Anti-Asian Hate Crime Spree in Brooklyn

Racial Hate Crimes by Type of Offense in 2008. Statistics originally published by the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics.

Caught this on my Facebook this morning:

Asian women targeted in Lower Manhattan

All of the victims were attacked in lower Manhattan in and around the Baruch Houses. Surveillance video shows five teens entering the scene of one attack that happened on March 31 at the Gompers Houses at 90 Pitt Street. Two of the teens are female; three are male.

In the most recent incident, a 68-year-old woman was assaulted on Tuesday in front of 247 East Broadway at about 11 p.m.

Police say all of the victims have been Asian and between 50-71 years old.

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At first, I thought this was a copycat of the sick rapist in California who was targeting Asian females for sexual assault and rape last year — but, no, this is a completely different kind of fucked up: teenagers beating up elderly Asian mothers and grandmothers. How twisted do you have to be to think that this is a fun Friday evening activity for you and your tween posse?

The tragic fact about hate crimes is that the statistics are probably a woeful under-estimate of the actual number of hate crimes that occur on a day-to-day basis in this country. Victims are often reluctant to report minor crimes, and law enforcement officials also may fail to recognize a violent crime as a hate crime.

Further, Asian Americans may be reluctant to report a hate crime, for a variety of reasons. The Japanese American Citizens League lists these possible reasons for hate crime underreporting in the APIA community in their (phenomenal) guide to hate crimes in the Asian American community, When Hate Hits Home.

Even though many police departments are set up to investigate hate crimes, incidents of hate crime reporting involving Asian Pacific American victims is seriously underreported to the police. Reasons for this include:

  • Immigrant victims may face language and cultural barriers to filing police reports.
  • Immigrant victims are often unfamiliar with American law and fearful of law enforcement.
  • Some victims are afraid that by reporting hate-related attacks, it will draw attention to them and make them vulnerable to further attacks.
  • Some victims believe that their complaints will not be taken seriously by the police, or worse, that the police will persecute them for reporting incidents

While understandable, this response to a hate crime actually disadvantages both the individual victims of a hate crime and the community in general. Silence in the wake of a hate crime can make it appear as if our community isn’t being victimized by hate crime perpetrators — diverting important preventative resources from our community — and it can actually embolden offenders to act again and more violently.

The FBI’s 2008 hate crime statistics show that 3% of race-based hate crimes were enacted against Asian American Pacific Islanders, but I wonder how closely this reflects what’s really happening to our community on the streets?

DDK on Hawaii Five-O

Daniel Dae Kim, of Lost, is the first member of the cast to find work after the show’s much-touted May series finale. (And you’re crazy if you’re not watching this show. Last week was mind-blowingly-oh-my-god-they-did-not-just-do-that awesome.) DDK’s going to play Detective Chin Ho Kelly on CBS’ remake of Hawaii Five-O.

And, hey, maybe he’ll even get to speak English, and not pidgin, in this new show!

More on Anti-Asian Bias

The idea of anti-Asian bias in college admissions is gaining further traction in mainstream media. This article in the Boston Globe perpetuates the rather simplistic idea that equates higher mean SAT scores for Asian applicants with an “Asian Ceiling” that discriminates against Asian American students.

The article draws on Espenshade’s study, which I reviewed last year, and which can lead to an oversimplification (dare I say “white-washing) of the situation. At least my friend Oiyan Poon gets it right:

“When you look at the private Ivy Leagues, some of them are looking at Asian-American applicants with a different eye than they are white applicants,’’ says Oiyan Poon, the 2007 president of the University of California Students Association. “I do strongly believe in diversity, but I don’t agree with increasing white numbers over historically oppressed populations like Asian-Americans, a group that has been denied civil rights and property rights.’’ But Poon, now a research associate at the University of Massachusetts Boston, warns that there are downsides to having huge numbers of Asian-Americans on a campus.

In California, where passage of a 1996 referendum banned government institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, Asians make up about 40 percent of public university students, though they account for only 13 percent of residents. “Some Asian-American students feel that they lost something by going to school at a place where almost half of their classmates look like themselves – a campus like UCLA. The students said they didn’t feel as well prepared in intercultural skills for the real world.’’

Oh yeah, and is anyone else creeped out that there was a seminar at a national college admissions conference that was titled, in all earnestness, “Too Asian?”

Campus Ghost Story

When I was in college, there sure as heck weren’t zombies, ghosts, and incredibly beautiful people having a bunch of sex with each other. Okay, at least there weren’t a lot of zombies and ghosts.

Filmmaker Quentin Lee has teamed up with artist John Hahn to write and illustrate an online graphic novel entitled Campus Ghost Story. Both Asian American, Lee and Hahn have set out to create a “fun and sexy horror story” that “[at] the heart of it is about how young adults construct their identity and fear against issues of race, gender and sexuality”.

Since I’m y’know me, I pretty much jumped at the idea of a couple of Asian American creators making a comic book about race and gender. And who doesn’t love a good comic with sexuality, right?

So, since I’m sitting here at my desk waiting for tissue to digest (I won’t bore you with the science-y details), I decided to check out the 13-page preview of Campus Ghost Story (which, it seems, represents the first of eight chapters in the book).

The first 13 pages of CGS set the environment for the tale. The opening panel shows the college quad at night, dominated by a large clocktower which, as I assume, is really the focus of the piece. And I was immediately drawn into the world of CGS; I could swear to you that artist John Hahn was given pictures of my alma mater (Cornell University) at night from which to draw his inspiration. Although, to be fair, Cornell’s clocktower isn’t (at least to my knowledge) haunted by the ghost of a dead student wearing a hoodie.

The rest of the chapter introduces us to one of the three primary protagonists: red-haired Julian who is feeling overwhelmed by college. His best friend / roommate, pudgy and Asian American Mark, wants to ditch his nerdy past and hopes to pledge a frat so he can be cool, but Julian is totally not interested. Further complicating matters is the implication that Julian is gay, although it’s not clear if he’s out to himself (let alone to anyone else).

After (literally) running away from a hot topless guy in the men’s locker room (which, I gotta say, was a little – uhm – on the nose) Julian meets a handsome guy in a hoodie named Darren. Flirty, tense, Dawson’s Creek moment later, and cue the climactic scene we kind of all knew was coming from the get-go. I’ll leave it to you to read that part for yourself.

CGS is definitely noteworthy for the art, alone. I’ve never really seen Hahn’s work before, but the stark line art that he uses in CGS nicely complements the story’s stated sociopolitical themes; the style reminds me, in part, of mid-twentieth century political and propaganda posters. This effect is augmented by the colour palette, which is particularly well-implemented during the story’s “spooky” scenes. Despite a few awkward panels (particularly in the third page of the preview chapter), Hahn’s art is generally subdued, while simultaneously gorgeous.

And, I certainly do like that the story focuses on a gay male protagonist, where his “gayness” (so to speak) isn’t entirely central to the story. Yes, Julian is attracted to Darren, and appears to be ramping up for some serious “coming out” angst, but the story doesn’t spotlight Julian’s homosexuality in a hokey and over-done way. It’s also noteworthy that Lee chose to write a story that, at least from the preview pages, includes Asian Americans in its cast of characters but that doesn’t beat us about the head and shoulders — sledgehammer-style — with classic APIA tropes and archetypes (as too many minority comic book and filmmakers feel the need to do).

That being said, it’s also clear that CGS is Lee’s first foray into comic book writing. While the overall story appears to be interesting, there are issues of pacing and dialogue that appear clunky for the comic book page. Either the art (or the page design) are simply inadequate to communicate some of the subtle interactions between characters (a problem that betrays Lee’s background in film) while some of the initial pages of this preview chapter drag on in slow (and seemingly meaningless) interactions between Julian and supporting characters. Some panels are crowded with dialogue (particularly the early scene at the frat party); furthermore, very little of the speech is written in a comfortable, colloquial fashion that would be believable emerging out of the mouths of blonde, beer-guzzling frat Neanderthals. In fact, few of the characters (Julian’s friend Mark being a notable exception) speak with a unique voice at all.

Also, the feminist in me winces at the fact that of the four women in the first chapter of the book, two are (apparently) APIA, and yet both of them are depicted in sexualized contexts. I’m hoping that’s not an indication of how APIA women fare, in general, on Lee’s campus. 

Nonetheless, I will admit that some of my criticisms aren’t entirely fair: in all likelihood, the issues of pacing and characterization might be resolved if I were to read further into the book, and many of my other issues are nit-picky quibbles that would diminish as Lee’s experience in the comic medium increases.

Over all, I’m delighted to see the growing democratization of the comic book medium as more and more independent artists choose to use the comic book format to tell their stories, and (in the grassroots spirits of the Interwebs) publish their work online. And, I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of CGS to see how Lee tackles the issues of race, gender and sexuality; conceptually, the book has me hooked.

Certainly, to me, the most exciting preview of CGS came from the trailer video (which I’ve embedded above), which shows some truly stunning panels from Hahn, and which suggests that CGS has a lot more blood, gore, and sex to offer than the rather minimalist first chapter suggests.

Campus Ghost Story‘s website contains links for reading the free preview chapter, and you can download digital copies of the full book for an (extremely) reasonable fee over at NetComics.com (the whole thing would cost you less than $2.00). You can also buy the book in print at Amazon for your comic book collection.

Support Judge Edward Chen

Take a minute to read this letter from Keith Kamisugi of Asian Americans for Obama:

Dear Friends, 

I’m writing to ask for your help in sending a letter in support of Magistrate Judge Edward Chen of California, whose nomination by President Obama to the federal court, Northern District of California, has been attacked despite having an excellent record as a judge.

 It just takes 15 seconds to send Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada a letter in support of Judge Chen through an online form at …

http://FairJudges.net

President Obama has to re-nominate Judge Chen this month because the Senate did not take a full vote on the nomination, despite it being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The President originally nominated Judge Chen to the federal court in August 2009 on recommendation from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

Judge Chen’s character has been attacked despite his mainstream values and a demonstrated record serving as a balanced, fair and unbiased jurist. He has received extremely positive support from a diverse group of individuals and organizations, including a “Unanimously Well Qualified” rating by the American Bar Association.

Judge Chen’s nomination deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate and you can help make that happen by sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Complete the very short online form at http://FairJudges.net and your letter with be sent at no expense to you.

The site also has links to more information and ways that you can keep in touch with this effort.

Aloha,

Keith

http://FairJudges.net

According to the Asian American Bar Association (via Asian Pacific Americans for Progress):

Chen would be the first Asian American district judge on the bench in the 150-year history of that district. He was also the first Asian American magistrate judge when he was appointed to that position on April 23, 2001.

Under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, federal judges require confirmation by the U.S. Senate and serve with lifetime tenure. Magistrate Judges have limited terms and serve as judicial officers of the district courts and exercise the jurisdiction delegated to them by law and assigned by federal district judges.

“I’ve known and worked with Judge Chen for more than 37 years and seen him become a great attorney and an outstanding jurist,” said attorney Dale Minami of Minami Tamaki LLP, who worked with Chen on the successful case to overturn the wartime conviction of Fred Korematsu for defying President Roosevelt’s internment order.

Garner Weng, President of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) noted that while there were a number of excellent Asian American candidates, “Judge Chen earned this nomination for his record of public service and his experience as a federal magistrate. We are extremely proud of his nomination and of his participation in AABA over the years.”

“Judge Chen will be a tremendous addition to the bench and has a wide range of support from diverse groups, including the public interest, law enforcement, legal, and minority communities,” said Edwin Prather, President of the Asian Pacific Bar of California and a former clerk for Chen. Prather also said that Chen received the 2007 Barristers Choice Award, an honor voted on by the membership of BASF’s Barristers Club and awarded to a jurist who has made extraordinary efforts to educate and encourage lawyers new to the courtroom