Saturday, October 15, 2016

An open letter to The New York Times needs to expand who they see as Asian American

The face of the Asian/America is changing.

IT'S OCTOBER - Filipino American History Month - but you'd never know it if you read the New York Times.

Once again, brown Asians were marginalized - or just plain ignored - when the Old Grey Lady did a story about Asian/Americans responding to a racist encounter aimed at their Deputy Metro Editor Michael Luo when a passerby yelled at him "Why don't you go back to your f--king country?"

Luo wrote a powerful letter - hash tagged #thisis2016 - in response and the editors placed it on their front page. The NYT also posted a video to accompany Luo’s letter. The video, however, was flawed. It featured all East Asians and only one Filipino/American, Keratin Perez.

It might have passed without notice, but it was the second time that brown Asians were slighted and forgotten by the NYT. It irked some, enough so that five wrote their own letter directed to the New York Times that was published in Huffington Post.

"Your video told us, 'You’re still invisible!'" said the HuffPost letter written by E.J.R. David, Ali Mattu, Razia Kosi, Ernabel Demillo and Kevin Nadal.

"You did this during Filipino American History Month - the month when we are supposed to be most proud of our brown presence in the U.S."

"And you did this during election season - when xenophobia against South Asians is on the rise and Islamophobia is so overt that Muslim Americans (and South Asian Americans who are presumed to be Muslim) expect to be discriminated in their everyday lives.

"We hesitated for a second and then hustled to confront you. We pulled out our smartphones and started commenting on your social media posts, questioning why seemingly 96 percent of the stories shared were East Asian or non-Brown Asian stories. It was comical, in retrospect, because you probably don’t even read comments on social media. But the pain you inflicted on us with your continued disregard is real. It clearly tells us, once again, that we are unseen, unheard, and unappreciated in this country.

“We are a part of this country!” We yelled back.

"It felt silly. But how else to prove we belonged?"

... "That even though we compose more than half of the Asian Pacific Islander population, even though we have been in these lands now called the United States since 1587, and even though many of us trace our roots back to lands that are affected by U.S. colonialism and imperialism, we still don’t belong," the letter continued. "We’re still forgotten. We’re still not Asian American, let alone American."

The HuffPost letter pointed out that the NYT coverage of Asian/Americans favored East Asians even though Brown Asians make up more than half of all Asian/Americans. Then the tone changed expressing anger.

"Maybe you don’t know this, but the continued failure to include us whenever you talk about “Asian Americans” is extremely insulting, degrading, and oppressive. It gets to the heart of the invisibility that Brown Asians experience."
The letter writers went on to touch on a topic that isn't often heard outside of AAPI circles, the issue of "colorism" among Asian/Americans. You know, lighter skin is some sort of uniform of superiority.

The NYTimes shouldn't be left off the hook. It needs to take responsibility for its oversight. There's certainly enough Brown Asians in New York City. The editors and writers of the NYTimes need to go beyond the European view of what constitutes an Asian, beyond the Korean, Japanese and Chinese trope that defines what an "Asian" should look like. 

Maybe this video produced by the Media Factory might help:

It was filmed and edited by the award-winning filmmaker Marissa Aroy. The participants are:

Jose Llana, RJ Kaleo Nadal, Brenda Gambol, Kirklyn Escondo, Stephanie Chrispin, Isabella Villacampa, Lugao Kasberg, Nicole Ponseca, Michael Capito, Ryan Abugan and Hossannah Asuncion.

They were interviewed by Kevin Nadal. #BrownAsiansExist