Friday, September 21, 2018

Offensive GOP ad directed at Hindu voters backfires in Texas

TEXAS REPUBLICANS use of a Hindu deity on a campaign ad may have had the opposite effect the GOP wanted.
The ad used an image of of Lord Ganesha in place of the GOP's elephant mascot, urging support of the Republican Party.

The ad appeared to be an attempt to reach out to Hindu voters on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi and urged Indian American Hindu voters in the county to vote Republican by asking, “Would you worship a donkey or an elephant? The choice is yours,” the foundation said in a news release.

“While we appreciate the Fort Bend County GOP’s attempt to reach out to Hindus on an important Hindu festival, its ad — equating Hindus’ veneration of the Lord Ganesha with choosing a political party based on its animal symbol – is problematic and offensive,” Rishi Bhutada, Hindu American Foundation board member and a Fort Bend County resident, said in a statement.

The Fort Bend GOP responded with the following statement:

“The ad was meant to be part of the celebration and acknowledge the occasion. The ad was not meant to disparage Hindu customs or traditions in any way. This ad was created with input from those of Hindu faith so that we could properly pay respect to the sacred festival. This highlights the difficulty in outreach that can be positive for one group but not for another in the same community. We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone that was offended by the ad. Obviously, that was not the intent.”

It may have made sense for Republicans to outreach to that population since an Indian American is the Democratic candidate for Congressional District 22. Asians and Pacific Islanders make up 21 percent of the population, almost four times the national average.

“Equating Hindus’ worship of Ganesh with a political party’s symbol is wrong and promotes inaccurate stereotypes about the Hindu-American community,” Sri Preston Kulkarni, who’s running against Republican incumbent Pete Olson for a congressional seat in District 22,. “No party should use a religious icon in an attack ad,” he wrote on Facebook.

Sen. Hirono on Kavanaugh proceedings: 'This is bulls**t!'

Sen. Mazie Hirono calls out the male senators to "do the right thing, for a change."
SHE'S MAD AS HELL and she isn't taking it anymore.

Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, one of only four women on the 21-member Senate Judiciary Committee, no longer has the patience to be diplomatic towards her fellow senators. Her recent outspokenness has placed her in the spotlight of debate over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing, for a change,” Hirono said Tuesday, stealing the show at a press conference that featured several high-profile Democrats.
Later on Wednesday, when Republicans said that they have made every effort to connect with Christine Blasey Ford who has accused Supreme Cort nominee Brett Kavanaugh of an assault and attempted rape, Hirono's response was, “I would like us to come together and figure out what is the best way to proceed,” Hirono told ABC News.

“Not this seat-of-the-pants stuff,” she added. “The latest, being a letter from the chairman to the Democrats saying, ‘We have done everything we can to contact her.’ That is such bulls**t, I can’t hardly stand it.”

During the judiciary committee hearings, Hirono asked the questions that she has asked all judicial appointees since Donald Trump was elected.

Had Kavanaugh “made unwanted requests for sexual favors” or committed verbal or physical harrassment of a sexual nature since he became a legal adult? And had he ever faced discipline or settled with anyone over that kind of conduct?

Kavanaugh said “no” to both questions at his confirmation hearing earlier this month. But few in the room, or watching on television, knew at the time how  Hirono’s questions would come back to haunt him.

A little more than a week after he answered those questions, California psychology professor  Christine Blasey Ford has come forward to allege that at a house party in the 1980s, a drunken, 17 year-old Kavanaugh tried undressing her and muffling her cries on a bed before she fled. Kavanaugh denies that account.

Republicans were fumbling at first putting Kavanaugh's nomination in danger of being tossed out. However, they rallied. GOP senators (all male) on the Senate Judicial Committee began questioning the veracity of Blasey's accusation. Sen. Orrin Hatch said Blasey was "mixed up."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judicial Committee, scheduled questioning of Kavanaugh and Blasey for Monday (Sept. 24) to confirm. Blasey and her lawyers didn't take the bait for what would have been a hostile event and turned down the invitation. They said they would prefer that the FBI reopen their probe of Kavanaugh first before proceeding the judiciary committee questions so that the hearing doesn't devolve into a "he-said, she-said" situation.

Grassley insisted on the Monday hearings, placing a deadline (Friday, Sept. 21, 10 a.m. EDT) for Blasey's response. The California professor, who by now was receiving death threats, said she would be too glad to submit to the committee questions, but later in the week. At presstime, negotiations continue between Grassley and Blasey continues.

Hirono’s outrage — and her commitment to holding male nominees accountable — has a deep history, according to the Associated Press. When the Hawaiin senator was a child, her mother fled an abusive marriage in Japan and took Hirono and her brother to Hawaii.

“There is an environment where people see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing,” Hirono said this week about the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct. “That is what we have to change.”

“She’s a badass,” said Christina Reynolds of the advocacy group EMILY’s List, which supports women candidates. “The fact that she’s getting up there and calling it out, I think it’s inspiring for us to watch.”

Hirono is the only senator who can call herself an immigrant. She was born in Japan and her parents were not citizens, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Hirono, who has had a relatively low profile in the 12 years she has worked in the Senate, has grown more feisty and outspoken since she was diagnosed a year ago with cancer in her kidney, which is being treated.

She acknowledges her profile has risen in recent months: making an emotional appeal to her Senate colleagues over the GOP attempts to undo the Affordable Care Act and speaking out against Trump's immigration policies. “The Trump administration gives me so many more opportunities to be verbal and vocal.” she says.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a developing story. Check back later for updates._

TGIF Feature: Asian American director chosen for newest James Bond film

ONE OF THE MOST ICONIC franchises in moviedom will have an Asian American director for the first time in its 50 year history.

Cary Joji Fukanaga, 41, director of the first season of True Detective and the Netflix movie Beasts of No Nation will helm the 25th movie of 007, only the second time a person of director has headed a Bond project.

Fukunaga is slated to begin filming the project — reportedly the final film starring Daniel Craig as the British special agent — next March, targeting a February 2020 release date for the yet-unnamed project..

Fukunaga, who is of Japanese descent, replaces Danny Boyle. The British director quit the film in August due to creative differences.

The choice of Fukunaga is curious. For one, he is American. Will he be able to keep the British nuances typical of Bond films?

Two, he's a critically acclaimed director noted for his grittier films. Will he be able to stay within the formula that has been so successful for so many years? Or will he add sometihng new be breaking the boundaries?

And three, this will be far and away the biggest budget he's had to work with and will he be able to deal with the creative decisions from temperamental and demanding star Daniel Craig, who has the power to provide creative content written into his contract/

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Governor signs bill requiring ethnic studies in Calfiornia schools

Assembly member Rob Bonta spoke in favor of the bill mandating ethnic studies in California schools.
IN HISTORY CLASS, I was taught that white people made all the major inventions in the world, "discovered" the rest of the world outside of Europe and brought Christianity and civilization to mankind. Oh, yeah - and the Chinese invented paper.

Hopefully, that myopic view will change -- at least, in California.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a landmark bill last week (Sept. 12) ordering the creation of a model ethnic studies course for state high schools, handing a major victory to educators who contend that school curricula fail to reflect the diversity of student bodies.

“The benefits of ethnic studies can be measured,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta, California's first Filipino Ameircan Assembly members and one of the cosponsors of the bill. “Multiple studies show that when students of color learn more about race, racism, and cultural identity, they raise their grades, their graduation rates and are more likely to go to college.” 

It is being hailed by its advocates as an educational game changer.

“There’s a saying in education that ‘as California goes, so goes the rest of the country.’ And this is looking very promising not just for students in California, but for those in the rest of the country as this becomes a more accepted educational practice,” Nolan Cabrera, an education professor at the University of Arizona, related to The Huffington Post.

Despite the historic nature of the bill, California is not the first to require ethnic studies in its curriculum.

Other states have been leading the way in implementing ethnic studies at the high school level. In April last year, for example, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, signed legislation requiring all Indiana high schools to offer an ethnic studies course each year beginning in July 2017. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, followed in June 2017, with a law to require ethnic studies in the curriculum of all its K-12 schools, beginning in 2021.

Some of California's school districts have already implemented the requirement.

The state has already started along the road of teaching the true story humankind. Two years ago, Brown signed Assembly Bill 2016 to create a statewide model curriculum on ethnic studies by 2020. Designed by the Instructional Quality Commission, it will be  approved by the State Board of Education, to provide guidance to school districts. 

Students of color account for 76 percent of the population in California's public schools and the state's students speak 90 different languages. Given California’s growing diversity, it is especially important that students learn about the various racial and ethnic groups in our state and their shared American identity.

It never should have required legislation to include the stories and contributions of people of color but traditionally, U.S. history teaches history from a white perspective making Asian, Latino and black students feel as if their people had no role in creating this country.

There may also be another benefit to ethnic studies that hasn't been broached, as far as I can tell. There is a reason white supremacists believe that people from Europe are the be-all and end-all of human-kind and the rest of the world just rode on their coattails.

That is what they are being taught in our public schools! Most of the textbooks are written by white authors, from a Eurocentric point of view and promoted by white publishers and researchers. This limited perspective reinforces and perpetuates the beliefs of white supremacists.

The effect of that one-sided view of the world led one lawmaker, Sen. Steve King, R-Iowa,  to question the contributions of the world's "subgroups" contribute to civilization.

Ethnic studies, in other words, is the other half of history that has been overlooked, deliberately ignored or censored until now.

U.S. Senate passes bill for Chinese American WWII vets

Chinese American soldiers marched in a Veterans Day parade in Dayton, Ohio in 1943.

THE UNITED STATES is another step closer to properly honoring Chinese American veterans who served during World War II.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation Sept. 14 introduced by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth, D-IL, and Mazie Hirono, D-HI, to recognize the tremendous contributions made by more than 13,000 Chinese American World War II Veterans.

The Chinese American World War II Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Act will authorize Congress to award the highest civilian honor – a Congressional Gold Medal – to these dedicated Veterans, including the approximately 50 Chinese American WWII Veterans who call Illinois home.

“Despite facing outright discrimination, more than 13,000 brave Chinese Americans volunteered to risk their lives to protect their fellow Americans during World War II,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud my colleagues from both sides of the aisle have chosen to recognize this brave group of Veterans’ unwavering commitment and honor them with a Congressional Gold Medal.”

“During World War II, Chinese Americans served our country honorably while experiencing discrimination here at home,” said Hirono. “I thank my Senate colleagues for passing this legislation, which gets us one step closer to ensuring that these veterans receive this long-overdue recognition for their brave service.”

Senators Duckworth and Hirono introduced the bipartisan legislation in May of last year with former Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS). Companion legislation (HR.2358) has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Ed Royce, R-CA, Ted Lieu, D-CA, and Grace Meng, D-NY.

The House bill needs 290 sponsors but as of this week, it is still 103 sponsors short for passage.

"From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Chinese Americans served with courage and distinction during WWII and it is time for Congress to recognize them by awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal," said Lieu. "As an Air Force veteran, I am thankful for those who came before who answered our nation’s call to serve. I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill to recognize the valiant contributions of our Chinese American Veterans.”

Chinese American soldiers fought for the United States during WWII.
At the start of World War II, Chinese immigration to the U.S. was still being restricted because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Despite of this racist law, many Chinese Americans still either volunteered or were drafted into the U.S. military. About 40 percent of them were foreign-born.

Many of the Chinese Americans served in Asia as support troops to the Flying Tigers. They took part as translators and trainers and were on the flights over the dangerous Himalayas and Burmese jungles to fly supplies to the Chinese and other Asians fighting the Japanese invaders.

Since the American Revolution, Congress has issued gold medals to express its gratitude on behalf of the entire nation for distinguished achievements. The medal has been awarded to Veterans who served admirably in military conflicts as well as to civilians whose contributions have had a lasting impact on American history and culture.

Last year, Filipino veterans of WWII were honored for their long battle for recognition and equity with the passage of legislation granting them the Congressional Gold Medal.

The famed Japanese American units that fought valiantly during WWII, were previously honored with medals.

Duckworth said that, under the current administration, the stories of the Chinese American World War II veterans are particularly important.

“Their story is yet another reminder that our military and our country are stronger because of our diversity.”


AAPI Vote 2018: Racist flyers pop up against Asian American in New Jersey congressional race

Congressional candidate Andy Kim, a former Obama White House staffer, on the campaign trail in New Jersey.


A POLITICAL MAILER in New Jersey which uses the chop suey font when referencing an Asian American opponent and uses imagery of fish markets common in Chinatown is being blasted as racist, reports Think Progress.

Democrat Andy Kim is in a tight race against incumbent Republican Tom MacArthur in New Jersey’s 3rd District. Kim is currently two points ahead of MacArthur in the latest polls.

The mailer is captioned “something is real fishy about Andy Kim. It is put out by the New Jersey Republican State Committee.

The New Jersey Globe broke down the ad and said there’s nothing racist about imagery of fish, but concluded the use of the chop suey font is an attempt to connote “orientalness” and resurrect a font that dates back to the yellow peril days of U.S. history.

“Congressional Republicans like Tom MacArthur can’t run on their record, because their only legislative accomplishment is a tax cut for billionaires and big corporations that screwed middle class taxpayers in New Jersey,” Currie said to the Globe. “So they’re left with the kind of racist, dog whistle politics that this mailer demonstrates, trying to make a distinguished public servant like Andy Kim into an ‘other.’”

Republicans charge the attack by Democrats is an attempt to move the conversation away from news stories about Kim lying about his resume.

“False cries of racism are a sign that the Kim campaign is coming unhinged down the stretch. Let’s not forget that Tom MacArthur has two Korean children.”

Racist mailers are nothing new to New Jersey politics. The word “deport” were stamped across photos of school board candidates Jerry Shi & Falguni Patel in Edison, NJ. Both ended up winning.

Anti-Ravi Bhalla mailers in Hoboken included the words “Don’t let TERRORISM” take over our town. Bhalla went on to win the mayoral race.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ellen Degneres, McDonalds embrace Filipino American pranksters

Christian Toledo, left, and Jevh Maravilla received checks of $25,000 each from McDonalds on the Ellen Show.
WHO WOULD have guessed that pulling a prank on corporate giant McDonalds would land the two Filipino American college students a job working for the world's best-known food franchise?

University of Houston students Jevh Maravilla and Christian Toledo were guests on the Ellen Show Monday (Sept. 17), where the host Ellen Degeneres surprised both students with a $25,000 check from McDonald's. Not only that, but Ellen also shared they would be featured in an upcoming marketing campaign for the hamburger chain.

The two became internet celebrities last month when they created a fake McDonald’s poster featuring them, which they hung on the wall of one of the fast food brand’s outlets in Pearland, Texas.

They told Degneres that they were inspired by the movie Crazy Rich Asians, which portrayed Asians and Asian Americans in a new contemporary light. “Crazy Rich Asians is a big influence on me,” said Maravilla. “I watched it three times.”

“Because we want to be crazy middle class (Asians])” joked Toledo.

Miravilla and Toledo were in their local McDonalds when they noticed that there were no Asians in the posters depicting McDonald employees and customers that were on display in the fast food outlet.

They told Degeneres of their elaborate scheme of making a fake poster featuring the two of them holding McDonald's products, and then surreptitiously hanging it on an empty wall in their favorite McDonalds. 

The imposter poster hung in the restaurant for 51 days before the students revealed the prank through their social media. Instead of taking the students to court and tearing down the poster, the franchise left the poster up and congratulated Toledo and Maravilla for a job well done. 

Julie Chen leaves 'The Talk'

Panelists on 'The Talk' just viewed the videotape of Julie Chen's statement.


JULIE CHEN, still hurting from Les Moonves’ forced resignation as CEO of CBS following allegations of sexual harassment, announced on the show today (Sept. 18) that she is leaving The Talk.

The veteran host and newscaster did not appear on the show in person, but made the announcement following the resignation of her husband through a videotaped message which she also tweeted to her fans.

“I have been at The Talk since the day it started nine years ago … we have become a family, but right now I need to spend more time at home with my husband and our young son,” Chen said from the set of Big Brother, a show she has also co-hosted since its debut in 2000.

The decision allows Chen to avoid the awkward situation on The Talk where she would be expected to address her husband’s ouster.

Immediately following  Moonves' resignation more than a week ago, Chen announced she would be taking a few days off from the daytime program. Co-hosts Sharon Osbourne and Sara Gilbert expressed sympathy and support for Chen while she was gone, but also seem to indicate their support for the network’s decision to push Moonves out.

In her taped message, Chen also directed a message to the other women on the show.

“I know this show and the sisterhood it stands for will live on for many years – ladies, you’ve got this and I am proud to call you my friends,” Chen said. “I love you.”

The Talk features a number of outspoken woman talking about the issues of the day. Chen is largely considered the lead host of the program and arguably the show’s biggest name. She has been on The Talk since it launched in 2010. Gilbert and Osbourne have also been on the program since the beginning.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dan Koh concedes after recount confirms primary outcome

Dan Koh and his wife Amy. His campaign generated enthusiasm from thousands of volunteers.

LORI TRAHAN eked out a victory over Korean American Dan Koh in the 3rd Congressional District race, the results of which were delayed a week because of the tiny margin separating the top two Democratic candidates.

After the recount, the 52 vote margin after the polls closed was expanded to 145 votes.

“Out of 89,000 votes, it looks like we fell short by about 0.1 percent,” Koh said in his letter that was posted Monday (Sept. 16) on social media.

“There’s no use in getting upset about the close margin – we can’t afford to. It’s time for us to unite behind Lori Trahan to be sure this seat stays Democratic.”

Trahan was the chief of staff to former Rep. Marty Meehan.

The weeklong recount Secretary of State William Galvin naming her the Democratic Party's nominee to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas. Trajan will run against Republican Rick Green and independent candidate Mike the Nov. 6 election.

Koh, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s former chief of staff, had the option of dragging the recount into court by contesting ballots but he declined.

Koh, who is of Korean and Lebanese descent, ended his letter with, "Stay tuned. This is only the beginning," and his campaign catchphrase, "Let's go!" hinting that his future plans may involve a return to politics.

Darren Criss wins historic Emmy; Sandra Oh snubbed

Darren Criss thanked his family for their love keeping him grounded.
LIKE A good Filipino son, Darren Criss thanked his family after winning the Emmy last night for his role in American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. 

"Unlike the character I played, I was lucky enough to be raised in a home that was very loving and emphasized the value of hard work, compassion and not taking yourself too seriously," said Criss. 
Born to a mother from Cebu and a father of English, Irish, and German descent, Criss was raised in San Francisco.

Not only is Criss the first Filipino American to win an Emmy, but what makes the acting award even more unique and historic is that he played the role of Versace's murderer, Andrew Cunanan, who was a Filipino American.

"Oh, my God, you guys are witnessing the most extraordinary moment of my life thus far. I'm very privileged to be in this room among so many people who inspire the crap out of me, and I'm so honored to be nominated," Criss said in his accepting his award. "A lot of you guys, I've been a fan of for such a long time. Actors are really only as good as the moments they are given and the moments they are granted. So I am profoundly indebted to my friend Ryan Murphy for entrusting me with this opportunity of a lifetime and for believing in me."

The Assassination of Gianni Versace, nominated in eight categories, also won best drama in a limited series and for its casting.

Criss' win marks the second year in a row that an actor of Asian descent won the award. Last year, Asian Brit Riz Ahmed won in the same category for his role in The Night After.

Sandra Oh brought her parents to the Emmy Awards. Her mother wore a traditional Korean hanbok.
The two other Asians nominated for Emmy's lost in their categories. Hiro Murai didn't win in the best director of a comedy series for Atlanta and Sandra Oh failure to win the Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama Series for her acting in the BBC spy thriller Killing Eve was a major snub. 

The best actress award went to Claire Foy of The Crown and Foy was expressed her surprise when she received the statuette. "This wasn't supposed to happen," Foy said when she took the stage to collect her first career Emmy. "Sandra Oh, I just love ya."

Despite her loss, Oh already made history for being the first Asian American actress to receive an acting nomination. This is the sixth time Oh has received an Emmy nomination.

In an earlier interview with ET, Oh said she hopes the Asian community continues to be proactive about getting their voices  and stories out into the world thanks to success of Crazy Rich Asians, Netflix's acclaimed teen romance To All the Boys I've Loved Before, John Cho's acclaimed thrillerSearching

The Chinese Canadian actress said she feels more comfortable expressing herself with color-blind roles like Killing Eve rather than politically. 

“Definitely understanding deeply that it’s not enough and to encourage our own community to find its own voice in its own way, that’s one thing that I feel we have not found our own footing yet. Because it has to be from us, uniquely in us, and there’s a lot to explore in that because Asians are very, very diverse," Oh said to ET. 

"Having been actively working in this space, where there has not been much representation at all and being [one] of the only visible faces, I feel like this is the only way that it works for me, I only look at it creatively."

The opening number "We Solved It," spoofed the Emmy's move towards inclusion, Saturday Night Live's kate McKinnon and Keenan Thompson introduced Oh. Oh said, "It's an honor just to be Asian." To which Thompson replied, "You see, there was none. Now there's one!"

That's no joke.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Kellyanne Conway's husband slams Trump's lying

George and Kellyanne Conway
BESIDES BOTH OF US being Filipino Americans, I have very little in common with George Conway, the husband of Donald Trump's advisor and spokesperson Kellyanne Conway. Most of our views, I suspect, are diametrically opposite. However, there is one topic upon which we might find agreement -- Donald Trump.

George Conway, a Filipino American, is no longer being diplomatic -- for his wife's sake -- about his views on rump.

When Trump tried to show media bias, he brought up a mistake by President Barack Obama when he referred to the "57 states" he had visited during his campaign, Conway wrote on Twitter that there is a “huge difference” between what Obama quickly recognized was an error and Trump’s “ceaseless, shameless, and witless prevarication on virtually all topics, large and small.” 

Over the past year, it has become more and more apparent that there might be growing tension in the Conway household.

Last week, he retweeted the New York Times oped by a reportedly a high ranking member of Trump's team.

George Conway, who previously shied away from social media, began criticizing Trump's attacks on judges and the judicial system this year. That apparently riled the conservative attorney, who began tweeting his views contrary to Trump's various positions.

George Conway has played a quiet but impactful role in the conservative movement. If it weren’t for him, the nation might never have met Monica Lewinsky, and Donald Trump might never have met Kellyanne, reports the Washington Post.

“This one disgruntled New York lawyer almost single-handedly brought down the president,” David Brock, the conservative provocateur-turned-Clinton acolyte, later wrote.

To be clear, George Conway is not a left-wing radical who opposition to conservatism is second nature. He is still a rabid conservative, 
which makes his critiques of Trump policies and behavior even more meaningful.  Don't think of him as some sort of heroic figure for progressives because of his criticism of Trump. However, he believes in the sanctity of the institutions that form the foundation of our democracy. That includes the checks and balances that our Founding Fathers intended between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

How has his wife's job affected his marriage? "If my wife were the counselor to the CEO of Pepsi and I had a problem with her boss, I would simply drink my Coke and keep my mouth shut," George reportedly said. "If the president were simply mediocre or even bad, I'd have nothing to say. This is much different."

"I feel there's a part of him that thinks I chose Donald Trump over him," Kellyanne said to The Post. "Which is ridiculous. One is my work and one is my marriage."

"It is disrespectful, it's a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows," she said.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Fisticuffs break out at World Hindu Congress

Photo courtesy of Skanda Kadirgamar/Chicago South Asians For Justice.
Protesters were attacked by mob at this year’s World Hindu Congress in Chicago.

VIOLENCE AND CONTROVERSY marred this year’s World Hindu Congress held in Chicago earlier this month. 

The international meeting of Hindus took place from Sept. 7 to 9, and was attended by several controversial nationalist groups and Indian vice president Venkaiah Naidu.

On the first day, a group of six protesters infiltrated the room where the conference was being held, shouting “RSS turn around, we don’t want you in this town.” The “RSS” referred to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist organization that is accused of encouraging harsh policies and violence against India’s religious minorities. One of the speakers on the panel in the room was RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat.

Immediately, hundreds of conference attendees swarmed the six activists, mostly young South Asian woman. The protesters were members of the Chicago South Asians for Justice and a coalition of South Asian American organizations called the Alliance for Justice and Accountability.

Dozens began to kick, spit, curse and choke them in a surprising bout of violence.

The attendees began to chant in return, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai,” which translated from Hindi means, “Victory to Mother India.”

According to a Medium article by TruthOut, the activists chose to remain anonymous “due to safety concerns.”

“They called me a ‘dirty Muslim’ and threatened death,” one protester said. “I had people who looked like aunties screaming, ‘Bitch, bitch, bitch,’ over and over again. One lady outside yelled she wished my mother was killed and I was never born.”

“Even when disrupting Donald Trump rallies, I’ve never had anyone put their hands on me like that, or respond with so much aggression, pushing and obscenities,” said one activist who was choked.

One of the attendees was arrested for battery, while two of the protesters were arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct.

This isn’t the first time that the World Hindu Congress has drawn controversy on U.S. soil.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI, the first Hindu congresswoman, stepped down as the organization’s honorary chair due to “ethical concerns and problems that surround my participating in any partisan Indian political event in America,” she said in a statement.

In the state chambers, Ram Villivalam, who will be sworn in as the first South Asian American member of the Illinois legislature this January, released a condemning statement on why he was boycotting the event, despite his Hindu religion: “I do not support any group and/or an event arranged or led by organizations that intimidate minorities, incite discrimination and violence, commit acts of terror based on race or ethnic background, promote hate speech, and/or believe in faith based nationalism.”

After news of the violent episode broke, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar tweeted in support of the protesters:

However, not all U.S. politicians are in agreement. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-D), who sits in the House of Representatives, not only attended, but gave a speech at the Congress, which took place in his district.

“We are concerned about the increasing connections between the US anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim movements and those same ideas being manifested with the voices involved with the World Hindu Congress,” said South Asian-Americans Leading Together (SAALT) executive director Suman Raghunathan.

“So many in the Indian diaspora community in the U.S. are anti-Trump and against what he does, but in the same breath, they’re pro-Modi and think that the BJP (India’s majority Hindu political party) have a different set of ideals,” an activist said. “In reality, we need to hold a mirror to ourselves and see that they [Modi and Trump] are cut from the same cloth.”


Sunday Read: Is 'Magnum P.I.' whitewashing an entire state?

The “Magnum P.I.” cast with Executive Producer Peter M. Lenkov. (L-R) Lenkov, Perdita Weeks, 
Jay Hernandez, Zachary Knighton, and Stephen Hill.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to picture Hawaii without Asians or Pacific Islanders. However, on American television, the brown-skinned people descended from Asia and Polynesia who make up the majority of Hawaii are largely missing.

Hawaii has a Japanese American governor, a senator who was born in Japan, a Chinese American Lt. Governor. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the majority population group and hold positions of authority from school board members to the governorship. 

In the recent past, the island state had both of its senators were Japanese American and elected the first Filipino American as its governor.

Therefore, it wouldn't be a stretch to see one of the television shows taking place in Hawaii to feature an Asian American in a lead role.

Wouldn't it make sense to have Magnum P.I. feature an Asian American in the lead role? While Jay Hernandez playing Magnum is Latino and would not be out of place in Hawaii, Latinos make up only 7% of the state.

The joke among the AAPI community was that the original Magnum P.I. starring Tom Selleck was filmed on the island chain's ninth island where there were no Asian Americans or Native Hawaiians.

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) is condemning CBS’ upcoming reboot of Magnum P.I. for featuring too few Asian/Pacific Islanders and is calling on the show’s executive producer, Peter Lenkov, to be replaced. Lenkov, who is CBS’ most prolific writer-producer, also is the EP on Hawaii Five-0, another reboot set in the Aloha State that MANAA says has been “white-washed.”

Now that movies such as Crazy Rich Asians, Searching and To All the Boys I Ever Loved have proven that Asian American leads are being accepted by multi-ethnic audiences, it would not take too much daring for the network to cast am AAPI actor in a primary role.
A CBS spokesperson told Deadline: “While we respect the work that MANAA does to foster Asian/Pacific Islander (API) inclusion in entertainment, their statement does not accurately reflect the current status of Magnum P.I. or CBS. Magnum has two API series regulars among an inclusive cast. Additionally, one-third of all the directors on Magnum are API,” including Justin Lin, who directed the pilot.
The spokesman also noted that, on all its shows for the 2018-19 season, “69% of our series regulars will be people of color, women, LGBTQ characters and performers with disabilities. Additionally, people of color and women will represent 46% of our writers, and 43% of directed episodes. These numbers have increased from last year and steadily over the last five years. CBS is proud of the advances we have made to create more inclusion on all of our shows, and we are fully committed to continue improving in this area.”

I guess we're supposed to be  impressed. The diversity stats cited by CBS can be misleading because they limp POC and women together.  White women are no more likely to be sensitive to Asian themes or characteristics than white men.
Magnum P.I., which stars Jay Hernandez in the central role of Thomas Magnum, is one of the few network shows with a leading man of Mexican descent. It co-stars Stephen Hill, who is African American; Perdita Weeks and Zachary Knighton, who are Caucasian;.

Tim Kang, a Korean American will play Gordon Katsumoto and Amy Hill, a Japanese American, will play Kumu, which means "teacher" in Hawaiian. It appears that Kumu will be the new Magnum's link to the all things Hawaiian. 

MANAA president Rob Chan acknowledged that “the show is diverse” but told Deadline that “oftentimes, Asians are left out of the diversity discussion, and for a show that takes place in a locale that is majority Asian, to have the main leads not to be Asian is offensive.”

CBS just doesn't get it. The network sounds like we should be grateful for the crumbs they throw our way. Magnum will give work for some AAPI actors. Like the sugar and pineapple plantations that gave plenty of work for AAPI farmworkers, they were forever the farmhands, never invited to the board room.

Citing Hollywood’s “overall lack of opportunities for Asian American actors,” Chan said: “We generally want a show to reflect the demographics it’s in. The show takes place in Hawaii, which is majority Asian, but if you look at the four stars, there’s no Asians reflected there. In fact, in the trailer, Jay Hernandez refers to four people by name, and none of them are Asian. We feel that time and time again there is a pattern of exclusion. And while some supporting cast may be Asian, they often times do not get as much screen time as the leads.”

MANAA also had issues with the show's producer, Lenkov, who filled the same role with Hawaii Five-0, which had similar issues with inclusion.
When the reboot of Magnum first became known, Chan wrote CBS saying that MANAA is “very disappointed that Peter Lenkov will be the showrunner for this potential series."

The original Magnum P.I. central cast also didn't include any AAPI actors.

MANAA and the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition have had a problem with Lenkov ever since CBS rebooted Hawaii Five-O in 2010. MANAA says it has spent “countless hours” in research and conversations with the network about “the offensive way” Lenkov cast AAPI guest stars “mostly as suspects and villains.” 

“In its eight seasons (193 episodes), every guest star who tags along with the team to catch the bad guy has been either white or black – except once when she was Asian,” according to MANAA.

(When Hawaii Five-0's stars Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park didn't get contracts comparable to their white co-stars, they left the show in 2017.)
“We think it’s imperative,” he told CBS executives, “that you hire an Asian/Pacific Islander to star as Thomas Magnum, and that the majority of the cast are Asian/Pacific Islanders. In the history of television, no series set in Hawaii has ever starred an Asian/Pacific Islander, despite the fact that they make up 60% of the state’s population. This would be a great opportunity for your new version of Magnum to be the pioneering show to shatter that racial barrier.”

MANAA's pleas apparently fell on deaf ears because the Magnum reboot was given the green light although two Asian American actors were cast. It is hoped that Justin Lin and the other Asian American directors hired will rectify the lack of AAPI presence and their one-dimensional characterizations.  

There will be one Latinx writer to help develop Hernandez' Thomas Magnum character but we were unable to ascertain if there are any AAPI writers. 

Inclusion is more than just a bunch of numbers, it also means the quality of visibility. Is the character making an impact on the plot or the actor just another red shirt (a reference to red-shirted crew members of the Star Trek franchise who normally the ones who perish, while the stars miraculously survive.)? is the diversity within the AAPI population represented, rich and poor, authority figures and laborers, contributing members of society as well as bad guys?

It's important for organizations like MANAA to act as watchdogs to the movie and television industry. Without their persistence and willingness to question the status quo, no matter how uncomfortable it may become. Hollywood decision-makers need to be pushed, pulle,  pressured and educated before they change their ways and widen their perspective.

Because of the hue and cry of the embarrassing departures of Park and Kim from Hawaii Five-0, CBS saw to it that the show's producers replaced theim with AAPI actors. 

It will take action of a similar magnitude to ensure that AAPI characters are more than window dressing for any series that are set in the state where AAPI are everywhere -- in all levels of society and practicing any profession, including crime fighters and private investigators.