As a second generation Vietnamese American who came to America as a baby, I was considered an “illegal alien” until I was 12 years old. All my older siblings had reached age 18 and were able to acquire citizenship through tests, and my younger brother had been born in the U.S. It was just me and my parents left in limbo without citizenship. As a young child, I remember not really understanding why becoming a citizen was so urgent. At the age of 12, I felt naively excited at the thought of changing my name and becoming more “American” in the citizenship process.
Archive for the ‘Monologue/Dialogue’ Category
Allison Chin is one of my Asian American eco-heroines. She is the current president of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. As president, she is the top leader of the Club’s volunteer structure.
Even before I was hired by the Sierra Club, I’d seen her blog on the Sierra Club’s website and thought, “Wow! She’s pretty cool!”
I got to meet Allison Chin when I went to Washington DC for orientation for my new job at the Sierra Club.
Allison stopped by to have lunch with us and shared that volunteerism and an appreciation for the environment have played big roles in her life since she was young. She is optimistic about Asian Pacific Islander Americans’ growing involvement in the environmental movement, especially as APIs recognize that a healthy environment is important for human health and going green saves money in the long term.
Earlier this month, I was working in the Sierra Club’s San Francisco office, making phone calls alongside volunteers nationwide to urge constituents to thank their congresspeople for voting for the American Clean Energy and Security Act.
By the end of the two hour phone banking period, all the volunteers had logged off the system — except for Allison! She was still on the line making phone calls, and there was nothing we could do but let her keep going! Despite her busy schedule, Allison remains a true volunteer. Talk about inspiring!
– posted by Debbie Chong
Negar Tehrani’s opinion piece in this past Wednesday’s Daily Bruin addressed a question I’ve wondered about too. Why don’t applications provide a box to check for “Middle Eastern”? Currently Middle Eastern Americans check off “other” or white” for lack of better alternative.
At UCLA, the Iranian American, Arabic American, and Israeli American student organizations are pushing for a checkbox that more accurately reflects their ethnicity.
UCLA is located in a city where the population consists of many Arabs, Israelis, Iranians and other people of Middle Eastern descent. To not have a count of these students makes UCLA appear inconsiderate and backwards in terms of cultural maturity.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “There is no count of Middle Easterners at UCLA. Student groups estimate that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Persians and Arabs among the more than 40,000 students on campus.”
Furthermore, the fact that Middle Easterners are not included in campus census counts holds negative implications beyond ethnic negligence. Not having a count of Middle Eastern students not only means limited research on this ethnic group, but also that they are not considered a minority. In fact, it’s as if they are not considered at all.
In other words, if a student of Middle Eastern descent labels himself or herself as “white,” there is a strong possibility that admissions may not apply the same consideration it does when selecting students of various backgrounds based on social and economic needs.
Do you agree with Tehrani? Are there other ethnicities that should be included or disaggregated on application forms? Let us know what you think!
– posted by Debbie Chong
Vietnamese American Dorothy Le, 24, is a 2007 UCLA alumna who majored in Environmental Science and minored in Geography/Environmental Studies. As an undergraduate, she led E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity, an environmental and social justice organization at UCLA and was involved in the UC Divestment Taskforce, The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), and the Statewide Sustainable Transportation Policy.
Dorothy is currently Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), where she works to increase bike facilities and bicycle and pedestrian access to transit hubs throughout Los Angeles County.
Pacific Ties: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of environmental activism and advocacy work?
Dorothy Le: My favorite part of environmental activism is that I work to protect nature and the world in which we live. It’s a beautiful world, and I want it to continue being beautiful for my children, grandchildren, and generations beyond.
My least favorite part of the environmental activism is that it sometimes doesn’t address race or social equity. I have to work, as a woman of color, to incorporate race and equity into environmental work, but sometimes it’s difficult. Especially with bicycling being such an activity dominated by white males, it’s quite a challenge to incorporate people of color and women, even though there are plenty of people of color and women who cycle.
Do you feel that Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans are proportionately involved in environmentalism and leadership positions?
I think there could be more Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans involved in environmentalism and leadership positions, of course. It’s difficult though because of many cultural factors.
What cultural factors encourage or discourage activism?
These include parental pressures, societal pressures and confusion. My parents wanted me to become a doctor, or a medical professional at least. They didn’t understand how I could make a living doing what I am doing. They just don’t understand the system very well and are scared that if I take a risk, then I’ll be losing a lot. They would rather have me be safe. I, though, am a person who takes risks and is okay with trying new things. In order to be where I am today, I had to disobey my parents and communicate with them clearly about what I wanted to do. That’s a difficult thing for anyone to do- to not have that support from your parents to do what you want is tremendously discouraging for Asian American people.
Being a Vietnamese American woman, in a society that is still dominated by white privilege, hierarchy, and power, it took me a long time to understand where I fit in, what my unique contribution was, and what my own privilege was- to overcome and make effective change. I encourage everyone- Asian American, Latino American, African American, Caucasian, Native American- to understand their privilege, unique contribution and work to make the world a better place with their unique abilities and power.
Portions of this interview, plus Dorothy’s thoughts on women and environmentalism, are featured in UCLA’s FEM newsmagazine.
– posted by Debbie Chong
I was walking around 99 Ranch Supermarket in Alhambra, CA when my uncle prompted me to the snacks aisle:
To say the least, I was surprised to find what can be deemed as culturally insensitive and even racist. There it was: a box labeled “Brown Sugar Thousand Layer Cookies” with a drawing of a brown faced man with a band aid. I wasn’t sure what the image really meant and how it helps in advertising the item, and was appalled to find such a drawing. Is this what the manufacturer–Asian people– have of Latinos? Is this box being culturally insensitive or is it just a logo? Take your vote and let me know what you think.
And below are the other “flavors” offered by that company. It looks as if each of these food products represent a race.
Let me know what you think! Leave your comments
Posted by Evelina Giang, who was not moved to buy the Brown Sugar or any other versions of these cookies from that manufacturuer.
Comedian Joe Wong made his debut appearance on the Late Show Friday night:
Joe Wong immigrated to the US from China in 1995 and is now a fixture at comedy clubs in the Boston/New England area. I love how his jokes are funny – without using the race card. Some comedians make it their objective to get laughs out of racial humor (Russell Peters, Carlos Mencina) but Joe just tells it like it is.
I always wondered where the line of racial humor is drawn. It’s ok to make fun of your own ethnicity right? But when it gets to be self-depricating or self-hating, then it’s just irritating and unnecessary. It becomes laughter aimed at racial stereotypes instead – cheap laughs for little humor. Of course, it’s always a no-no for white comedians to use the racial humor thing – remember the Michael Richards/Kramar scandal?
Which comedians do you think go over the line? Who does a good job? Should their be a line or should people stop being so sensitive? I want to know your opinions! Discuss.
Posted by Maria
According to a 2007 CNN article by Elizabeth Cohen, Asian American (AA) women have the highest suicidal rates for females aged 15-24.
Below are several factors that Cohen discusses. I added my own commentary when relevant.
1) AA immigrant parents set high academic and career expectations for their children + the “model minority” myth.
When I was little, my grandma and dad would often remind me how hard they worked so that my sisters and I could have an education and well-paying job. One time I came home with a 99% score on a test. Instead of saying “good job,” my dad asked, “What happened to the other 1%?” My classmates also subscribed to the model minority myth, poking fun at me whenever I got less than a perfect score. As a result, I always felt like I needed to succeed to make my parents happy and to avoid teasing at school.
2) AA parents are stricter with daughters than sons.
Growing up, sometimes I felt my parents were being overprotective. I know it was because they cared about me, but I often suspect that they would have been more lenient if I were a boy.
3) In Asian cultures, one generally does not question one’s parents. According to Cohen, this feeling of helplessness turns into depression for girls and rebellious behavior for boys.
When I was little, I assumed that whatever my parents said was to be obeyed. I usually didn’t talk back, partially because I feared additional lecturing or punishment, and partially because I felt guilty after hearing about how comfortable my life was compared to previous generations.
4) AAs are a visible minority and may be dissatisfied with their physical appearance.
Growing up, I was one of the only Asian faces in my classes. I hated looking different and used to be insecure about my height and eyes and hair color.
5) AA young women may inherit or mimic suicidal behavior from parents, especially their mothers.
I would like to add another factor:
6) Many AAs face pressure to maintain family honor and status. This could explain why we may be reluctant to seek counseling or confide with friends about personal issues. We may fear that others will find out about our dysfunctional families or shameful problems and we will lose credibility and respect in our communities’ eyes for not being “normal.”
Do you agree or disagree with Cohen’s analysis? What other factors do you think contribute to depression and suicide in young AA women?
Leave a comment and let us know what you think!
– posted by Debbie Chong
Eli sees “Warriors” as an ethnically neutral name, but he said the images have irked him ever since he was a child.
“There’s the big head in the parking lot,” he said, referring to a concrete bust of a headdress-clad Plains Indian chief that was a gift to the school from the Class of 1970. “That’s prejudice right there, looking you in the face.”
The election did prove pivotal. It was the newly-seated Panizzon who made the motion to remove only two images when the Native American Imagery Committee had recommended removing four, modifying two, and keeping four. Three other images were discussed by the committee, but no agreement could be reached on their fate.
I tend to bookmark things on the intention of going back to read them … but sometimes I forget. But back in 2006, TIME Magazine published this really cool feature on “60 Years of Asian Heroes” which I argue is a timeless piece.
How can we talk about APAs now without knowing all the history that came before us?
Education starts… here.
When I was an exchange student in Hong Kong two years ago, I learned that in Asia, some people (usually the older generation) assume that to be “American” is to be white.
In Hong Kong, I chatted with some elderly Chinese and told them I was an exchange student from the U.S. “But you don’t look American,” they protested. I explained that my parents were ethnic Chinese and I was born in America. “You’re Chinese, then,” they corrected me. ”Not American.”
I encountered similar responses on the subway in Seoul, Korea. A few elderly Koreans viewed my Chinese American friend and me with curiosity because we were chatting in English. “Where are you from?” they asked.
For the first few inquiries, we said we were from America. But like in Hong Kong, we got puzzled looks and “No, you couldn’t be” responses. Finally we gave up and simply said, “We’re from Hong Kong.” The confusion ceased.
We felt a tad guilty about taking the easy way out. We were American, after all. Isn’t it worth the extra time and effort to let folks know that people of Asian descent live (and are born) in the U.S.?
Check out this blog post by Tony Shen on ModelMinority.com. Shen, a Chinese American, was denied an English teacher position in Taiwan because he didn’t look “white” or “Western” enough. Looks like Asian Americans face job discrimination on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
– posted by Debbie Chong