Race

Wong Fu's "Yappie" by An Huynh

YouTube has always been a treasure to me, not only for the cat videos and lip syncing masterpieces, but also for all the Asian American-generated content. The beauty and fashion bloggers like Michelle Phan and Jenn Im, the musicians like David Choi, AJ Rafael, and Clara C, and the personalities like KevJumba and NigaHiga - they all got their start on YouTube. These were the people I grew up watching when there weren't Asian American faces on any other media platform. Not only that, but these were Asian Americans in creative industries, which definitely wasn't something you could see in traditional media.

Wong Fu Productions, whose work I remember watching since the late 2000's, has a special place in my heart for their storytelling. It was a rare sight - Asian Americans making videos about Asian Americans and casting Asian American actors (what a concept!). It wasn't political content (although I would also argue that Asian Americans making creative content is already in itself a political act), it was just them telling stories about their lives, about love, friendships, sometimes funny, sometimes serious. Wong Fu would partner with other Asian American creatives and creators that I also loved, and it made YouTube feel like an alternate media reality that was my own little secret.

As I grew older and became more politically aware, I kept finding myself wanting for these influencers to also show that they were aware. I wanted them to talk about the 2016 presidential election, say that Black Lives Matter, and talk about their identity. At the same time, I acknowledge that it is their choice to decide what sort of content they produce.

I go back and forth between this all the time: Should public figures be responsible for speaking up against injustices? Especially for public figures from minority communities, should they be responsible for speaking up for their communities and being politically vocal in their content even when their usual content isn't political in nature?

I don't have an answer to that yet, but I am always glad and pleasantly surprised when these creators do bring up more political topics. For example, there has been a tag going around the beauty and fashion community talking about their experience Growing Up Asian American. Watching my favorite influencers talk about their relationship with their parents and feeling different in school was cathartic. I felt vindicated. I felt the presence of an entire community behind me watching these videos, and it also opened by eyes to our unique and sometimes heartbreaking struggles trying to make it in America.

This all brings me to Yappie: Wong Fu Productions' new mini series about Asian American identity. I was so excited for this launch, and the series didn't disappoint. It hit on some important subjects right on the nail: Racism within our community, Asian Americans straddling the privilege from the Model Minority Myth and discriminatory legislation, interracial dating, the invisibility of South Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Southeast Asians, and Asian American apathy and our role in supporting or hindering justice for black Americans. 

"Yappie" gives me more clarity on my earlier dilemma. While I will always hope that and appreciate when content creators have a dialogue about politics, it is not their responsibility or burden to speak up through their work. We need all sorts of content. Funny content, content about makeup and fashion, music videos, etc. We need "Crazy Rich Asians", "Fresh Off the Boat", and we also need content like "Yappie." Not any one of these shows can fully explain the Asian American experience, and none of them should have to. Asian Americans are multifaceted, we have different experiences and have a variety of needs and values, and our content should reflect that.

Support and watch Yappie on YouTube (free episodes released weekly) and Vimeo (for $10 you can binge the entire series!).

Inspiration for this blog post: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/after-decade-youtube-wong-fu-productions-still-has-story-tell-n881606

Offensive? Or re-appropriated? by An Huynh

‘And my first reaction was like, ‘Do they know we are of Asian descent?’ He says, ‘I think so, I think they just don’t understand where you’re coming from.’
After years of legal maneuvering, the Slants’s case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in January. The high court is expected to deliver its ruling as soon as June. 

After years of legal maneuvering, the Slants’s case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in January. The high court is expected to deliver its ruling as soon as June. 

Confronting Urban Design’s Diversity Crisis With a Return to Black Places by An Huynh

An important read on the race and planning in academia and practice. What have we been missing without an African-American and other minority presence in the design and planning fields?

Full article here: https://nextcity.org/features/view/urban-design-diversity-urban-planning-shankleville-texas

For Roberts, a sense of place, especially for African-Americans, is less about permanent residency and more about diaspora.

“If you are to interrupt this space with a pipeline, a new freeway, clear-cutting — not only have you done something unpleasant and interrupted a sense of place, you’re interrupting people’s ability to have a communal identity.”

Roberts says architects and planners are not trained to tap into constituencies that are hard to locate.

“Even though there may be 200 people who care about the area and still own land or have affiliations, they’re not going to be there, so planners are not going to see them,” she says.

Roberts points to professionals in the neighboring disciplines of archaeology and cultural anthropology, whose methods embrace a more complex definition of citizenship and stakeholders.

“We can learn from them,” she says.

Flying while Asian by An Huynh

Any possible Asian “model minority” status can be withdrawn at any time; refusal to defer to authority would quickly revoke that status. What message does this incident send to Asians and Asian Americans? It reinforces that they had better obey, or else.”

”Patience could have avoided the harm caused to this Asian man. Patience could have saved the lives of Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Sandra Bland or Eric Garner.”

”A recurring concern for people of color in the US is: who can touch and control my body?

#thisis2016 by An Huynh

This video is everything. It's those little comments that might sound harmless or funny that hurt. And they hurt deep. For me getting questions like "Where are you actually from?" is common. I've come to expect it and answer lightheartedly. It's when someone cat calls me with "China!" or when a professor asks me if I'm an international student only after seeing my name does it remind me that these stereotypes are out there and manifestations of them happen to us daily.

Black Lives Matter to Us, Too by An Huynh

"Dear Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Grandfather, Grandmother:

Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

We need to talk.

You may not have grown up around people who are Black, but I have. Black people are a fundamental part of my life: they are my friends, my classmates and teammates, my roommates, my family. Today, I’m scared for them.

This year, the American police have already killed more than 500 people. Of those, 25% have been Black, even though Black people make up only 13% of the population. Earlier this week in Louisiana, two White police officers killed a Black man named Alton Sterling while he sold CDs on the street. The very next day in Minnesota, a police officer shot and killed a Black man named Philando Castile in his car during a traffic stop while his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter looked on. Overwhelmingly, the police do not face any consequences for ending these lives.

This is a terrifying reality that some of my closest friends live with every day.

Even as we hear about the dangers Black Americans face, our instinct is sometimes to point at all the ways we are different from them. To shield ourselves from their reality instead of empathizing. When a policeman shoots a Black person, you might think it’s the victim’s fault because you see so many images of them in the media as thugs and criminals. After all, you might say, we managed to come to America with nothing and build good lives for ourselves despite discrimination, so why can’t they?

I want to share with you how I see things.

It’s true that we face discrimination for being Asian in this country. Sometimes people are rude to us about our accents, or withhold promotions because they don’t think of us as “leadership material.” Some of us are told we’re terrorists. But for the most part, nobody thinks “dangerous criminal” when we are walking down the street. The police do not gun down our children and parents for simply existing.

This is not the case for our Black friends. Many Black people were brought to America as slaves against their will. For centuries, their communities, families, and bodies were ripped apart for profit. Even after slavery, they had to build back their lives by themselves, with no institutional support — not allowed to vote or own homes, and constantly under threat of violence that continues to this day.

In fighting for their own rights, Black activists have led the movement for opportunities not just for themselves, but for us as well. Black people have been beaten, jailed, even killed fighting for many of the rights that Asian Americans enjoy today. We owe them so much in return. We are all fighting against the same unfair system that prefers we compete against each other.

When someone is walking home and gets shot by a sworn protector of the peace — even if that officer’s last name is Liang — that is an assault on all of us, and on all of our hopes for equality and fairness under the law.

For all of these reasons, I support the Black Lives Matter movement. Part of that support means speaking up when I see people in my community — or even my own family — say or do things that diminish the humanity of Black Americans in this country. I am telling you this out of love, because I don’t want this issue to divide us. I’m asking that you try to empathize with the anger and grief of the fathers, mothers, and children who have lost their loved ones to police violence. To empathize with my anger and grief, and support me if I choose to be vocal, to protest. To share this letter with your friends, and encourage them to be empathetic, too.

As your child, I am proud and eternally grateful that you made the long, hard journey to this country, that you’ve lived decades in a place that has not always been kind to you. You’ve never wished your struggles upon me. Instead, you’ve suffered through a prejudiced America, to bring me closer to the American Dream.

But I hope you can consider this: the American Dream cannot exist for only your children. We are all in this together, and we cannot feel safe until ALL our friends, loved ones, and neighbors are safe. The American Dream that we seek is a place where all Americans can live without fear of police violence. This is the future that I want — and one that I hope you want, too.

With love and hope,

Your children"

More here: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/07/27/487375314/a-letter-from-young-asian-americans-to-their-families-about-black-lives-matter

And here: https://lettersforblacklives.com/dear-mom-dad-uncle-auntie-black-lives-matter-to-us-too-7ca577d59f4c#.refckyes1