Monday, August 31, 2009

A lot of links this week

So just as a heads up for everyone, the university semester has begun, and so I may not get around to posting a lot this week but I will try to provide links to others in the blogosphere highlighting various stories and/or interesting websites that hopefully readers of Mixed Race America will find thought provoking.

So today let me offer a tip of the hat to Angry Asian Man for posting this piece by Allan Pineda Lindo aka This latest single and video, "Mama Filipina" comes from his latest solo album U Can Dream. Of course most folks will recognize as being part of The Black Eyed Peas.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

R.I.P.: Senator Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy is being memorialized and buried today. He has had a troubled yet remarkable life. He seems to have been a man of contradictions: born into incredible wealth and privilege yet a champion of the poor and powerless. A white man who used his white privilege to champion on behalf of people of color and civil rights. An irresponsible womanizer who actually killed a woman due to vehicular negligence yet an inveterate supporter of women and gay rights throughout his senate career. The baby of the family forced to become its patriarch after the untimely deaths of his older brothers.

But perhaps what he is, most importantly, is someone who cared about family, as this moving speech by his eldest son, Edward Kennedy Jr. clearly demonstrates.

Rest in peace Senator Kennedy.

[For a particularly introspective and respectful yet honest assessment of Senator Kennedy's life, see Tenured Radical's post here]

Friday, August 28, 2009

Stop fussing with the Obama family!

Ok, I know that I had all but drunk the kool-aid with the Obama campaign a year ago. It will come as no surprise that I was a HUGE Obama supporter--and that I continue to have faith in this administration, even though President Obama has not taken the kinds of progressive stands I would like him to take, most especially with respect to issues of same-sex marriage, benefits for same-sex couples, and the issue of "don't ask, don't tell" in the military. In point of fact, I am disappointed that he has not been a stronger advocate for these issues--although I have not given up hope that he will make great strides in this area in the future.

But really, there are some really ridiculous things going on in the media/public/popular culture with respect to critiques of Barack Obama and his family (perhaps with the exception of Sasha & Malia and the family dog Bo--people don't seem to have sunk as low as critiquing these youngest Obama family members).

What am I talking about?

*The Birther phenomenon--you know those people, no let me amend, those CRAZY people who insist that Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen because he was born in (A) Kenya (B) Indonesia (C) Australia (D) their home planet--because these people must be from another planet not to believe all the evidence that Barack Obama was born in the U.S.

*Michelle Obama's wardrobe. I mean, I know that people have always been interested in the FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States). And we are a fashion obsessed nation. But really people--is it such a slow news month that we need to have polls asking people what they think about the appropriateness of the first lady wearing shorts on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon and/or while disembarking from Air Force One? And all that flap before about her bare arms--esp. back in February during President Obama's first address to Congress. Don't we have other things to worry about and preoccupy ourselves with? Leave Michelle Obama alone! Stop the no-news stories!

*Where the First Family is vacationing. The President and his family will be spending their family vacation time on Martha's Vineyard. And apparently they have caught some flack about this because of its bougie associations--that the only African Americans who vacation on the Vineyard are Buppie snobs. Well, this piece in The Root does an excellent job of refuting those notions and explaining the history of African Americans vacationing on Martha's Vineyard. But more to the point of this post, really people, why should we care about where the Obamas are spending their vacation? If they owned a private home in Kennebunkport or upstate New York or rural Texas I'm sure people would find a way to critique and criticize their private homeownership and/or having more than one home. Again, if people want to criticize the Obama administration, focus on real issues--substantive issues--like health care (I wish Obama would go farther and was highly disappointed that the public option was taken out).

Essentially, I wish the public at large would hold off on the silly stuff--the personal critiques of the Obama family--where they are born, what they wear, where they vacation. Lets just leave them to be a family and do the things that families do. There are too many important things to concentrate on than us sweating the small stuff. And THIS is definitely the small stuff.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Teaching not preaching

It's that time of year -- you can see it in the panic stricken eyes of children trying to squeeze the last moments of pleasure in the waning days of summer. You can see it in the frenzied back-to-schoool shopping ads and the parents hunting down the best bargains. You can see it in the sprightly steps of teachers and school administrators gearing up for a shiny-brand-new school year.

So of course my own thoughts turn to the classroom, a place I know well since I've been teaching constantly and consistently since 1996. Of course, it's the college classroom I know best and college students.

I think that when we think of teaching issues of race and racism, we often think about getting to kids while they are young and impressionable--and the challenges of talking about race and racism in a way that will be explicable and honest but not too overwhelming or even scary/anxiety producing for kids.

But an education on race and racism is really a never ending lesson. And I really mean that--because I feel that even though I'm technically on the other side of the podium now, I'm still in many ways a student--trying to educate myself about the ways in which our understanding about the dynamics of race and racism continue to mutate and change, and the ways in which I try to see race from a variety of perspectives, not just from my position as an Asian American woman.

One of the struggles I do have as an anti-racist educator of college students is trying to teach rather than to preach. Because all college students are wary of the "hidden" agenda and don't want to be told what or how to think. And like it or not, the classes I teach, which either have explicitly or implicitly an attention to ethnic American literature (sometimes this is announced in the course title, like a class on Asian American women's writing--but sometimes in a 20th C. American lit class, the "ethnic" content seems obscured until you get to the syllabus and realize that we'll be reading a variety of multiethnic literature and talking about issues or race in all of the works on the syllabus), are often labeled "ideological" or "political"--since somehow we think that a course on Asian American literature does not have the same objective weight as a course on Jane Austen.

So I'm careful as I can, in the classroom, not to get into preaching mode. And to that end, I have a few guidelines that I try to use (and to be transparent about with my students) when starting the semester:

*I tell my students we aren't going to call one another racists. We're not going to use the dreaded "R" word. And I explain, as I have on this blog, that when you call someone a racist, it immediately shuts down conversation--because the person you have called a racist now feels so affronted and offended on being called the "R" word that whatever issue you were trying to discuss gets hijacked by the invocation of that word.

This isn't to say that you don't talk about racism. And I am clear with my students that I believe the U.S. was founded on institutional racism--and I use 2 examples, the transatlantic slave trade and displacement of American Indian tribes as a clear example of U.S. imperialism's use of racism in expanding its powers. I also try to make clear that this type of racism is NOT a thing of the past--the Civil Rights movement did NOT create an instant even-playing field. That's a harder thing for them to see, but we have the entire semester to work through these issues.

*I tell my students I'm not interested in either blame or guilt. When talking about issues of race and racism, I don't want people to feel bad--to feel like I am singling them out if they are white and telling them they are bad people or if they are a person of color that they are exempt from racism or have an automatic higher authority. We are ALL implicated in racism--affected and impacted by it. And so we are all capable of being allies in the struggle against racism.

At this point I do talk about white privilege, but again in a way not to make white students feel guilty but to show that there are differences that are a consequence of racism between people of color/racial minorities and white people. You may not have asked for white privilege but none-the-less if you look white in this society you are more often treated as white and accrue those benefits, even if they seem to be minor--like not being asked what language you speak or where you are from. This is something most white students never have to worry about or deal with and that many Asian American and Latino students are constantly grappling with.

*I tell my students that we are going to create a safe and comfortable atmosphere to talk honestly and openly about race and racism. That part of the problem is that we often treat discussions of race and racism like we do cancer--something to talk about in hushed terms behind closed doors--that somehow it's not OK to talk about race and somehow it shows bad manners or is shameful or to have questions about race and racism isn't OK. And one key thing I try to do each semester is to allow students to have a space to have conversations about race--which is hard.

Really hard.

Because people are on different pages when it comes to race and racism--and this comes from a variety of factors--their own racial identity, their experiences, their families and friends, the things they've read, their classes, their trust in and relationship with me, their trust in and relationship with their fellow classmates. Conversations can get pretty heated, and my job is to act more as a moderator than as a teacher in these moments.

And that's the part that is often the hardest for me and where I sometimes fail. Because I want them to work it out and talk it out amongst themselves--to have the dialogue and the conversation and not just be talked to about race by an authority figure (me). Yet there are moments when I've thought I need to intervene--to push them to think about the language they are using. For example, in one discussion students talked about an author being biased because he was Latino and therefore he was already pre-disposed to champion a Latino cause. And I asked them what would happen if they changed the word "bias," which they agreed had a negative connotation, to the word "advocacy," which has a more positive feeling to it. And what would happen if we talked about this author being an advocate of Latinos because he was Latino?

I realize that a college classroom is an artificial place in many ways. We meet for an hour a day for 3 days a week, and there is an authority figure (me) to act as moderator and to handle things when the conversation gets a bit heated. Talking to your neighbor or co-worker is trickier because there is no moderator and you aren't sure it's a safe space. But I think in a lot of ways the guidelines I establish in my classroom are ones that could be modified in our day-to-day interactions for those of us who want to be anti-racist educators outside of the classroom. Namely:

1) Don't call someone a racist.
2) Don't try to blame or guilt someone into your point-of-view
3) Do believe that a positive or at least productive conversation is possible and to speak your mind, speak truth to power, but in a way where the other person will hear you rather than get wrapped up in his/her defenses.

It's not easy--like I said, an education in race and racism is on-going. But I think we're all capable of being both students and teachers when it comes to anti-racist education. And I certainly think we ALL need to be students and teachers and allies when it comes to recognizing white privilege and fighting against racism. The really amazing thing is, we really can do this work--it's hard, but I'm convinced we can do it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Celebrating 89 years of voting

89 years ago, on August 26, 1929 the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote was finally passed.

So in honor of this day let me just direct you to two sites commemorating this historic date:

*For a quick and dirty overview The History Channel has a description of events

*For a more thorough examination of how the 19th Amendment came to fruition check out this very thorough site that goes through the major players who made this happen.

And for all you female U.S. citizens who have been participating in the process of voting throughout your adult lives, let us all recognize the contributions of the suffragists who fought long and hard to make sure that we could have this very basic right: the right to vote.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Re: U of Texas researcher needs help!

I received the following email message from Chelsea McPeek, a research assistant for Dr. Eun-Ok Im who is at University of Texas at Austin's School of Nursing. Since I am in the academic business, I thought I would help out a fellow colleague by posting this request for research subjects--specifically Ms. McPeek and Dr. Im are looking for women of all ethnicities between the ages of 40-60 for the following research:
"The purpose of this study is to explore attitudes of midlife women from four ethnic groups [Hispanic, Non-Hispanic (N-H) White, N-H African Americans, and N-H Asians] toward physical activity while considering the relationships between their attitudes and their actual participation in physical activity within the ethnic-specific contexts of their daily lives. Data will be gathered via Internet survey and ethnic- specific online forums to allow for a national sample."

[Aside: They omit American Indian/Native American women, and I'm not sure how they will categorize mixed-race women, but I think that's a great question to ask/bring up with Ms. McPeek and Dr. Im]

If you have questions about their study, their contact information and website addresses is listed below:


My name is Chelsea McPeek and I am a Research Assistant for Dr. Eun-Ok Im at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing.

Dr. Im is conducting an Internet study on the physical activity attitudes among diverse groups of middle-aged women (40-60 Y/O). Your blog aims at a variety of populations (Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, African American), so we believe that the women who read Mixed Race America might be interested in participating in our study. The more women that we can recruit to participate will make our data more complete. Each diverse category of women’s opinions and experiences are very imperative and cannot be neglected, because ethnic populations are expanding quickly in the United States. We will use the data from our study to identify cultural trends in attitudes towards physical activity. This information will help us improve communication between health care providers and minority midlife women.

If you feel that the women who read your blog would be interested in participating, could you please help us announce this study by posting the following link ( on your blog, announcing the study through a newsletter, or forwarding to your readers through an email list?

We would really appreciate it if you posted this announcement on your website. If an announcement fee is required, please provide us with the necessary information.

In this study, each participant will be reimbursed with a gift certificate of 10 dollars per Internet survey.

The survey will begin by asking participants a series of eligibility questions. If the study has filled our sampling quota for an ethnic category, the participant will receive a message that states so. Below is some background information and the study announcement.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about our study. Thank you for your time!


e-MAPA Research Team
Chelsea McPeek, Research Assistant
School of Nursing, University of Texas at Austin
1700 Red River, Austin, TX 78701

Background Information

eMAPA is a NIH/NINR funded study (1R01NR010568-01) entitled "Ethnic Specific Midlife Women's Attitudes Toward Physical Activity".

The changing racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. will require health professionals to practice with cultural competence in areas such as promotion of physical activity, where cultural beliefs may mediate health promotion behaviors. Although the benefits of physical activity are now widely accepted, midlife women, especially ethnic minority women, have low participation rates in physical activity, and prevalence rates of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, and all-cause mortality among ethnic minority women (that can be effectively reduced by increasing physical activity) have been reported to be much higher than those of White midlife women. A plausible reason for the low participation rate is that the women's ethnic-specific attitudes toward physical activity have rarely been incorporated into relevant interventions.

The purpose of this study is to explore attitudes of midlife women from four ethnic groups [Hispanic, Non-Hispanic (N-H) White, N-H African Americans, and N-H Asians] toward physical activity while considering the relationships between their attitudes and their actual participation in physical activity within the ethnic-specific contexts of their daily lives. Data will be gathered via Internet survey and ethnic- specific online forums to allow for a national sample.

Study Announcement

Eun-Ok Im, PhD, MPH, RN, CNS, FAAN, School of Nursing, The University of
Texas at Austin and her colleagues are conducting a study to explore ethnic
differences in midlife women's attitudes toward physical activity.

You are eligible to participate in this study if you are a midlife woman
aged 40 to 60 years old who does not have any mobility problems; who can read and write English; who is online; and whose self-reported ethnic identity
is Hispanic, non-Hispanic (N-H) White, N-H African American, or N-H Asian.

Data will be collected through an Internet survey among 500 midlife women
in the U.S. starting Feb. 1, 2008 and ending May 21, 2011.

Your involvement will consist of about 30 minutes to complete the Internet survey questionnaire. You will be reimbursed with a 10 dollar gift certificate for filling out the Internet survey.

For more information and to begin the survey, please visit our project
website ( and/or contact us.

Contact Information:

Chelsea McPeek, Research Assistant
School of Nursing, University of Texas at Austin
1700 Red River, Austin, TX 78701

Eun-Ok Im, PhD, MPH, RN, CNS, FAAN, Professor
School of Nursing, The University of Texas at Austin
1700 Red River, Austin, TX, 78701
Phone: (512) 475-6352
Project Website:

Monday, August 24, 2009

I want my America BACK!

When people say that they want "My America" back, I always wonder what they mean? I should start out by saying that this post was inspired by one from Stuff White People Do. It is also where I found this great clip from The Daily Show that provides a humorous yet accurate spin on the rhetoric coming out of these town hall meetings in which people have been decrying that they want THEIR America back (and as Larry Wilmore points out, there is a monochromatic cast to the people who are looking back nostalgically on the past and the way America used to be):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Reform Madness - White Minority
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

So I have been thinking about what MY America looks like. Because I don't think it's the same one that the people in the clip above are lamenting is past.

My America probably doesn't exist...yet. So the whole idea of going "back" to my America is just not a possibility. I certainly wouldn't want to go back to the 19th C. where being a Chinese American woman would make me the focus of extreme racial hostility and accused of being a prostitute and thus subject to deportation and, worse, sexual harassment and violence.

[True fact: most people assumed that if you were a Chinese woman in the late 19th C. you were a prostitute--there is some factual basis for this belief since many Chinese women were brought to the U.S. as prostitutes, often tricked into coming to the U.S. or sold by their families into prostitution...does any of this sound familiar? I mean, things are not so different for women in TODAY's society, where women from Moldova are tricked into prostitution or sold by their families to work as prostitutes in the United Arab Emirates. Just makes you think that it's quite tragic that the conditions for women, worldwide, haven't improved in this respect in over a century]

Of course, this idea of a sentimental return is not uncommon. I mean, in the Asian American community (and for that matter, for many children born to immigrant parents) there is this nostalgic idea that you can "go back" to a place where you've never really been before: the place of your parents' home and/or your ethnic ancestry.

I felt that way the first time I went to China while in grad school. And I blogged about going to Jamaica for the first time as an adult already. So in some ways, this idea of going back to a place that you've never experienced--to long for a connection to a past that you are supposed to feel this affinity for, seems to be a rather common if complicated human response.

So in some ways, when I hear these people talking about wanting their America back, I do understand what they mean. Except that, again, my vision of America and my desire for America to be the place that, on paper, it is supposed to be is probably markedly and radically different from the nostalgia for a simpler, easier, less p.c., less diverse and whiter existence. A time when you could just have Christmas pageants and not worry about saying "Happy Holidays" because you will offend Jewish Americans or others who don't celebrate Christmas. A time when women stayed in the home and men worked jobs that were handed down to them from their fathers--whether they wanted to work those jobs or not. And the women who stayed home cooked and cleaned and cared for children--even though they may not have wanted to have children, or have so many children, or maybe they had dreams of having a career as a journalist or lawyer, but in these simpler times, way back when, they had those choices foreclosed and were left with the simple title of wife and mother. The America of the past that people seem to long for was a time when we consumed with reckless abandon, when queer people stayed in the closet, when the word "green" signaled money and not environmental consciousness, and a time when people of color lived with daily oppression and racial hostility.

Of course, my America is also not the same as the America of those who never had to arrive--who were already HERE when various European explorers and settlers decided to come over and colonize the land. American Indians have a radically different take on wanting to go back to THEIR America--and it's really hard to argue against the fact that of all the people who have a moral authority to want to go back to an originary America, THEY do.

Anyway, as I said above, I don't really think my America exists yet...but because I'm a glass half-full kind of gal, I am hopeful that one day in my lifetime I might see glimpses of the real potential and promise of what America can be--one in which the adjectival descriptor of "mixed race" will be a given rather than a wish.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Barney Frank says it best

Barney Frank responds to a woman who asks him why he is supporting a "Nazi" policy:

Enough said. Thanks for playing lady--and take your parting gift back to the mothership--clearly your time is over.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Remembering John Hughes

A friend who is also a product of the 80s recently asked me how I felt about John Hughes' untimely passing. And I said that while I was surprised at his sudden death at the age of 59 from a heart-attack, I didn't have a lot more to say.

Which isn't true.

I don't mean that I was lying to my friend. I mean that I have been thinking about my love of John Hughes' films and trying to square my sentimental affection for them with my adult-eyes, especially looking at them through a lens that is critical of racial and racist portraits. If you grew up Asian American in the 80s, you can't help but be somewhat scarred by the racist portrait of Long Duk Dong. And while NPR did an interesting and thoughtful piece about this Asian stereotype, interviewing the actor who played him, Gedde Watanabe, there will always be this sting, at least for me, at hearing that awful gong sound and the entrance of this character upside down saying "What's happening hot stuff"--UGH.

Yet I would be lying if I said I didn't love Hughes's films, especially the trilogy that came out during my formative teen/high school years: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. I was 16 when Pretty in Pink came out. There is a picture of me in a Jessica McClintock pink and white striped prom dress holding the album to Pretty in Pink. And I fancied that aside from a few key differences (I did not live on the other side of the tracks) I was just like Andy, misunderstood and waiting for my chance to leave my high school and spread my wings.

[By the way, in an effort at not doing revisionist high school history, especially since there may be a few old friends reading this, I was actually NOT the outcast/misunderstood artist. The celluloid portrait that more closely resembled my high school persona was Tracy in Election--the uber-type-A, closely wound, power-hungry bitch. We'll save analyzing that for another day]

I remember reading a movie review in our high school newspaper by a classmate named Shannon (I've blanked on her last name) that, in hindsight, was absolutely astute and insightful about the ways in which the movie emphasized an attention to heteronormativity, entrenched gender roles, and most especially, very disturbing racial stereotypes that falsely depicted Asians as foreign-accented fools (OK, Shannon probably didn't use any of the language that I just did, but the points in her negative review hit on all of those issues). I remember that after I read it, I felt relieved that the discomfort I felt in seeing Long Duk Dong was echoed by someone else--someone who wasn't Asian--and that made me feel better.

I look at the films Hughes' made. Ones I once loved. Ones that seemed to speak to parts of my own teenage angst. Ones that reflected, to the world, what a high school experience was like. And I look back and wonder how I could have been blind to the monochromatic cast of these films--of the ways in which, especially a movie like Some Kind of Wonderful set in Los Angles, the absence of black, Asian American, and Latino students was a huge omission. There is a scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off where they are dropping off the porsche to a parking attendant and Ferris asks the darker, ethnic character whether he speaks English. I look at these films now, and I cannot feel the same way about them as I did then.

Which isn't to say that all my affection for them is gone. There are moments in these films that I think really did capture the awkward, anxious, angst-ridden world of teen life, the good, bad, weird, ugly, and beautiful. Because being a teenager wasn't always just one uncomfortable encounter after the other. I remember that I felt things intensely--that things were SO IMPORTANT then, that seem so trivia now. And Hughes' films understood that. Going to the prom wasn't just a stupid ritual of conformity, it was a moment that encapsulated so much about what some of us believed was the captsone moment of our high school careers. Easy to make fun of from the distance of 20 years, but harder in the moment to not feel like these moments mean so much. And Molly Ringwald was great at conveying the feelings embedded in those moments--when she comes out of the church and sees Jake waiting for her, when she goes to the prom by herself and finds her best friend Ducky there, when she has the heart to heart talk with her father. Those moments somehow made sense to me and helped me to make sense of my high school experiences as well.

So how do I feel about John Hughes' passing? I'm sorry for his family, especially his sons. And I'm sorry for my teenage self. And I was moved when I read this piece by a teenage pen pal of Hughes, Sincerely, John Hughes.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll go out and rent Pretty in Pink or Sixteen Candles this week and get in touch with the 16 year old part of me that still feels giddy putting on a prom dress for the first time or remembering what it was like to kiss the dream guy you've been crushing on for a long time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What is the point of marriage?

I suppose that coming back from a wedding it would be natural for me to ask this question. Let me first say that my reflections right now have nothing to do with the wedding I just returned from, which was lovely and the couple in question seem to be happily wed and hopefully will stay that way for a long, long time.

But weddings and marriage have been on my mine lately because I've been thinking about inter-racial relationships/marriages and about same-sex/queer marriages, especially the upcoming challenges that we are going to see coming out of California and making their way to the Supreme Court.

Once upon a time marriage was a contract--a way of aligning two families together out of economic and political necessity or to solidify power. Love really wasn't part of the equation, and status was paramount: everyone wants to marry up or at least marry advantageously. Just think of all those Jane Austen novels, especially poor Mrs. Bennett worrying about marrying off all her daughters. Yes Mrs. Bennett is a ridiculous character but her anxiety is not frivolous: marrying well ensured your literal livelihood as a woman in an era when there were few choices for earning a respectable income (we all know what women are forced to resort to in order to ensure their survival).

Fast forward to the 21st century and we want marriage to do SO MUCH--we expect our spouses to be our soul mates, passionate lovers, best friends, sound financial advisers, nurturing parents, reliable roommates (who will do the dishes without being asked), and life partners. It's a pretty tall order.

This week's edition of Newsweek contained a piece, "Americans Marry Too Much" in which one tidbit at the beginning declares that "We [Americans] divorce, repartner, and remarry faster than people in any other country" which, according to an expert they cite, Andrew Cherlin, is not good: "Many of the problems faced by America's children stem not from parents marrying too little but rather too often."

And in The New York Times today there is an article about Ted Olsen, a conservative constitutional lawyer who most famously worked for Ronald Reagan working to overturn affirmative action policies and who most recently fought on behalf of George W. Bush's questionable 2000 election returns. But right now Olsen is filing a brief in California to overturn Proposition 8 because he believes that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, a civil right, that we will see during our lifetime and that he is working to ensure for all gay and lesbian couples.

The article mentions conservative arguments against same-sex marriage--that it is against religious doctrine, that it is not good for families, especially since same-sex couples cannot "naturally" procreate. Which just seem to be bogus arguments, especially the latter in this day and age of increased reproductive technology (InVitro-Fertilization) and adoption.

So what is the point of marriage? To ensure a stable society? To solidify the nuclear family? To join families together for political and financial expediency? As a symbol of one's undying love for one's soulmate? Because we are told from an early age that this is a rite of adulthood--to marry someone we find compatible and to raise a family.

Like everything else about humanity, it seems like marriage should be something that evolves. We certainly no longer marry solely or most purposely to create political alliances. And the face of families have changed for a while now. So is it really a stretch to think that same-sex marriages are so radical? If people really believe in the sanctity of marriage, if they really think that people are marrying less or divorcing more, than wouldn't same-sex marriage be the next logical step in ensuring that marriage, as an institution will be preserved.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Y.E. Yang -- PGA Champion

I spent over 7 hours in the car yesterday trying to get home to watch the PGA Championship (long story--4 different accidents on the freeway made what should be a 4 hour drive almost 8 hours) because Tiger Woods was in the lead, and he has never lost a major championship match when he was in the lead on a Sunday.

Until yesterday.

Y.E. Yang, a South Korean golfer ranked 110th, beat Tiger by 2 strokes, which makes him the first Asian-born male golfer to win a major PGA tournament.

It has been interesting watching golf coverage and reading about this win. Because most golf journalists and commenters have been pretty careful with saying that Yang is the first male Asian-born golfer to win a tournament. A distinction worth noting because there have been several Asian female LPGA tour winners (many from South Korea like Se Ri Pak and Birdie Kim) and because Vijay Singh, who is of Asian descent but born in Fiji has also won major championships. Of course, it's also an important distinction because Tiger Woods is a mixed-race golfer of Asian-African American descent: his mother, Tida, was born in Thailand which makes Tiger half-Thai by ethnicity and half Asian American by racial categorization.

I mention all of the above because Yang is being heralded in South Korea as the first Asian golfer to win a major PGA championship, but in saying so, it does ignore both Vijay Singh and, most importantly, Tiger Woods' ethnic background. As if somehow Singh, by virtue of his Indian background isn't a "real" Asian and Tiger, as someone who is mixed, who is referred to by many as an African American golfer even though he, himself, is careful to call himself mixed, has his Asian ethnic ancestry ignored, either because he doesn't "look" Asian enough or because being mixed he doesn't "count" as pure.

Anyway, I do applaud Y.E. Yang on his victory--two different friends called while I was in the car crowing about the win and what a great tournament it was, especially the last 4 holes. I wish I had been there to see it (it's just not the same watching the highlights). It is something to see two Asian-ethnic descent golfers in the final round of a major championship go toe to toe.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday food for thought

I'm headed out of town for a friend's wedding and thought I'd leave some interesting links I've recently found that discuss important issues, especially ones pertaining to the theme of this blog, mixed race America. So here's Friday's food for thought links:

*What Tami Said -- Tami breaks down not just the idiocy of the birther phenom but why it has even had any kind of media life at all (please, will the mother ship come take Orly Taitz away NOW!)

*Ta-Nehisi Coates -- Continuing with the birther phenom, Ta-Nehisi Coates looks at the racism behind the conspiracy theory [tip of the hat to Poplicks]

*Stuff White People Do -- Great piece about "microaggressions" that many people of color experience, esp. when we are being mistaken for the Chinese food delivery person [and while I haven't had this particular mis-recognition occur, I am often asked, at Asian themed restaurants, for a menu or glass of water as I walk by people's tables--apparently Asian women walking through an Asian restaurant must all work there]

*Angry Asian Man -- Breaks down a report about immigrants and stereotypes--although the report seems hopeful at the end, I do wonder if the more things change, the more they don't just stay the same.

*Anti-Racist Parent -- Finally, because it's nice to bookend with Tami since she is so thoughtful and smart and just breaks it down in a way that has me nodding my head and saying yes, is this piece she did for ARP on anti-racist parenting as pro-active parenting.

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A plea for civility -- it's OK to doubt

So I just need to vent a frustration I've been feeling about comments that people leave on people's blogs and on other sites (like The New York Times) that are simply rude, hostile, vicious, unkind, nasty, insulting, and just plain mean. And the recent spate of riotous behavior at Town Hall Meetings also makes me want to tear my hair out (especially when people shout unhelpful/inaccurate statements like "Keep the government out of medicare!"--REALLY??? Keep the government out of a U.S. government sponsored and funded program? O.K. . . .)

I'm sure that any regular readers of this blog are not the people who write comments that shock and appall me with their rudeness nor are any of you screaming at elected officials and fellow citizens at Town Hall meetings. And I'm not saying that those who are doing all the screaming are the same one's carrying on about Medicaid being divorced from the government. Health care is a very important and heated issue that has become a lightening rod.

However...I DO believe that the incivility I've seen on the blogosphere and in these Town Hall meeting and Tea Bag parties echo rhetoric found on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's show--which is a rhetoric that doesn't allow for any true dialogue or meaningful discussion. It's just about you wanting to be right. Maybe some would argue that Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman do the same thing or that Lefty liberals like myself also want to just "be right" all the time.

But honestly, I have doubt. I know that the world is much grayer and fuzzier than I would like it to be. I wish I could be absolutely certain all of the time--about when we should withdraw from Iraq and how. About how to balance the state budget--which programs to cut and to keep. About the existence of God or any other higher spiritual power and presence. I am not certain about any of these things. I have doubt.

And apparently having doubt may be one way to ensure civility. On the Diane Rehm show today her guest, Professor Peter Berger of Boston University spoke about doubt as a means to ensure civil discourse (he is co-author with Anton Zijderveld of the book In Praise of Doubt: How to Have Convictions without Becoming a Fanatic). And listening to Professor Berger talk about doubt as being a potentially productive means of engaging rather than a debilitating or violent one was really useful. Ultimately I hope it will help us, as a society and a culture, to achieve civility.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The politics of inter-racial relationships in Asian America

Last week a reader left a comment on the post about Euna Lee and Laura Ling that expressed surprise at seeing the white male husbands of Lee and Ling and noted that seeing such pairings can lead to "ANGRY ASIAN MEN."

So I wanted to talk, today, about specific inter-racial pairings, namely those of white men with Asian American women.

[Caveat: I am, for today's post, limiting my discussion to the politics of inter-racial relationships among heterosexual couples. There are dynamics and politics involved in queer inter-racial relationships, esp. among gay men with phrases like "rice queen" getting invoked to describe certain preferences/fetishization (word choice depends on where you fall in the debate) of Asian men by white men, but since the commenter was discussing ANGRY ASIAN MEN in the context of Ling and Lee's inter-racial marriages, I wanted to contain my comments to this particular inter-racial gendered/raced pairing, although I'd be interested in any readers chiming in with their own queer inter-racial comparisons]

Interestingly enough, there is a Marie Claire article titled "The New Trophy Wives: Asian Women" [tip of the hat to Angry Asian Man]. It is not very well written or well conceived--the author seems to want to have it both ways, to critique American society and culture for the overtly sexualized and exoticized stereotypes of Asian American women as well as to perpetuate said stereotyping within the article itself (the writer, Ying Chu, refers to Asian women, variously as Asian babes, mail-order brides, and doll-faced Asian sylphs, to which I say WTF???!!!). But it does give you an idea of part of the problem and problematics embedded in the vision of white men with Asian American women.

Which is where I should first begin. I don't want to speak on behalf of all Asian American men (how could I?!) but my guess is that those who, like the commenter, are upset at Asian American women dating inter-racially are really upset with Asian American women dating white men. Maybe they also don't want to see Asian American women with American Indian, Latino, or African American men, and I know that there are a few ethnic nationalists who would prefer that Vietnamese Americans date other Vietnamese and Korean Americans date other Korean Americans, but my guess is that intra-Asian American dating is not really an issue with folks--it's inter-racial dating, especially with white men.

So what's wrong with Asian American women dating white men? Well, I've sort've tackled bits and pieces of this before in older posts: "Mixed Race America: how does it begin?" and "Monday's Mixed Race Musings" and "Dating Across the Color Line." But in a nutshell, let me elaborate the main bones of contention:

*Asian American women date white men for increased status--essentially, they are race traitors selling out their ethnicity in order to be wannabe whites or in truly denigrating language, "bananas/twinkies" (white on the inside, yellow on the outside).

*Asian American women date white men because they believe that Asian American men are too "traditional"--that Asian American men are too misogynist and subjugate Asian American women and oppress them with the old-world values of their traditional Asian culture that dictates that Asian women must be beholden to Asian men.

*White men date Asian American women for many of the reasons cited in the Marie Claire article, which boils down to sexual fantasies/fetishization. They want a young, sexy China-doll who will be a docile partner in public and an sexual vamp in private, and these stereotypes of the Asian American female oversexualized dragonlady vixen is inculcated in these men from the many media stereotypes of Asian & Asian American women in popular culture (esp. film and television portraits).

[There are MANY books that talk about the stereotype of the oversexualized Asian American woman in popular culture, an excellent one being Gina Marchetti's Romance and the Yellow Peril, and a really excellent documentary Slaying the Dragon by Deborah Gee (too expensive to rent or buy but if you are near a university they may have a copy in their library).]

*Asian American men are especially p.o. at this inter-racial pairing because they do not have the same inter-racial dating options--Asian American men are not sought after as desirable romantic or sexual partners by white women and have been desexualized in popular culture, leading to lower rates of inter-racial relationships of Asian American men with white women and with white women (and even Asian American women) telling these men that they simply aren't attracted to Asian American men. In other words, they are driven by jealousy/envy into a posture of anger because of the ways in which they have been denied the same access to inter-racial relationships as Asian American women, and they are additionally scornful of Asian women with white men because of the troubling politics of Asian American women being commodities for white male consumption/display.

Now, let me be clear. What I describe above is not necessarily what I believe. But I have certainly heard, anecdotally, all of these arguments from other folk: I have heard both white and Asian American women (and actually Latino and African American women) claim that they just simply aren't attracted to Asian American men. I have been told, by white men, that they prefer dating Asian American women because of their values, because they feel they are more "feminine" than white women, more interesting looking, more exotic (yep, that word was used to my face), and that sexually speaking they were better in bed than other women (Asian American women are apparently endowed with special sexual powers from birth). I have heard Asian American women say that they are just more comfortable with white men and that they find Asian American men to be too dominating/domineering and traditional and white men treat them better. And I have read countless articles and books and watched numerous films talking about the dynamic of Asian American inter-racial relationships--the power differences and differentials based on race and gender, exacerbated by racism and sexism, in which Asian American women, due to a history of wars in Asian countries, have been used as trophies of war for white Westerners in an effort to subjugate Asian men and hence Asian nations within the paradigm of American imperialism and hegemony.

So does anyone ever get together because they like one another? Are politics always a dynamic within inter-racial relationships? Can't people just fall in love with each other?

My simple answer: yes, yes, and yes. Yes, people often fall in love and find common interests and attractions that are not about race or ethnicity or trophy status. But are politics a part of this dynamic? In my opinion yes. It may not be overt. It may not be conscious. But I just don't believe that anyone is immune to forces of social and cultural markers and values. I don't believe that anyone is immune from the influence of popular culture and popular discourse. And we have been bombarded with the image and the message that Asian American women are very acceptable and desirable sexual partners for men--any men, but perhaps especially for white men since Asian American women, when they are not shown paired with Asian American men, are most notably shown as partners for white men (although there was Sandra Oh's character dating the black surgeon on Gray's Anatomy before the actor made homophobic remarks and got kicked off the show).

I don't exempt myself from being influenced by these messages and images. I have dated mostly white men during my lifetime. Even in my current relationship, which I'd like to think was based on a mutual love and appreciation of food, narrative, and politics, first and foremost--I am aware of the ways in which who I am told is an attractive partner in this society is a white man--who I should see as sexy and strong and handsome are white men. I know that when I walk with my white partner in public I am perpetuating a stereotype that I am vigilant in critiquing. But the problem, at least for me, is what do you do when despite what you know, despite the politics that you are all too aware of, you end up finding yourself deeply connected to someone.

I would like to say that it's where I live--that my choices are limited in terms of dating Asian American men in the South--or at least greatly circumscribed from what they were in California or a more metropolitan area like Boston. I'd like to say that I had intended, when I moved here, to date across a spectrum of races (I had been in a long-term relationship for over 12 years prior to coming to the South) and to actually make the personal political by dating a person or color or by especially eschewing a white man. And I suppose I could tell you that I initially dismissed Southern Man as a romantic possibility because of his race and where he grew up--because I was uncomfortable with the idea of being an Asian American studies professor and feminist dating a white Southern man with a discernible Southern accent. In many ways what I've revealed about my own romantic and relationship practices is far too personal than what I am normally comfortable with disclosing in this space. But I believe that I can't honestly write about this subject without recognizing that as much as I interrogate the politics of Asian American inter-racial relationships that I must be both critic and subject in this regard and cannot exempt myself from being influenced by these factors, even as I am constantly questioning them in my life and questioning my partner for his own beliefs about race and dating and inter-racial relationships.

[The Asian woman fetish question is usually one of the first deal-breaker questions I ask when I've dated white men. Some would say that no white guy in his right mind is going to admit to having an Asian woman fetish if you ask him directly, but you'd be surprised at what some white men will tell you thinking it's a compliment to say that they find Asian women to be particularly sexy--and for all you Asian American women out there who are still dating and esp. dating inter-racially, if you believe this is a simple compliment, THINK AGAIN--it usually comes with a host of other problematic belief systems--better to get out early than to find your white boyfriend handing you a kimono and wanting you to do some kinky version of Madam Butterfly--I do not speak from experience but I have heard tales from others that would curl your toes]

So where do we go from here? Am I a sell out? Should I break up with Southern Man because we are a walking stereotype, and some will accuse him of having a trophy girlfriend? Am I worried that I won't be taken seriously as an Asian American scholar with a white partner (actually many Asian American scholars date inter-racially across gender and racial lines, fyi). Is it possible that I love my partner and find him interesting and that we both recognize the ideologies at work in dating inter-racially but are willing to negotiate them honestly and openly because talking directly about race and these dynamics is perhaps the most healing thing we can do for our relationship?

Let me just end by saying that I don't think you can legislate love. You can recognize the politics and ideologies and values of these relationships. You can accuse Soon-yi Previn of having a daddy-complex, which is why she slept with her stepfather, Woody Allen. You can say that some white men infantalize Asian women as sexual toys. But you also have to acknowledge that Asian American women and white men date and marry for a variety of reasons, personal as well as political. Perhaps the most we can hope for is to figure out why it bothers some of us so much and to also ask ourselves what is influencing our desire to date inter-racially. But at the end of the day, you end up loving who you end up loving. Which is one of the reasons I wish we could just get on board with same-sex marriage. Because like I said, I just don't believe you can ever legislate or tell people who they can and can't love.

Friday, August 7, 2009

T.G.I.F.: Soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice, Judge Sonia Sotomayor

In the 21st century it should not be such a great or impossible feat to have the highest judicial court in the land reflect the body of its citizens. Yet at this present moment, the U.S. Supreme Court has only a single female justice and a single non-white justice (hold the comments about Clarence Thomas's conservative politics and Uncle Tom slurs--he identifies as a black man and is a black man).

All of that is going to change shortly. Because yesterday Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed 63-31 by the senate, and on Saturday she will be sworn in by Chief Justice Roberts as the nation's first Latina female judge.

Judge Sotomayor's credentials are impeccable. A graduate of Princeton (BA) and Yale (JD) universities, she has served the law for three decades. And, of course, by now everyone also knows her story--that she rose from a working class background out of the Bronx projects to the pinnacle of the legal profession.

It is, of course, not surprising that Obama's first chance at nominating someone to the Supreme Court would try to rectify the vision of America that is based in reality and not in a conservative, backwards view of the way "things were" or the way "things should be"--that with Sotomayor's confirmation, we inch one step closer to a vision of Mixed Race America that the Supreme Court should reflect and represent.

And surprisingly, one area we see this is within Sotomayor's family, particularly her two twin nephews, Conner and Cory (pictured above with Sotomayor at a baseball game). They were adopted from Korea to Sotomayor's brother, Juan and sister-in law, Tracey, and they have an older sister, Kiley. They have been introduced at various points in Sotomayor's march towards the Supreme Court, most notably during the start of her confirmation hearings.

[I can't blame them for falling asleep--the hearing really did drag on forever!]

One of the things I find interesting about Sotomayor's confirmation hearing is that there doesn't seem to be much made of her newphew's ethnicity or the fact that Juan Sotomayor and his wife adopted transracially as well as transnationally (at least not much made in the mainstream media). I wonder if this means that we are growing more accepting of families with adopted children and/or families whose racial and ethnic compositions are more visibly mixed.

[Judge Sotomayor speaking at the White House right after her nomination by President Obama]

At any rate, all of this seems like it deserves a T.G.I.F. award. Because while it seems so simple on the one hand, it has taken us, as a nation, so long to get here (and really, as far as gender is concerned, we are back to 1990s when Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be the second female justice--the only thing we've really broken is a color barrier by having two non-white justices, and one a woman to boot), on the other hand, we, and especially Judge Sonia Sotomayor, certainly worked long and hard to get to this place.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vienna Teng's "City Hall"

It's easy to feel discouraged about the fight for same-sex marriages in California. But then I remembered this song by Vienna Teng, "City Hall," especially these lines:

"10 years waiting for this moment of fate
when we say the words and sign our names
if they take it away again someday
this beautiful thing won’t change

[Tip of the hat to Land of the Not-So-Calm]

I don't live in California anymore, but if I did, I would get involved with Camp Courage, keeping the words of Vienna Teng's song in mind but also working to reverse Prop 8 because marriage is a fundamental right that should be available to all of us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Welcome Home Euna Lee & Laura Ling!

By now, most of the world knows that Euna Lee and Laura Ling have been released from North Korea, due in large part to the behind-the-scenes political efforts of the Obama administration and Al Gore/Current t.v. (their employer) and the very public humanitarian aid of former President Bill Clinton.

I think everyone is ecstatic at this news (I know I am). And yet, the conservative forces, particularly through the mouthpiece of Fox News, has been harping about what we "lost" in "negotiating" with terrorists. But one of the most disturbing things when listening to these talking heads debate the wisdom of sending such a high profile figure as Bill Clinton to negotiate the release of these two journalists is the consistency with which Hannity and his guests refer to these two professional Asian American journalists as "girls."

[If you'd like to see the actual footage, you can click here and see it on Current t.v.'s website]

Seriously? Can't we just all take a moment and feel good that these women are home with their families? Did you see the way that Euna Lee hugged her little girl--totally made me cry!

Anyway, I, for one, welcome Euna Lee and Laura Ling home with both open arms and an open heart and hope that they will be able to be at peace with the family and to heal after this harrowing ordeal. And kudos to Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and the host of other folks who worked behind the scenes to make this all possible.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday President Obama!

Dear President Barack Obama,

Happy Birthday! I know you are receiving well wishes from around the country, but I just wanted to add my own to what I hope is a great global chorus of happy salutations and birthday messages.

This is a big birthday for you. I mean, of course the obvious difference between this year and last year is that, well, you won. You are now the 44th President of the United States. A very proud accomplishment for anyone, and I know everyone has made a big deal of how historic your election was, but it really IS historic. And the great thing is, I think some of us have forgotten that--we are getting used to and taking for granted that of course there can be a non-white mixed-race African American man in office.

But the other reason this is a big birthday for you is that you turn 48, which means this is your 4th lunar birthday--this is literally YOUR YEAR--the year of the Ox. You probably grew up hearing about Chinese new year or lunar new year celebrations, rituals, and superstitions while you were in Hawaii. And certainly your Chinese-Canadian brother-in-law, Konrad Ng, would be able to tell you all about how auspicious this year is for you.

Before I forget, I just wanted to echo Eugene Robinson and say that the whole "Birther" conspiracy is just plain lunacy. And, of course, I can't help but wonder if the motivating factor behind 28% of Republicans believing that Obama was not born in the U.S. is an unwillingness to accept you in the highest office in the land--a stubborn refusal to accept an African American man as president. Which I suppose contradicts what I wrote above (sigh).

And that's the thing, we are a nation that holds multiple opinions and points-of-view; we are a nation of many different races, many if not all of them mixed up in some ways, whether people want to recognize this mixture or not. And we are a nation that believes in our fundamental right to voice our opinion--in freedom of speech. Which makes for a cacophony that can be chaotic at times.

I also just want to add that I appreciate your fight for health care reform. I will write to my elected officials in my state and will try to do what I can to support your health care plan, because we need to do SOMETHING about our health care system--it's not working. And those of us who have compassion for the uninsured and who do not believe the right-wing ads and lies that seems to believe that the Canadian system is awful (I have relatives in Canada and friends who live in Scandinavia and have benefited from Greek's national medical system myself when I had to be hospitalized there while on vacation--it's just a more humane system overall) will continue to fight for health care reform.

[And yes, I did sign a pledge of support for Health Care Reform on your webpage]

OK, enough work talk. Listen, just try to enjoy today. I hope you get to spend it with your family. I hope that you get to relax a little bit and enjoy yourself. Because my own personal belief is that your birthday is like your own personal holiday. Of course I know it's not easy when you are president of the United States. Yet even the president should get to enjoy his own birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. PRESIDENT!!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's s a MAD, Mad world and I'm a MAD, mad girl

I blame Tami. When she wrote about being in love (her words, really!) with the AMC show Mad Men (the 3rd season premieres August 16), I was intrigued. So I watched. And I was hooked.

I had been resisting the show, mostly because I just don't need another show to become addicted to--not that there are that many, but I'm a university professor trying to write a book, so really, the less t.v. I watch the more articles I can/should read, the sooner the book gets written (at least, in theory, that's the way it should work). But these shows have me hooked: Project Runway. Top Chef. And, of course, Lost. And now, Mad Men.

I had been resisting Mad Men for a second reason though--I didn't think a show about white men in the 1950s (it's actually set in the 1960s, the first years of the decade actually--JFK is still alive) at an ad agency would be appealing. But if you read Tami's astute post about the show you will see why I, and anyone interested in a history of race relations in the U.S., would be intrigued:
"What I most appreciate about "Mad Men" is that it doesn't attempt to create a historical drama with modern sensibilities. It doesn't turn the morays of the time into something more PC for modern audiences. The show presents things as (I imagine) they were and challenges the audience to judge characters by the standards of a bygone era. . . . A lot of "isms" were a part of American life in the early 60s. As I've explored several forum threads about the show, I've discovered that viewers are eager to minimize the way racism is deftly presented in "Mad Men." The sexism, viewers can digest. But mainstream society has come to an interesting place: Calling someone a racist is more disturbing than actual institutional racism. Short of witnessing a lynching, there is always some way to explain away race bias [emphasis mine]."

So if you are looking for a show to dive into, you can buy the DVDs of Season 1 and 2, information available on the Mad Men AMC website (they used to have the full episodes available, for free, but they seemed to have taken them down, for some reason--BUMMER). And definitely check out the premiere of Season 3 on August 16. And if you are already a fan, like Tami and like me, you can actually create a character and insert yourself into a Mad Men scenario, like I've done below:

I call this scene "Speaking truth to power and educating men about the sexist images in corporate advertising." Unlike the show, I am going to exercise poetic license and imagine that if I were to enter into the Mad Men world, I'd be there as a MAD Asian American feminist. By the way, if you are wondering if this actually *looks* like me, oddly and eerily enough, it does--in fact, I own clothing very SIMILAR to the one that my mad-alter ego is wearing. Go figure.

If you want to "Mad" yourself, click here. And feel free to share your icon on the comment thread.