Two Asian Americans chat over some Starbucks. (Photo credit: Roger Kisby / New York Times)
By Guest Contributor: Yaoyao Liu
Editor’s Note: This post is the first in a series by Yaoyao Liu, reflecting on an episode of the “Still Processing” podcast on Asian American identity.
I’ve only been listening to the Still Processing podcast, hosted by New York Times culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, for the past couple of months. In that time, however, I’ve devoured their pertinent and thoughtful episodes so quickly that I’m almost done listening to the entire archive. I was already looking forward to their episode on Asian Americans in the today’s cultural landscape, and was even more excited when I realized it was going to be a two-part episode featuring a number of special guests. This morning on the bus, I just finished up the first segment, “Asian-Americans Talk About Racism, and We Listen – Part 1.”
From Amy Chua’s account of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother; to Emily Yoshida’s discussion of coming to terms with her mixed identity; to Pablo Torre and Andrew Ti emphasizing the colorism inherent in model minority stereotypes — the episode highlighted that the term “Asian American” can refer to a diversity of experiences. Nonetheless, I appreciated that Jenna and Wesley started off the episode with some definite commonalities: name mispronunciations, feeling protective of immigrant parents, and alienating vertigo that sometimes comes out of vacillating between cultures imagined to be wholly separate.
Continue reading “Multiplying the Meaning of Asian American on ‘Still Processing’”
A still from "Crazy Rich Asians" featuring actors Awkwafina, Nico Santos, and Constance Wu.
By Guest Contributor: Do Nguyen Mai
Media is already saturated with unnecessary and unrealistic displays of wealth. Crazy Rich Asians might be a fun, light-hearted summer watch, but we shouldn’t herald the film as adequate or deeply meaningful representation when so many Asian Americans are darker-skinned, working class people, and refugees. Just as Elle Woods of Legally Blonde is hardly representative of most young women, the lives of the characters in Crazy Rich Asians are far from the everyday experiences of most Asian Americans.
Continue reading “Crazy Broke Asians: Asian America’s Forgotten Fight”
Constance Wu and Henry Golding, stars of 'Crazy Rich Asians' (Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)
By Guest Contributor: Celeste Pewter (@celeste_pewter)
The first time I told my parents I wanted to be an actor, I was seven.
I was at an age where I was mildly obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. My classics movie-loving dad had given me VHS tapes of My Fair Lady for my birthday, and after consuming all one hundred and seventy minutes of the film in all its Technicolor glory, I could think of nothing better than a career that would let me perform and dress up in fabulous costumes daily, just like Audrey herself.
I had more than a few childish daydreams: I would first wow film crew on set, as Hepburn had likely wowed the Fair Lady crew in her transformative performance as Eliza Doolittle. Once my film(s) were released, I would charm my way through the awards season before finally taking to the stage at the Academy Awards and graciously accepting the holy grail of acting: the Best Actress Oscar. In my young heart, this was obviously a future that was meant to be.
But when I confidently announced my future vocation plans to my parents, they laughed knowingly, before sitting me down to have a conversation on the ways of the world.
Continue reading “Looking Back at a Road Not Taken and Forward Towards a Future Inspired by Crazy Rich Asians”
CWRIC hearings in Seattle, Washington, 1981. (Photo Credit: National Archives and Records Administration / Densho Encyclopedia)
By Guest Contributor: Sean Miura (@seanmiura)
My mom was about my age when she testified in support of Japanese American redress.
Fresh out of law school, she had moved to Seattle a few years prior and quickly found herself pulled into the local Japanese American community as a young leader, eventually becoming president of the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League. Seattle, beautiful rainy Seattle, is a city of left-leaning intellectuals and artists, organized and ready to mobilize with fiery intent and focused action. The Japanese Americans were (and are) no different.
When communities across the country began the push for recognition of wrongdoing in the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans, Seattle became one of the centers of organizing and strategy-setting.
And there was my mom, alongside so many others who fought to make it happen in a layered, complex, beautifully complicated weaving of people who came together to make it happen.
And happen it did.
Continue reading “The Power of Untidy Movements: 30 Years after the Fight for Japanese American Redress”
President Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act into law. Looking on, left to right: Senator Spark Matsunaga, Representative N (Photo credit: Wikimedia)
By Guest Contributors: Tsuya Hohri Yee, Co-Chair New York Day of Remembrance Committee (Facebook: @nydayofremembrance); and Joseph Shoji Lachman, Co-founder of Never Again (Facebook: @NeverAgain9066)
August 10th marks the 30th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted a presidential apology and monetary reparations to living Japanese American families who had persevered through WWII incarceration for simply looking like the enemy. Over 120,000 people were removed from their homes and imprisoned in concentration camps in remote areas of the country. The majority were US citizens and were children. While no amount of money could ever undo the damage to Japanese American families and our democracy as a whole, the Act was a landmark piece of legislation, and represented decades of grassroots organizing across the country. Many Japanese Americans, young and old were inspired to join the Redress Movement by the work of Civil Rights Movement activists of the 1960s, and mobilized our communities to come together to fight for an apology and reparations. Allies in the Black and Latinx communities came to the aid of Japanese Americans, recognizing the commonalities of our struggles, and through this powerful coalition work Japanese Americans finally saw some semblance of justice for our families.
What the Redress movement achieved went beyond the Civil Liberties Act. Our community is not monolithic and there was significant debate about how to “right this wrong,” including the view that demanding compensation would bring negative attention to our community. Others felt that creating a Commission to study the incarceration, including prisoner testimonies was demeaning and unnecessary. But those disagreements didn’t stop us from moving forward and when it mattered most, we rallied our support around the Civil Liberties Act. Painful divides between individuals and groups who had chosen different paths during the war that had once seemed fixed in stone, now see the possibility of eroding. As part of the healing process the Redress movement started, annual Day of Remembrance programs were organized across the country giving communities an opportunity to reflect, learn, and join together in solidarity around our common history. Japanese Americans also began journeying back to camp sites on pilgrimages to reclaim the stories of their parents and grandparents and to begin piecing together what was lost. Today we look back with admiration at what we fought for and accomplished as a community.
Continue reading “#NeverAgainIsNow: Why the 30th anniversary of Japanese American Redress matters today”