11/21/2017

Trump not just vulgar – he is bragging about sexual assault

Trump has issued a three minute apology for hvulgar bragging about sexual harassment and possibly rape. Yet, even his apology does not contain the tone of sincerity that most of us were taught as children. He doesn’t sound like he means the words he says. He also deflects his responsibility by implying that other people have done worse things. 

What do you think about his apology? How should his apology been different so that he could be a better example to the nation?

See The Daily Beast’s overview of Trump’s history with woman. Comment to discuss whether he is gross or if he is publicly  normalizing a national rape culture.

Daily Beast: Donald Trump’s Gross History of Misogyny: From Rosie O’Donnell to Megyn Kelly

Fresh Off the Boat: On Margaret Cho, media, art & representation

[Author’s note: wrote this last night. This morning, NYMag put out Eddie Huang’s evisceration and reclamation of the sitcom version of his book.]

I’m old enough to remember when it was novel to see Asian Americans on tv. Not on tv shows, but in commercials. I would get all excited and point out the computer geek or family seeking a bank to my college friends. I was happy to even see stereotypical representations in sitcoms because it was so rare. Part of why Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle remains a favorite, highly rewatchable film of mine is because it showed Asian American teens transcending the model minority, and yet, still seeking the American Dream. I was a teen, trying to find my identity, and the extraordinary thing is that the movie that I still find to be emblematic of Asian American suburbia is written by two Jewish boys from Jersey. It was really what they saw in their friends. The white lights of that burger joint are to Harold and Kumar what the green lights that beckoned Nick Gatsby across the bay were. There is something profoundly American about seeking a burger, with its all-American patty resting under a square of slightly limp American cheese.

Now I have higher expectations and I no longer blink at seeing Asian Americans on tv. I cheer shows like The Mindy Project for being fully fleshed out and written and run by a kickass Asian American woman. (So much better than the awkwardness of Outsourced.) Before the Mindy Project, before Blackish, Shonda Rhimes portrayed Asian American doctor Christina Yang in a relationship with Preston Burke, an African American attending. It was radical, and remains radical, and I thank Shondaland for great, diverse, and powerful programming on Thursdays, even as I have outgrown Grey’s Anatomy.

We are in an extraordinary time. I feel blessed to be able to watch shows that focus on diverse lives like Jane the Virgin, Blackish, Cristela, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, Mindy Project, Key & Peele, and the too short-lived Selfie. Big Hero 6 was one of the great movies of the year and featured animated Asian American leads. As a child, I never had the expectation that I would see so many faces that reflect the diversity of this country on the small screen. And yes, there is still long way to go.

In February, I and many other Asian Americans look forward to Fresh Off the Boat, which will feature a predominantly Asian American cast. It’s based on Taiwanese American chef and journalist Eddie Huang’s book which is hilarious and true. I literally couldn’t stop laughing while reading about his family life, about the shorties, about his parents, and even about his life detour from law to food. He writes about hope, his identification with black America, his parents hitting him, and he leaves it all out on the floor. It is blunt, hard-hitting, real, and wicked funny. The migration of the Huangs are a story that deserves to be told.

And yet I have some anxiety about how it will be received. Over the holidays, my family member said, “I hope it will be as good as Blackish.”

I said, “I think that’s too high a standard. Blackish is my favorite new show. It’s funny, incisive and so smart and sophisticated about race. I hope it’s at least as good as Modern Family.”

Tonight, I rewatched Margaret Cho’s The Notorious C.H.O. (2001), in which she has a sketch where she talks about how she always knew she wanted to be a comedian but she had limited expectations for her potential roles. She looked forward to playing a hooker or an extra on M.A.S.H. The truth is, Cho made history in 1994 with All-American Girl, the first ever Asian American sitcom that I could have watched. It failed.

Cho was simultaneously told that her face was too round (she dieted and it led to kidney failure), that she was “too Asian” and “not Asian enough.”

Talk about giving someone a complex and setting them up to fail.

Since the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act which lifted quotas and restrictions on immigrants from Asia to the U.S., it has taken decades for Asian American culture to seep into the mainstream, beyond the food, beyond the fold.

It has been twenty long and mostly silent years since the last Asian American sitcom aired. I hope this one lasts for twenty years and mines the comedy gold that is Asian American family life and culture.

–Caroline

It’s All Up To What You Value

One week later and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the intense burst of awesomeness from Asian American Justice Center President and former Asian American Action Fund endorsee Mee Moua when she schooled Senator Sessions. Haven’t seen it? Take a look:

SESSIONS: Ms. Moua, maybe you can comment. Do you think that a nation that decides that they can admit an individual somehow has no right to say that that person’s brother would have to qualify independently, rather than being given a guaranteed entry in the country? Do you think a country can legitimately make that decision?

MOUA: Senator Sessions, coming from the Asian American community when in the 1880s we were the first people to be excluded explicitly by the United States immigration policy I’m well aware that this country has never hesitated in the way that it chooses to exercise its authority to permit people to either enter or depart its borders. And we know that the Asian American community in particular didn’t get to enjoy the benefit of immigration to this country until the 1960s when those restrictive policies were lifted. So I know very well and very aware that…

SESSIONS: Well let me just say, it seems to me. It’s perfectly logical to think there are two individuals, let’s say in a good friendly country like Honduras. One is a valedictorian of his class, has two years of college, learned English and very much has a vision to come to the United States and the other one has dropped out of high school, has minimum skills. Both are 20 years of age and that latter person has a brother here. What would be in the interest of the United States? …

MOUA: Senator I think that under your scenario people can conclude about which is in the best interest of the United States. I think the more realistic scenario is that in the second situation that individual will be female, would not have been permitted to get an education and if we would create a system where there would be some kind of preference given to say education, or some other kind of metrics, I think that it would truly disadvantage specifically women and their opportunity to come into this country

SESSIONS: Well that certainly is a problem around the world, and I would think that the primary problem with education and the fact that women have been discriminated against should be focused on the countries that are doing that primarily .

As you can see, Sessions essentially asked a rhetorical question of Moua without care for her answer. My guess is Sessions asked his rhetorical question so he could answer it. What astounds me — and where the awesomeness comes in — is Sessions was almost certainly asking another rhetorical question and yet Moua’s response was so profound that Sessions actually listened and responded to Moua instead of responding to his rhetorical question with more of his talking points. Sessions didn’t alter his position, but he did essentially say “you’re right” to Moua.

Notice Sessions didn’t slow down when Moua was schooling Sessions on Asian Americans. No, it was once she started schooling Sessions on women that he finally snapped out of his rhetoric and — if ever so briefly — into reality. Perhaps the Republican attempts to no longer appear to be “angry white men” party is making slightly more progress on the gender front? With our immigration system facing such incredible gender imbalances, such schooling is needed even for far more well-meaning politicians! Pramila Jayapal over at ColorLines has some great ideas on fixing those imbalances.

While Sessions isn’t Ted Cruz-level crazy, he’s not exactly the firebrand of positive policy. Sessions has blocked a child sex trafficking bill, suggested helping feed the hungry is immoral, and apparently delights in the suffering of illegal immigrant families. Yet somehow in 2003 Jeff Sessions received a 100% rating from the Christian Coalition for his stances on issues relation to families and children. Clearly Sessions values families. Unfortunately, it appears he and his ilk only value certain kinds of families.

What families do you value? I agree with more of Mee Moua’s wise words

Children will always be our children whether they’re over the age of 21 or not. For us to start thinking about which members of our family we’re going to trade away is a dramatic and drastic departure from the core values of what has been driving this country since the founding days.

Senators Boxer, Brown, Franken, Harkin, Hirono, Schatz, and Warren seem to agree too, having urged prioritization of family reunification and a clearing of family visa backlogs. I would go a step further urging a clearing of all backlogs; there’s up to a more than ten year backlog for employment-based immigrant visas too. While that pales in comparison to the backlog for immigrant visas for siblings from the Phillippinnes, a category with a backlog so embarrassing there are still priority dates from the 1980s which have yet to become current.

There’s more you can do than merely marvel at Mee Moua’s awesomeness. Add your name to the to the 18 Million Rising petition to tell Congress you stand for fair and just comprehensive immigration reform and they should too!

– Justin Gillenwater

Question of the Week

In Los Angeles, the newly elected City Council might not have any women.  Why don’t more women (including Asian American women) run for political office?

— Gautam Dutta

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