Three years ago this week, a student news website at the University of Colorado sparked a firestorm of protest. The website posted a column by a student, Max Karson, which ineptly tried to address racism on the CU campus by poking fun at Asian stereotypes. The column, “If It’s War the Asians Want, It’s War They’ll Get,” stirred the Denver area’s Asian and Asian American communities to organize and demand changes at the University. The timing was unfortunate, because it ran on Feb. 18, just a day before the 2008 Day of Remembrance, when Japanese Americans mark the signing of Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of 120,000 people of Japanese descent in American concentration camps during World War II. The column joked about “locking up” all Asians.
The area’s Asian communities weren’t amused, and rallied quickly to protest. So did student organizations not just at CU, but at the states other universities. National Asian American and civil rights organizations sent letters of protest to the Campus Press, but to the CU administration.
In the two years since, there haven’t been a lot of concrete changes at CU in general over racial issues as far as many students can see, but there have been lots of changes at the Campus Press. Its faculty advisor, Amy Herdy, a former colleague of mine at The Denver Post, was an early target of protesters but it turned out the rules for the website prevented her from having editorial control. It’s a student-run website. But since then, Herdy and the students who run the website have been busy rebuilding the class’s reputation, upgrading its commitment to quality journalism, and have worked hard to avoid ever allowing something like the “War Against Asians” column from bubbling up again. Continue reading →
The study found that because Asians are not all high-achieving academic wiz-kids, and that the diversity of the Asian communities (we’re not just Japanese, Chinese and Koreans, but also Laotian, Hmong, Cambodian, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, and so on) and the range of generations from first-generation immigrants with poor English skills to fourth, fifth or sixth generations of Americans, leads to a reality that’s less modeled and more uneven. Not all Asian Americans go into the top Ivy-League schools, either: a growing number is opting to go to community colleges instead of major universities.
The article quotes CU professor Daryl Maeda, an assistant professor of ethnic studies:
Another part of the â€œmodel minority mythâ€ â€” that Asian-American students should perform well in science, technology, engineering and math fields â€” also can be unfair to students, Maeda said.
â€œSome are great at music or English,â€ Maeda said. â€œAnd if they donâ€™t live up to the model minority myth it puts an extra pressure on them, giving them the idea that they somehow arenâ€™t good enough in their endeavors.â€
The email below was sent today by David Chiu, a graduating senior at the University of Colorado. He’s been involved with a group of students, meeting with the CU administration since Feb. 18, when an ill-advised satire column titled “If It’s War that Asians Want, It’s War They’ll Get” was posted on the Campus Press website of the university’s school of journalism.
David’s update, sent almost on the eve of his graduation, is a sad commentary on the frustrations felt by the students who were directly affected by this article. There hasn’t been a lot of progress, although there have been a lot of politically correct platitudes and promises given out.
There are efforts outside the university, within the Asian Pacific American community at large, to keep the issue alive during the summer months. What these brave and dedicated students have started at CU have caused a ripple effect outside Boulder’s insular world, that will hopefully continue outward for a long time. Continue reading →
Here’s a video produced by Annie Guo, a Denver journalist and entrepreneur who is editor of Asian Avenue magazine, a pretty solid monthly publication, for a website she and other young APA activists have created called In-Solidarity.com. This is an Asian community response to the “satire” published by the University of Colorado’s Campus Press Web site back in February, in which a white student columnist wrote, “If it’s war the Asians want, it’s war they’ll get.”
The column provoked a firestorm of protest from APA and other students, not just at CU but also other area colleges, and from the Asian community at large. Guo and her In-Solidarity compatriots were part of an immediate response team that joined with CU’s Asian Pacific American community. The furor was covered by the local TV stations and mainstream print media. CU apologized and the public pretty much put the incident in the past, which is what the CU administration wants to happen. Continue reading →
There’s been a blizzard of emails flying around town from groups and individuals, outraged postings (including mine as well as Joe Nguyen’s commentary on AsiaXpress), and TV and print media news reports.
A collective of APA students who’ve organized a Facebook group called Colorado Asian American Organizations organized a meeting yesterday at Denver University, where about 40 people showed up. Erin attended, and also sent out notices to some of the local media, so there were TV crews from several stations on hand to cover the discussion. Attendees included not just students, but community activists, older APAs and also African Americans and Latinos. Continue reading →