We often talk about the course of history as if it is distantly in our past. This might lead us to overlook the direct implications that historic decisions and events have had on our present. I think of this not only in the greater sense of global geopolitics or major social movements, but at the level of the individual.
I recently uncovered a letter that my dad had filed away. It was addressed to my grandfather from the Commander of United States Army Communications Command in Taiwan, and it was written shortly after the termination of the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, which had ensured American defense of Taiwan in case of invasion. My grandfather had worked for the U.S. Army as an electronic technician until U.S. forces began to pull away from the Taiwan Strait in 1979.
I’d long known that my grandfather had worked for the U.S. Army in some way, and that it was through this work that he was able to come to the United States; but holding this small slice of history in my hands, dated April 11, 1979, put it all in perspective. The yellowing paper—marked with the slashes of my own father’s handwriting—was an artifact from my family’s immigration story: In 1981, my father and grandparents immigrated to America.
I sometimes wish I could go back in time and be my own guardian angel. I would reach down into that dark place of the Model Minority Myth and pull the younger me out. I would tell myself, “Baby, you got this. The best thing you can do is to ignore these goras.”
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2017’s Get Out is uniquely about the Black experience in America. Everything from stand-your-ground, to backyard auctions, to the performances of white liberal guilt by Rose’s family and friends are authored from real life experience; this is no more true than with the construction of the Sunken Place, which serves as a metaphor for Black helplessness in the face of white supremacy.
As an Indian-American watching Get Out, I knew there was something about the Sunken Place that felt analogous to my own experiences growing up in America. I recalled a similar “expectation” to acquiesce to whiteness, and the tool used to keep people like me subservient: The Model Minority Myth. Like the Sunken Place, the Myth is about white control over Asian Americans. As with racism of any kind, it is about shifting goal posts and double standards.
By Guest Contributor: Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director, NAPAWF
This week, as the Supreme Court begins hearing NIFLA v. Becerra, we need to remember what is at stake. This is a case that could redefine public accountability for organizations that provide false information or mislead women about their reproductive health options under the guise of religious freedom.
For years, fake women’s health centers have exploited women by masquerading as real health clinics, often locating next to real clinics, adopting nearly identical names, and even clothing their non-medical staff in scrubs – all to give the impression of being accredited health providers. The plaintiff in the case now before the Supreme Court, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), joins these fake women’s health centers in trying to overturn the Reproductive FACT Act – a commonsense California law which requires these storefront operations to explain that they are not a licensed medical facility and provide information on how to find one.
This law was enacted to curb the harm caused by fake health centers and reduce the delays in getting real care that women experience when they are duped by these blame-and-shame tactics. Women need accurate information about their options when it comes to pregnancy and family planning – not politically-motivated shame, coercion, or misinformation. We need to expose the truth about these fake centers before their lies endanger the health and safety of any more pregnant women – especially low-income pregnant women, women of color, and immigrants.
The night before my youngest child – whom we call Little Brother – leaves on a four-day eighth-grade field trip to Washington D.C., I double-check his suitcase against the school’s packing list to make sure he has everything he needs. He has packed too many shirts and pants, and not enough socks and underwear. He forgot deodorant, a critical item for eighth-grade boys. The long-sleeved green school t-shirts that the students will wear at all times during the trip are in the dryer. The batteries for his camera and phone are charging in the kitchen. I tuck a box of musubi into his day pack as a snack for the bus. I remind him to brush his teeth every day and to text me every night.
Then I tell him what to do in case of a mass shooting.
Stay calm. Barricade the door. Duck behind furniture. Keep moving. Get out. Just get out.
Little Brother is thirteen years old.
And then, so that he does not worry, I lie to my son.
I tell him that since the president will be out of the country the week of his trip, Washington will probably be quieter while he is there.
I do not know if that is actually true. But, I do know that even if he were here, at home, he would not be any safer. Any of us could be caught in a mass shooting or a random act of violence anytime, anywhere.
I Am Another You is filmmaker Nanfu Wang’s follow up to the gripping Hooligan Sparrow, named after the rebel activist Le Haiyan who leads a group of protesters seeking justice for six elementary school girls sexually assaulted by their school principal. In that film, Wang embarked on a harrowing journey to film Le, and both were eventually were targeted by Chinese officials for Le’s feminist activism. The film concludes with Wang recording how she was forced to smuggle her raw footage out of China in order to produce Hooligan Sparrow.
This time, however, Wang doesn’t become an enemy of the state while filming I Am Another You. Instead, she finds herself living on the streets with a free spirit named Dylan who has chosen a life as a drifter. I Am Another You makes us rethink social issues such as homelessness and mental illness, as well as what personal freedom feels and looks like. Wang’s storytelling compels us to think about our lives, through Dylan’s as he lives on the street.
Winner of the SXSW LUNA Chicken & Egg Award for Best Documentary Feature directed by a woman and the SXSW Special Jury Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling for I Am Another You, Wang was recently named one of Variety’s 2017’s Ten Documakers to Watch. I Am Another You is currently streaming on Independent Lens on PBS until February 15th. Watch it here.
Wang took time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about her passion for documentary filmmaking and I Am Another You.