August 22, 2014

Ferguson riots

[Written August 11th. This is as much an update for friends and family as it is a perspective from someone who is new to town.]

So I moved to St. Louis 6 weeks ago. Been out of town for about 3 of those weeks. Let’s count it as 3 weeks on the ground. Everyone is very friendly, strangers talk to you on the street. My A/C broke and my neighbors who I had only ever met once before offered me the use of both of their fans. (We only needed one for the bedroom.) Then I bumped into a new neighbor whom I had never met, and she offered to lend me her fans. Overall, St. Louis is great.

Everyone talked about the racial divide, the Delmar divide. We saw glimpses of it here and there. Fireworks in Forest Park and the 2 separate stops for folks coming from the East side and the West side. White and black divided by railcars moving in different directions. I was in Los Angeles, the site of racial riots in 1992, this weekend for the OCA convention when the Mike Brown shooting happened. Picking me up from the airport this weekend there was a police blockade. Now the cops are throwing tear gas bombs in Ferguson and shooting rubber bullets. My AFLCIO coworkers were at the FTAA in Miami in 2003 when they got shot with rubber bullets. They hurt. And actually were moved off the non-lethal list of weaponry. Last night a Walmart was looted and a gas station went up in flames. This is real and this is live. Here’s a good article about why Ferguson, why riots: http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/relationships-and-special-occasions/parenting/aisha-sultan/why-ferguson-burned-explaining-st-louis-area-riot-to-kids/article_725f501f-ba21-538a-acaf-f00221add91d.html

Brown’s own family members have said the destruction in their hometown is salt in their wounds. When peaceful protests turn to a city’s self immolation, there is no justice for anyone. What’s left is a community used to being unheard, roiling in the wake of a deadly police shooting. A powder keg of unemployment and poverty, of neglect and frustration, and those willing to exploit a tragedy for personal gain.

–Caroline

DC, June 13-14: World Premiere of “An American Soldier”

Justice for Danny Chen

We covered the hazing death of Pvt. Danny Chen in parts 1 and 2.

Commissioned and produced by the Washington National Opera, Huang Ruo’s new opera An American Soldier will receive its world premiere at The Kennedy Center on June 13 and 14, as part as the Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative. Composed by Huang Ruo with a libretto by David Henry Hwang, An American Soldier is based on the life and death of American soldier Pvt. Danny Chen. On October 3, 2011, Chinese-American Army Pvt. Danny Chen was found dead in a guard tower at his base in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The real circumstances behind his death, though, illustrate a darker undercurrent to life in the military. Based on a true story, and drawing from the ensuing courts-martial of Chen’s fellow soldiers, An American Soldier explores what happens when the very people who are supposed to protect you in a combat zone become your enemy. For more information about the opera, visit its event page & NY Times review.

June 13 Friday 7:30 pm, The Kennedy Center, Terrace Theater, Washington D.C.
June 14 Saturday 2:00 pm, The Kennedy Center, Terrace Theater, Washington D.C.

David Paul, director
Steven Jarvi, conductor
Washington National Opera
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Slaughter in Egypt

Q: How do you make people more sympathetic to religious fundamentalists?

A: Make martyrs of the religious fundamentalists by slaughtering them in broad daylight.

July 25: NYC AAIFF with AALDEF

AALDEF
Asian CineVision

Join the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) on Thursday, July 25 at the 36th Asian American International Film Festival for a screening of:

LIL TOKYO REPORTER
Director Jeffrey Chin | 30 mins
Civil rights leader and newspaperman Sei Fujii discovers several hurdles to acquire equal rights, within his own community and beyond.
Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 6:30PM
Anthology Film Archives
32 2nd Ave (between 1st & 2nd Ave)

Other short films in the INTO PENUMBRA program:
Only Child
Director Christian Gosset | 6 mins
Keye Luke
Director Timothy Tau | 12 mins
Or Die…
Directors Gregory Bonsignore & John Petaja | 12 mins
More Than a Face in the Crowd
Director Samantha Chan | 25 mins

Discounted tickets for AALDEF friends are $10.50. Tickets are non-refundable. Please also consider a $5 donation (or more!) to help support AALDEF’s legal and educational programs.

RSVP by Monday, July 22th. For information or to purchase tickets, contact Jennifer Weng at 212.966.5932 x212 or events@aaldef.org.

The film festival runs from July 24 – August 3. Check out the entire schedule at AsianCinevision.org/AAIFF.

The Meaning of Patriotism: Edward Snowden

Is Edward Snowden a patriot or a traitor?  It’s only fitting to bring this up over the July 4 weekend.

As for myself, I’m not sold that he’s in either category.  On the one hand, it takes guts to reveal that our government (specifically, the NSA) has been illegally spying on us.  On the other hand, why did Snowden reveal some embarrassing information that had nothing to do with our civil liberties?  What good did it accomplish to reveal that our country has spied on both our competitors and allies?

Personally, I wish Snowden would return to the US to stand trial.  Given that a lot of people have already volunteered to fund his defense, he would receive a fair hearing.

What do you think about Edward Snowden?

– Gautam Dutta

Arizona v. ITCA: Translate the Bigots

Protect the Right to Vote

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s Proposition 200, the state’s restrictive new voter registration law, in a 7-2 decision in Arizona v. ITCA.

Background (skip if you already know it): Earlier this year, many of our friends filed amicus brief on behalf of 12 other Asian American organizations arguing that SCOTUS strike down Prop 200 for unfairly burdening naturalized citizens, who make up almost 40% of the state’s Asian American population. Congress thus retains the power to pre-empt inconsistent state laws with regards to federal elections, thereby striking down Arizona’s Prop 200 law by finding that it violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA established a national form for voter registration, with a clear provision that no additional requirements may be imposed by the states. The brief argued that Arizona’s Prop 200 imposed additional registration requirements on the national form, in a clear violation of the NVRA. The federal voter registration form is particularly beneficial to Asian Americans because it is translated into Asian languages. In states that do not translate their state voter registration forms, voters may use the federal form, which is translated into Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. Prop 200 also violated the purpose of the NVRA by imposing unequal burdens on foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizens who are registering to vote. These additional requirements disproportionately affected Asian Americans in Arizona, because a high percentage of them (~40%) are naturalized citizens, compared to only about 5% of white non-Latino citizens. The decision casts doubt on the efforts of other states, namely Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee, Georgia and 7 other similarly backward states that may disenfranchise voters with citizenship laws.

Now my bit: that all eligible citizens, either naturalized or native-born, have full and equal access to the electoral process, is a theme we repeatedly see conservatives disavow. Their usual protectionist, misplaced patriotism, using religion or policy as excuses for hating foreigners & general inepitude about talking to or about due process is again on display. They might claim their usual claims which calls for a table. It’s been a while since I’ve done one (last time was years ago):

what they say what they mean
Engish is the national language, required no it’s not, stop revising history as you do naturally
foreigners must fit in same thing as using religion to justify your personal flaws (i.e. hating gays)
only Americans should vote sure, but you mean, Americans you agree with only? that’s why you’re not allowed to regulate the right to vote
protect America from non-Americans usual political phrasing you were fed from watching Fox only
why have government spend money translating? why have the government pay for the highways you so badly need?
why stop at just a few Asian languages? would you support any language?
we should know who’s voting sure, just don’t have it be an unreasonable requirement to protect your own kind
we will appeal admit it, you just hate foreigners and want to protect other billy bob’s like yourself
we seek to uphold the law you uphold only the law you want, just like you pick-and-choose the parts of religion you prefer and ignore, say, Jesus’ whole charity bit

The truth is ugly. Out it by writing for us or entering our blogathon.

A dialogue on n+1′s “White Indians” piece

Editor’s note: In reading n+1′s “White Indians,” I had my own thoughts and solicited the opinions of two Indian American friends, who agreed to have our dialogue published as long as they were anonymized. Let’s call them J and T. This is by no means meant to symbolize what all Indian Americans or all Asian Americans think; what follows is real talk about race, hip hop, arts and culture, and politics amongst friends.:

“White Indians” argues that South Asian Americans are a “safe” minority to have on-screen, that “no color is safer than South Asian brown. No minority presence in the US is more reassuring, or less likely to get angry or acknowledge your antiblack racism.”

C: My initial take was that as well written as the article is, I have mixed feelings because the editors (including editor Nikil Saval) don’t talk about the current mainstream or the conflation of South Asian American with the scary terrorist. Conflicted about a lot of it, but the handling of Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley is spot on. Have noticed and cheered rise of desis on tv.

J: Thank you for sending this provocative article. I completely agree with your assessment of it esp. about Muslim-Americans. I too have mixed feelings, particularly about the caustic writing style. It kind of put me in a funk reading it in the morning. It was kind of all over the place and written from a masculine perspective. Why didn’t he mention The Mindy Project? asked K. One error that I’d point out is that Vijay Prashad actually says that the folks who came through the highly skilled labor pool were from middle-class families in India, not wealthy elites. Prof. Pras(h)ad was referenced in a poorly edited documentary “Not a Feather But a Dot.”

T: I actually thought it was very well-written, though after a while it did come off as ranting. That’s the point where I think it lost an overall thesis to the whole piece. However, I do agree with a lot of the points brought up, it’s all stuff I’ve heard in various places since college, just collated.

I agree with his point about Desi actors, but at the same time, I’m conflicted b/c I know a lot of them. They struggle for roles, because diverse roles don’t often exist for south asian actors — the reason the Outsourced people were so excited was, even though they were stereotyped roles, they were LEAD roles, something a lot of those actors have strived for for a long, long time and rarely gotten a shot at. And in the arts, Desis gravitate towards being performers, but not as much towards directing and producing, i.e. decision-making that would open up more opportunities for non-white actors. So essentially, they take what they can get, and I don’t think you can fault them for it. Kind of similar to Hattie McDaniel…..people always gave her crap about taking stereotyped black “mammie” roles, but at the same time, she won an OSCAR as a black woman in the 1930′s. You have to give her credit for that.

There actually are a lot of indian americans (younger) that Identify more with hip-hop culture and not so much the whiteness — but these are the kids of working class families, not the ones that grew up in affluent, “whiter” suburbs. Also — there are a lot of younger Indians leaning to the right, the ones who grew up in more affluent suburbs and all want to open their own businesses, or who are culturally sheltered and think gay marriage is gross….

J: Yeah, one of my young 18 year old cousins is a mini-Republican in the making, all about entrepreneurship, and grew up in predominantly white affluent suburbs. hip-hop is no longer black, urban, or low-income in its roots anymore – it’s global, and there are plenty of people of all races who identify with it, both as listeners and producers.

T: My point about the hip hop was not so much about identifying with blacks (look at most of Irvine, CA as an illustration — hip hop oriented but still very, very Asian). A better way of saying it is that there’s a contingent of young Desis who are not white-identifying, usually from less affluent backgrounds.

C: I think there is a subset of any minority that is not white or mainstream identifying. 626 and Garden City CA is a good example too. How does this compare with the diaspora experience?

Actually, if you don’t mind, this is a pretty educational dialogue. Would it be ok to post this dialogue, with names stripped out if you prefer, to the aaa fund blog?

T: I’m fine if you post the comments, i’ll leave it up to J.

J: Sure, no names please.

–Caroline

In Mike We Trust

Ed. note This Op-Ed by Kal Penn appeared in the May 10 edition of India Abroad

I first worked with Congressman Mike Honda when I was a White House aide to President Obama, working on issues related to young Americans and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In a sea of chaos that is Congress, it was always refreshing to see Mike go to bat for his constituents, and to join the President in standing up for young people and community members in a way that most members of Congress did not.

Having worked alongside Mike in both policy and politics, I am proud to endorse him for his re-election to Congress in 2014. Washington, DC, can be sort of a crazy place. To many of us, it’s unfathomable that there is opposition to commonsense issues like access to health care, comprehensive immigration reform, and education. And we often look to our leaders to see how they intend to engage on those issues we care about.

As the Congressman representing the innovative spirit and drive of Silicon Valley, as chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus for an unprecedented seven years, and now as chair emeritus; as a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, it’s rare and refreshing that Mike really moves and lives by the conviction that every one of us deserve an opportunity and a voice.

As a young person, that kind of leadership was refreshing to see.

On health care, Mike and CAPAC worked with the Congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses to include critical provisions that tackled health disparities in the President’s final historic health- care reform legislation of 2009.

On immigration, over the previous three Congresses as chair, and now as chair of CAPAC’s Immigration Task Force, Mike has led the constant drumbeat to pass a comprehensive immigration reform that leaves no one behind. He believes in an immigration system that is inclusive, family- based and humane, and invests in America’s future.

On education, he worked to dispel the model minority myth, and to push for greater resources flowing to colleges and universities that serve underserved Asian American and Pacific Islander students.

Mike’s record speaks volumes to his character. He has continued to push for issues that are critical, regardless of whether there is existing political appetite for it amongst his peers in Congress; essentially, he has helped to create the tenable space for much of the action we have seen.

His advocacy for social justice and serving communities that do not have a voice is unparalleled. Mike grew up behind barbed wire in a Japanese-American internment camp, even as his father served in the United States Military Intelligence Service during World War II.

As a young boy, he learned that being Japanese carried a negative connotation in America. But he knows that the reason Japanese Americans were unjustly and illtreated was because no one in Washington said no.

Today, Mike continues to be an unwavering opponent of hate speech and bullying perpetrated against all communities, regardless of creed, race, gender, sexuality, disability, country of origin, and immigration status.

Mike has been a friend and mentor to many young leaders, artists, business folks, and innovators. I know that he will continue to deliver that which is just and best for his constituents and for this nation.

- Kal Penn

Should Immigrants Have the Right to Vote?

Should you have to be a US citizen to be able to vote?

NYC is now considering allowing any resident to vote if he or she”s been living in the US legally for over 6 months.

What do you think?   My view:  because they have established ties to the community, it makes sense to allow committed, long-term immigrants (i.e., greencard holders) to vote in local elections, but we should be careful about going further than that.

– Gautam Dutta

Harold Koh calls on White House to appoint Gitmo envoy

This is pretty huge, coming from the State Department’s former Legal Adviser, and the former Dean of Yale Law. Koh’s brother, Dr. Howard Koh, remains on at HHS as Assistant Secretary. From Politico:

“First, and foremost, he must appoint a senior White House official with the clout and commitment to actually make Guantanamo closure happen. There has not been such a person at the White House since Greg Craig left as White House Counsel in early 2010. There must be someone close to the president, with a broad enough mandate and directly answerable to him, who wakes up each morning thinking about how to shrink the Guantanamo population and close the camp,” Koh said Tuesday at Oxford, England in remarks reported on the Lawfare blog.

Koh also called for a civilian courts and judges to Gitmo, and endorsed drone authority, while acknowledging that administrative secrecy is undermining their efforts:

“To be candid, this administration has not done enough to be transparent about legal standards and the decisionmaking process that it has been applying. It had not been sufficiently transparent to the media, to Congress, and to our allies. Because the administration has been so opaque, a left-right coalition running from Code Pink to Rand Paul has now spoken out against the drone program, fostering a growing perception that the program is not lawful and necessary, but illegal, unnecessary and out of control,” Koh declared. “The administration must take responsibility for this failure, because its persistent and counterproductive lack of transparency has led to the release of necessary pieces of its public legal defense too little and too late.”

–Caroline