Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | aapi
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"Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" In honor of the final day of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I wanted to share an iconic classic television commercial. I grew up with the accusing tone of the white woman who catches the affable Asian laundry owner in a lie, ringing in my head. The TV commercial was for Calgon water softener, and the scene is in a Chinese laundry shop, run by "Mr. Lee." Here's the quite accurate description of the 30-second flash of Asian stereotype from the YouTube page that features the video:

The character of Russell in the movie "Up" is Asian American!From Channel APA: This one snuck up on me, but the new Disney-Pixar animated feature, "Up," stars an Asian American character, voiced by an Asian American kid. The part of Russell, the young scout who gloms onto the grumpy old man Carl just as the two take off on a crazy adventure, is read by Jordan Nagai, a Japanese American young man who was 7 when the movie was made. How cool is that? But wait, there's more: The Russell character itself was modeled on an Asian American animator at Pixar, Peter Sohn.

Yul Kwon is the first Asian American to win one of the seasons of "Survivor." He won the "Cook Islands" season in 2006.The second interview lined up for visualizAsian.com's AAPI Empowerment Series is with Korean American attorney-turned-TV celebrity Yul Kwon. The interview will be held Tuesday, June 9 at 6 pm PDT (9 pm EDT). Erin and I were fortunate to see Yul speak during last year's Democratic National Convention in Denver, and more recently during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month at an event in Denver. He's a great role model because of his accomplishments, and because he's on a mission to dispel myths and stereotypes about Asian American Pacific Islanders, and to urge AAPIs to enter the political process. Kwon has a diverse background in law, politics, technology, business, and media -- except for his exceptional "Survivor" victory, he's almost a model for the "model minority" myth!

Historian and author Ronald Takaki, who died May 26, 2009There 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. They include Helen Zia's "Asian American Dreams," Bill Hosokawa's "Nisei: The Quiet Americans," Phoebe Eng's "Warrior Lessons," Ben Fong-Torres' "The Rice Room" and Ronald Takaki's "Strangers from a Different Shore." 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.

A Japanese American festival in Seabrook, NJ where the community performs a traditional Japanese obon dance It's May. Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I wonder, though, if this celebration of our heritage is an idea whose time has passed. I'm glad that we have our month every year, but I'm worried that we're emphasizing the wrong things year after year. Erin and I are starting to feel that APA Heritage Month may be counter-productive. The Pacific Citizen published a well-written piece last week, "Time to Rethink Asian Pacific American Heritage Month?" and I agree, it's time to re-think the tradition even though it's only 31 years old. Last year, I wrote about how a 10-year-old Denver event, an Asian community celebration held in downtown Denver every May, needed to evolve from just Asians performing for other Asians. It was a useful educational display back when our many communities stayed cloistered and Japanese didn't know much about Vietnamese, and Vietnamese didn't know much about Filipinos, and Filipinos didn't know much about Cambodians and Cambodians didn't know much about Koreans... you get the idea. But today, with especially young people mixing a lot more outside their own communities, it seems like a closed celebration, like preaching to the choir about the richness of our heritage. If you attend the annual event, you've seen many of the same performers year after year. Even if the audience was expanded outside the Asian community, though, to the wider non-Asian population, I wonder if that would be good or bad for Asian Americans.

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.

Musical interlude: I saw on Facebook that Kinna Grannis had posted a video of herself with David Choi, sittin' on a couch and humming and strumming the pop standard, "What a Wonderful World." It's a very sweet version, and the two harmonize beautifully together. I blogged about Grannis a few months ago when I stumbled across her version of "Sukiyaki."...