Denver’s Mayor Michael B. Hancock welcomes the 100 applicants and their family members to the citizenship ceremony.
I was born in Japan, but because my father was born in Hawaii when it was a U.S. territory, I am an American citizen. I didn’t have to take a test, and recite an oath of allegiance. After my family moved to the States in 1966, I remember helping my mother, who’s from a small town in northern Japan, study for her citizenship test. I was eight years old.
I don’t remember the ceremony when she repeated the oath and was given her naturalization certificate, but it was probably something like the wonderful ceremony I saw today, on the top floor of the Emily Griffith Technical College, a school that teaches English as a second language and gives many immigrants the skills for them to find jobs in America (full disclosure: I’m a member of the Emily Griffith Foundation‘s Board of Directors).
One hundred people became American citizens today in Denver. They came here from all over the world, from Bhutan to the Ukraine, Canada to Cote d’Ivoire. Some held small American flags in their hands as they waited, and waved them when they were asked to stand to represent their soon-to-be-former countries. Continue reading →
Maria Hinojosa, a very respected journalist for NPR and PBS who’s currently working on a Frontline documentary about the detention camps holding Latin Americans suspected of being illegal immigrants, visited the University of Colorado this week. She gave a speech Tuesday night but that day she had a casual free lunch discussion with students from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She described the film she’s working on, and some of the heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and the shame and embarrassment the detainees face.
Her description conjured up for me how Japanese American families must have felt in 1942 as they were being rounded up and sent to internment camps in desolate parts of the Western United States during World War II, including Heart Mountain in Wyoming, shown above with a still-standing tarpaper-covered barrack.
I asked her, since February 19 is the annual Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans, if she found it especially ironic that she’s working on this documentary and giving a speech this week.
Hinojosa looked at me, stunned. She clearly knew about Japanese American internment. But she had no idea there was such as thing as Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans. Continue reading →
There are very few non-fiction books that I would insist that anyone interested in Asian American history and culture must read. There are other important books, but these are the ones that have helped me form my sense of identity as an Asian American.
Ronald Takaki, who wrote or co-authored more than a dozen books about Asian American identity and race in America, passed away May 26, too young at the age of 70. His landmark book, “Strangers from a Different Shore” was the one that helped me understand the historical flow of Asians to the United States, ethnic group by ethnic groups, and their struggles to be accepted by their new country. If Bill Hosokawa’s “Nisei” helped me realize who I was as a Japanese American, Takaki, along with Helen Zia’s “Asian American Dreams,” helped me figure out my place in a larger context. Continue reading →
Oh, the wisdom of lawmakers. Especially in Texas. Texas state representative Betty Brown (R-Terrell, in North Texas) caused a ruckus on Tuesday by saying, during testimony about voter ID legislation, that Asians would have an easier time of getting along if they simply changed their names.
“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?”
She also told a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans who was there to testify, “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”
Now Texas Dems are demanding an apology for “her disrespectful remarks,” and state Republicans are accusing the Democrats of making too much of the statements and using race to make voting IDs a partisan issue.
I don’t think Brown is a racist — at least, I hope not. But I think that she spoke without thinking, and her true feelings about Asians’ names came out. Continue reading →
From Los Angeles-based Asian American comedy/improv troupe 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, via Angry Asian Man, here’s a totally politically incorrect skit about race and immigration, but with the tables turned and European Americans as the FOBs (“fresh off the boat,” for you non-AAPIs).
It’s a Thanksgiving satire that gave me a chuckle, despite its disgusting, inexcusable use of “whiteface,” “redface” and racial stereotypes, the kind of thing I’d write up and rant about on Nikkei View. Well tough nuts, y’all. What’s that cliche — “turnabout is fair play”?
Asians are always told to lighten up and have a sense of humor. Here’s proof that we do: