Men of Color and Masculinity

June 5, 2017
Jeremy Lin, adapted from a photoshoot for Adidas.

By Guest Contributor: Sudip Bhattacharya

Recently, Brooklyn Nets star Jeremy Lin said to the New York Daily News, “A lot of times we have Asian girls go for non-Asian guys but you don’t see a lot of the opposite. You don’t see a lot of the opposite; you don’t see a lot of non-Asian girls go for Asian guys. When they said ‘Yellow Fever’ growing up, it wasn’t all these white girls going for Asian guys. It was the Asian girls going for the white guys.”

Although Lin was relatively thoughtful throughout his interview, his answers nonetheless reinforced a damaging myth: that Asian American women have more advantages than their male counterparts.

Lin represents a segment among men of color who have become obsessed with embodying a superficial and regressive “masculinity.” If our goal is to dismantle patriarchy, we must form a deeper, layered understanding of “masculinity” and its relationship to Black, Brown, and East Asian American men. That radical reexamination of the “masculine” must account for the marginalization that many men of color feel, while not absolving them of their role in perpetuating misogyny.

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Trump Will Alienate the AAPI Community with his Anti-Environmentalism

June 1, 2017
A child wears a face mask in China, where air pollution is a major public health issue. (Photo credit: Getty)

While the week was dominated with giddy speculation over the true meaning of the word ‘covfefe’, a bigger story deserves our attention: namely, President Donald Trump announced moments ago that the United States will withdraw from the historic Paris climate accord.

Negotiated in 2015 by members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris climate agreement is the world’s first international attempt to slow global climate change by voluntarily limiting the greenhouse gas emissions of member countries. The agreement was set to become effective once 55 countries that emit the majority of the world’s greenhouse gases had signed the treaty; that milestone was reached in April of 2016 when the United States and China — who alone contribute more than 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — joined the Paris climate accord as signatories.

Climate scientists largely agree that the planet is quickly reaching a point-of-no-return when it comes to climate change. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is roughly 400 ppm, ~30% higher than it was in 1950 and at levels never before recorded in the Earth’s history as determined by ice core measurements. Over the last century, the earth’s air and water have both noticeably warmed, and global sea levels have risen 8 inches due in large part to disintegrating polar ice. These changes are predicted to threaten coastal ecologies and urban centers, increase the frequency of extreme weather events, and devastate the world’s food production. While the Paris climate accord will not alone be sufficient to halt and reverse man-made climate change, it is a necessary first step that will likely slow global warming compared to if global gas emissions continues unchecked.

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Orientalist Caricatures of Chinatown Resurrected in the Pages of The New York Times

May 26, 2017
The streets of NYC’s Chinatown. (Photo credit: Heather Paul / Flickr)

By Guest Contributor: Jan Lee

It was Valentine’s Day in New York City. While others were thinking about where to buy last minute chocolates and flowers, my thoughts were entirely elsewhere. I was reading restaurant reviews in the New York Times and found myself confronted with an article exploiting my community’s perceived exoticisms.

The review was from the New York Times (“Culinary Clashes End in Harmony at Chinese Tuxedo“), but I would have sworn I was reading a Chinatown caricature by Chuck Connors—the 19th century Rhode Islander who shamelessly profiteered by hawking exaggerated, cartoonish tales of exciting and foreign “ethnic” life in turn-of-the-century Chinatown to upper-class white tourists. National news correspondent Arthur Bonner described Connors as “a hanger-on in Doyers Street saloons who earned tips by showing thrill seekers tame wonders like the Joss House. For an added tip he would show them an opium den complete with a ‘fallen woman’.”

This treatment of Chinatown as a seedy den of foreign crime and taboo thrills to be packaged and sold as a form of ethnic tourism would be best left to the past. Yet, writers and editors seem perfectly willing to revive old stereotypes and evoke the worst of Chinatown’s history in a vain attempt to remain relevant, regardless of the consequences.

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Dear Asian Americans: Stop Erasing Pacific Islanders

May 16, 2017
From left to right: Ben Kanahele, Jason Momoa, Dwayne Johnson, Cliff Curtis, and Taika Waititi.

By Guest Contributor: Conrad Lihlihi (@clihilihi)

Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, entertainment news outlets reported that film project “Ni’ihau” was in pre-production and had cast actor Zach McGowan (Black Sails) in the lead role of Ben Kanahele, a Native Hawaiian man who featured centrally in the historic so-called ‘Ni’ihau Incident’. That announcement sparked accusations of white-washing and historical inaccuracies from online commentators.

In terms of the film production of “Ni’ihau” itself, there’s not much I could say that hasn’t already been said. Business-wise, I don’t see any support for this film from any communities (outside of hard core Zach McGowan fans). At this point, it seems almost certain that this project will fail.

However, news of the “Ni’ihau” film project re-raised a particular issue dealing with Asians and Pacific Islanders that I feel should be talked about. Specifically, does the term “Asian Pacific Islander” contribute towards a tendency for many Asians to claim Pacific Islanders as part of the same monolithic racial community, and thereby unknowingly erase the Polynesian narrative?

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Speaking Truth to Power is not Cyberbullying: On Tone Policing and Respectability Politics

May 15, 2017
Zach McGowan (left), who is not Native Hawaiian, has been cast to play Ben Kanahele (right) in the upcoming “Ni’ihau” film.

Last week, Deadline broke the story that writer/director Gabriel Robertson (EastEnders, Bucket, The Gift) was attached to write and direct a feature film based on the infamous so-called “Ni’ihau Incident”. Deadline further reported that actor Zach McGowan (Dracula UntoldTerminator: Salvation, Black Sails) — who is not Native Hawaiian — had been cast in the leading role of Benehakaka “Ben” Kanahele, a historical figure and Ni’ihauian who was awarded a Purple Heart for his role in the incident.

News of McGowan’s casting triggered immediate backlash from Asian American and Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander activists, who accused the filmmakers of using “Polyface” to whitewash the character of Ben Kanahele. In addition, Asian Americans criticized early buzz surrounding the planned “Ni’ihau” film, which described the incident as a “catalyst” for Japanese American incarceration (Editor’s Note: see JACL’s Power of Words handbook).

In truth, the events of the Ni’ihau Incident was co-opted by hardline conservatives to provide a veil of legitimacy to obscure the racist and anti-Asian motives behind Japanese American incarceration. History has since confirmed that Executive Order 9066 — which led to the forcible removal of over a hundred thousand Japanese and Japanese American civilians — was not based in significant military intelligence showing that Japanese Americans were untrustworthy; rather, Japanese American incarceration emerged as the latest escalation in a decades-long pattern of legalized anti-Asian and anti-Japanese harassment and criminalization.

Online outcry against “Ni’ihau” was fervent, taking the shape of memes, Twitter threads, and long-form thinkpieces. As it turns out, the filmmakers behind the planned “Ni’ihau” film were listening; and, they weren’t very receptive to the criticism.

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