Tag Archives: Felix Huang

From Self-Interest to Collective Morality: How We Must Reframe the Discussion on Affirmative Action in the Asian American Community

August 24, 2016
San Gabriel Councilman Chin Ho Liao speaks against SCA?5 at a protest. (Photo credit: Pasadena Star-News)
San Gabriel Councilman Chin Ho Liao discusses SCA5, a California bill that would have reinstituted race-conscious affirmative action in the state, at an anti-affirmative action protest. (Photo credit: Pasadena Star-News)

By Guest Contributor: Felix Huang (@Brkn_Yllw_Lns)

When the matter comes under contest, affirmative action’s Asian American advocates readily point to disparities in higher education access for particular Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. According to a 2015 report on AANHPI higher education in California:

  • Filipinx, Thai, Laotian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander students are admitted into the University of California (UC) system at rates significantly lower than the general admit rate.
  • Filipinxs, Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Guamanians/Chamorros, and Fijians are, relative to their overall population, underrepresented in the UC system.
  • Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, Guamanian/Chamorro, Samoan, and Laotian adult individuals (25 years and older) possess bachelor degrees (or higher) at rates lower than the overall state average of 31%.

The importance of noting these disparities cannot be overstated. However, to one particular Asian American audience, this may be thoroughly unconvincing. Persuasive as they might be to a broader audience, the typical pro-affirmative action argument from AANHPI advocacy groups fails to persuade some Asian Americans who oppose affirmative action because they leave an elephant in the room unaddressed.

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How We Talk About Asian American Aggrievement

March 9, 2016
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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The Stories We Tell: Asian Americans on TV and Policy Down the Road

February 26, 2016
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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