My mom and I have never really had the kind of relationship where we talked extensively about politics. However, one of my earliest and most valuable political lessons came from my mother.
My mom grew up in China and Taiwan during the Cultural Revolution, and was taught the history of both countries from Chinese and Taiwanese teachers. She believed herself well-versed in the history of these countries; that is, until she immigrated to Canada, and discovered how much of the history she had learned had been subjective — filtered through the lens of national pride and patriotism. The experience of finally reading more balanced and objective histories of China and Taiwan was a sobering one for my mother, and she instilled a pertinent life lesson on me drawn from that moment.
“Always think about who is teaching you what you are leaning,” she said, “because you may not be learning the unbiased truth.”
The practice of teaching subjective history is not limited to Asia. In America, we also grow up with an incomplete (oftentimes prejudiced) history of America and other world powers, and information is often filtered through Westernized sensibilities, politics, and patriotism.
I found Chapter 1 of Affirmative Action in China and the U.S. fascinating because it helped to reveal the inadequacies in my own education of Chinese political history and Marxist-Leninist-inspired philosophy. This is valuable because, as with all consideration of contemporary issues, a complete understanding of historical context is crucial if we are to engage in a meaningful and nuanced consideration of the subject of this book — affirmative action in China and the U.S.
This post was written with input and inspiration from Snoopy.
Yesterday, the New York Times profiled Kathryn DeWitt, a young University of Pennsylvania student whose battle with depression and her survival of a suicide attempt motivated DeWitt to become an on-campus mental health advocate. I do not write this post in an attempt to belittle DeWitt’s depression, or her mental health advocacy. Indeed, stories like DeWitt’s are necessary and inspirational, and telling them helps to pull back the veil of stigma and shame that still shrouds the topic of mental illness, depression, anxiety and suicide in university settings, or in the community at-large.
I applaud the New York Times for dedicating ample space to the topic of on-campus suicide by profiling Kathryn DeWitt, and in so doing helping to normalize mental health conversations.
But, in an article that comprehensively touched on so many topics relevant to student mental health — academic pressures, obsessive perfectionism, helicopter parenting, inadequate mental health resources, and elite universities’ damning readmission policies — how did the New York Times manage to so completely marginalize the Asian American community from the conversation?
It’s Asian vs. Asian, once again.
Earlier this year, I profiled the Oregon-based Asian American rock band, “The Slants“, whose fight to trademark their name had gone all the way to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. According to their website, The Slants has been making music together since their 2007 debut album “Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts“.
Recently, however, The Slants have found themselves embroiled in a legal battle with the US Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO), which denied them registration for the trademark of their band name on the grounds that it is derogatory towards Asian Americans. The 1946 Lanham Act prohibits registered trademarks from “consisting of or comprising of immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”
It is on this basis that opponents of the Washington Redskins and other racist sports mascots have demanded that the NFL #ChangeTheName. And indeed, when the federal government allows an entity to register a racist, sexist, or otherwise derogatory trademark, they in so doing condone the language by granting it institutional recognition and legal protection.
But, should all uses of all historically derogatory slurs simply become — in essence — blacklisted — prohibited regardless of context?
Activists tell me that Nan-Hui Jo — the Korean survivor of domestic abuse who fled her abuser with her young daughter only to be arrested last year when she reentered the United States on a tourist visa and charged with child abduction — was released from federal detention pending possible deportation. After her first trial ended in a mistrial, Jo was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to time served, but was then immediately taken into ICE custody pending possible deportation.
Korean American community activists and women’s rights workers joined forces over the last year, working tirelessly to deman Nan-Hui Jo’s release and restored access to her daughter, who is currently under full custody of her father and Jo’s abuser.
Thanks in no small part to those efforts, Nan-Hui Jo was released from ICE custody last Friday, her supporters announced this morning. She is scheduled to deliver a public statement next Wednesday morning on July 27th.
I wrote earlier this year about the story of Baby “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, a toddler who was disfigured and permanently injured by a stun grenade that landed in his playpen during the execution of a “no-knock” raid on the house where he and his family were staying. In the end, police had raided the wrong house, seeking a suspected drug dealer later arrested without violence at his actual place of residence. Bou Bou Phonesavanh was critically burned by the flashbang grenade and spent weeks in a medically induced coma; he continues to need surgeries and other medical care.
Earlier in the year, I wrote about the bizarre defense filed by police in response to a lawsuit brought on behalf of Baby Bou Bou, wherein police argue that the toddler was the one at fault for his disfigurement.