03/23/2017

Hijacking the Media

the slants

We’ve long empowered all progressive AAPI including Southeast, Sub-continental, and far Western Asians. Today’s NPR story connects the recent string of attacks on Indian-Americans to the need to fight racism. Opponents have tried to hijack the AAPI narrative with media like “Hindus and Trump Rallied Together in a Xenophobic Fever” and AAPIs writing loudly into “letters to the editor” and call-in shows and WeChat-originated efforts to defeat Maryland sanctuary laws and AAPIs booked on (we notice, thanks to the Asian American Media Matters, MediaWatch, and AsAmNews). As our media team efforts are very significant, we not only notice and not only call it out, but take that never-before-done step: explain. Might be preaching to the choir, but we hope to reach at least that 1 open mind.

When Asians feel safe in the minority myth, don’t feel any need to organize or be politically involved (as the vast majority do), want to reap the benefits by being good in suburbia, feel free to collaborate with hateful groups (to, say, hate Muslims as Hindus often do or to hate Communists as many Asians do or etc.), or want to simply get a paycheck and be at peace, there’s a rude wake-up call. Some think our opponents just want to stop illegal immigration (lots of AAPI easily feel resentful at illegals when they’ve spent energy coming legally but fail to realize NumbersUSA’s goal is to reduce all not just illegal immigration, wake up!) or just want to get us into college (hint: removing affirmative action returns us to the days when we weren’t even allowed in America much less college, it won’t allegedly let Asians flood on in, moves like NYC’s edit to its Specialized HS exam are moves to reduce AAPI dominance of merit-based systems) or just want to let our small businesses have less regulations and more profits (hint: non-white businesses need not open). We however have seen for decades our opponent’s real goals: reduce all immigration, reduce AAPIs dominating colleges, and let whites return to work where we succeeded. The truth is far uglier than the innocent moves as whites reappropriate us, their quiet offense-less obedient minorities.

Indian Americans aren’t the only ones put on notice. We refuse to wait until hateful violent attacks (in addition to the stream of microaggressions everywhere and everyday) reaches other AAPI groups, but know that we fight to empower Indian Americans as just 1 subgroup of many AAPI ones. When we say hate and racism and xenophobia aren’t ok, we cite the same not just against AAPIs but also by AAPIs because the circle of harm goes in every way, as we see now, as we’ve seen in history, as we refuse to allow to recur. We exist to empower AAPIs and any threat to it is a target of our resistance. We have our own voice, we will tell our own stories, no media will use a few erroneous AAPIs to hijack the voice of all AAPIs. We’re watching and, as our name says, taking action.

The People’s Vote: Opinion

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in the pursuit of social justice by our 2017 Mike Honda Writing Fellow, Amanda Ong. Read her first piece on identity, second piece on Tam v. USPTO, third piece on power, fourth piece on feminism, and fifth piece on Columbia’s xenophobic vandalism, and the sixth piece on activism. This post follows up our support of Meng’s proposed legislation.

(c)2017 Kevin Chu

(c)2017 Kevin Chu

In recent weeks, U.S. Congresswoman of New York Grace Meng has proposed the 21st Century Voting Act, a bill which intends to “protect, improve, and modernize the act of voting.” According to Meng’s website as well as the language on the bill itself, the 21st Century Voting Act seeks to:

  1. Make Election Day a national holiday;
  2. Initiate automatic voter registration;
  3. Restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated persons;
  4. Make voter registration portable;
  5. Allow voting information, such as polling place and registration status, to be available online;
  6. Strengthen and streamline voting cybersecurity protections;
  7. Provide additional federal resources to state and local election boards;
  8. Establish a quadrennial review of voting in America.

In short, the act keeps in mind the protection of our voting rights and seeks to create greater accessibility to vote for all American citizens eligible to do so.
“It is way past time that Congress pass meaningful voting reform,” Meng said on her website. “It is ridiculous that in this day and age such troublesome hurdles exist that restrict access to the ballot box. My bill would address key priorities to modernizing our voting systems, including establishing automatic and portable voter registration, and making Election Day a national holiday. These commonsense reforms would allow every American the opportunity to participate in our electoral process, which is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. We must finally overhaul our disparate and complicated voting systems.”

Our right to vote is consistently explained to us as an equitable and democratic privilege that we have as American citizens—and this is true in the sense that our right to vote is founded upon such democratic principles. We are allowed to have a say in the actions of our country, and we have the power as the people of our country to elect who to grant greater powers to. However, the issues Meng brings to light in the 21st Century Voting Act are crucial to upholding the democratic principles behind our right to vote. Despite the great ideals upon which our democracy has been founded upon, many members of American society have historically been barred from this right. Even after African Americans were technically granted the right to vote under the 15th amendment in 1870, it was not until almost a century later when the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 that they could practice that right. Prior to that, the ability to vote was basically inaccessible due to Jim Crow laws that were created with the intention to indirectly keep African American citizens from voting. Poll taxes prevented citizens who could not afford to pay the tax from voting, and literacy tests prevented uneducated citizens from voting, and furthermore tended to be selectively administered to African American citizens.
While Jim Crow laws have since been repealed, still many barriers remain. Unsurprisingly, marginalized communities are still disproportionately effected.

In particular, the Asian American community has been seen to have the lowest voter turnout of any racial group in the United States, according to a study of the 2010 Midterm Elections done by the Pew Research group. Of Asian Americans who did not vote, most said that they were too busy with work or school to do so. In fact, nearly forty percent cited this as their reason for not voting, a rate fifty percent higher than any other racial or ethnic group. For this reason Meng’s bill is especially important for the Asian American community, as the accessibility it presents could drastically increase Asian American voter turnout. With the 21st Century Voting Act, the Asian American community could very well gain the voice it deserves within our government.

As citizens, our right to vote is entrenched in our identity as Americans itself. The philosophy of democracy does not function unless all members of the society are granted voice in their government. The right to vote lies at the foundations our country is built on, and we must uphold these rights, or strip ourselves from all of the principles we hold to be true as Americans. But with Meng’s 21st Century Voting Act in mind, we must also remember that with our support, true voting equity is possible. And so we must go forth and mobilize to ensure our congress will support Meng’s bill with the same fervor.

#IAm Richard Chen

I wrote about a thanks to ECAASU and was writing a tribute to Mike Honda’s career when I realized something missing from this blog’s ongoing discussion: the story of an empowered Asian American in public life. Me.

I grew up with not much of an Asian American identity. It was a 78% white town and I largely happily assimilated, there was no gripe or problem as I was an innocent child. I knew little racism and little discrimination as a child, we were all Branchburgers and I shall forever happily be one. I did the usual things, HS, college, job, married, had a kid, it’s been all typical and normal in one way, nothing about Asian American politics necessary.

So how’d I get so involved?

My journey from happily assimilated to proud active Asian American advocate has many pit stops in heartache, failures, doubts, and embarrassing shortcomings. I didn’t graduate at the university of my dreams (CMU), didn’t graduate in the major of my first choosing (Comp Sci), am not working the original field of my dreams (civil federal service), didn’t fulfill my parents’ original desires for college. With a semester off, a few years of poor pay in lackluster jobs, earning 41% of my job’s median income, taking 6 more months off from jobs to find myself, there was no Asian success story. I didn’t want model minority pressure as I came up so short. Instead of the usual CMU success story which fulfills all those Asian American fantasy stories, I hid from the pressure, the identity, the inspiration turned to embarrassment, the goal became the torment.

Thankfully, over time, success slowly came and my managing my disappointments came hard and taught me the hard way those typical life lessons: love what you do, be happy, be proud of your own story, failures breed character. So when I say those cheesy taglines, remember my story.

Through such life lessons, I’d come to see how to make opportunity for myself, to speak with my own voice, to encourage and inspire others alongside in my journey. In 2008, when I read this very blog to help me vote in a major Presidential election about which I knew nothing until 2 days before voting. I immediately emailed about how I could give back for their contributions. Today, I work with many of those who gave me such enrichment, knowledge, and help in those early days. I’m proud to give all of my self through organizing, web admin, coding, management, writing, and recruiting for the AAAFund not just for the sake of me or even the AAAFund but for our ideal, our cause: empowering Asian Americans.

The lightbulb went off for me not in a flash but as a slow turning on. My embrace of my identity, Asian, Taiwanese, developer, involved, helping community, has all come similarly slowly. My advocacy and activism here come not because of some liberal idea or some label or some far off cause, but rather because I have lived a journey which I feel others living it need to be able to realize for themselves, to be able to make their own choices, to have the best opportunity they can take, to feel supported instead of belittled. My life story informs all my work with AAAFund. It is all true, deep, heartfelt, and meaningful.

There are stronger feelings at times … one of the most aggregious violations of the US Constitution happened to Japanese-Americans. We do not forget. We do not let Americans forget their own history, our shared history, our pain is from the betrayal of America to its own values and we fight and resist today because we do not want to go back on the American dream. This country has given me so much and I do so much everyday with the AAAFund because I deeply believe others deserve the same opportunity at the American dream.

Becoming me was & is an ongoing work. Becoming a parent has, as the cliches always go, fundamentally altered my view of everything. My purpose in life is clearer. My thanks for my place in my family and generations and as son and father grow by the day. My gratitude and graciousness have grown after years of seemingly unstoppable erosion. I thank all in our community for giving so richly to each other, not just in this political realm but from all our allies as our mission is to empower Asian Americans in public life. My public life here is happy and fulfilling and I ask all who want to get involved and to grow with us to comment below.

Thanks for reading my story so far.

– Richard Chen

Rep. Takano Joined by CAPAC Leadership in Introducing Resolutions in Remembrance of Japanese American Internment

Editor’s Note: Rep Mark Takano is our former Endorsed Candidate.

Rep Mark Takano

For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Contact: Josh Weisz
(202) 225-2305

Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced two resolutions in remembrance of Japanese American internment. The first, introduced with Reps. Doris Matsui and Colleen Hanabusa, would establish a Day of Remembrance to reflect on the injustices endured by thousands of men, women, and children who were the victims of discrimination during World War II. The second would recognize Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution to honor Mr. Korematsu’s lifelong fight to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans.

This year is the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which permitted the internment of certain communities based only on ethnicity and country of origin.

“The forced relocation and imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, including my parents and grandparents, was a dark chapter in our history that can never be forgotten,” said Rep. Takano. “The consequences of allowing our fear to overcome our compassion should serve as a lesson that is more relevant today than ever before. I hope my family’s suffering, and the suffering of so many others, acts as a warning to the American people about the danger of allowing hate and discrimination to dictate policy.”

In 1944, Fred Korematsu appealed his imprisonment in a Japanese American prison camp to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him on the grounds that wartime incarceration was a “military necessity.” However, following revelations of governmental misconduct and evidence that incarceration was attributable to “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,” his case was reopened in 1983 and his conviction was overturned.

President Bill Clinton awarded Mr. Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2010, California established the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, which is now observed by the state on January 30 of each year.

“As we reflect on this anniversary, we must do so with the understanding that history is not static,” said Rep. Matsui. “Seventy-five years ago, Japanese American citizens faced an unimaginable injustice, forced into internment by their own country. Our nation was united in righting this wrong with the passage of the Civil Liberties Act almost 30 years ago. But the mistakes of our past must never be forgotten or normalized. We remain committed to ensuring history does not repeat itself, and vigilant in our defense of justice for all.”

“The Day of Remembrance resolution is to recognize what happened 75 years ago when Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt,” said Rep. Hanabusa. “After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, innocent Japanese Americans were seen as threats to our country almost overnight. When E.O. 9066 was signed, 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans, including my grandfathers, were stripped of their civil liberty and rights, rounded up, and incarcerated. Today, it is more important than ever that we are reminded of this dark past in American history and what happens when we do not practice our American values of due process, acceptance, and fairness.”

The Day of Remembrance resolution is co-sponsored by: Bordallo, Chu, Cohen, Dingell, Gabbard, Grijalva, Hanabusa, Kilmer, Lee, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Matsui, Nadler, Napolitano, Peters, Roybal-Allard, Schiff, Smith (Adam), Soto, Speier, Swalwell.

The resolution to recognize Fred Korematsu Day is co-sponsored by: Clarke, Green, Gutierrez, Hanabusa, Jayapal, Lee, Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Meng, Napolitano, Peters, Speier, Velazquez

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