Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | race
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Asian students may walk with a little less fear next semester, now that the US Justice Department reached an agreement with the Philadelphia School District over a series of assaults that occurred a year ago. The agreement is similar to one that South Philadelphia High School reached with the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission, and requires Philadelphia schools to come up with a a plan to combat bullying, give multicultural training; and track incidents of harassment. On Dec. 3, 2009, 26 Asian students were attacked and 13 were hospitalized after being attacked at school during the day. Some were pulled out of classes by African American students roaming the halls and assaukted, and others were attacked as they tried to leave the school cafeteria. Here's one description from the complaint:
A group of Chinese students was escorted to the cafeteria by a school security guard. After entering the cafeteria, this same group of Chinese students saw that the cafeteria was chaotic and turned around to leave the room. However, as they were leaving, a group of students attacked them from behind and began punching and kicking the Chinese students. At least one student suffered a black eye, trauma to his head, and serious bruises on his hip, arms and hand.
These attacks led to a weeklong boycott of the school by Asian students, which made national headlines. It's sad that a major city's school district had to be told by the Justice Department how to handle such horrible examples of racial hatred and discrimination. Last year, it felt like the school was close to collapsing in violent chaos to anyone following the story.

Comcast and NBCU will promote AAPIs in programming JACL sent out an announcement this morning about an agreement that's been reached between NBC Universal, Comcast (which is trying to get regulators' blessings to buy NBCU) and a handful of Asian American Pacific Islander organizations: the Asian American Justice Center, East West Players, Japanese American Citizens League, OCA and Media Action Network for Asian Americans. Although the past couple of years have led to a marked increase in the number of Asian faces on TV and in movies, it's nice to see some high-level muscle put on both Comcast and NBCU to be more inclusive within their programming. The agreement's been in the works for a while; Comcast last month announced its new on-demand channel, "Cinema Asian America," which is great. I hope to see progress from other media companies and Hollywood giants too, until AAPIs are no longer invisible and are represented accurately as just another part of the quilt that makes up American society. This probably seems like a trivial deal to some people, but as an Asian American who grew seeing very few people like me on TV and in movie, it's a big deal. It's slowly getting better, but I've written about this issue as early as 1998 in a column titled "Why Can't I Be on TV?" and I've I've given speeches about the topic over the years. When I no longer do a double-take or other take notice of an "Asian sighting" on a reality show, or in a commercial, or as a lead character on a TV series or Hollywood film, I'll know we've finally arrived. Here's the full text of the JACL press release:

This ad from Citizens Against Government Waste, called "Chinese Professor," hit the fan just a few weeks ago as the campaign season was hitting its fever pitch, and it fanned the flames of outrage among Asian Americans across the country. It's not subtle: The commercial obviously perpetuates an ugly, evil vision of Chinese as grim, committed enemies of America, gloating over a fantasy collapse of US world power and the rise of a gray-tinted China... with a gigantic visage of Chairman Mao glaring over an auditorium where a professor gloats to his students. Here's Angry Asian Man on the ad, and the original post on The Atlantic that analyzes the spot. Angry Asian Man also tracked down a couple of extras who were hired for the commercial, and they explain that they knew the commercial was conservative, but they had no idea their stint sitting in an audience and laughing on command would be put in such a grim, stereotypical context. There's not much more to say about this ad, except it turns my stomach -- and it aired tonight while we were watching election returns.

HapaVoice.com celebrates mixed-race Asians Erica Johnson is a woman on a mission. Earlier this year, she launched a blog called Hapa Voice where she posts submissions from hapas -- mixed-race Asians -- with photos and short autobiographies that explain a little about themselves. The titles of each post are a simple rundown of the submitter's ethnic mix. This elegant, straightforward approach to stating one's own identity is both powerful and moving, especially for hapas because their identities have been a central focus all their lives, even more so than other people of color. Being mixed adds a layer of richness for themselves, and too often a lare of confusion for others. So it's really cool to read entry after entry on "Hapa Voices" and see so many people who are finding their voice... and their identity. HapaVoice.com founder Erica Johnson Johnson has been inspired by the work of hapa writer, filmmaker, artist, activist, standup comic and lifeguard (really) Kip Fulbeck. His "Hapa Project" and books such as "Part Asian, 100% Hapa" are clear antecedents for "Hapa Voice." In the book, Fulbeck traveled the country shooting portraits of mixed-race Asians accompanied by statements of identity by the people posing. He recently published a new book of adorable portraits of little hapa kids, "Mixed." But as an ongoing website project, "Hapa Voice" takes Fulbeck's inspiration and breathes it more life. Johnson explains the origins of the "Hapa Voice" blog on its "About" page:

chibi anime -- do Japanese draw the characters to look "white"?I've written before about Japanese anime, or animation, as well as the genre's characters and their large eyes, and wondered if they symbolize a desire to look more Caucasian. But this brief guest post by Julian Abagond on the blog Sociological Images titled Why Do the Japanese Draw Themselves As White? that offers very interesting food for thought. Abagond makes the case that Americans (white people) think Japanese draw anime and manga characters to look Caucasian, but that's a Western construct, and that "Americans" (he conflates nationality with ethnicity, a common slip in race/culture conversations, even by well-intentioned people and often by Asians) see everything in terms of white unless there are stereotypical symbols that identify a character as another ethnicity.

Martha Stewart needs some etiquette lessons in how to speak to Asian Americans.A reader named Robin, who is Japanese American and born in Iowa and bakes apple pies, sent me this email: "I was wincing yesterday when Martha Stewart asked an asian american woman in the audience (Sumi somethingorother, who baked an apple pie for Martha's contest) "Where are you from?" and the woman said with no accent "Oh I'm from here...New York City.". Martha continued with the (stereo)typical line of questioning something like 'where are you really from because if you are from Asia it's unusual to make an apple pie'. I don't have it verbatim but it was painful. Just another "What ARE you?" type of conversation. I really don't think Martha is a bigot but as she is the standard bearer of suburban white women I think it was totally disappointing for her to go down that path as if it were totally fine to question someone with Asian features about where they really come from." She sent a link to Martha Stewart's page for the pie show, but there isn't a video of the entire program, at least not yet. It looks like they only upload excerpts instead of entire shows, but I'll keep an eye out for YouTube postings of this segment. UPDATED: Today, Robin commented below on this blog post with a clarification: "The video is up, check at the 2:00 minute mark: http://www.marthastewart.com/article/meet-the-pie-bakers "Verbatim it's : 'Where do you come from?' (answer Here NYC) 'Oh you do, oh, okay, because if you came from Asia this would not a typical pie, right?' (answer 'right...right...' you can kind of hear the 'what the heck!?' in her tone) "So it's not as blatant as it struck me the first time but still the question and that type of follow up would be seen as really bizarre if she asked it of someone with a German name." It may not be as obnoxious as it could have been (I agree with Robin that Martha's probably not a racist), but it still betrayed Stewart's expectation that the audience member with an Asian face was a foreigner. She even sounded disappointed when the woman said she's from New York, because Stewart wanted so badly to make her point about Asians not baking pies.