d like for you to either contribute your story, someone else’s story or help us connect more with the Vietnamese community to spread the word. We know with your help, we can truly make a difference in our global community. We hope that you’ll contribute in some way.
Thanks very much.
Kim Thai, firstname.lastname@example.org
Linh Tran, email@example.com
Mavericks of Asian Pacific Islander Descent announces the 1st Asian Pacific Islander TV Pilot Shootout sponsored by Fox Diversity. The winner will receive the opportunity to pitch a TV executive at Fox.
Writers will submit a synopsis, logline, and sample pages from a completed original television pilot script as well as submit a video of a two minute television pilot pitch. The top five pitch ideas chosen by judges will be matched with directors who will also be selected by submission process. The directors will be given seed money partially derived from the entry fees and work with the writer to develop a 1 minute teaser of the pilot. Actors and production crew are also encouraged to apply to be considered for the chosen projects. Submission deadline for writers is June 9.
The five completed teasers will premiere at the Japanese American National Museum’s ID Film Fest October 10, 2010. The ID Film Fest will include screenings and workshops. The co-presenters of the ID Film Fest will include JANM, director Justin Lin and You Offend Me, You Offend My Family, director Quentin Lee, producer and writer Koji Steven Sakai, director Jessica Sanders, and Phil Yu of AngryAsianMan.com.
MAPID’s focus is to assist, develop, and promote Asian Pacific Islanders in entertainment. Producer of Breaking the Bow which involved over 70 API artists, MAPID conducts an API writing group, presents Battle of the Pitches, and co-presents the successful short screenplay competition with the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Complete instructions can be found at mapid.us/tvpilotshootout. For more information, contact Ken Choy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2010 Census deadline is approaching, and as you know, it is critical to have the entire Asian American community participate. An accurate count can help us receive our share of over $400 billion in annual federal funds for services our community needs. Unfortunately, past decades have shown that Asian Americans are among the groups most likely to discard their Census forms.
Fill In Our Future is a campaign created by AAPI Action to promote and encourage the participation of the Asian American community in the 2010 Census. Our website, fillinourfuture.org, features frequently asked Census questions, in-language resources (in over 24 Asian languages), informational brochures, sample Census forms, in-language assistance guides, celebrity and community leader PSA’s (Public Service Announcements) and monthly contests and giveaways. The larger campaign also includes media and community outreach, workshops, a speaker’s bureau and training seminars.
As the Asian American and Pacific Islander population continues to grow and change, the data from the Census will help leaders obtain the best services, resources, and programs to meet our community needs. Please utilize and share the following resource links with your readers: Website, Facebook Fan Page, and Twitter.
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.
Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts invites submissions for the first issue of its fourth volume that will focus on “Intersections of Race and Gender.” Race/Ethnicity uses a classic piece as a point of departure for treatments of critical issues within the field of race and ethnic studies. While the classic piece establishes the thematic parameters of each issue, authors are under no obligation to actively engage the arguments posed by that work.
The issue will explore the multiple points where race and gender intersect across the globe, the range of consequences that meets those intersections, and the dynamics that occur at those intersections. Our focus on race and gender recognizes that there are numerous ways in which racialized and gendered identities intersect and that their intersection is often influenced by a variety of other cultural factors. We also welcome the viewpoints of practitioners working in the field. Deadline: February 28, 2010. Contact: Leslie Shortlidge at email@example.com; www.raceethnicity.org/coverart.html.
The editors of Law & Social Inquiry announce a competition for the best journal-length paper in the field of socio-legal studies written by a graduate or law student. Direct submissions as well as nominations of student work from faculty are invited.
The winning paper will be published in Law & Social Inquiry and the author(s) will receive a total cash prize of $500 (US). Law & Social Inquiry publishes both empirical and theoretical studies of socio-legal processes from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Deadline: March 1, 2010. Contact: (312) 988-6517; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.blackwellpublishing.com/LSI.
The American Institute of Indian Studies announces its 2010 fellowship competition and invites applications from scholars who wish to conduct their research in India. Junior fellowships are awarded to PhD candidates to conduct research for their dissertations in India for up to 11 months. Senior fellowships for scholars who hold the PhD degree are awarded for up to nine months of research in India. Deadline: July 1, 2010. Applications can be downloaded at www.indiastudies.org. Contact: (773) 702-8638; email@example.com.
My name is Ky Truong from San Jose, Ca. I recently started a line of Vietnamese inspired t-shirts called 3 Stripes Clothing. We are in the process of launching the line, but we decided to do something unique and let the people dictate what designs get printed by holding a poll on our Facebook fan page.
The reason why I started this line of t-shirts was because I felt that the Vietnamese community, especially those that are 2nd, 3rd or even 4th generation Vietnamese lack representation on the apparel market. When you look at the Filipino community, there are an abundance of shirts that represent their culture and pride. I would like to achieve that within the Vietnamese community.
I just wanted to add my congratulations to the New Orleans Saints for decisively winning Super Bowl 44 over the Indianapolis Colts. As a football fan, and like most people, I expected the Colts would prevail. But after being down 10-0 early in the game, the Saints stayed patient, made some gutsy calls, took control of the game, and ultimately came out on top.
As a sociologist, and again like many people have been saying, this victory is more than just a single game — it is a celebration for the entire city of New Orleans, a city that was devastated a few years ago by Hurricane Katrina and in many ways, is still trying to recover. This win by their home team brings much joy and inspiration to the residents of the city from all racial/ethnic backgrounds and should go a long way in restoring New Orleans’ spirits and economic prospects.
Much of the attention on New Orleans since the Katrina episode has been focused on its African American residents and rightfully so — despite making up a majority of the city’s population, they suffered much inequality and neglect before Katrina and its aftermath only made matters worse. Like the rest of the city, African American residents of New Orleans are on their road to recovery and this win by the Saints is a fitting symbol of their community’s resurgence.
At the same time, I would also like to remind everyone that there is a large Vietnamese American population in New Orleans and that they have not received much attention at all since Katrina. In fact, shortly after Katrina, the Vietnamese community had to fight their own city over a proposed toxic landfill that was going to be located adjacent to their neighborhood.
In the years since, the Vietnamese American community in New Orleans has rebuilt their lives, their neighborhood, and have continued to contribute to the economic and cultural rebuilding of the city. Let us now forget them as we as Americans from all racial, ethnic, cultural, and ideological celebrate the Saints’ Super Bowl win and its sociological significance for the city and all of its residents.
2005: Model Minority Expectations and Suicide The intense pressure from families and society of living up to standards of high achievement can be overwhelming and has led many young Asian Americans to take their own lives.
2004: Inter-Asian Sentiments Examples from popular culture in both Japan and South Korea illustrate the contradictory nature of inter-ethnic relations between Asians of different ethnic groups.
As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience and to practical, everyday social issues, I highlight new sociological books about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.
While these three new books focus on their own particular detail of Asian American life, together they contribute to a larger and fuller understanding of the variety of issues that connect all Asian Americans, and Asian Americans to the rest of American society:
This collection, the first to address Asian and Asian Americans’ contributions to New England, highlights a broad range of Asian American communities and historical experiences. From the poignant writings of a young Chinese immigrant to the influence of hip-hop in a New Hampshire Lao community, this original and unique collection seeks to establish a regional template for the study of Asian American lives and art far from the West Coast.
These essays provide not just a record of particular achievements but a full and vigorous engagement with Asian American culture along with an analysis of the depiction of Asian Americans in New England. This is an important and timely collection highlighting the creativity and diversity of one of the fastest-growing minority populations in the region.
Originating in the 1968 student-led strike at San Francisco State University, Asian American Studies was founded as a result of student and community protests that sought to make education more accessible and relevant. While members of the Asian American communities initially served on the departmental advisory boards, planning and developing areas of the curriculum, university pressures eventually dictated their expulsion. At that moment in history, the intellectual work of the field was split off from its relation to the community at large, giving rise to the entire problematic of representation in the academic sphere.
Even as the original objectives of the field have remained elusive, Asian American studies has nevertheless managed to establish itself in the university. Mark Chiang argues that the fundamental precondition of institutionalization within the university is the production of cultural capital, and that in the case of Asian American Studies (as well as other fields of minority studies), the accumulation of cultural capital has come primarily from the conversion of political capital.
In this way, the definition of cultural capital becomes the primary terrain of political struggle in the university, and outlines the very conditions of possibility for political work within the academy. Beginning with the theoretical debates over identity politics and cultural nationalism, and working through the origins of ethnic studies in the Third World Strike, the formation of the Asian American literary field, and the Blue’s Hanging controversy, The Cultural Capital of Asian American Studies articulates a new and innovative model of cultural and academic politics, illuminating the position of ethnic studies within the American university.
Vietnamese make up one of the largest refugee populations in the United States, some arriving by boat in 1975 after the fall of Saigon and others coming in the 1990s. This collection of 22 essays by 14 authors illuminates Vietnamese-American culture, views of freedom and oppression, and the issues of relocation, assimilation and transition for two million people. It contains personal experiences of the Vietnam War, life under Communist rule, and escape to America.
As many news organizations have been reporting, Vietnamese Americans in San Jose, CA are blasting the police department there for several incidents of police brutality, the latest one happening last month in which officers were videoed beating a young Vietnamese American man, Phuong Ho, who appeared to be unarmed and submissive, as shown below:
The grainy video depicts the event as Siegel struck Ho, a math major from Vietnam, more than 10 times with a baton in the hallway of the house. Payne shocked Ho with a Taser gun. Ho does not appear to be combative in the video, although it does not record the entire interaction between Ho and the officers. . . .
The incident developed after Ho had argued with a roommate over soap being slopped onto a steak. Ho reportedly picked up a steak knife and told the roommate that in Vietnam, “I would kill you” over that. Ho dropped the knife and was not armed by the time police arrived, according to witnesses.
Officer Siegel had trouble understanding Ho when he asked his name, and attempted to enter Ho’s room to look for identification. He told Ho to wait in the hall, according to police reports. When Ho ignored Siegel’s order and attempted to follow him into the room, Payne pushed him into a wall, setting off the events that another roommate captured on cell phone video, in which the officers are seen striking Ho as they yell at him to turn over onto his back.
As the Mercury News article notes and as Raj Jayadev at New America Media elaborates upon, this particular incident was just the latest in a series of questionable conduct by the San Jose police against the Vietnamese American community and other racial/ethnic minorities in the area, who allege that officers have engaged in police brutality on several occasions and on top of them, the police department and city officials have refused to address such allegations:
The Phuong Ho video has elicited such outrage in San Jose because it comes on the heels of a year-long sequence of various public revelations of police abuse, and a matching series of failures by city leadership to respond to the demands for transparency and accountability that have spanned ethnic communities.
To begin with, last October, the Mercury News released data from the Department of Justice that showed that San Jose had a dramatically higher arrest rate for public intoxication that any other city in California (even those with much larger populations) and were arresting minorities at a disproportionate rate. Latinos in particular were heavily overrepresented in the arrest rates, accounting for nearly 57 percent of all arrests despite only representing 30 percent of the general population.
The news set of a firestorm in San Jose, leading to a raucous City Hall forum, where hundreds of people recounted stories of being arrested without cause, and roughed up in the process. . . .
On Mother’s Day of , Daniel Pham, a 28-year-old Vietnamese man with mental health issues, was shot and killed by police. Police were called after Pham cut his brother with a knife. Pham was dead shortly after they arrived. The San Jose Police Department did not release the police reports and the transcript of the 911 call, despite an overwhelming demand from the Vietnamese community for transparency.
The District Attorney chose to have a closed grand jury for the officer-involved shooting – meaning no one, including Pham’s family members, would be allowed to know what happened inside the courtroom. On Oct.18, 2009, the District Attorney announced the results of the closed grand jury – no indictment. The public still has no answers as to why Pham is dead, and there is a growing sentiment being voiced in the Vietnamese community not to call the police if they need help, lest they risk the fate of being the next Daniel Pham.
And just last week, days before the Phuong Ho video was released and days after the no indictment result of the Pham case, the City Council voted down a set of reforms that would have forced the San Jose Police Department to remove the veil of secrecy surrounding their department, and open up public access to police records. Mind you, these recommendations came from a Sunshine Reform Task Force assembled by the mayor himself, who had now become the most vocal proponent for not disclosing police files.
A number of community groups across ethnic lines – the Asian Law Alliance, NAACP, Vietnamese Association of Northern California, La Raza Lawyers Association, and others – have filed a demand for the immediate release of police reports associated with the Ho case. The city has yet to respond.
There are several aspects of these incidents of brutality and excessive force that are rather troubling. The first is that as the Mercury News article points out, the San Jose police department actually has several Vietnamese American officers and as far as I have heard, has done a relatively good job at recruiting and retaining such officers to supposedly better serve the Vietnamese American community there.
Secondly, much like their neighbors in San Francisco to the north, San Jose generally has a very racially and ethnically diverse population and a reputation as a relatively liberal community. With that in mind, one might presume that relations with their constituents would be better.
Nonetheless, despite the presence of Vietnamese American officers and the city’s liberal reputation, these incidents of police brutality and, just as important, the refusal of city and police officials to be transparent and accountable for such incidents continue to exist.
Why would this be the case? What other reasons might account for this widening rift between city and police officials and the residents they are supposed to “protect and serve?”
Until city and police officials open up and directly address these issues, we can only speculate about what else is going on. As such, I would hypothesize that the officials’ actions (or lack thereof) might be an unconscious form of resistance against the changing demographics and political/cultural makeup of the city.
As I’ve written about before, many (as in a large number, but not all) Whites likely feel threatened by the fact that “their” community, “their” state, and “their” country are increasingly become more culturally diverse and that the U.S.’s position as the dominant and most powerful country in the world is slowly eroding in the 21st century. On top of that, the current recession and the continuing effects of globalization have compounded their financial insecurities and personal anxieties.
It is within this larger social context that we might see the refusal of San Jose city and police officials to account for their actions and to make the details of police brutality allegations public as further examples of this unconscious White interpersonal and institutional backlash.
Change does not come easily and as sociologists have consistently documented, there is inevitably a stage of competition and conflict before things settle down and the cultural and political landscape stabilizes. Unfortunately, in the meantime, Vietnamese Americans in San Jose and other racial/ethnic minorities and immigrants throughout the country are likely to encounter more examples of these kinds of hostility.