Vincent Chin was beaten with a baseball bat 27 years ago today in a Detroit suburb, and died four days later.
At the time, I was three years out of art school, managing a paint store, and was a budding young rock critic writing for Denver’s alternative newspaper, Westword. I didn’t follow any news coverage about the attack on Vincent Chin, and I was clueless about the importance of his tragic death. I was still a “banana” — yellow on the outside, but white on the inside. Like the name of the 2008 documentary film about the impact of Chin’s murder on the Asian American community, if you had asked me then about him, I would have said, “Vincent who?”
Today, Vincent Chin is very much on my mind. I haven’t seen director Tony Lam’s “Vincent Who?” yet, but I definitely feel I’m a part of Chin’s legacy. In the decades since, I’ve become aware and much more appreciative of my ethnic roots, culture and history as a Japanese American, which I used to take for granted. I’ve also become much more aware of my place in the much larger Asian American community. Continue reading →
Two 13-year-old boys in Boulder, Colorado have been arrested (police plan a to arrest a third boy, 10) for calling a 12-year-old girl’s cell phone and threatening to rape and kill her because she’s Asian. Here’s the story from the Boulder Daily Camera. It’s more evidence that race in America is still an unsettled issue, lying just below the placid surface of even politically-correct communities.
According to Boulder police spokesperson Sarah Huntley, the three boys dialed the girl’s phone and described a violent sexual attack using explicit language:
The girl hung up, Huntley said, and they called back and left two messages telling her that she would die because of what they were going to do to her.
“The girl answered the first call, but her parents intercepted the other messages,” Huntley said. “They didn’t pick up the phone, but they listened to the messages and shielded their daughter from hearing them.”
The messages included details about damaging the girl’s female organs, Huntley said.
“In the messages, they indicated that they wanted to have sex with her because she was Asian,” Huntley said. “That is the basis for charging them with a bias-motivated crime.”
Boulder may be liberal politically and environmentally, but not always racially. In recent years, the University of Colorado — where most of the city’s Asians and other people of color can be found — has suffered a series of embarrassing racial incidents that range from vioelnce against minorities to a campus news website columnist satirically declaring “war against Asians.” Continue reading →
If you’ve ever been taunted or attacked by a bully but never fought back, you have to applaud this kid as a hero. A 15-year-old Asian Canadian (the newspaper story by the Globe and Mail never states the kid’s or his family’s name) fought back at a bully and broke his tormentor’s nose, got suspended from school but inspired a walkout of 400 fellow students in support.
The 15-year-old black belt thought he was doing his tormentor a favour when he elected to fight back with his weaker left hand.
He had heard his white classmate throw an angry racial slur in his direction after an argument during a gym class game of speedball, and now the student was shoving him backward, refusing to retract the smear.
The white student swung first, hitting the 15-year-old with a punch to the mouth.
The 15-year-old heard his father’s voice running through his head: Fight only as a last resort, only in self-defence, only if given no choice, and only with the left hand.
His swing was short and compact, a left-handed dart that hit the white student square on the nose.
The nose broke under his fist, igniting a sequence of events – from arrest to suspension to possible expulsion – that has left the Asian student and his family wondering whether they are welcome in this small, rural and mostly white community north of Toronto, one that has been touched by anti-Asian attacks in the past.
The 15-year-old, the only person charged in connection with the April 21 school fight, faces one count of assault causing bodily harm.
This week, 400 students at his high school walked out in protest — even though he is shy and hadn’t made a lot of friends, they supported his defiance of bullying and racism. Continue reading →
Via Angry Asian Man, who’s always ahead of the AAPI news cycle: Texas State Representative Betty Brown released a statement through her spokesman today, in which she apologizes for her comment during a legislative session earlier this week, and then says the line that’s being quoted was taken out of context.
That line, if you haven’t seen it by now, is one in which she suggested Asians could change their names to something that “Americans” (which we’re apparently not, even though the law in question is a voting IS bill) could more easily deal with:
â€œRather than everyone here having to learn Chinese â€” I understand itâ€™s a rather difficult language â€” do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?â€
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 →