“Make no mistake, the industry is hard for everyone whether you’re a person of color or not. I have just as many “white” friends unemployed in this town as I do friends of color, maybe even more. I’m only telling you this to give you a reality check on how the town works. If you don’t know how something works you will never be able to change it. See, the fact is, it’s not an even playing ground, it’s just not, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t win… or at least put ourselves in the best position to win. An article came out a few years ago breaking down the statistics of ethnic roles for that year’s pilot season. Asians came in dead last, behind African American, Latino and Native American. And the reality is if there are no roles to play, it is hard to book jobs, as the handful of working Asian American actors can attest to. And many will also tell you that when they do book a coveted job, more often than not, it’s a character that reinforces some old Asian stereotypes, whether it be the nerd, or broken-English speaking foreigner or evil Kung Fu master, ninja, assassin, villain! Look, those jobs are out there and I don’t look down on any of my peers for playing them, hell, I would play one to be opposite the latest Hollywood star, and I definitely would give him a run for his money! But there is so much more to who we are as Asian Americans. And yes, I stress, Asian “American.” As much as I love Jackie Chan or Chow Yun Fat and all the wonderful cinema coming out of Hong Kong or Tokyo or Korea. It doesn’t speak to me in the same way or capture of the spirit of Asians in America. I know “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is great, and some will say it’s so acclaimed in Hollywood and even won an Oscar, but it won an Oscar as best “Foreign” film… Hey, we’re not “foreigners!” We’re American and it’s time for us to have a voice. See, in the last few years I have received a handful of achievement and “Role Model” awards from the Asian American community and I’ve graciously accepted them. I’ve always understood that in the United States, the average American who didn’t necessarily know Asians, would be exposed to the handful of characters they would come across in film or television and like it or not, they we would make assumptions and form their ideas about Asians based in large part by those roles. I have been able to play roles that were non-stereotypical over my career and helped broaden what it means to be Asian. I understood that, but I always felt I’m just an actor with a certain degree of fame and I’ve done my work and hopefully I’ve helped to open some doors for our community, but what else can I do… And that’s when this company started taking place. I guess I always just imagined that after the work I did and others including John Cho, Justin Lin, Margaret Cho and many others, Hollywood would just catch on to how cool Asians are and somehow just co-op the whole community and start making Asian American movies and television shows. It just hasn’t happened and I am no longer waiting for that dream to come true. I’ve realized that it is on us, Asian America, as a community to carve out our own voice and be responsible to tell our own stories. ”—an excerpt from Dante Basco’s new blog post, Kinetic Films. Hang Loose Movie. Summer 2012. Basco explains some challenges that Asian American actors face in the film industry and how his new production company, Kinetic Films, hopes to create new Asian American stars.
“I think most importantly, Harold and Kumar is seen in many different ways. It's to some people a buddy comedy; to others, it's an art comedy; to others, it's an Asian-American film. But to me, the most important issue is that there are two Asian leads in that movie, and it's an American comedy. People don't even realize how extraordinary that is, considering when I came into town, there was a very strong prejudice against Asians being in comedies. They said Asians aren't funny, they're not a funny race, they can't make jokes. And for a trilogy, at this point, to be completed with Asians as the leads, is a remarkable social achievement, in my opinion. ”—John Cho
“Kochiyama’s life in social change is inspiring, both for its longevity and for her willingness to take on the most controversial causes. She is, perhaps, most famous for her association with Malcolm X, and for the photos of her holding Malcolm X in her arms as he lay dying after being gunned down in the Audubon Ballroom on February 12, 1965. But there was much, much more to Kochiyama’s activism than her sojourn with the Organization for Afro-American Unity. She fought for Puerto Rican independence, provided support for social and political prisoners, and was instrumental in the fight for reparations for Japanese American internees. But the importance of Kochiyama’s story doesn’t end with her personal history. For while she is no doubt a remarkable person, she was not alone among Asian Americans of her generation in her commitment to social justice. Throughout her story we are reminded of others who struggled alongside her, of the the Asian American movement of the 1960s that was inspired, in part, by Japanese American internment, exclusionary and blatantly racist immigration laws, the Vietnam War, and exploitation and discrimination of Asian immigrant workers. That movement gave birth to the phrase “Asian American” as a statement of inter-ethnic solidarity, and it stood against unjust wars and with the movements for African American civil rights, workers rights, and immigrant rights, and for multiculturalism, open enrollment in colleges and universities, and diversification of university curricula. That movement gave us Asian American studies, and Asian American studies has allowed us to create a record of our history, in our own words.”—Scot Nakagawa, “Yuri Kochiyama,” ChangeLab 5/20/13
Today the one of my bosses at work invited all of her employees out to lunch for an end of the school year thank you. I came a little late, and sat down next to my friend, who is Asian, at a table where the other three people were Asian. Of the tables at this lunch, ours was the only one that was full of Asian people. It was a slightly funny thing, and we remarked on it briefly but that was it. Another coworker of mine walked in and sat down at the table with us. After sitting there for a while, he mentioned how funny it was that he was the only white guy at this table.
“Oh this is the Asian table!! Haha it’s like I’M the minority now! Actually I’m WHITE AND JEWISH. So I’m a double minority. Hahaha. This is how you guys must feel.”
Later I told a funny story about how my parents made us eat all of our food when my and my siblings were little. We all laughed and this kid says, “hahaha. Can you do an Asian accent?!”. At this point the laughter died down, and we were moving on with the conversation. I looked at him, said “No” and tried to move on. He tried again, “Can you do a Chinese accent?! Or Vietnamese accent?” He was clearly asking me to mock my parents and their accents. I again said no and the conversation moved on. The entire table was quiet and noticeably irritated.
Later in the meal we were talking about our grandparents, and now this kid chimes in with, “What do you guys call your grandparents?!” My friend quickly replied with “Well, I just call them grandma and grandpa just in Chinese.” “OH so you don’t have nicknames like MeeMa or something?” “No.”
A few things:
a) Don’t compare the experience of being a minority person with sitting at a table of people who are different than you. Your experience with eating lunch with people who are all Asian doesn’t mean you experienced what it’s like to be a minority. I don’t understand the joke you are trying to make. You’re not funny. You’re insulting and reducing the experience of all minority people to how “funny” it is that you’re at a table of all Asians.
b) Don’t ask me to do an Asian accent to make fun of my parents and my people. I’m not your toy parrot or a clown. I can do a damn good Vietnamese accent, but I’m not pulling it out to make jokes for you. I can make Vietnamese jokes with my friends who understand the actual experience of having to learn a new language and who come from a place of respect and love for those who have. I’m not your toy, I do not operate for your pleasure at your beckoning.
c) Stop. Just stop. Don’t assume that I have some fun little nickname for my grandparents. Even if I did, don’t ask me to pull it out so you can call it cute or funny.
At this end of this lunch the white guy left, and my friend was like “Was I being too mean?”
No. You weren’t. We do not need to pander to your requests, especially when you ask us to mock our people, language, and culture for the expense of your entertainment.
We discussed it a little, and I reassured her she was exactly on point.
“Good. I wasn’t the head of the Asian American Cultural Center for a year for nothing. I definitely wasn’t going to take that.”
Studies show that 54% of Asian kids get bullied, be it physically, mentally, or emotionally. That is astoundingly higher than the national average of 20% of children. That means that 1 out of very 2 Asian man you know, has been bullied before in his life. That’s nuts! And it’s more than the bullying crisis that gay/homosexual teens face, but has gotten all the news coverage and support from the celebrities.
But more than that, going back to Private Danny Chen (where it was just recently announced that one of his attackers was only getting 30 days of jail-time) and the military, Asian Americans in the military have the HIGHEST SUICIDE RATE of any group or ethnicity (“Soldiers of Asian descent have dramatically higher suicide rates than other racial groups. Their risk is double or triple that of other soldiers, and four times higher in the war zone.”). Let me repeat that: the ASIANS HAVE THE HIGHEST SUICIDE RATE IN THE MILITARY.
Danny Chen has called a “gook,” “chink,” “dragon lady” and unfortunately he didn’t know how defend himself or stand up for himself against these racists that might have made the bullies back down. A lot of it has to do with how we’re raising our children and the fact that we’re such an easy target for people to take out their racist, prejudiced beliefs.
In fact, there was a school that had so many racist bullying events and the Asian Americans feared so much for their safety that they had to stage a strike and REFUSE to go to school. Yes, Asians refusing to go to school until the American establishment could guarantee their safety. We are the most prone group to be targeted by bullies and racists.
Another study shows that an overwhelming 99% of Filipinos have been victims of racism in the past year, but that the majority of them decided to take action about it by either standing up for themselves or reporting it to authorities. After doing so, they too, just like I did, felt a new sense of confidence and self-worth. By taking action, they felt better about themselves as a person.
You know, what aggravates me is that in fact, it is true we are succeeding in colleges and universities—education in general, but the fact that we have done plenty to be at least named or at least give fame in American history. Like no one gives a rotten shit about Luce–Celler Act of 1946; nor gave a shit about Indian slaves that were brought here (a few) to work by the British. It’s rather stereotypical to think that all Asians are smart, or that they have more privilege in college. As a person of Asian descent, I need that college degree in order to help my family back in India. The fact that we have to work our asses off for credits and scores, we have no privilege for it. The worst thing to hear from a white dude is that we are stealing their jobs, which I’m sure all Asians deal with it; excuse this is not privilege, but rather than we worked our asses off. Labour (mental or physical) =/= Privilege.
I mean, Asian Americans in general are ignored and no one brings them up; we are no longer a minority anymore. As the percentage of Asians in America is increasing, so is the rate of discrimination that Asian face. It’s disgusted and appalling to using the term “Asian privilege”. We have no privilege; trust me, millions of Asian immigrants had no privilege when they were trying to escape from their lands to come here, only to find themselves being exploited by labour, then realize that education is the only way to “suceed”.
“May is officially Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, and when we consider their many contributions to society, we can't help but recognize their influence in style. From streetwear icons like Eddie Huang and jeffstaple to designers like Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang, Asian-Americans have done a lot to shape the way we dress today. That's why we culled some super-practical style tips from men all over the spectrum, from entertainers, creatives, and designers, here are 10 Style Tips You Can Learn From Famous Asian-Americans.”—Jian DeLeon, “10 Style Tips You Can Learn From Famous Asian-Americans,” Complex Style 5/6/13
Because discourse on Asian-American politics and history almost always excludes South Asians and only involves East Asians, I’ve decided to compile a list of books regarding South Asian-American politics and history!
- Bengali Harlem and the Lost History of South Asian America: Written by Vivek Bald.
- Hip Hop Desis: South Asian Americans, Blackness, and a Global Race Consciousness: Written by Nitasha Tamar Sharma.
- The World Next Door: South Asian American literature and the Idea of America: Written by Rajini Srikanth.
- Negotiating Ethnicity: Second Generation South Asian Americans Traverse a Transnational World: Written by Bandana Purkayastha
- South Asian Americans: Written by Karen I. Leonard
- Desi Divas: Political Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performances: Written by Christine L. Garlough
- Eyes of the Storms: The Voices of South Asian American Women: Written by Roksana Badruddoja
- Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American poetry
- Message me for more! (I’m a lazy little shit, basically. ;D)