April 19, 2014

The Reminder of One Community’s Success

Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri

Editor’s Note: We moderate all comments, including inappropriate and racist ones.

I have never watched the Miss America pageant live, so when I heard about the news of Nina Davuluri becoming the first South Asian American to win the Miss America title, it was from my Facebook mobile app the morning after. Yet, barely five minutes passed before my Facebook friends started posting news stories on the racist backlash to someone of Davuluri’s lineage attaining the title “Miss America.”

Whatever your views on the Miss America pageant, Davuluri’s success is nothing to take lightly. While the pageant has its origins since the 1920s, it was not until 1983 when the first African-American woman would wear the crown and in 2001 when the title went to a Hawaii-born Filipino woman. As groundbreaking as her accomplishment may be, the reaction on the Internet is nothing new. When Cheerios released a commercial in which a little girl adorably pours cereal all over her African-American father’s chest because her White mother said Cheerios is “heart healthy,” the company had to disable YouTube comments. When a 10-year old Latino boy (beautifully) sang the National Anthem while wearing a traditional mariachi outfit, stinging tweets speculating about the boy’s immigrant status filled the online world.

Each ethnic and underrepresented community always celebrates a victory when someone from that community achieves some success (my mother still boasts about how a National spelling bee champion is Indian, as if the child were her own). Yet, we are constantly reminded of the outsider status minorities share in this country and how no matter what the achievement, no community is immune from the vitriol of the anonymous online poster. It is a humble reminder that the advent of technology and communication modes, as well as progress in other areas, do not reflect a change in attitude of the entire American public. So while we praise Davuluri’s win and read all about it on our smartphones, laptops, and tablets, we are reminded that there are some who will simply burn up inside to see another community’s success.

– K.J. Bagchi

China Bashing Unlimited: No Taiwanese Is Safe

The below is inspired by Politico‘s “Tweets on Mitch McConnell’s wife’s ethnicity condemned” and their email broadcast about it yesterday (no static web copy). The topic is too important & timely to ignore, part of the continuous China-bashing by all for years, especially during election seasons, but regardless now that every day is campaign season.

LIBERAL SUPER PAC APOLOGIZES FOR TWEETS ABOUT McCONNELL’S ‘CHINESE’ WIFEPhillip Bailey reports for WFPL in Louisville: “Hours after being roundly condemned by Democrats and Republicans, a liberal super PAC is apologizing to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife for a series of controversial Twitter messages. The group’s Tweets accused former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan, of moving American jobs to China and that her ‘Chinese (money)’ was buying state elections. Critics slammed the comments as racially offensive, and a national backlash against the group was ignited. Progress Kentucky executive director Shawn Reilly says they remain dedicated to educating voters about McConnell’s record, but their messages ‘included an inappropriate comment on the ethnicity’ of the former labor secretary.

“‘We apologize to the secretary for that unnecessary comment and have deleted the tweets in question. In addition, we have put a review process in place to ensure tweets and other social media communications from Progress Kentucky are reviewed and approved prior to posting,’ he says. Reilly had initially balked at expressing regret despite a spokesperson telling WFPL an apology was forthcoming. But after Democrats such as actress Ashley Judd, who is the rumored opponent for McConnell in 2014, denounced the Twitter messages Progress issued the apology late Tuesday evening.” http://bit.ly/Y09Fly

– The Super PAC had also suggested in tweets that McConnell was gay, reports BuzzFeed:”In two tweets, both of which have since been deleted, Progress Kentucky accused McConnell of being gay, including calling the Senate’s top Republican ‘a gay-bashing gay senator.’” http://bit.ly/12aqXov

While Progress Kentucky apologized, the list of China-bashing is endless, we could never cease writing about it. I write this post to shine just 1 of countless examples, but their numerous nature shouldn’t desensitize you or make you feel that’s tolerable or impossible to stop. Just an idealistic note against the money machine that prizes political donations above all, China bashing being a very successful tool therein.

Anti-Asian violence recap

Warning, this article and its links contain disturbing and graphic content.

It all started with the killing of an Asian man with the graphic New York Post cover (interestingly, from an Asian photographer) by a mentally ill man. Not only was it shameless New York tabloid fodder that set a new low in an already low industry desperate for readership, but they couldn’t even give the wife’s and daughter’s funeral privacy.

A week later, a mentally ill woman shoved an Asian man onto another set of New York City subway tracks. Caulk her up to a toxic result of political, religious and ethic hate. That topic deserves its own post about political extremism feeding the already pliable and paranoid tendencies of the mentally ill.

Last week in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, a mentally ill robber assaulted, robbed then threw a woman onto the subway tracks. No identity of the victim, yet.

In that same city today, Dr. Melissa Ketunti, a half Thai female pediatrician, was found duct taped, bound and burned to death in her own home’s basement.

One has to wonder how much other anti-Asian violence is out there without all this high-profile publicity. Very sickening. Publicize for the sake of justice.

Justice for Private Danny Chen Part 2/2

Private Danny Chen

Today is the 1st anniversary of the hazing and death of Private Danny Chen. We still seek just for Danny Chen. Our friends at OCA NYC have led 7 thoughtfully planned and left many actions items at Facebook Page & Tumblr.

Anti-AAPI violence comes in many forms. For our many AAPI service members and those who’ll join them in the future, never forget and to prepare by sharing your resources in the comments below.

Also let’s remember Harry Lew who died in similarly barbaric circumstances.

Sam Yoon To Lead Council Of Korean Americans

I wanted to share an update on what has been happening since you joined me in our historic campaign for mayor of Boston in 2009.

Several months after the election I made the difficult decision to leave Boston and move to the Washington, D.C. area. Though I loved Boston dearly, I took the opportunity to move closer to my family, but also to lead a national organization advocating for community economic development.

I learned so much about how grassroots community organizations all around our country both thrived and struggled due to the Great Recession. I took their message to our national leaders and even documented them in our own YouTube channel. But by the end of 2011, I was offered a chance to serve in the Obama administration.

Most of you know I was an early and strong supporter of Barack Obama in his historic 2008 race, and I was honored to work for him during most of this year at the Department of Labor in the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) as a senior policy advisor. The time I spent there was both eye-opening and sobering. It is an enormous challenge to prepare a 21st century workforce in a struggling economy with a gridlocked Congress. Yet I saw the good people at ETA march on every day, for American workers, and I salute them.

This brings us to today. I am pleased to let you know through this email that I have recently been hired as the President of a non-profit organization called the Council of Korean Americans (CKA). CKA is a national, non-partisan group of Korean Americans whose mission is to assert a clear, strong voice on matters of importance to our community and to advocate for our full participation in all aspects of American life.

Founded in 2010, CKA fulfills a clear need in the Korean American community, which, like many immigrant and ethnic communities, lacks a national, unified voice. I firmly believe our members and our allies have the talent, energy, and drive to make this happen. I would love for you to be involved.

Check back from time to time at our website. I plan to start a blog and comment on issues of the day from a more personal point of view. I encourage you to sign up for our newsletter and stay in touch with me as I take on this new venture.

That’s my update, in two minutes or less! Thank you for reading, and thank you so much for your friendship over the years.

Please stay in touch, and God bless!

- Sam Yoon

The 2012 DNC AAPI Caucus

The second AAPI caucus meeting was well-attended and filled with remarks from a number of Asian American politicians, several Secretaries, and one Second Lady. I wish I could say the same for the first meeting, but I wasn’t there. It was over by the time I picked up my media credentials. Lesson learned.

Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of CAPAC, reminded everyone in the room that President Obama is good for our community, and I don’t just mean Asian Americans. Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of Guam reminded us President Obama grew up an island boy — he doesn’t forget about the territories. Perhaps the key takeaway from Chu’s remarks, Republicans are working so hard to prevent those who wish to register to vote from doing so — 81% of first time voters voted for Obama in 2008. Congressman Honda, former chair of CAPAC, rightfully declared Asian Americans the theoretical margin of victory, but only if we register to vote. Only 55% of eligible Asian Americans are registered.

Chu also focused on the anti-Asian sentiments percolating throughout unsavory elements of the American polity with particular focus on Pete Hoekstra bringing in yellowgirl in Michigan in the year of the 30th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s murder.

Chris Lu, President Obama’s Cabinet Secretary, noted that 2012 is not only the 30th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s murder but also the 70th anniversary of the Japanese Internment and 130th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Lu also reminded us that before President Obama, a meeting of every Asian American Secretary throughout history would fit at a table for 2. Now if they all got together, there are many board games they wouldn’t be able to play together since Obama appointed the third, fourth, and fifth Asian American Secretaries.

Secretary Arne Duncan gave some of the best news of the caucus — the Department of Education is working to dispel the model minority myth. Duncan also shared that this was his first convention and he’s having a great time. There’s always something special about one’s first. Duncan stressed the importance of America leading the world in college graduation; the Department of Education is working to make that happen.

Secretary Hilda Solis reflected the feelings of many, many people. The Democratic National Convention looks like America, unlike the Republican National Convention. Solis also celebrated AAPI politicians and leaders, whom she collectively referred to as “fast and effective.” Solis’s words also included high praise for Michelle Obama.

Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s Chief of Staff, also praised the First Lady, noting how critical her work on childhood obesity is to many AAPI communities. Tchen reminded the crowd that 17 new Asian American federal judges have been appointed and confirmed thanks to President Obama with 3 more on track for confirmation.

Former White House Chief of Staff Pete Rouse expanded on the theme of federal judges, making the point Gautam says is ignored in this presidential race — 2 SCOTUS nominations could arise in the next presidential term. Rouse also urged everyone in the room to make their best efforts to maximize turnout.

Dr. Jill Biden appeared for a few brief remarks largely stressing the importance of involvement in the political process.

Maya Soetoro-Ng also spoke.

Daniel Inouye gave a speech that should have been televised.

Mayor Ed Lee was the most amusing speaker, upstaging Mike Honda, who usually has no competition for most amusing:

I’ll be short because I am.

On a personal note, I don’t know if anyone in the room needed or made use of it, but I greatly appreciate the accessibility provided to the hard-of-hearing:

- Justin Gillenwater


Republican guns are not weapons

Another day in the United States, another tragic shooting, this time by Jeffrey Johnson in the shadow of the Empire State Building. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Tucson. Aurora. Oak Creek. There are so many that it’s hard to remember them all. This doesn’t count the less publicized daily gun deaths that only garner fine print in the newspapers.

Again and again, Americans are killed by legally purchased firearms because our gun laws are among the most lax in the world. Yes, Johnson reportedly was not licensed to carry the gun in New York City, but he legally bought the gun in Florida in 1991. in the rest of the recent incidents, including Aurora, all guns and ammunition were purchased legally.

The NRA uses a false interpretation of the Second Amendment and massive campaign bribes, er, “contributions,” to make sure the James Holmes-type psychos in this country are able to buy as many guns and bullets as they need to mass murder us. Make no mistake, blood is on their hands, and they know it. But they don’t care.

The evidence that stricter gun laws work is all over the world. Japan strictly forbids handgun ownership by private citizens. As a direct result, for every Japanese murdered by firearms, more than 200 Americans become victims of gun homicides. Closer to home, Canada has much stricter gun laws, and consequently less than half as many firearm deaths.

What about the constitutionally protected “freedom” that gun nuts keep ranting about? It’s the result of an intentional misinterpretation of the Second Amendment, which reads, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The NRA believes the first phrase is disposable or meaningless. Yet any elementary school English teacher could tell you that the second phrase is dependent on the first.

If the Founding Fathers thought this right should be unrestricted, they wouldn’t have bothered to haggle about the language of the first phrase during the summer of 1789. But they did. And the Second Amendment as ratified obviously means that the people’s right to keep and bear arms is not to be infringed BECAUSE the “free State” may need to be defended by a “well regulated militia.”

This is exactly the situation in land locked Switzerland, where the vast majority of men in their 20s are conscripted into the military for training. These men are REQUIRED to keep firearms at home. Switzerland, mind you, doesn’t have a regular army, so the citizenry serves as a “well regulated militia.” Despite this very high rate of gun ownership, Switzerland has less than one-seventh as many gun homicides as the US — I guess that’s what happens when the guns are truly “well regulated.”

Also consider that the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791. At the time, firearms were single shot flintlocks, not terribly accurate, with limited range. They misfired often and took at least 15 seconds to reload, even by experts. The Founding Fathers could not have forseen private citizens having access to military grade rapid fire assault weapons.

I can’t say with 100% certaintly that stricter gun laws would have prevented or mitigated all of these incidents. However, it’s common sense that if you make it harder for criminals and psychopaths to obtain weapons of mass destruction, you give law enforcement and other authorities more time to prevent these deadly incidents from occurring. The notion that having MORE armed citizens as a deterrent is frankly idiotic. A better idea would be to close corporate tax loopholes. For instance, how about making gun show promoters legally liable and responsible for all weapons bought from their events? How about requiring a Federal Firearms License from every gun show seller? How about outlawing private ownership of semiautomatic weapons? How about limiting gun purchases to one per month per household? I personally disapprove of hunting, but I understand some people consider it to be a legitimate activity. Fine. None of these restrictions would be more than a tiny inconvenience. Yet the NRA has or would fight every one of them.

The NRA’s basis for unrestricted gun ownership by private citizens is a massive lie built on a bogus interpretation of the Second Amendment, which is somewhat outdated anyway. When will politicians, including President Obama, publicly expose the NRA’s bloody dishonesty and take a bold stand to stop this endless madness?

– Teddy Chen

Oak Creek Tragedy Update 2

The First Lady will visit Oak Creek next Thursday, August 23rd, to meet with family members of those killed and injured in the shooting.

The White House’s Honoring the Victims of the Oak Creek Tragedy and the Dept of Ed’s “Update on the Shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin” lists actions the Administration has taken and suggests those which you can aide and join.

Our friends at SAALT post many actions including send messages of solidarity and support for the victims at GroundswellMovement.org.

Contribute to The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin who setup a victims fund to which people can send donations via postal mail to Victims Memorial Fund c/o Sikh Temple, 7512 S Howell Ave, Oak Creek, WI 53154 as well as the IndieGoGo and Direct Relief‘s similar fund.

Our AAA-Fund Board member and chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus Bel Leong-Hong attended an interfaith service at the Siva Vishnu Temple with the United Hindu Jain Temples of Washington DC.

Please comment with your actions and ideas.

Related Posts

September 19: 1882 Project Celebration

Editor’s Note: The below is from our friends at the 1882 Project, a nonpartisan, grassroots effort to address the Chinese Exclusion Laws. Note our post “House Resolution 683 Regret for Chinese Exclusion Act Passes“.

1882 project

Friends of the 1882 Project,

As you know, both Congressional Resolutions passed in the Senate and the House. Last November we held an event to commemorate the historic milestone of the passage of Senate Resolution 201 which acknowledges the injustice of Chinese Exclusion Laws, first enacted in 1882.

We wish to inform you that a national event will be held to celebrate the passage of House Resolution 683 on Wednesday, September 19, 6:30 to 8:00 pm, at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC. We hope that you can join us in this celebration. RSVP by September 12, 2012 to Vivian Yao at

AG Eric Holder’s statement at today’s Oak Creek memorial service

Editor’s Note: The below is a reposting of Attorney General Eric Holder’s statement from earlier today at the Oak Creek memorial service earlier today. His eloquent words need no further commentary.

Mourners pay their respects at the funeral and memorial service for the six victims of the Sikh temple of Wisconsin mass shooting in Oak Creek, Wis., Friday, Aug 10, 2012. The public service was held in the Oak Creek High School. (Credit: AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Oak Creek Memorial Service
OAK CREEK, WIS. ~ Friday, August 10, 2012
I come to you today with a heavy heart, and with the knowledge that my words – or any words – are insufficient to convey the grief we all feel, to supply the answers we seek, or to provide the comfort for which we long. But I am here – on behalf of the President of the United States, on behalf of my colleagues at the Department of Justice, and on behalf of all the American people – to stand with you, to mourn with you, and to pray with you.

Although we have been brought together by an unspeakable, and devastating, tragedy – we are bound together by far more. We are united today – not only by a shared sense of loss, but also by a common belief in the healing power of faith, and in the universal principles that are glorified in our nation’s churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, Gurdwaras, and other houses of worship; but also by the principles of compassion, kindness, tolerance, inclusion, and love.

The ongoing American experiment was inspired by these ideals – and by the premise that people of diverse races, colors, creeds, faiths and ideologies can work together to build a society that is rooted in freedom, personal responsibility, and equality and opportunity for all. As President Obama has often said, “It is that fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper, [and] I am my sister’s keeper, that makes this country work.”

This is the idea that – no matter where you come from or how you worship – once you are here, you are part of the American family. And this also is the story of the Sikh community in our country – a community that has contributed in innumerable ways to the greatness of America.

These were the early immigrants who came to the West Coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work in lumber mills, on railway lines, and as agricultural laborers – and who stayed, building and strengthening communities around the country, from Yuba City to New York City, from Miami to Milwaukee, to Washington, D.C.

There are public servants like Dalip Singh Saund, the first Asian American ever elected to Congress; and Bhagat Singh Thind, a hero who fought for America in World War I, and then fought to become a U.S. citizen.

We are talking about our neighbors and co-workers, our brothers and sisters, and the members of our American family – and of the Oak Creek community – who we remember today.

We gather to honor Suveg Singh Khattra, a retired farmer who came to the Gurdwara to hear his native Punjabi, the language of his home and of the scriptures he loved. We celebrate the life of Paramjit Kaur, a proud mother who was always devoted to her two sons – Harpeet and Kamal – and to her faith. And we remember Prakash Singh, who just recently was overjoyed to be reunited with his wife and children from India — a nation that is both a trusted ally and a revered friend.

We also honor Sita and Ranjit Singh, brothers who were both priests at the Gurdwara, who devoted their lives to the practice of their faith and to the service of others. And we reflect on the extraordinary contributions of Satwant Singh Kaleka – a key leader and founder of the Gurdwara, who, in a split-second decision, didn’t hesitate to put his own body between a deranged killer and his fellow worshippers. We will never know how many lives he saved last Sunday – or how many more he enriched during the many days and years he spent at his beloved Gurdwara, where he was so clearly dedicated to feeding the hungry, befriending the lonely, and reaching out to help those most in need.

Today, as we reflect on the lives and legacies of these six remarkable individuals, and keep in our hearts all those others harmed in the horrific attack, we also are reminded of the many other members of our family who have been taken from us far too suddenly – and far too soon – in other senseless acts of violence.

Unfortunately, for the Sikh community, this sort of violence has become all too common in recent years. In the recent past, too many Sikhs have been targeted and victimized simply because of who they are, how they look, and what they believe.

This is wrong. It is unacceptable. And it will not be tolerated. We must ask necessary questions of ourselves: what kind of nation do we truly want to have? Will we muster the courage to demand more of those who lead us and, just as importantly, of ourselves? What will we do to prevent that which has brought us here today from occurring in the future? We should sensibly discuss if there is a need to change our laws, and we should certainly discuss how we might change the hearts of those so filled with hate that the despicable act we mourn today could ever have occurred. For our nation’s law enforcement community, our resolve to prevent acts of terrorism and combat crimes motivated by hatred has never been stronger. And that is precisely what happened here: an act of terrorism; an act of hatred; a crime that is anathema to the founding principles of our nation and to who we are as a people.

Last Sunday morning, this community witnessed the very worst of human kind. But for every minute, every hour, and every day since then, you have exemplified and inspired the very best in who we are.

That’s what we saw in the heroic actions of Lieutenant Brian Murphy and Officer Sam Lenda, two veterans of the Oak Creek Police Department, who did what law enforcement officials are called to do every single day – protect and serve their communities. Lieutenant Murphy was shot nine times while coming to the aid of others. And when his fellow police officers arrived at the scene and offered to help him, he selflessly waved them off, ordering that they tend to the victims inside the Gurdwara first.

We’ve also seen an outpouring of support – from the larger community here in Oak Creek and across the state of Wisconsin; from Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faith leaders; and from countless Americans nationwide who are truly heartbroken by what happened here on Sunday.

That’s because Sunday’s attack was not just an affront to the values of Sikhism. It was an attack on the values of America itself.

It’s worth remembering that, later this year, we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Gurdwara in the United States. For hundreds of years, Gurdwaras all over the world have been places of sanctuary; places where all are welcome, where all are treated with equality and dignity, where all can find shelter and nourishment, and where all should be able to seek solace and to know peace.

Today, I wish that I could give each of you – as well as every member of our nation’s Sikh community; and every other member of our American family – the peace that you seek. I can’t do that. But I can make you a promise. I want you to know that your loss will fuel the ongoing work – being led by this Administration, by our nation’s Department of Justice, and by our law enforcement community – to seek both answers and justice, to advance the investigation that’s now underway, to identify and implement the solutions that we need to prevent future tragedies, and to build on the unprecedented steps that have been taken to respond to threats – and to prevent violence and discrimination – aimed at our Sikh and other religious communities. Protecting the safety and civil rights of every person in this country – in our schools and neighborhoods, in our workplaces and houses of worship – must, and will, remain a top priority for me and for all those who serve the American family.

This is how we will honor the victims of Sunday’s attacks. This is how we will strengthen the American family. This is how we will overcome today’s pain and drive tomorrow’s progress.

Sikhs know this because, for generations, you have taught the world that progress comes when we strive to understand, and when we celebrate our commonalities. We need you now, more than ever, to do what your ancestors have always done in times of adversity: show us what it means to rise above suffering and struggle; teach us the way to peace; and remind us that our faith – both in the divine and in each other – will allow us to transcend today’s fears, to bridge today’s divisions, to overcome today’s sorrows, to feel the healing comfort of God’s hand upon us, and to find strength in the enduring assurance that, everywhere and always, God is there.

May God bless the members of our family- the American family- we remember today. May God bless each of you. And may God bless the United States of America.