Updated theme

I updated the theme for the blog, but with only a few hours to dedicate, all I did was hack the default theme. Sorry this theme isn’t as visually dynamic as others I’ve done; I just needed to get rid of that default one.

Congratulations, John Liu!

225px-John_Liu_at_the_2009_West_Indian_Day_Parade_by_DS

John Liu isn’t Asian America’s singular political leader (do we even have one?), but he’s pretty dang close. Those of us who have been around the politically active wing of the APA community have seen how John Liu, a New York City councilman, is omnipresent in virtually every major political action that our community has involved itself in. Councilman Liu has made a career of encouraging Asian Americans to be more politically involved, more vocal, and more strategic in our demands for improved political representation and civil rights.

This year, Councilman Liu rallied the national APA community in support of his race for NYC comptroller, a position responsible for overseeing billions of dollars of city funds. Yesterday, the votes in the Democratic primary were cast, and when the dust settled, Liu became NYC’s Democratic candidate for this position. And with NYC the left-leaning city that it is, there’s little doubt that Liu and other Democrats who won this tough primary race are going to emerge victorious against their Republican competitors in November.

But the real victors here are the Asian American community, who worked vigorously to help Liu become the first Asian American elected to city-wide office in New York City. Daniel Collins at The Huffington Postsardonically attributes Liu’s win to the APA community’s “hunger” for representationdespite what Collins characterises as Liu’s lacklustre qualifications for the job as comptroller. Nonetheless, Liu has been an incredible advocate for his constituents, Asian American and otherwise, and I personally see no reason to suspect that Liu, power-drunk with the new position of comptroller, will bankrupt the Big Apple. 

Meanwhile, there’s one inescapable fact here: how is it that New York City, with one of the oldest, largest and most vibrant Chinese communities in the country, is only now — in 2009 — capable of electing an Asian American to a city-wide public office? Yesterday’s election results in NYC are a blow to the rampant political underrepresentation of Asian Americans in this country, and I hope that pundits nationwide are finally sitting up and taking notice: in the new millennium, Asian Americans are –as we should be — a political force to be reckoned with.

Act Now! The race isn’t over for John Liu: he goes against Republican opponent Joe Mendola on November 3rd. And while Liu is the front-runner in that race, now is not the time to get lackadaisical. Whether an NYC resident or clear across the country, volunteer for and contribute to Liu’s campaign at his campaibn website.

Sad day for my blog and a fresh start

I guess this is what those in the comics world would call a “reboot”. Although, in this case, it’s as if the Marvel vault burned to the ground and we’re starting over by handing Stan Lee a piece of recycled newspaper and some chalk.

Here’s what happened: I had not been blogging for a few months, and decided to return to the blog. Unfortunately, there was a problem with WordPress loading up, so I decided to upgrade to a new version of WordPress — there had always seemed to be issues between the version I was running. So, I upgraded and all seemed to be going well.

And then the shit hit the fan.

The long and the short of it is that my MySQL database, which stores all the blog posts I have written since 2005, stopped working. It was stuck in some sort of endless loop, indicating that it had been somehow corrupted. I couldn’t interrupt the loop to build a backup of the database. I couldn’t seem to contact support at Doteasy and actually have someone work with me to figure out the problem.

Then, I received word that if I didn’t fix the problem (myself!) service would be terminated. I would lose access to this blog. I would lose pretty much everything I would worked on in association with this site.

So I did the unthinkable.

Without a backup of all of my posts, and all of your comments, I deleted my database and started WordPress over from scratch. I figured, if I was going to lose everything anyway, I might as well try to make a fresh start out of it.

So, here I am.

Reappropriate is back up, in its nascent form. I have a clean install of WordPress and hopefully my database is once again stable.

Perhaps now is the best time for this kind of shit to happen. I haven’t been blogging in so long I fell out of the habit. But perhaps I can start again and perhaps new and old readers will return. I’ve lost 5 years worth of my musings, but in a way, it gives me the opportunity to start anew with topics that will, at least on the surface, appear untouched. Perhaps this blog can spark fresh debate.

And perhaps the place I’m in now, in a different place in my life than where I was in 2005, will only enhance this new blog: Reappropriate 2.0.

I encourage you to post a comment in this post. Help me test out the features and make sure things are running the way they should.

The Words of Asian American Men

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHIi11HX0tE

This post also appeared on Racialicious. This post was one that was lost to the ether during my domain migration, and I’m delighted to be able to restore it from Racialicious!

A little less than a month ago, a panel discussion was put together by The Asian Society focusing on Asian American male identity. The panel, consisting of three prominent Asian American men in pop culture today: The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi, the single best Asian American writer of contemporary pop culture, Jeff Yang, and the ever so swoon-worthy Yul Kwon of Survivor: Cook Islands (whom this blog dubbed the real Super Asian Man back when his show was on the air). These three men chatted for a night on issues affecting Asian American men, and The Asia Society graciously put an edited “clip show” of the event on YouTube for us to view.

Continue reading “The Words of Asian American Men”

Stereotypes and Me

… Since I've broken my blog (damn you, Internal Server Error!) and am waiting for my host's technical support to swoop in and save the day, I'm going to take some time to address the challenge issued by RaceChangers in which we are invited to reflect on how we stereotype in our day-to-day lives.

Reflect by answering the following questions in writing:

  • Was there a time that you made a generalization and were proved wrong?
  • Do you find yourself subscribing to any stereotypes now?
  • If you do find yourself giving in to any stereotypes, why do you think you believe them to be true?
  • Can you point to any instances where the stereotype does not hold true?

Do I make generalizations? Damn skippy, I do. And I bet you do, too.

Back in this Social Psychology class I took in undergraduate, even though I was a piss-poor student in this class, I was challenged to consider the basic processes of thinking and communicating that make up the complex art of thinking. Although humans boast one of the largest and most complex brains of animals on this planet, we are still inundated, day-in-and-day-out with lots of cacophonous stimuli, out of which we must filter some form of meaning.

The visual stimuli, alone, that we receive are simply so vast that we couldn't spend all of our time pondering what we see until at least we identify the thing we're looking at based upon all possible criteria that might affect our decisions. This would be evolutionarily unsound — as cavemen being chased by sabre-toothed tigers, natural selection selected out those silly creatures who needed to consider the information more closely before deciding that the tiger was a tiger. Instead, what we have come up with is a process of generalizations in which we take some of the most superficial information we can find, that seems to largely fit our perception of a meaning, and quickly judge our surroundings based on those criteria. For example, we need only glance at a car, note its four tires, general metallic appearance, windows, and general shape to identify it as a car and not, say, a train. We don't need to look under the hood to be sure that it's running on car-parts and not train-parts.

No place is this more evident than in young kids, who have yet to create the generalizations upon which we rely. Their generalizations are instead faulty, and based upon their limited experiences. A toddler might see a dog for a first time and be taught that it is a dog. The toddler will codify the dog's fur, four legs, busy legs and ears and call it a dog. Now, face the toddler with a cat, and based upon the same generalization that allowed the toddler to recognize a dog, it will call the cat a dog, until we interject and correct the generalization to one that is more appropriate and precise.

In adulthood, we depend upon our generalizations to survive the day, and to understand our environment in a timely and reasonable manner. When it comes to racial matters, we use generalizations to understand race: a person with dark skin is recognized as an African American, a person with slanted eyes and yellow-tinted skin is recognized as an Asian American. This is why I distrust anyone who claims to be colorblind: it is impossible to not see skin colour and to interpret it as such, unless you are some new, unique breed of human (in which case your brain needs to be studied in closer detail, since you seem to have achieved an evolutionary feat that generations of our species have not).

That all being said, that doesn't excuse racial generalizations as acceptable, particularly when they are imprecise or hateful. I don't begrudge someone seeing me and judging me to be of Asian descent, but it is when my Asian descent participates in another generalization that renders me book-smarts-not-street-smarts, overly-sexualized, kung-fu fighter, green-tea drinker or some other stereotype when things go awry.

The problems here are precision and consequences. Are most Asians yellow-tinted or brown-tinted with slanted eyes? If we're talking East Asian, predominantly yes. However, most Asians are not martial artists or sexual stereotypes, so the generalization is imprecise.

Furthermore, we are not cavemen running from sabre-toothed tigers anymore. Though nature might demand that we continue to generalize, this does not justify the use of generalizations to unfairly marginalize or disenfranchise a group of people based on one's own stereotypes. We have simply created a more civilized society than that, one in which everybody is entitled to certain basic human dignities — including individualism and humanity. It's not difficult to see how a stereotype easily robs a person of those basic tenets, rendering them faceless and mute.

So, back to the original question: do I make generalizations? Absolutely. I've made race-based generalizations that include the assumption that people of a certain race will sympathize with race activism or be more likely to subscribe to one point of view over another. I've made gender-based generalizations that cause me to believe (wrongly) that women will inherently understand and agree with feminism. I've made age-based generalizations that cause me to be startled when entering a class in which I am seated next to a student older than 30. I've generalized that political conservatives are full of shit.

Am I frequently wrong? Except for that very last one, you bet. (Just joking, you crazy right-wingers, just joking! You know I love you, too!)

And, though I struggle not to let my generalizations become a full-blown stereotype than can affect the way I treat others, it's an inevitably uphill journey to constantly challenge my generalizations.

However, it's also an ongoing struggle which I believe we all should embrace. The problem of racism and stereotyping is not aided by hiding one's head in the sand when confronted with thorny problems that call to question one's own morality; instead, racism and stereotyping should be treated as a reason to remain cognizant of race relations issues, and a chance to realize that we are all fully capable of being in the wrong, and there's no real right answer.