Andrew Yang’s Problematic Reinforcement of the Model Minority Myth

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang at the Sept 12 Democratic primary debate in Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Tonight, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Yang joined the nine other top Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage at Texas Southern University. A noteworthy moment for Asian Americans, Yang remains one of the first Asian Americans in history to run a national campaign for the presidency.

That’s why it is all the more problematic that Yang routinely leans upon Model Minority stereotypes of Asian Americans to advance his candidacy. As early as last year, Yang routinely framed himself as qualified to be president because he is a “smart Asian” who is “good at math” — a classic Model Minority trope reminiscent of the infamous Time magazine cover that popularized model minority stereotypes for a generation of Americans. Tonight, Yang invoked a different facet of the Model Minority Myth when he quipped in response to a question on healthcare that “I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.

The Model Minority Myth has stood at the root of a good deal of anti-Asian racism and oppression. Yet, Yang is unconcerned by the many ways that the Model Minority Myth hurts Asian Americans and other people of colour. Instead, Yang sees Model Minority caricatures of Asian Americans as something to lean into and to laugh at, and he even sells math-branded Yang swag in his campaign store.

I can’t but wonder if Andrew Yang sees Model Minority stereotypes as a joke, then who’s really laughing with him?

Continue reading “Andrew Yang’s Problematic Reinforcement of the Model Minority Myth”

Crazy Rich Asians and How Hollywood Constructs Race Under Global Capitalism

A screenshot from "Crazy Rich Asians".

By Guest Contributor: Alison Roh Park

This essay originally appeared on Medium.

Within six months of Crazy Rich Asians’ much anticipated release, I was physically assaulted by a White woman in furs on the 6-train in New York City. She shouted at me to go back to China, and shortly thereafter I was verbally assaulted on the 1-train by a musician/busker (and a middle-aged Black gentleman) whom I didn’t have a donation for. Ironically, this was all while I was seated across from two White women also wearing fur.

Asian American New Yorkers have the greatest internal wealth disparity than any other group. Chinese Americans are disproportionately represented under the poverty line, while headlines about massive Chinese real estate buys and a so-called U.S.-China trade war loom on every outlet. This plays out for urban Asian Americans on the hyperlocal level in New York City — for instance, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, overseas Chinese real estate buyers and developers are gentrifying and displacing longtime Chinese residents of this historic neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Asian American women remain pointedly invisible. Shows like The Expanse and Top of the Lake: China Girl (literally — with the White feminist superstar Elizabeth Moss investigating the rape and disappearance of a virtually mute 12 year old Vietnamese girl) hinge on the idea and trope of “Asian Women” and as victims of sexual violence whose end is inevitable, while simultaneously obliterating them from the actual substance of the show.

Continue reading “Crazy Rich Asians and How Hollywood Constructs Race Under Global Capitalism”

Trump’s Title X ‘Gag Rule’ Hurts Asian American Women and Other WOC Who Need Access to Reproductive Healthcare

A sign outside a Planned Parenthood building in NYC. (Photo credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The Trump administration is holding true to the president’s campaign trail promise to wage a war on women, and the women who are suffering the greatest effects of the president’s hateful policies remain low-income women of color.

Under Title X, reproductive healthcare programs can apply to receive federal funding in order to provide family planning and reproductive healthcare services for low-income patients — all of whom are thereby able to access critical family planning services and reproductive healthcare for little or no cost. Title X funding helps to maintain several community-based reproductive healthcare clinics across the clinic that offer contraceptive services, prenatal care, routine tests and screenings, and treatment for sexually-transmitted infection.

Pandering to his Far Right anti-abortion base, the president’s administration instituted a new federal rule earlier this year that would prevent any reproductive healthcare provider that receives Title X funds from helping patients learn from their doctor where they can obtain abortion services, even if through medically-informed counseling the patient decides that an abortion is the best course of action. This ‘gag rule’ — which effectively restricts the information a patient can receive from their doctor — is a heinous affront to reproductive healthcare access, and it will specifically impact low-income women of colour who rely on Planned Parenthood for family planning and reproductive healthcare access, including thousands of Asian American women.

Today, Planned Parenthood announced that due to the Trump administration’s gag rule, it would no longer accept Title X funding, threatening the network of clinics that Planned Parenthood operates across the country.

Continue reading “Trump’s Title X ‘Gag Rule’ Hurts Asian American Women and Other WOC Who Need Access to Reproductive Healthcare”

Building Power at the Intersection of Race and Electoral Politics

Representative Ayanna Pressley speaks at a podium during a press conference as Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib look on.

By Guest Contributor: Sudip Bhattacharya

After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary win against the establishment Democrat in New York’s 14th Congressional District, I contacted my Democratic Socialists of America chapter to see how I could help. Prior to Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, I had hesitated in officially joining the DSA. I believed it offered little for black and brown communities like mine. However, watching clips of Ocasio-Cortez speaking on issues important to working-class black and brown people while knowing that she was endorsed by the DSA, forced me to rethink my previous assumptions.

Ocasio-Cortez, and others like Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib also forced my colleagues and students at Rutgers University to reassess what they may have thought about politics. More students are now receptive to discussions of socialism and feel emboldened in positively changing the U.S. political system. My own family members and friends have become obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez and those like her — they read whatever they can about them and share clips of them on social media.

However, as I’ve continued to help organize around issues like housing with our Central Jersey DSA chapter, I also recognize the limits of electoral politics in significantly improving peoples’ lives, especially for black and brown communities. After all, in New Jersey, we have Democrats dominating the State Assembly and a Democrat as Governor — and yet, living and working conditions for many black and brown residents continue to deteriorate. Therefore, it is necessary to reevaluate the role of electoral politics in building socialism. I argue that when examining electoral politics, we must center our analysis on black and brown people in the U.S. Doing so reveals that electoral politics shouldn’t be summarily dismissed, but ultimately, our goal must be to build constituencies among people of color that remain independent of either political party. Only with this strategy can we apply pressure to policymakers — regardless of their partisan affiliation and campaign promises – to better the lives of black and brown people.

Continue reading “Building Power at the Intersection of Race and Electoral Politics”

“The Farewell” and the Duality of Language: Finding Depth in What Can and Cannot Be Said

Scene from "The Farewell", directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina.

By Guest Contributor: Claudia Vaughan

Editor’s Note: Please note that this post may contain minor spoilers for the film, “The Farewell”.

The Farewell, A24’s latest film from Chinese-American director Lulu Wang, hit theaters earlier this month, packing a soft but powerful punch. At its core, the film examines what it means to be a caring, accountable family member – AND whether that can ever include being untruthful with your loved ones. The opening scene cheekily notes that the story is “based on an actual lie,” borrowing from real events in Wang’s own life centered around her family’s decision to hide news of her grandmother Nai Nai’s terminal cancer from her. (The story originally ran as an episode of This American Life before Wang began developing it as a feature).

The choice not to inform an elderly relative of his/her illness is commonplace in some Asian cultures, as relatives receive the diagnosis from the doctor first and then choose whether that information is actually shared with the patient. Oftentimes it is not, as is the case in The Farewell. Because of the family’s decision to keep Nai Nai’s diagnosis a secret from her, The Farewell quickly becomes a story of what can and cannot be said – both literally, due to language barriers, and figuratively, in terms of what information can be divulged to whom.

One might even say that language becomes a character in its own right, proving to be a source of power – the more of it you have, the more information you accumulate, but, on the other hand, the more responsibility you must then personally bear.

Continue reading ““The Farewell” and the Duality of Language: Finding Depth in What Can and Cannot Be Said”