What we’re not talking about when we talk about equal pay

Screen capture of video for AAPI Equal Pay Day from 2017. (Photo credit: NAPAWF)

By Guest Contributor: Sung Yeon Choimorrow (Executive Director, NAPAWF)

The gender pay gap is the difference between what men and women earn for doing the same work, and it varies for different sub-groups of women. In 2019, Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women earned 90 cents for every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men made. Today marks the symbolic day in 2020 when we “catch up” to white men’s earnings from the previous year. The wage gap exists in every state and every occupation, regardless of education—but there’s so much more to the story hidden by the averages. 

The term AAPI includes more than 50 ethnic subgroups, some of which experience much wider pay gaps. Vietnamese American women, for example, made 67 cents for every dollar white men made last year and Cambodian American women made 57 cents. These women will have to work for several more months for their paychecks to catch up while the lost wages compound. 

Asian Americans have long been depicted as “model minorities” in this country. It’s a persistent myth that all Asians are the same and we’re all high-achieving with stable incomes. By failing to recognize our lived experiences, the myth makes it easier to dismiss our struggles and reinforces the misconception that Asian people don’t need resources or support. 

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Unsent Letters: Dear Ah Ma

The author writing at a younger age. (Photo Credit: Victoria Mai Huỳnh)

Unsent Letters is a new limited-run series at Reappropriate. Writers are invited to contribute a letter, poem, or other work that reflects on their relationship to a powerful figure who embodies or challenges them to (re)define Asian (diasporic) feminism. If you would like to contribute your own Letter, please submit here.

By Guest Contributor: Victoria Mai Huỳnh

This letter is adapted from personal diary entries written while the author traveled to Cambodia for the first time last summer. 

Dear Ah Ma,

Our family does not cry often. Today, they do. Mom and auntie hold your quaking body and tell you that you can go, “a ma muai lieu oh. my gek siem. Yuan liang oh ah um.” (Mom, you finished everything. Don’t strain your heart anymore. Forgive, Mom.) Why do they speak to you, if you cannot hear us anymore? 

I trace your heartbeat on the heart rate monitor to remember your heart still beats, but it does not tell me you are alive. Can your heart receive us, even if our words cannot reach you? 

My words are stuck in this silence. They become my unspokens: 

Ah ma, ah buoi oo gek siem. Buoi tha m thie, ah ma. (Grandma, ah Buoi (author) has “strained heart.” Su Buoi cannot speak. Ah Ma.)

I cannot speak, Ah Ma.  I do not know how. They took away the languages our people’s tongues knew, to take us away.

Ah ma, jia bue? Ah ma muoi mi gai? Tai diang si ha? Ah ma ai ku ka buoi boh? (Grandma, have you eaten? Grandma, what are you doing now? Watching TV? Grandma, do you want to go with me?)

And now, the oceans you fled guide you away. They took you before my words knew how to reach you. 

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Watchmen breaks the promise of Lady Trieu’s naming

Lady Trieu (Hong Chau) from HBO's Watchmen. (Photo Credit: HBO)

By Guest Contributor: Mai Nguyen Do

The reveal of Watchmen’s Lady Trieu began as a promise of innovative retelling and reinvention. The numerous tweets referencing this mysterious woman compelled me to start watching the show, and her enigmatic character led me to believe that perhaps she would, like her namesake, ride storms for the sake of liberation. Instead of working towards reclamation and freedom for others, however, Trieu seeks to conquer the world only for herself.

Note: This post contains spoilers for the first season of HBO’s Watchmen.

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Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” Manipulates Space to Spook Viewers and Make a Statement about Social Class

A scene from Bong Joon Ho's film, "Parasite".

By Guest Contributor: Claudia Vaughan

Bong Joon Ho’s films can be described as a genre in their own right: they play with the fantastical and the extreme to make assertions about society that leave viewers feeling deeply unsettled. While his worlds are sometimes quite outlandish, his characters and their pains are always very real and relatable. Such is the case with his latest film, “Parasite,” which Bong describes as a tragicomedy. Though “Parasite” does not use any supernatural elements, it is a major thrill ride that will have viewers nervously clutching their seats for the duration of the film.

Note: This review may contain minor spoilers for the film “Parasite”.

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It’s Not Just For Fun: My Reaction to Kurt Suzuki’s MAGA Hat Photo Op

The author's family, the Shojis, who were forcibly held at Minidoka during World War II. (Photo Credit: Joseph Lachman)

By Guest Contributor: Joseph Shoji Lachman

Kurt Suzuki, who is a yonsei (or, 4th generation Japanese American), wore a “Make America Great Again” hat — a disgusting white supremacist symbol — when visiting the White House last week. It was horrifying, and symbolic of larger issues of Asian American adjacency to white privilege.

The question I always want to pose to these Trump-supporting Japanese Americans is: How can you support a guy whose campaign and supporters have voiced support for the incarceration of Japanese Americans, and who have used that history as a justification for oppressing other minority groups? 

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