Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Asian American studies matters

I've been in NYC for the last few days (it was spring break last week at Southern U) so I didn't get to see this video until today--but perhaps by now some of you are familiar with the racist rant from UCLA undergraduate, Alexandra Wallace in which she complains about "Asians" and all those awful things Asians do, like bring their families to the dorms, let their kids run wild, and talk on their cell phones in their "ching chong a ling long" voice (actual quote -- or perhaps actual paraphrase of her quote).

If you want to see the awfulness in its entriety, all you need to do is google the words "UCLA racist rant Asian" and up will pop the youtube video.

However, what I want to post is this vlog response from David So:

It's pretty funny and a MUCH better thing to watch than the actual video itself (which is just PAINFUL) but I do think that Ms. Wallace makes one thing clear, and that is the continued need for Asian American studies -- why people need to be educated about Asian American issues and about Asian American people. And Ms. Wallace is in the perfect place for such an education since the UCLA Asian American Studies department is one of the first such departments in the nation -- and the Amerasia Journal is one of the most pre-eminent journals on Asian American topics.

Also, a word to Alexandra Wallace and anyone else who think that (1) there is a single "Asian" language (2) that it sounds like people saying "ching chong ling long" -- I direct you to spoken word artist Beau Sia's "an open letter to all the rosie o'donnells" because he breaks it down and says it best.

Finally, I want to say one last thing about Alexandra Wallace. I think that A LOT of people have expressed a lot of anger towards her--but in some of that anger (including in David So's response above) people feel the need to make assumptions about her based on the fact that she is a blonde female student showing some cleavage--and so she's been called a whore and other disparaging names. While I confess that she sounds extraordinarily ignorant based on the content of her rant (and grammar is not a strong suit in her speaking skills), I think we need to be careful not to perpetuate another form of violence--misogyny and sexism--in order to decry Ms. Wallace's bigotry and racism. I think we can call her an ignorant idiot without calling her a slut.

[Update: The New York Times has now covered this debacle -- click here for the link to the article. Apparently UCLA officials are considering disciplinary actions against Ms. Wallace. So I decided to write an email message to the UCLA Chancellor--which I've reprinted below:]

March 16, 2011

Dear Chancellor Gene Block,

Forgive the intrusion—I recognize that you are a very busy man and that the last thing you need is more email to sift through regarding UCLA undergraduate Alexandra Wallace's viral youtube video. However, I just read an article in The New York Times that says you are considering disciplinary actions against Ms. Wallace.

As a professor who teaches Asian American literature and researches issues of race and anti-racism, may I make a suggestion? If you do decide to pursue some type of disciplinary action, I recommend requiring Ms. Wallace to enroll in an Asian American studies course. Any course will do. Given the level of ignorance about Asian Americans that Ms. Wallace demonstrated and given the illustrious history of Asian American studies at UCLA, I think it fitting to require Ms. Wallace to learn a little something about the people she is maligning.


[Second Update: So I have been seeing a lot of video responses by folks, and I find it interesting that people (college-aged folks mainly) seem to be using YouTube as a platform to respond to Ms. Wallace. Now, a lot of stuff has been pretty misogynist--as a friend of mine put it (quoting from Audre Lorde) people have to learn that you can't dismantle the master's house using the master's tools--in other words, like I said above, resorting to sexist comments is another kind of violence that isn't helpful.

But humor is--and a friend send me a link to this YouTube video that showcases the humorous and most importantly musical talents of a guy named "Jimmy":

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The post about adoption

As regular readers of this blog know, recently I've been writing about more personal (maybe intimate or private is the more accurate word to use) issues on this blog--my breast cancer diagnosis, for example. And I've been thinking of writing a post about adoption for a while, but for a variety of reasons I've held back. Mostly because I recognize that writing about adoption is a very emotional, fraught, and provocative topic.

But it's also a topic that needs to be talked about, from a variety of perspectives. Especially when it comes to transnational and transracial adoption. I'd be doing a disservice to this blog by not talking about these issues. And while I could write about this from a dispassionate or seemingly objective perspective, it doesn't seem like that'd be the honest way to approach this topic.

I guess I should re-name the title to be "A post about adoption" because I don't think that this will be the only post I write on this topic. But I do think that I want to start with the personal, because like that feminist mantra says, "The personal is political."

And the personal, in my case, is that Southern Man and I will not be having a child biologically. We will be adopting.

As many of you can guess, my cancer diagnosis played a large role in this decision. But it wasn't the main issue--my age was/is. I am post-35, that magic number that doctor's like to throw around to let you know that the biological clock is tick, tick TICKING away. Added to this was the knowledge that I gained, a year and a half ago, that the age of my ovaries and my chronological age were not in synch--that the age of my eggs are older than I am. So when I got the cancer diagnosis in April and realized that the chemotherapy would knock out my ovarian function, perhaps permanently, and that even if it did come back that the tamoxifen hormone treatment that I'm on precludes pregnancy (you definitely do NOT want to get pregnant on tamoxifen--there are serious birth defects and miscarriages associated with it).

So this summer, while undergoing chemotherapy, I made my peace with this piece of my life. Southern Man and I went through a period of grief and mourning over this, but the further truth of the matter is we had always planned to adopt one way or another. That even if I had been able to get pregnant, only one would come from the womb--a second child would come through adoption.

The complication that cancer has brought about in our adoption is that one of the options we had been considering--adopting from China--is no longer on the table because China is one of several countries that does not allow parents to adopt if one has received a cancer diagnosis.

[Aside: Actually, China also doesn't like their adoptive parents to be overweight or suffer from depression or have chronic health issues--the list of physical and mental ailments that would preclude one from adopting from China is quite daunting. Other countries, like Korea, do not let you adopt if more than 10 years separates you from your partner]

Now, we had not settled decisively on adoption from China, but this option seemed attractive to us for several reasons--most especially because I am Chinese American and my father (and a few other relatives) speak Cantonese AND Mandarin (yep, my family is multi-linguistic). So the violence and loss associated with transnational adoption seems like it would have, potentially, been mitigated through that cultural connection--and certainly in terms of the racial identity--of being Asian American, that this IS something I understand and know on a very deep level.

Discovering that China was no longer an option in terms of adoption has been fraught in many ways for me. In some ways I have felt deep ambivalence about international and transnational adoption. But on the other hand, this means that we may be adopting a child whose ethnic and racial identity does not match either of our own since we have decided to pursue domestic open adoption.

I recognize that this is a very VERY private thing to share in a very VERY public space. And I recognize that people have very VERY strong opinions about adoption--about international versus domestic. About transracial and/or transnational. About the loss attendant in any adoption process.

I know all of that--and I don't want to go in blindly or to be naive about any of this. But in the midst of a year that has brought about many MANY losses and changes in my life, there is a part of me that would like to think of this option as simply this: happy. That the uncertainty of whether I can get pregnant has been taken off the table and what we know is that we will begin the process of open adoption at some point in the future (I'd like to be at least a year post-surgery before even beginning paperwork since even with open adoption it's challenging to have a birth parent select us given my health profile). That we know that we will have a family--that adoption allows us that option still. And that at the end of the day, this is what will make us very happy, and in that way, adoption is a blessing for us.

There's so much more to say--but I think I'll just end here, on a happy note. Because future posts will be discussing thornier subjects that are too complicated and complex to be discussed in a single post--and that shade and shadow the kind of happiness that my previous paragraph declares. But even still, I stand by this declaration: I am happy to know that we will be adopting in the future and that we will have a family.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Meet the Happiest Man in the U.S.: Alvin Wong

Gallup (yep, the pollster/survey people) decided that they wanted to figure out what makes Americans happy and, the New York Times asked Gallup for a composite picture of who the happiest person in the U.S. -- and what they came up with was

"he’s a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year."

[apparently men are happier than women--which is NOT surprising]

Now, if you are scratching your heads and wondering, could such a person, actually exist? The answer is: Yes and his name is Alvin Wong.

For a picture of Mr. Wong and a description of the Times piece, click here.

I'm not sure that at 5' 10" Alvin Wong can really be considered "tall," although I suppose for someone Chinese American, it's all relative.

What I want to know is, are Asian Americans supposed to be the happiest race of people in the U.S.? And also, are observant Jews the happiest religious practitioners? If I convert to Judaism, will this make me a happier person? Of course I still need the kids, owning my own business, and making over $120,000...and then there's the little problem of my gender and living in Hawaii. Oh well--I guess not all of us can be Alvin Wong.