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

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.


Laban for the Lolas

A letter from SFSU Professor Allyson Tintiagco-Cubales:

Dear Community,

We would like to invite you to join us to learn about the stories of Filipina "comfort women" who were abused during WWII. This is a timely issue because in the month of May, our representatives may be voting on House Resolution 121 (HR121). If passed, HR121 will ask Japan to take full responsibility for the systematic raping and enslavement of over 200,000 women and girls during WWII.

We are fortunate to have M. Evelina Galang, one of the main organizers pushing for the passage of HR121, visiting the Bay Area from May 15-17, 2007. Many of you may know her as the author of Her Wild American Self, Screaming Monkeys, and One Tribe. She will in the Bay Area reading from her new book, Lola¹s House, which focuses on her research on comfort women.

Please join us at the following events to learn about this pressing issue.


Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University

P.S. Please see attached petition for you and your organization.



Laban for the Lolas: Fighting for the Rights of "Comfort Women"
Emergency Meeting and Informational Session on House Resolution 121

The Filipino Community Center
35 San Juan Avenue/ Cross Street is Mission
San Francisco, CA

May 15, 2007 (Tuesday)

6:00-8:30 P.M.

Special Presentation and Reading Featuring M. Evelina Galang (Author of Her Wild American Self, Screaming Monkeys, One Tribe, and Lola's House-forthcoming)

Along with Barbara Reyes Bermeo, Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, Claudine delRosario, Korina Jocson, Jocyl Sacramento, and Michelle Ferrer

Special Performance by Aristel delaCruz and Aldrich Sabach


Laban for the Lolas: Fighting for the Rights of "Comfort Women"
Student Presentation in Asian American Studies 363- Fil Am Lit

Burk Hall 225
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132

May 16, 2007 (Wednesday)

4:10-5:00 P.M.

Special Presentation and Reading Featuring M. Evelina Galang (Author of Her Wild American Self, Screaming Monkeys, One Tribe, and Lola's House-forthcoming)

Laban for the Lolas: Fighting for the Rights of "Comfort Women"
Community Meeting and Informational Session on House Resolution 121

Daly City, CA

May 17, 2007 (Thursday)

6:00-8:30 P.M.

Special Presentation and Reading Featuring M. Evelina Galang (Author of Her Wild American Self, Screaming Monkeys One Tribe, and Lola's House-forthcoming)

For more information:

Website: http://labanforthelolas.blogspot.com/


World War II "Comfort Women" are the 200,000 girls and women abducted by the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII forced to experience a life of systematic rape and enslavement. They are now mostly in their 80's and they are dying.

They were taken from Korea, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan. In the Philippines, historians say there were about 1000 girls abducted.

On March 1, 2007 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisted, ³There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it (the coercion of WWII military sex slaves).² We ask Prime Minister Abe to look at the evidence, to see the coercion, to apologize and give appropriate reparations. The women are waiting.

H.RES.121: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Force's coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as "comfort women", during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II.

Sponsor: Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15] (introduced 1/31/2007) Cosponsors


Committees: House Foreign Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/17/2007 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight.

House Resolution 121, if passed, will ask Japan to take full responsibility for the systematic raping and enslavement of over 200,000 women and girls during WWII. In the Philippines, historians estimate that over 1000 Filipina girls young as eight years old to women in their forties were abducted and held captive in garrisons ‹ churches, town halls, schools and private homes captured by Japanese soldiers and turned into comfort stations. Those girls are now lolas in their eighties.

For a moment, imagine war and your family. Imagine this. Is it acceptable?

To date, House Res. 121 has 115 co-sponsors in Congress. We want at least 120 to get House Res 121 to pass.

We need to let Congressman Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi know that the Filipino American community of Northern California, their constituents, believe in House Resolution 121. Please write them. Determine who is your representative and then cut and paste the email message below, sign it and send it to them. Even better, send them your thoughts on this issue in your own words.

If you live in the following zip code areas ‹ 94002, 94005, 94010, 94011, 94013, 94014, 94015, 94016, 94017, 94019, 94030, 94037, 94038, 94044, 94061, 94062, 94063, 94065, 94066, 94070, 94080, 94083, 94114, 94116, 94117, 94122, 94125, 94127, 94128, 94131, 94132, 94134, 94143, 94401, 94402, 94403, 94404, 94497 -- your congressman is Lantos.



COMMUNITY LETTER (Please sign on)

Dear Congressman Tom Lantos and House Speaker Pelosi,

We are the Filipino American Community of the 8th and 12th Districts in California and we are writing to you to ask you to support House Resolution 121.

During WW2 the Japanese Imperial Army wreaked havoc on the Philippines. Many Filipino Veterans fought for the United States Army and died in battle or were injured for life. But Filipino soldiers who fought side by side with American military are not our only WW2 casualties. Over 1000 women and girls, usually between the ages of eight and twenty were abducted and forced into Japanese ³Comfort Stations² where they were subjected to systematic rape and enslavement.

For example, seventeen-year-old Pilar Frias had two bouts with the Japanese soldiers before she was taken captive in the province of Bicol. After raping her five times, soldiers tied her at the waist and dragged her along with three other girls. Strung together by hemp rope, the four girls were raped every night, five times a night, a different soldier every time.

Many of those 1000 girls and women like Pilar Frias have suffered the trauma of WW2 for their entire lives ­ their bodies, their minds and their spirits have never fully recovered.

We are a community that respects our elders and takes great pride in the spirit of family. It is time to take care of a generation of Filipinos who suffered a war that was not theirs.

House Resolution 121 is a resolution about human rights, about respect and justice. It is a statement that encourages Japan to take full responsibility for these war crimes and to make a full and unequivocal formal apology to the 200,000 women and girls of Asia who suffered these atrocities. Of these women 1000 of them are our ancestors, our mothers and grandmothers of the Philippines and it is our belief that these women deserve some peace of mind.

It is our belief that taking a stand against these war crimes sends a clear message to everyone that this behavior is intolerable, inhumane and unjust.

As your constituents of the 8th and 12th Districts of California, we urge you to support House Resolution 121.




*OCTOBER 20-21, 2007*

Deadline for submissions: August 15, 2007

Call for proposal and conference website:

More info on the Asian American Studies Graduate Student Group at UC Davis:


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Robert Jensen

Yesterday I attended Robert Jensen's talk titled "The Academy and Activism: Neutralizing Neutrality and Moving Past Polemics" and this afternoon he joined the graduate students in my cohort for a class and a dinner. Jensen is well known for his article U.S. just as guilty of committing own violent acts, which was published in the Houston Chronicle three days after 9/11 and invited a number death threats and poorly articulated diatribes about being callous and unAmerican. Here is a quote from that article:

... this act was no more despicable as the massive acts of terrorism -- the
deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes -- that the U.S.
government has committed during my lifetime. For more than five decades
throughout the Third World, the United States has deliberately targeted
civilians or engaged in violence so indiscriminate that there is no other way to
understand it except as terrorism. And it has supported similar acts of
terrorism by client states. If that statement seems outrageous, ask the people
of Vietnam. Or Cambodia and Laos. Or Indonesia and East Timor. Or Chile. Or
Central America. Or Iraq, or Palestine. The list of countries and peoples who
have felt the violence of this country is long. Vietnamese civilians bombed by
the United States. Timorese civilians killed by a U.S. ally with U.S.-supplied
You can probably see why that article ruffled a few feathers.

Tonight I spoke with him one on one and I cannot describe how exciting it was to have this opportunity. I thanked him for writing that article because it voiced a very unpopular opinion, one that I held but did not dare to discuss with anyone but my closest Canadian friends. I thanked him because when "my people," and I mean this in a collective sense meaning anyone of Asian, South Asian or SE Asian descent, make claims like this we're immediately dismissed and often told to "go home" if we "don't like America and all it stands for." Opinions like this are, after all, used as "proof" of our unassimilability in this country. In Asian American studies classes we talk about the millions of lives lost in SE Asia at the hands of the United States all the time, but this sort of thing doesn't enter into the wider discourse unless someone like him -- a white male professor -- initiates that dialog and he did and I couldn't imagine if he hadn't.

I also thanked him for writing The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege. I confessed that one of my most terrifying teaching moments was introducing the idea of whiteness and white privilege to a racially diverse class that included many white students. I told him that I made a very conscious and deliberate decision to front end the lesson with articles written by white men about white privilege because I felt that being an Asian woman simply wouldn't give me the credibility to get the message across. I admitted that at the end of the class I felt guilty and disappointed that I would not feel comfortable giving that lesson in my own words in my own skin. It's not fair that I feel that I have to direct students to articles written by white men in order to teach about a topic that I can articulate myself, but I feel like I have to and I hate it. We joked about our differences: white - Asian, male - female, older - younger (looking), tall - short. "Well you're screwed," he concluded with a laugh. But in all seriousness, Bob reminded me of what's really important. It's teaching and helping people to understand these things. It's about being strategic and doing what works for you. You can try to overthrow the system and I think we (as in people of color) are taking baby steps to at least shift the so-called system, but sometimes in the here and now you need to just work within it and do little things to make a difference. I forgot to thank him for this conversation. So, Bob, thanks for this (and for being a privileged white man who gets it).

-- Vanessa Au


Saturday, May 5, 2007

APA Heritage Month

It is APA Heritage Month, or as one woman I met at the Asian Pacific American Studies Conference at MSU calls it, "yellow month." I noticed that my apartment manager's monthly newsletter listed May as National Hamburger Month, National Salsa Month, and Personal History month. No mention of APA Heritage Month. Then again, looks like the White House forgot too. They announced it last year but this year it looks like W decided to focus on May as Physical Fitness month instead. So much for recognizing our contributions to this country.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

May Day

Anyone do anything interesting for this year's May Day? I hear the rallies in San Jose, LA, Chicago, and other big cities around the country went fairly well, although not as big as in years past. Whereas it seems that so much of the American media focuses on how May Day is only for Mexican Americans, let us not forget that it represents International Workers' Day, and is a great opportunity for all working-class communities (a large majority being communities of color, and yes this includes Asian Americans) to unite and celebrate their achievements. Any other interesting links to share?