How We Talk About Asian American Aggrievement

Protesters congregate in protest of the manslaughter conviction of former NYPD police officer Peter Liang in the shooting death of Akai Gurley. (Photo Credit: Twitter / Phoenix Tso).
Protesters congregate in protest of the manslaughter conviction of former NYPD police officer Peter Liang in the shooting death of Akai Gurley. (Photo Credit: Twitter / Phoenix Tso).

By Guest Contributor: Felix Huang (@Brkn_Yllw_Lns)

When three Asian American children were trotted out in front of a national audience as both the props for and the butt of a joke delivered by Oscars host Chris Rock,  mainstream attention was momentarily placed on the extent to which Asian Americans face racism. Ironically enough, Rock’s joke simultaneously demonstrated anti-Asian racism while it relied upon the model minority stereotype, a trope that has long served to obscure anti-Asian racism.

The problems with the model minority myth are legion. I am not here to debunk the model minority myth—there is much academic and popular writing on the subject—but to examine one effect of its prevalence in public discourse: confused narratives of Asian American aggrievement.

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Oscars Controversy Reminds That Asians Don’t Matter in Hollywood

oscars-joke

Guest Contributor: Larissa Lam (@larissalam)

For weeks we have endured endless chatter about #OscarsSoWhite and how to better increase diversity in Hollywood. Now that the awards season has officially ended and the Academy Awards have been handed out, I can finally give my two cents about this.

I watched the Oscars knowing that the acting categories were going to be swept by white actors – after all, only white actors had been nominated. Yet, I could tell that the producers of the show, one of whom was Reginald Hudlin, a black film producer and former BET president, were trying to at least showcase diversity among the chosen presenters. I was happy to see Priyanka Chopra, Lee Byung-Hun and Olivia Munn  presenting awards. Diversity was on display in some categories: Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Inarritu won Best Director for The Revenant, Indian-British director Asif Kapadia won for the documentary Amy, Chileans, Gabriel Osorio Vargas and Pato Escala Peirart, won for Best Animated Short, and Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won for Best Documentary Short.

Ok, so the Oscars were not completely white. But, they came pretty close to being so, and that’s because Hollywood is, itself, exclusionary.

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‘Quantico’ Recap: Season 1, Episode 12, “Alex”

QUANTICO – “Quantico” (Photo Credit: ABC / Bob d'Amico)
QUANTICO – “Alex” (Photo Credit: ABC / Bob d’Amico)

By Guest Contributor: Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi)

Lakshmi’s recaps for “Quantico” episodes 1-7 can be found here and for episode 8 onwardhere, including her recap of the show’s most recent episode. Her recaps appear on Reappropriate every Monday morning! As with reading any recaps, please be wary of spoilers.

And… we’re back! Fans (and hate-watchers) got to jump back into the world of Quantico last night with the return of everyone’s favorite FBI drama after nearly three months.

ABC began Sunday’s episode with a quick montage of everything that happened last time around (it’s been months, we needed it.) Former NAT Elias Harper had confessed to being the mastermind behind the Grand Central plot and then died by suicide before he could be arrested. If that wasn’t dramatic enough, it turns out that even more horrific things were to come. When we last saw Alex Parrish she was looking on in horror as she watches a building packed with her co-workers and friends explode after yet another terrorist attack. Going into this week’s episode, we weren’t at all sure who had survived the second bombing.

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There is No “Chinese” Side of Justice

peter-liang-rally-screen-cap-002
(Photo credit: Fusion)

By Guest Contributor: Timmy Lu (@timmyhlu)

This post was first published on Facebook, and has been adapted for publication on Reappropriate.

There’s a widely shared and watched video floating around the web (after the jump) that features a Chinese American woman speaking at protests organized after a jury found Officer Peter Liang of the NYPD guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Akai Gurley.

It’s a slick and convincing video that uses the kind of politically correct, in vogue language that typically appeals to many Chinese and Asian American progressives like myself.

The message is also absolutely wrong.

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The Stories We Tell: Asian Americans on TV and Policy Down the Road

Aziz Ansari, in a promotional image for his Netflix show, “Master of None”. (Photo credit: Netflix)
Aziz Ansari, in a promotional image for his Netflix show, “Master of None”. (Photo credit: Netflix)

By Guest Contributor: Felix Huang

We create stories
That we tell to ourselves
About ourselves
To justify what we do to people.

– Roberto Suro,“U.S. Immigration Policy” (lecture, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2015).

2015 was a pretty good year for Asian Americans on TV. Fresh Off the Boat debuted and is now in the middle of a strong second season. Dr. Ken premiered in October and has already been renewed. Master of None was released in November, receiving much acclaim. (The Mindy Project, though, was cancelled by Fox, but later picked up by Hulu.)

These were not the only stories about Asian Americans circulating in public discourse. In an October New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof asked what he framed as an “awkward question”, wondering, “Why are Asian-Americans so successful in America?” A week earlier, an author at The Economist (unidentified, as per The Economist’s practice) had penned a piece about how “The Model Minority is Losing Patience,” referencing the joint complaint against Harvard to the Department of Education made by a group of Asian American groups.

Both pieces exhibit more nuance than other Model Minority hot takes routinely peddled out in the mainstream. But both pieces are still painfully clumsy in talking about Asian Americans, especially when considering the broader political and historical context of race in America. (And there were indeed swift responses highlighting their flaws.)

[1] cultural capital, i.e. knowledge on how to navigate dominant cultural norms. C.f. Pierre Bourdieu and Paul DiMaggio. Both pieces also cite (and arguably misunderstand) sociologists Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou’s research that suggests coethnic resources and networks—what they term as “ethnic capital”—account for intergenerational success among Vietnamese and Chinese Americans in a way that the prevailing socioeconomic and cultural[1] explanatory models of intergenerational mobility do not. As the educational and economic attainment of some Asian American populations continues to both fascinate and confound commentators, Asian Americans are now finally making significant strides in what is sometimes posed in contrast to “successes” in educational and economic attainment: media representation.

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