Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | race
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Late last year, Erin and I were lucky enough to travel to New York City to see the Broadway musical “Allegiance” starring George Takei. It’s a story about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and it vividly and powerfully brings to life the emotional toll of the experience on JAs for generations since then. I wrote about...

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...

NOTE: This is a slightly revised (added "Courtship of Eddie's Father") re-post of a very early column I wrote back in 1998, bemoaning the lack of Asian faces on TV shows. Like a zillion other people across the country, I tuned in to the final episode of "Seinfeld," and I gotta say, I was only mildly impressed. Oh, I liked the...

[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_5550" align="aligncenter" width="520"]My brother Gary (on the right) and me at Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni, Japan circa 1965. My brother Gary (on the right) and me at Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni, Japan circa 1965. Note that my brother is wearing a Cub Scout (or Webelos) shirt -- we were both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts starting in Japan, and I was even an Explorer Scout! How American can we get![/caption] This has been a good week for sometimes contentious but bracing conversations on Facebook. The latest one started when I posted a link to an excellent Forbes article by Ruchika Tulshyan titled "'Where Are You From?' And Other Big Networking Racial Faux Pas" The article raises the oft-aired complaint by Asian Americans that asking "Where are you from?" (sometimes linked to the even more irritating "You speak English so well...") is a social, racial no-no. I certainly can't argue with that. I've written plenty about this very topic. I once criticized Martha Stewart for pulling the "Where are you from?" card, and in the post also included the conversation from my book, "Being Japanese American" that so many Asian American are all too familiar with, which starts with "You speak English so well" and veers off into "where are you from?" territory. The Forbes piece quotes a South Asian news producer making a point that many Asian Americans should learn by heart and recite whenever we're asked the question:

[caption id="attachment_5501" align="aligncenter" width="520"]Amache Japanese American internment camp The Amache Museum, a block from Granada High School, is managed by students from the school who take the "Amache Preservation Society" class. The students maintain the concentration camp site outside of Granada.[/caption] It’s a rite of greeting among older Japanese Americans. I’ve seen it happen over and over – one JA is introduced to another, and if they’re old enough, the first question they ask of each other is, “what camp were you at?” We all know that “camp” in the context of Japanese Americans has nothing to do with summer camp. These people are not being nostalgic about singing “Kumbaya” around the campfire, hopping along in potato sack races (maybe it would be rice sack races?) and learning how to “rough it” in the great outdoors. “Camp,” of course, in the Japanese American context, are the internment camps, or as I increasingly call them, “concentration camps,” that 110,000 people of Japanese descent were held in during World War II. So an elderly man says he was in Arkansas, and the other man says “Oh yeah? Which one?” “Jerome.” Common ground is found, and the two reminisce, if that’s the right word, about their families’ unjust incarceration.

jeremylin-linsanity Evan Jackson Leong, the director of the entertaining and inspiring documentary "Linsanity: The Jeremy Lin Story," tells interviewers that Lin's story "transcends sports, race and culture." That's true enough, because Jeremy Lin's story -- a determined young man loves basketball above all else but is ignored by colleges and the NBA despite his talent, and perseveres in the end by sheer determination and religious faith -- is universal. But as an Asian American, Lin's story is inspirational for me precisely because he's Asian American. His ethnicity was the main reason he was dismissed by colleges and the NBA, even though he was an all-star leader in high school. I hope everyone watches "Linsanity," which went on sales on DVD this week, and is inspired by his universal story, or his incredible accomplishment as an Asian American. I know many Asian Americans watched it at film festivals, or during one of many special fundraising screenings for Asian and Asian American nonprofit organizations across the country. In Colorado it was screened by an Asian American fraternity at the University of Colorado in Boulder and a Japanese American history group in Denver. If Asians didn't watch the documentary in a theater, they probably watched it on cable TV -- Comcast featured it in its Asian American channel for months. But it's great to revisit "Linsanity" on DVD (wish there were some extras added, though).