Ghost In The Shell, Iron Fist and Death Note aren’t problematic because the characters were whitewashed, it’s about the fact that these were great opportunities to showcast Asian American talent yet they refused to even consider them for the roles. No matter how you twist and turn it at the end of the day the entertainment industry can and should do a lot better.
When Third World women are asked to speak representing our racial or ethnic group, we are expected to move, charm or entertain, but not to educate in ways that are threatening to our audiences
Mitsuye Yamada, ‘Invisibility is an Unnatural Disaster: Reflections of an Asian American Woman’, in Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua (eds), This Bridge Called my Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1981), p. 71.
It’s Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage month as well as being Women’s HIstory Month, so today I thought I wold profile Yuri Kochiyama
Today’s woman of the day is Yuri Kochiyama. Kochiyama was a Japanese American human rights activist.
Mary Yuriko Nakahara was born on May 19, 1921 in San Pedro, California to Japanese immigrants. Her family was relatively affluent and she grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. In her youth she attended church and taught Sunday school. Kochiyama attended San Pedro High School. She attended Compton Junior College, where she studied English, journalism, and art. Yuri Kochiyama was a school teacher at the Presbyterian church close to where she resided.
Her life changed on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor. After the bombings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which consisted of three tall white men,barged through looking for her father. Within a matter of minutes, the three white men took her father away as he was considered a “suspect” who could threaten national security. Her father was sick to begin with and he was just released from the hospital when the FBI arrested him. Her father died the day after his release.
The U.S. government ordered Yuri, her mother and brother to leave their home in San Pedro. They were forced to move to the War Relocation Authority concentration camp at Jerome, Arkansas, where they lived for the next three years. While interned, she met her husband, Bill Kochiyama. The couple moved to New York in 1948 and lived in public housing for the next twelve years.
In 1960, Kochiyama and her husband Bill moved to Harlem in New York City and became acquainted with Malcolm X and was a member of his Organization of Afro-American Unity. She was present at his assassination on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and held him in her arms as he lay dying. She was able to form with a bond with Malcolm X because she saw that African Americans were being oppressed as well. She was sitting in the front of the Ballroom when assassins came in and killed him.
In 1977, Kochiyama joined the group of Puerto Ricans that took over the Statue of Liberty to draw attention to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence. Kochiyama and other activists demanded the release of five Puerto Rican nationalists who were jailed in the United States for more than 20 years. According to Kochiyama, despite a strong movement enabling them to occupy the statue for nine hours, they intended to “give up peacefully when the police came.” The five Puerto Ricans were eventually released.
Kochiyama also became a mentor during the Asian American movement that grew during and after the Vietnam War protests. Yuri and her husband could secure reparations and government apologies for injustices toward Asian Americans such as the Japanese American internment. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988 which, among other things, awarded $20,000 to each Japanese American internment survivor.
In 2005, Kochiyama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize through the “1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005” project
“Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students. Consciousness-raising is pertinent for power, and be sure that power will not be abusively used, but used for building trust and goodwill domestically and internationally. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build”.
I migrated to Australia from Malaysia many years ago back when I was around 6 years old. My family made the decision to move here initially temporarily for my mother to complete her PhD however we fell in love with Perth and decided to make it our forever home. The first couple of months here we stayed at my sister’s friend’s house (whom she had met through an online Jay Chou fan forum lmao). The first house we rented was a tiny 3 bedroom house on a big main street with brown brick walls which we furnished with whatever we could find on our trips to the Sunday morning market. Our home was mismatched plates and mugs and inflatable barbie chairs and bright green dining chairs and we loved it.
I remember rehearsing lines in the car on the way to my first day of school, reminding myself that the word ‘light’ had several meanings and drilling into my head that I mustn’t slip up because I wanted to fit in. I hated the fact that I had an accent and that I didn’t sound like the other kids in my class. I was embarrassed of my identity before I even gave myself the chance to explore it myself. I remember feeling so ashamed at lunch when my friends pulled out their perfectly cut sandwiches with no crusts, smothered in a slick of jam and peanut butter whilst I nervously tried to keep my container of noodles in my bag and eat them without people noticing. Leftovers of the dinner I happily devoured the night before within the comforting walls of home.
These micro elements of my first memories in Australia formed the roots of the struggle I’d face with my cultural identity – a battle I’d carry through till my final years of high school. As I struggled through my first few years in this new school with an overly eager smile and a burning desire to find my place, I came across the phrase “you’re pretty for an Asian” constantly in the midst of bending over backwards to fit in. Back then, I giggled in response and nervously thanked people for the backhanded compliment because I did not know better – it always did feel uncomfortable receiving a comment like that however I never realized why it was wrong let alone why my feelings were justified. The notion of separating and sorting is a simple human tendency, we group things together to make it easier for us to wrap our heads around it – but culture and ethnicity stand as its own and should not be used a basis to lay any prejudices on another person. “You’re pretty for an Asian” – is it necessary to include my race in there? Can’t an Asian woman be beautiful simply because she is beautiful and strong and just as worthy as any woman we stand hand in hand with? I wondered why being Asian immediately counted as a strike against my name or meant that I was instantly put into a specific pool of people, blocked off from the rest.
Standards of beauty seemed to lay so strongly embedded in the foundations of a Eurocentric viewpoint whereby anything that swayed from the norm was seem as negative. My nose is flat, my eyes are smaller, my hair and eyes are black but at least apparently I’m attractive GIVEN the fact that I am Asian? The comment needs to be called out for what it is – racist and offensive. As a 12 year old girl who grew up being constantly told that, I felt like I was constantly working against my cultural roots and that my cultural identity and ethnicity were things to be ashamed of. In fact, the first and only time I was ever taken out of class was because I yelled at a boy in music class who made fun of me for having dark hair above my lip in primary school. “moustache girl, moustache girl, moustache girl”. Although my collectivist culture pushes me to bite my tongue a lot of the time and learn to shrug things off – this issue is not something I am willing to let slide.
Yes I am an Asian woman. Yes, my eyes may be smaller and they may not be piercing shades of blue, green and hazel AND I have dark hair on places other than just my head – I am no less of a woman and I refuse to be pushed aside. I am not a fetish and I definitely do not live to fit into anyone’s mould of what they think an Asian should be. Oh and next time I bring noodles for lunch I’ll make sure to heat it up and bless the people around me with the aroma of my sweet dad’s cooking because it is bomb.
You know, I used to love Scarlett Johansson and she was once my biggest celebrity crush. But after taking the role of Motoko Kusanagi in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which should have gone to Rinko Kikuchi (or at least a Japanese woman), I no longer love or support Scarlett’s work. All I can think about when I see or think of her is how she contributes to racism and white supremacy by whitewashing roles that should go to Asian people, especially Asian women.
One of the major problems with white feminists is that they tend to only care about securing economic status, wealth, and power for others like themselves, which throws Women of Color under the bus because they do not have the privilege to reach such levels. Even if Women of Color do reach such positions, they are attacked and dehumanized simply because of their race. Not only that, but most importantly, singular topics of sexism and economics often ignore or even contribute to racism within white feminist spaces.
Sexism and economics are important topics, yes, but they need to be intersectional and include all kinds of women, especially of different races and etc.
[M]any of the first Asian women to come to the United States in the mid -1800s were disadvantaged Chinese women, who were tricked, kidnapped, or smuggled into the country to serve as the predominantly male Chinese community as prostitutes. The impression that all Asian women were prostitutes, born at that time, colored the public perception of, attitude towered, and action against all Chinese women for almost a century. Police and legislators singled out Chinese women for special restrictions and opprobriums, not so because they were prostitutes as such (since there were also many white prostitutes around playing their trade) but because – as Chinese – they allegedly brought in especially virulent strains of venereal diseases introduced opium addiction, and enticed white boys to a life of sin […] Chinese women who were not prostitutes ended up bearing the brunt of Chinese exclusion laws that passed in the late 1800s, engendered by the missionaries’ and other anti-Chinese campaigns.
Sonia Shah in “Slaying the Dragon Lady: Toward an Asian American feminism”
I am talking about what is happening to us right now, about our nonsupport of each other, about our noncaring about each other, about not seeing connections between racism and sexism in our lives. As a child of immigrant parents, as a woman of color in a white society, as a woman in a patriarchal society, what is personal to me is political.
Mitsuye Yamada, “Asian Pacific American Women and Feminism” from This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color
Delta Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc. is challenging YOU to defy stereotypes. The sorority has launched a national photo campaign through its 15 chapters at 15 universities using the hashtag #IDefyStereotypes. Shoutout to Emory University for getting the campaign started. Y’all are some badass fierce womxn!
Today’s society is plagued by labels of race, skin colors, even clothing preference. It is up to us to stop these stereotypes. And I do more than just stand up to stereotypes, I defy them. I challenge you to show what stereotype you defy! #IDefyStereotypes
I think that Suey has displayed over the last year an unwillingness to discover the community. This, I think, has very little to do with her age, and everything to do with hubris. She arrived on the scene and believed she was the first, because she didn’t know the things she didn’t know. She doesn’t know who we are and what we have done, and further never expressed interest in finding out. I fundamentally believe she didn’t know who Michelle Malkin was, and had no idea about the internment book; it was published when she was 13.
It’s not that anyone needs to kiss the ring. You don’t have to like your elders or not want to forge a different path, but you should know of their existence. You should know the people who are around you, doing work in your vicinity. You should have the wherewithal to situate yourself in this thing that is larger than yourself. Most of us at some point did that, and we did it when we were Suey’s age.
There is a huge part of me that really wants to give Suey a benefit of a doubt. Still. Even after all this. Monday’s Colbert Report show was equal parts hysterical and horrifying to me; I would NOT want to be pilloried on national television at the age of 23 for doing something I might regret by the age of 33.
But I think ultimately Jeff is right. We all started in our early 20’s, and we all did it with the brashness and idealism of youth. It’s not that Suey is young, or queer, or a woman of colour. It’s that she has a very rigid idea of “how things should be”, and I just don’t think that’s conducive to community organizing.
There are some of her followers who are comparing Suey to Yuri Kochiyama for doing anti-blackness work. I don’t think the parallel could be farther off. Yuri and her contemporaries were about listening to people, and about trying to sow harmonic disagreement; basically, finding ways to bring people’s disparate identities towards common goals while still maintaining distinctiveness. I like to think that the AAM – which is the legacy we’re now maintaining, folks – is all about that message of finding momentary political harmony in dissonance. I like to think that under other circumstances, Suey would’ve found a home among us other bloggers. It’s sad to me that she rejected what could have been in favour of this hate-fueled rhetoric that seems to categorize people’s importance based solely on their -isms.
Y'all, I’ve held back from posting about Suey because of my own complicated former friendship with her. But I’ve seen too many people hurt and too much bullying and harassment to stay quiet. Here is some excellent commentary from one of my mentors that I wanted to share.
Thousands of Americans tweeting #NotYourAsianSidekick have sparked a global debate about the way Asian women are thought of.
“Be warned,” the Chicago-based rights activist and freelance writer Suey Park tweeted early on Sunday. “Tomorrow morning we will be having a conversation about Asian American Feminism with hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick. Spread the word!!!!!!!” Her very deliberate attempt to create a debate about the way Asian-American women “have to be SMART and PRETTY to be heard and "are objectified by Asian men and White men” was hugely successful. In less than 24 hours, the hashtag has been used more than 45,000 times around the world.
The conversation, which started with discussion of how Asian women are stereotyped, soon spread to cover racism (“Oh look. More bitter liberal non-whites expressing anti-white attitudes,” tweeted one user, who was roundly criticised), the under-representation of Asian-Americans in media, dating patterns between racial groups and attitudes towards mental health. Cartoons and humour were shared and the debate also spread around the world, having particular resonance in other Western countries with large Asian minorities. One user in Toronto quoted men who say “I’ve always wanted a Chinese woman to cook for me” with the reply “I’ve always wanted laser beam eyes, sadly you’re still alive.” Another An L in Sydney tweeted: “Change in social attitudes towards Asian women is a long way off, but opening up the conversation is a great start.” The British-Asian blogger Sunny Hundal said the debate had resonance in the UK because just like Asian-Americans “we see our faces on social media, but when we turn on the TV we see only limited stereotypes.”
Suey Park said the hashtag had arisen out of her frustration at the narrow ways in which the label “Asian-American” was defined, saying #NotYourAsianSidekick would allow marginalized Asian-Americans to voice their grievances. The topic trended in both US and worldwide on Sunday, in part because of Park’s own prolific tweeting. “How much longer can we get #NotYourAsianSidekick to trend?” she asked at one point. “I’m getting tired! Fresh voices, please speak now! We need you to keep it going!”
Alright so I’m putting up some pictures as reference for what I’ll be taking about below, but the top left is a more recent photo, the top right is from two years ago, and the bottom photos are from when I was seven and five. Note that this doesn’t have anything to do with flash or lighting so just bear with me.
So I was talking about pro-whiteness in Asian cultures and naturally I’m pretty light but I tan very easily.
When I was a kid I’d always get teased, not just by schoolmates, but family as well. I remember this song that they’d sing:
“Negrita of the mountain, what kind of food you eat?”
I’d always be criticized and lectured about how dark I am and how I’m black/brown and praised and considered beautiful when I was lighter. This was a huge issue when I was growing up and I’ve only come to terms that I’ll look wherever I look like regardless and as flattering as it is to be noticed on how “flawless and pale” my skin is (please realize that I’m ‘light’ compared to the vast majority of people of my ethnicity so it’s not in the same spectrum of those who are white), it all has to do with racism and acknowledging and praising it makes it so much worse.
We have plastic surgery to create double eyelids, to make a thinner and straighter nose because large and flat ones are in appealing, skin bleaching soap, lotions, and treatments are so normal and praised and advertised all over because that’s what’s considered the “ideal beauty”.
Actors and models are always lighter than the rest of the population. You can see the differences just by watching game shows and observing what the dancers and hosts look like, compared to the rest of the audience.
This is based on western standards of beauty and how it influenced the east. As much as ignorant white people are part of the bigger problem, I can’t deny that there are issues within my own culture and until we recognize that, it’s a circuitous route and we’ll be mere puppets in perpetuating this unattainable ideal.
This again is my experience, observation, and issues. I’ve spoken to and see people go through the same thing I have and there’s no denying there is a problem with pro-whiteness in our culture. Just thought I would share my story.
[we] are dedicated to keeping a collection of asian american feminist thought and resources within the context of women-of-color feminisms…this blog is a platform for us to identify, address, and provide critical perspectives to our needs as asian american feminists.
since the forms of oppression we encounter are so vast and complex, we see “asian american feminisms” as not really single-issue identity-based, but more like a way to communicate & engage in solidarity with various feminist liberation struggles (black, indigenous, latinx, and so on) both in the U.S. and worldwide.