chinese-american

The question “whats your name” should be a no-brainer for most, and yet it’s one of the hardest questions that I’ve had to confront, repeatedly, throughout my life. How should I render my name on my diploma?

I’m gonna put Victor Zheng on my diploma. Yu Zheng has been my name for official purposes and I’ve long used Yu Victor Zheng as a hybrid name, but I’ve always found it unwieldy. Yu Zheng is an westernization of my Chinese name, simply by reversing the order of the words, but it’s no more western to unfamiliar eyes because of it, while nevertheless rendering it unacceptable as a form of address to me in Chinese. In turn, my hybridized name, Yu Victor Zheng, is natural and/or convenient in neither Chinese nor English, which really defeats the purpose of a name. I’ve used both options to compromise Chinese and English but in reality all I’ve done in both cases is make my resulting name an outcast from both languages.

I’m not forsaking Chinese by using Victor Zheng. Seeing as my diploma will be in English and conferred by an English-speaking institution, I’m deciding to give my name as much credence as it can in English. Having grown up in the US, Victor is as much a part of my identity as 郑峪 is, just as my American identity is just as strong as my Chinese identity, and I do myself and my culture no injustice with this decision. After all, in no circumstances have I compromised my Chinese name in a Chinese setting. What would happen if I rendered Victor Zheng in Chinese, 维克多 • 郑, would be every bit as foreign in Chinese as Yu Zheng has always been to western eyes.

Photograph of two Chinese male actors in costume taken in a studio, ca.1900. They are sitting beside a small table with a tablecloth on it, and on the floor are two rugs. Their legs are spread wide and each has one hand on the table and the other hand in a fist on his waist. They both wear decorative head dress. Record ID: chs-m10297. Part of the C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, 1860-1960.

Source: University of Southern California Libraries

oh my god I’m at this white-as-snow American-chinese place and our braised pork came over and the chef is staring, I’m imagining him staring at my mom and I thinking…. yes….. They are Asian….. Do they approve……..

3

im like really excited for this course! its about family, gender & sexuality in modern china. it’s prob gonna cover the evolution through the qing and republican and then communist decades. We have to do a final project on a topic of our choosing too and the guidelines are fairly flexible so I kind of want to, i dunno, interview a lot of american-born chinese kids with mainland-born parents and assess the impact of the norms that existed in the 60s, 70s, 80s back home, and the changing landscape of gender and sexuality in china, and norms in the US which are also changing. And how that rlly multifaceted and fluid and often contradictory background informs the ways american kids of chinese descent think about their own gender and sexual identities. I mean depending on else we learn that might change but just a mulling thought presently

meaning of “american”

When I was around 6 years old, my dad told me, “you’re not chinese. You’re an American who happens to speak chinese.” Since I spoke a lot more Chinese back then, and thought the word “American” was nothing but a language, I was very confused. Fast forward to when I took a trip this summer to Taiwan for three weeks, and wasn’t prepared for how out-of-place I would feel in the first week. Yes, I spoke their language, looked like 97.5% (or something) of their population, and had parents that were from there as well, but I still felt like a foreigner. It was strange not seeing diversity around me, or hearing different languages depending on where I went. The small nuances and mannerisms felt strange to me, and I was always unsure of whether I was going to insult someone, or feel insulted.

I feel more at home here because this is simply the place I am most familiar with. My mannerisms are very American, a lot of what I believe in is a result of the culture here. Even now, my parents still struggle to understand “this teenage american culture,” conversations which have lead to arguments and irritation on both ends of the party. For me, living in between two different sets of ideals and values – as rewarding as it is – can often become frustrating, and the ideas of “origin” and “identity” become skewed. I think that being “American” extends beyond just living here – because plenty of people live in a country for years, and never truly identify with it. Because America is so young and diverse, we don’t have much of a national identity… the old “American dream”, while cute, isn’t as glorious as it sounds, and the diversity of our country means that we are constantly changing. Perhaps part of being American is figuring out what everything means. A huge part of our culture stresses individuality, and I think that plays a big role in this identity. If you think you’re American then that means you are. Nothing else really matters, because maybe part of being American is not completely knowing where you come from, or where you belong.

On June 19, 1982, a young Chinese American man named Vincent Chin was brutally beaten to death in Detroit, Michigan. Vincent had been at his bachelor party with friends at a local suburban bar when Chrysler superintendent Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz insulted Vincent: “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work.” Ebens and Nitz were found guilty of manslaughter and charged three years of probation, a $3,000 fine, and $780 in court fees without spending a day in jail.

The murder of Vincent Chin became a pivotal point for the Asian American community and is often considered to be the beginning of the pan-Asian civil rights movement. 

#NeverForget how the justice system failed us. Never forget the name #VincentChin.

3

Math and Science Week!

Chien-Shiung Wu, First Lady of Physics

Chien-Shiung Wu (simplified Chinese: 吴健雄; traditional Chinese: 吳健雄; pinyin: Wú Jiànxióng, May 31, 1912 – February 16, 1997) was a Chinese Americanexperimental physicist who made significant contributions in the research of radioactivity.

Wu worked on the Manhattan Project, where she helped develop the process for separating uranium metal into the U-235 and U-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion. She is best known for conducting the Wu experiment, which contradicted the Law of Conservation of Parity. This discovery earned the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics for her colleagues Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang, and also earned Wu the inaugural Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978.

Her expertise in experimental physics evoked comparisons to Marie Curie, and her many honorary nicknames include “the First Lady of Physics”, “the Chinese Madame Curie”, and the “Queen of Nuclear Research”.

Further Reading:

Chinese people didn’t see therapists. Spend $100 to tell a stranger your problems? Are you crazy? Why, yes, maybe I am. But I don’t know because my mom won’t give me the money to see a shrink. Western psychology and “seeing a therapist” (especially one that you have to pay megabucks by the hour to tell your secrets to) is still a completely foreign concept to people of my parents’ generation who believed seeing a therapist would prevent you from getting a job. And mind you, my parents were born in America.
— 

Comedian Kristina Wong, creator of the theater show “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

The article addresses both silence around mental illness in Chinese American communities and racism/centering of white cultural norms in U.S. psychiatry.

Anna May Wong/Huáng Liǔshuāng/黃柳霜: Why she kicks ass

  • She was the first Chinese American movie star, and the first Asian American actress to gain international recognition. Her long and varied career spanned both silent and sound film, television, stage, and radio.
  • At the age of 17 she played her first leading role, in the early Metro two-strip Technicolor movie The Toll of the Sea. Written by Frances Marion, the story was based loosely on Madama Butterfly. The New York Times commented, “Miss Wong stirs in the spectator all the sympathy her part calls for, and she never repels one by an excess of theatrical ‘feeling’. She has a difficult role, a role that is botched nine times out of ten, but hers is the tenth performance. Completely unconscious of the camera, with a fine sense of proportion and remarkable pantomimic accuracy … She should be seen again and often on the screen.”
  • During the silent film era, she acted in The Toll of the Sea (1922), one of the first movies made in color and Douglas Fairbanks' The Thief of Bagdad (1924). Wong became a fashion icon, and by 1924 had achieved international stardom
  • However, due to anti-miscegenation laws, she was often passed over for the leading female role, which prevented her from sharing an on-screen kiss with any person of another race.There was only one leading Asian man in U.S. films in the silent era, so unless Asian leading men could be found, she could not be a leading lady.
  • In the late 1930s, she starred in several B movies for Paramount Pictures, portraying Chinese Americans in a positive light. These smaller-budgeted films could be bolder than the higher-profile releases, and she used this to her advantage to portray successful, professional, Chinese-American characters.
  • She paid less attention to her film career during World War II, when she devoted her time and money to helping the Chinese cause against Japan.
  • She returned to the public eye in the 1950s in several television appearances as well as her own series in 1951, The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, the first U.S. television show starring an Asian-American series lead.
  • She often used her celebrity to make political statements: late in 1931, for example, she wrote a harsh criticism of the Mukden Incidentand Japan’s subsequent invasion of Manchuria. She also became more outspoken in her advocacy for Chinese American causes and for better film roles. In a 1933 interview for Film Weekly entitled “I Protest”, Wong criticized the negative stereotyping in Daughter of the Dragon, saying, “Why is it that the screen Chinese is always the villain? And so crude a villain – murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass! We are not like that. How could we be, with a civilization that is so many times older than the West?”
  • In 1934, the Mayfair Mannequin Society of New York voted her “The World’s best-dressed woman”, and in 1938 Look magazine named her “The World’s most beautiful Chinese girl”.
  •  In a stopover in Tokyo on the way to Shanghai, local reporters, ever curious about her romantic life, asked if she had marriage plans, to which Wong replied, “No, I am wedded to my art.” The following day, however, Japanese newspapers reported that Wong was married to a wealthy Cantonese man named Art.

The history of segregation in the United States is often seen in black and white. Leslie Bow, professor of English and Asian American studies, is interested in the experiences of communities that fell outside those color lines.

In her new book, Partly Colored: Asian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated South, Bow examines what segregation demanded of people who did not fall into the category of black or white — including Asians, American Indians and people of mixed race.

Wisconsin Week: What did segregation mean for people who — as you described it — stood outside the color lines? You posed the question, “Where did the Asian sit on the segregated bus?’

Leslie Bow: I think what’s most interesting to me about a project like this is that we often conflate race with African-Americans or see race as a black-white issue. When we say “multiculturalism” … we don’t think conceptually or theoretically about the challenge that poses to the way we think about racial history in the United States… …

WW: You mentioned your parents, who are Chinese-American. They attended white schools in Arkansas but didn’t socialize with and weren’t invited to the homes of their white classmates and I wondered how much their experience impacted your research interests?

LB: Definitely, because it was something that they themselves did not talk about. What I found was that they mediated that experience by creating a third level of segregation where there was limited social engagement with either whites or blacks. Their social context was wholly Chinese-American at the time. So, to me that was just the jumping off point for really an exploration of ambiguity…(via Mixed Race Studies » Leslie Bow)

A story that has never been told, Chinese American Exclusion/Inclusion illustrates the often overlooked Chinese experience at the heart of American history. The New York Historical Society’s landmark exhibition will be on from September 26th until May 2015. This exhibit highlights the lives, achievements, culture, struggles, and diversity of Chinese Americans from the 18th century to today.

Please help the New York Historical Society in conveying the richness of our lived experiences. The Many Faces page on the exhibit’s website offers an opportunity for Chinese Americans to tell their own stories. The New York Chinese-American community is invited to share a story and photo. Submissions may be featured in the exhibit or online. Click here to share your story. 

Why don’t you ever ask an African-American what it feels like to know that the “standard” American is white?

Why don’t you ever ask a third generation Chinese-American what it feels like to know that a first generation Swedish-American will be considered more “American” than him?

Why don’t you ever ask an Indian-American with an accent that deviates from the norm what it feels like to have her pronunciation corrected every single day while a white person with the same manner of speech gets accepted for having a “regional accent”?

Why don’t you ever ask a dark skinned girl what it feels like to know that the only time her presence will ever get acknowledged in the media is if she’s playing the role of a victim or a temptress?

Why don’t you ever ask a hijabi what it feels like to have other people debate her right to wear what she wants to wear, and refuse to even acknowledge her own opinion on the issue?

Why don’t you ever ask us what it feels like to not be white?

Why don’t you ever ask?

—  I couldn’t fall asleep so I wrote this down instead…(via angryhijabi)

Kimmel Chaos

What started out a simple TV joke has got bigger, much bigger; and the Jimmy Kimmel issue has now spiraled out of control. It seems that the network’s apologyKimmel’s apology, attempts to embarrass and harass him and the seemingly endless protests are not enough; this is now an issue only fit for the White House!

Over 100,000 angry citizens have demanded that their petition, demanding Kimmel’s show be axed, be approved by the White House.

Kimmel’s TV skit, which saw a young child suggesting that Chinese people be killed, has sparked the largest Chinese protest in US history, in New York. It saw Chinese Americans take to the streets en masse, holding up signs urging the TV network to “Fire Kimmel” and saying “Killing is not a joke”.

Read more…