the asian americanists

...think of it as your Asian American Studies TA lounge...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Women of Color Negotiating the Academic Industrial Complex

The Campus Lockdown conference will center women of color in the academic industrial complex and takes place 3/15 at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. More details at


Piya Chatterjee, University of California, Riverside
Angela Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz (via teleconference)
Rosa Linda Fregoso, University of Southern California
Ruthie Gilmore, University of Southern California
Fred Moten, Duke University
Clarissa Rojas, San Francisco State University
Haunani-Kay Trask, University of Hawai'i


Friday, February 22, 2008

CU Boulder Max Karson

Hate speech is absolutely is not what the First Amendment was meant to foster as is argued by Downing. But is the article below hate speech? Is it meant to be satirical (I think that was the intention)? Is it actually a critique of white people's ignorance? Is it satire taken too far? Does satire work if the audience doesn't get it (recalling Archie Bunker here)? Is it really racism disguised as satire?

I'm going to post the full text of the article here in case it gets taken down.
The rest of the article is here. Thanks to Vince Pham, a Ph.D. student at UI Urbana-Champaign for passing this along.

If it's war the Asians want...

It's war they'll get

Max Karson

Issue date: 2/18/08 Section:

Since I transferred to CU last year, I've noticed some tension between the white students and the Asian students. There's never any outright conflict, but I notice little things. Like, Asians always seem surprised whenever I talk to them. They stare at me for a few seconds as though I must have made some mistake, and once they realize I'm intentionally speaking to them, they aren't always thrilled.

On the other hand, white people are quick to ridicule Asians. They have no problem with making demeaning remarks about their looks, mannerisms, and accents-things they would never say about black people.

So when an Asian refuses to make eye contact with me or dismisses me with a one-word sentence, I just say to myself, "Max, Asians are not evil cyborgs. They're human, just like you. And if you were a minority student in a sea of walnut-brained business majors and skiers, you'd be crabby, too."

But last week, I had an epiphany.

After my friend and I finished working our abs at the Rec Center, we decided to head upstairs to tighten our buns on the StairMaster. As we walked down the hallway, a rubber ball bounced out of one of the racquetball courts and landed at the feet of an Asian in front of us. He picked up the ball and leaned over the railing of the court nearest to him.

"Hey, that's not ours," I heard a guy call up from the court. The Asian stared down at him for a moment, and then held the ball out to him. "That's not ours," the guy said again.

Then another voice called out from a different court, "Hey, does anyone see a ball up there?"

The Asian looked over, confused.

"I think it goes to that court," I said, pointing to the one nearest to me.

The Asian stared at me blankly for another second, and then he looked back down into the court next to him and offered them the ball again.

"That's not our ball," the guy called up.

"Excuse me," I said. The Asian whipped his head around and scowled at me. "I think it goes to that court."

He paused a few seconds, and then he said, in a perfect American accent, "Okay," and tossed the ball into the court next to me.

That's when it hit me.

The Asian was so jaded by his experiences with the whitebread, brainless tree sloths of CU that even though three people had explained to him that he was trying to return the ball to the wrong court, it was inconceivable to him that we might be right.

And when he looked into my eyes, it wasn't just irritation and disgust that I saw-it was hate. Pure hate.

I'm such a fool for not realizing it sooner. I can't tell you how many times the Asians have treated me like a retarded weasel and I've forgiven them. But now I know that Asians are not just "a product of their environment," and their rudeness is not a "cultural misunderstanding."

They hate us all.

And I say it's time we started hating them back. That's right-no more "tolerance." No more "cultural sensitivity." No more "Mr. Pretend-I'm-Not-Racist."

It's time for war.

But we won't attack their bodies or minds. We will attack their souls.

The first step, or "Phase 1," is to find them all. Anyone who is interested in signing up to volunteer can do so by e-mailing me. Next Sunday at noon, we will all meet at Farrand Field. Each volunteer will be issued an extra-large butterfly net.

The hunt will then begin.

When I blow my whistle, we will scatter in every direction and catch as many Asians as possible. Make sure to pay special attention to the Rec Center, the UMC, the math and engineering buildings and Lollicup. If you're not sure if someone is an Asian, give them a calculus problem to do in their head. If they get it right, net 'em.

Captured Asians will be dragged to my apartment on the Hill and hog-tied. Once they're all secured in my living room, "Phase 2" will come into effect.

The Asians' reformation will begin with a 100-round beer pong tournament. They will listen to "It's a Small World" on repeat while they play.

When the tournament is finished, the Asians will then be forced to eat bad sushi from Hapa-with forks. When all the sushi is gone, they will be permitted to sleep for four hours, but the entire time I will shout through a megaphone, over and over, "Why didn't you make enough Wiis?!"

In the morning, the Asians will arrange themselves in rows, if they haven't naturally done so already. I will stand in front of them and hold up a card with the name of an emotion on it such as, "sad," or "surprised." The Asians must then make a facial expression to match the word on the card. Any Asian who remains deadpan or makes the wrong face will be tickled until they pee. When all Asians make the correct face at the same time, the game will end, but then they will be yelled at for being conformists.

The Asians will then be allowed to play "Dance Dance Revolution." However, the game will be rigged so that the Asians will receive no points, regardless of how robotically they dance.

Any Asian who tries to escape will be butterfly-netted and sent back to my apartment for another "Phase 2." Anyone caught speaking any language other than English will be kissed on the lips.

Once the Asian spirit has been broken, "Phase 3" will begin. Before we let the Asians go, we will go to their homes and redecorate them in a traditional American style. We will replace their rice cookers with George Foreman Grills, their green tea mochi with fried Snickers bars, and their rice rockets with Hummers. And booster seats.

When "Phase 3" is complete, the Asians will be released.

Now, I understand that this plan may upset some of you Asian readers, but the only other way to make peace would be to expel you. If you're smart, you'll turn yourselves in now, and it will all be over in a few days.

Besides, look on the bright side-we're not going to put you through anything we haven't put ourselves through, and we all turned out fine.

Contact Campus Press staff editor Max Karson at


Monday, December 3, 2007

institutionalized racism in public schools

Who says institutionalized racism is a thing of the past, even here in Seattle's public school system.

A recent report states that "Almost three-quarters of the students enrolled in the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) are white, compared to about 40 percent districtwide...APP is perceived to be 'elitist, exclusionary and even racist,' and that some of its African-American students are bullied and isolated."

Read it here.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ajou University Hospital and Reflections on a Trip to South Korea

I never quite imagined that my trip to South Korea would afford me the chances to experience the Korean medical system in a short month. I had, in fact spent time shadowing doctors both in the Emergency Department and the General Surgery Department of a South Korean hospital (edited for anonymity).

South Korea provides its citizens with a general sort of institutionalized healthcare. Basically, every South Korean citizen who pays their taxes is given an government sponsored insurance plan for healthcare. This entitles them for hospital stays, emergency room visits, and various other needs such as medicinal and outpatient coverage.

The benefits are all included within the plan and there are small out of pocket payments that you have to make when you visit a health care establishment. Surprisingly, the system works and it works relatively well. Of course, given South Korea's relatively homogenous population and similar prevalences of disease it is easy for a government sponsored health care plan to effectively address the needs of its population.

However, I saw a few cases that really blew my mind. I saw a lot of the run of the mill trauma that comes in due to fights, accidents, traffic accidents, and other bloody incarnations of what people can do to themselves - I did see my fair share of suicides and near suicides.

Many people who found themselves being resuscitated on the table usually drank enough pesticide or herbicide to kill a whole field of whatever. The irony of poisoning yourself or killing yourself is that you default on your government sponsored health insurance. Your family often ends up paying for a failed suicide, people who are left comatosed and unable to take care of themselves.

The government shifts the bulk of the responsibility to the family. I asked some of the chief residents and attendings how families end up paying for the bills, loans, they surmised, unsure of how that really can afford hundreds of thousands of won in debt.

Aside from suicides and trauma, doctors in this hospital really take care of their patients. Hospital stays are only around 10,000 won a day, which after the exchange rate is only around 10 bucks a day. People end up staying a while and being looked after. There certainly are cultural differences in the way people approach healthcare, but that's for another entry.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007


White or Caucasian? I've found myself so many times trying to explain why Caucasian is not a synonym for white, nor is it the polite way to say "white," as if that needed a euphemism.

If you trace back a "real" Caucasian, as defined by scientists who failed to find a biological basis for determining race and then tried to define race by origin, you would actually only get a very small handful of people in this world tied to a very specific geographical region. I think this sums it up quite well:

The dominant use of the word ‘Caucasian’ instead of ‘white’ effectively hidescolor behind a wall of pseudo-science. Despite a history of scientificfalsification, ‘Caucasian’ was adopted into American vernacular in the mid-twentieth century as a means of reconsolidating whiteness as a biologicallydistinct category of people (Jacobson 1998). (Reitman, 2006, p. 272)

In truth, the act of using ‘white’ only reveals to whites their ownprivilege, the historical politics of whiteness. (Reitman, 2006, p. 273)

In other words, using the term "white," instead of the scientifically inaccurate "Caucasian," strips away this notion that "white" is normal or default or neutral and that people of color are inherently deviants of this construction of normalcy.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

2007 Asian Excellence Awards

I recently watched an encore presentation of the 2007 Asian Excellence Awards on AZNTV. I thought it was a great venue to showcase both established as well as up and coming Asian American talents. I know that there are so many people that take part in such an awards ceremony, but one thing I wish they could have done is give a little more background on the individuals, even if only on the event's website. For example, Sharon Leal (who is half-Filipino...but who knew that?) was nominated for her role in Dreamgirls, which in my opinion is not really an Asian American film. Also, I'm really starting to think that all of these math jokes--both by whites and Asian Americans--are getting old. And Quentin Tarantino seriously just creeps me out with his constant exotification. On the other hand though, some of my favorite moments include Margaret Cho, Yul Kwon, Masi Oka, Russell Peters, and Rob Schneider. Overall, great show for our community. Check the AZNTV website to catch it in your local area. It's on five more times this weekend!!


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Whiter than White...or...Changing the Rules of the Game

Asian Americans and the Shifts in Higher Education Admissions Standards

When discussing the issue of Asian Americans and higher education, inevitably the "overrepresentation" of Asian American students will arise. Of course, most of us have heard the standard arguments against such statements: differential impacts on the spectrum of Asian American ethnic groups, Asian traditions value hard work and education, etc. etc. Rather than dwell on these well established commentaries, I would like to draw attention to an often unmentioned racism within this discourse on Asian Americans and higher education admissions.

If we are to assume (as many scholars and admissions officers do) that:

  1. Asian Americans are one-dimensional students, they excel only in the academic (particularly math and science).
  2. Increase competition over admissions slots at all levels of colleges and university slots will demand a change in admissions criteria and selection processes.

I am not saying that these assumptions are true, but I am saying that they are part of the general working knowledge and discourse of lay people and admissions professionals. Right or wrong, these "facts" then function as truth and basis for shaping admissions policies.

Food for Thought:

Changes in admissions processes have attempted to create greater differentiation between an overwhelming number of academically excellent applicants. Many of these changes have taken the form of greater consideration of extracurricular activities in admissions decisions. What seems absent is consideration on how changes to admissions standards will affect the demographic make-ups of incoming freshman classes, particularly for communities of color.

While Asian Americans have long been well-rounded students at elite institutions, they are still perceived to be one-dimensional. Their extracurricular engagement, perhaps, are not catching admissions officers' eyes in the same way as those applicants of other racial backgrounds. While university and colleges are often lauded for their more comprehensive approach to determining a student’s admissions fate, few are question the socio-cultural implications of what is valued as extracurricular activities or how access to such activities may be limited to particular segments of our society due to any number of characteristics (i.e., socioeconomic status, geography, gender, sexual orientation, race).

I am not a proponent for the strict usage of standardized test scores and GPAs to allow for college admissions, certainly these are not objective measures either. But if we are going to rethink admissions strategies on a broad scale we must take a broader perspective.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kenneth Eng

The former AsianWeek contributor famous for his racist rant on reasons to hate black people is in jail. What an interesting turn of events.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

CNN Article on Suicide Among Asian American Women

A front page CNN article on suicide among Asian American women is big news. Asian Americans! On the front page! [EDIT: Um, it's not on the front page anymore. But I swear it was last night.] According to the article, among 15-24 year old women, Asian Americans have the highest suicide rate. The article also relates scholars' speculations on reasons behind this rate--including pressures from family, community, and the nation to live up to the stereotype of the model minority. The article also discusses other possible causes, like pressures to be a good wife and mother, having a restricted social life, not being able to question parental authority, and genetics.

First off, what is up with that front page photo? [EDIT: I know it's not there anymore, but hopefully my description will suffice.] Why is it appropriate for an article on suicide to feature a young woman's bare shoulders and long hair? This leads me to think about how convenient it is that we are focusing on 15-24 year old women. I dunno... maybe these are the Asians of most concern to white America?

On one hand, I feel somewhat vindicated by this article. I've always felt these inexplicable pressures. Even my hapa husband who understands most everything about me tells me to relax. I don't think I'd classify myself as depressed and I don't know that my pressures are exactly the same as those mentioned in the article, but my friends and I have often talked about how difficult it is to stray from being the nice Japanese girls we're expected to be.

The distinction the article draws between how Asian American men and women react to similar pressures also rings true for me. I often am frustrated with men (but maybe not necessarily Asian American men) because, in my experience, they do seem to act out rather than internalize. If someone's acting stupid, I've got no patience for them, but if someone's hurting, well, I have to be sympathetic to that. Cuz at least they're not taking it out on anyone else. (Oops... maybe this is where Asian American suicide comes from...)

And the things that annoy me: It seems parental pressure is highlighted above societal pressure. Parental pressure is the first cause mentioned and CNN knows how ADD their readers are. (Hence the unnecessary but handy bullets that now front every article.) Readers might easily assume they've learned the cause of the problem and move on! At least three reasons unrelated to Asian or Asian American culture are given, but all at the end of the article.

And while the article may attempt to disrupt the stereotype of the model minority, it perpetuates the one about pushy Asian parents with their backward sexist culture, othering Asian Americans, as if white Americans never push their children to achieve or guard their daughters more closely than their sons.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

San Jose Vietnamtown

The Mercury News just published an article on the city of San Jose considering the designation of a "Vietnam Town." Personally, I think this would be a great way to officially recognize the area of the city with the largest Vietnamese American population. As a Japanese American, I take pride in the three remaining officially-recognized Japantowns in the United States (San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles), although I do think it is a bit sad that there are only three remaining. Hopefully several generations from now, Vietnamese Americans can visit a historical Vietnamtown that represents the lives and stories of their relatives who risked so much just to survive.

Unfortunately, I was just reading through the article's comments, and am shocked by all of the opposition to the idea. Our country is one built by immigrants, and I believe that it is vital that we remember our roots. And regarding the comment that calls for the creation of a "white town," the entire United States celebrates the history of white America, not the marginalized communities that have been subjected to white domination for over 500 years.