Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | news
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[caption id="attachment_5719" align="aligncenter" width="580"]Hundreds of Lakewood High School students, including this one, left their classrooms in September to protest a proposed history curriculum they believed would lead to censorship. Students organized the walkouts using social media sites like Facebook. Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat Colorado Hundreds of Lakewood High School students, including this one, left their classrooms in September to protest a proposed history curriculum they believed would lead to censorship. Students organized the walkouts using social media sites like Facebook. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat Colorado) [/caption] I grew up as part of a generation that found our collective voice in protest, for African American civil rights, against the war in Vietnam, and to advocate for women’s and LGBT rights and Asian American studies. College students have been at the forefront of many of these social movements. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee was a cornerstone of the civil rights movement. College students led the free speech movement at the University of California at Berkeley, and the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society was formed at the University of Michigan. Students led protests across the globe, including the Prague Spring in 1968 all the way to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Even the Taiwan protests earlier this year and the current and Hong , Kong democracy protests. But in Colorado where I live, my admiration goes out to a group of high school students, who have been protesting in Jefferson County, the school district where I graduated in the 1970s.

[caption id="attachment_5636" align="aligncenter" width="520"]One of the few times I heard a reference to Ferguson was in this panel: from left, Hansi Lo Wang (NPR),  Shefali S. Kulkarni (PRI), Ernabel Demillo (CUNY-TV), Emil Guillermo (AALDEF) and moderator Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man). One of the few times I heard a reference to Ferguson was in this panel: from left, Hansi Lo Wang (NPR), Shefali S. Kulkarni (PRI), Ernabel Demillo (CUNY-TV), Emil Guillermo (AALDEF) and moderator Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man).[/caption] I just got back from a week in Washington, D.C. attending the Asian American Journalists Association’s annual convention. I sat in on a lot of interesting (and some not-so-interesting) sessions about social media and journalism, issues in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, and lots of other current topics in the news. But one topic was barely mentioned as part of the panel discussions: The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed African American man who was shot by a local police officer in the small town of Ferguson Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. He was killed on August 9, and for the next week – during the AAJA convention – the tension in Ferguson between protesters and law enforcement has been front and center in the news.

[caption id="attachment_5632" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]Dr. Charlotte Yeh in her AARP office, proudly holding her colorfully decorated cane. Dr. Charlotte Yeh in her AARP office, proudly holding her colorfully decorated cane.[/caption] Note: As the Asian American Journalists Association AARP Fellow, I've been writing articles for the AARP.org website about AAPI themes but mostly work within the AARP AAPI Community's social media platforms on Facebook and Twitter. I'm starting to write profiles of AARP's AAPI volunteers and staff and post them to the AARP AAPI Community Facebook Page. This is the first profile I've posted, and because it's such a compelling story that I've decided to repurpose it here. If you find the story is valuable, please LIKE the Facebook page! When Dr. Charlotte Yeh wrote a powerful article earlier this year in the Washington Post about shortcomings in emergency care, she subtly hinted at the conflicting cultural values that affected her that night two and a half years ago when she was hit by a car as she crossed a street. She was taken to a nearby hospital’s emergency department, but wasn’t given the level of customer care she would have liked. And she’s an expert on the subject: Trained in surgery, Dr. Yeh was an emergency department physician and experienced healthcare administrator. But she didn’t complain or raise questions with the doctors and nurses giving her care that night. Instead, she wrote in her Post column recalling that night that she wanted to be the “good patient.” “The good patient in me wanted to please the doctor and saunter out of the room, but the real person in me was scared,” she wrote, even though in fact she wasn’t sure she could even stand and walk at all. That phrase, “good patient,” comes up three times in her article, and is an echo of a deeply-felt Asian value that affects many immigrants in the United States, as well as generations of Asian Americans.

katyperry-kimono Katy Perry opened the American Music Awards with an over-the-top performance of her song "Unconditionally," dressed in a gaudy, faux-Japanese kimono (with Chinese-style mandarin collar and slits up the legs, as well as American-style exposed cleavage) and painted in hideous full-yellowface makeup to fake an "Oriental" look. The performance has sparked some outrage in both the blogosphere and mainstream media. Maybe that's what she wanted. She's probably pissed that Miley Cyrus has been getting all the media attention recently for her edgy, racy performances. The opening notes of the AMA segment (below), plucked out on shamisen, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument, while a woman in kimono was silhouetted behind a Japanese shoji screen, had me hopeful that something that showed respect, appreciation and understanding for Japanese culture was about to be broadcast. But no. As the screen is pulled away and the woman behind it -- Perry in her fake kimono -- started singing, my heart sank and my gut clenched. Here we go again, a cultural mishmash of what white people think is "Japanese" all thrown into one ugly, cluttered, throw-in-the-kitchen-sink four-minute nightmare.

(Note: KTVU attempted to use copyright law to remove this video clip even in instances, like mine, where the clip is essential to the discussion about it, for critical journalistic purposes. The station said it was removing the clips to protect the Asian community: "By now, most people have seen it. At this point, continuing to show the video is also insensitive and offensive, especially to the many in our Asian community who were offended. Consistent with our apology, we are carrying through on our responsibility to minimize the thoughtless repetition of the video by others.” It didn't take long for the attempt to fail.)
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Seriously? San Francisco TV station KTVU aired a monster of a mess, when its anchor read the purported names of the pilots on Asiana flight 214 that crashed at San Francisco Airport. During the noon newscast, anchor Tori Campbell said the pilots were Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow. Really? Seriously? Think about it -- look at the names. Use one or two brain cells. And no, they're not even close to being Korean names. Ugh, this is as bad as it gets. It's not funny, and it's a sad and unfortunate reflection of the state of the news industry. This is a tragic FAIL on a couple of levels: 1. Who would submit such a nasty, racist "news release" to media? Do they think it's funny? 2. How could a news organization -- especially in San Francisco, which is not only where the crash occurred but a city with a very large and diverse Asian population -- accept this kind of claptrap without either confirming it, or just plain LOOKING AT IT? (Here's an AP story that ran, among hundreds of papers, in the SF Examiner from July 8 that lists two of the pilots' names as released bu Asiana.) 3. What's the chain of evidence that sees these names when they're submitted? Producers? Directors? Reporters? Anchors (she obviously didn't catch it)?

asianarecisttweets I shouldn't be surprised or disappointed anymore, and accept the fact that there will always be idiotic people in the United States who probably function perfectly normally most of the time, and then turn into stupid racist haters the moment there's some sort of tragedy in the world that involves people of color. Two years ago, I was dumbfounded that Americans would rant and rave about the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan and claim it was somehow "god's revenge" for Pearl Harbor. What? But the glibness and ease with which such racist drivel finds its way from pea-brained individuals to the social webs is still shocking. Here I've been following the crash of the Asiana jetliner at SFO (an airport I often fly to and from) as a human tragedy, but a miracle with only two casualties. I've felt empathy for the families of the two schoolgirls who were killed, and the many survivors who were injured. But the fact that most of those onboard survived -- and that 123 survivors were able to walk away without being hospitalized -- is nothing short of amazing. But of course, the human stories of the crash don't matter to the racists who immediately feel the need to respond with jokes about Asian stereotypes (we're lousy drivers, har har) and hateful cracks about North Korea (hellooo, Seoul is in South Korea, and this was not an attack by Kim Jong Un on the US). That such a lowbrow, juvenile mentality switches on so quickly shows that racism and prejudice are still alive and well just beneath the veneer of political correctness that the haters always complain about. Scratch the veneer just a bit with a news event like this tragedy, and you'll see nothing but ugliness ooze out. That's why I write about these issues over and over.