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.

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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.

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“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.

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Trump’s Asian American Judges Are No Friends to AAPI Community

Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao testifies before the Senate at her confirmation hearing last month. (Photo credit: Zach Gibson / Getty)

By Guest Contributors: Sung Yeon Choimorrow (NAPAWF), Quyen Dinh (SEARAC), and Alvina Yeh (APALA)

Last month, the Senate voted to confirm D.C. Circuit Court nominee Neomi Rao, who will now be the first Indian American woman to sit on a federal appeals court.

Critics have repeatedly shed light on the dearth of people of color among Trump’s judicial nominees, especially when compared to those of President Obama. Trump has nominated not a single African American or Latino to federal appeals courts amongst a sea of white men. Despite this, two other conservative Asian American federal appeals court nominees in addition to Rao face imminent confirmations–and lifetime appointments–to the U.S. judiciary: Michael Park and Kenneth Lee, to the Second and Ninth Circuits, respectively, have also received hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Don’t be fooled: these appeals court nominees are a danger to civil rights and justice for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community; they are pawns in Trump’s larger scheme to uphold white supremacy under the guise of promoting racial diversity in the top ranks of government.

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Orange is the New Black and Recidivism: The Need for Accurate Media Representations of the Many Causes of Incarceration

Actor Danielle Brooks as Taystee in Netflix's Orange Is The New Black (Photo credit: Netflix / Orange is the New Black)

By Guest Contributor:Rachel Ko

About 50,000 people a year exit incarceration only to enter immediately into homeless shelters; legal restrictions and discrimination against individuals with criminal records are often to blame. As has been well-documented, the incarceration rate for African Americans is more than six times the incarceration rate for white Americans. African Americans also make up more than 40 percent of the homeless population, despite representing only 13 percent of the general population.

Even though general statistics don’t simultaneously track the effects of race on incarceration and homelessness, anti-Black racial stigma amplifies the measurable social impacts of both. Individuals released from prisons are more likely to be re-arrested for misdemeanor offense they commit in order to survive on the streets, but many scholars have failed to sufficiently connect recidivism, homelessness and incarceration.

A more successful representation of these connections is the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black. Through Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, a compassionate, intelligent, and likeable African American character, Orange is the New Black sheds light on the lack of rehabilitative resources and support systems that cause re-incarceration of individuals suffering from poverty. Taystee’s story shows us that crime is not a single action; rather, it is a series of events and complex social factors.

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