Sunday, January 25, 2015

35 maps that explain how America is a nation of immigrants

AMERICA'S earliest human inhabitants were themselves immigrants. About 25,000 years ago, a group of Asians crossed the land bridge connecting Alaska and Siberia and entered North America. Of course, it wasn't called America then. That name came much later. gathered 35 maps to explain the history of immigration to the Americas, specifically, the United States. For those of us more visually oriented, it is very informative and easy to follow reinforcing the myth that America is a land of immigrants, a lofty self-image, but at the same time, some of the maps demolish the myth of our "melting pot" and our "tolerance" towards strangers.

It explains the forced immigration (slavery) and why Europeans dominated the number of immigrants in the early 20th century; the impact of the 1965 reform of immigration that changed the makeup of immigrants.

American politicians, and Americans themselves, love to call themselves "a nation of immigrants": a place where everyone's family has, at some point, chosen to come to seek freedom or a better life. America has managed to maintain that self-image through the forced migration of millions of African slaves, restrictive immigration laws based on fears of "inferior" races, and nativist movements that encouraged immigrants to assimilate or simply leave. 
But while the reality of America's immigrant heritage is more complicated than the myth, it's still a fundamental truth of the country's history. It's impossible to understand the country today without knowing who's been kept out, who's been let in, and how they've been treated once they arrive.
Unfortunately, the maps are purely factual and doesn't explain why immigration  and the present wave of immigrants is such a problem with a lot of people today. 

Coupled with the PEW study that reports that Asians now outnumber Hispanics as new immigrants, it could be an interesting next few years as that stat becomes more widely known among politicians and marketers. My fear is that it might create a backlash against Asians, not only from the dominant ethnic group, but also from other minorities who are still fighting for their piece of the pie and who may resent the newcomers.

But there's reason to hope for a much better outcome: that Asian American immigration advocates will join forces with the better established minorities to form an even more influential bloc of voters and consumers. If those minority groups could overcome their suspicions of each other and realize their combined strength; That coalition of African, Latino and Asian Americans complementing and energizing each other would be difficult  to ignore.


George Takei at Fred Korematsu Day Celebration

January 30 is Fred Korematsu Day

IF YOU'RE in the San Francisco Bay Area this Jan. 30, here's an event you might want to attend.

George Takei, best know for his role in the Star Trek television series as Mr. Sulu, is the keynote speaker at a fundraising event for the Fred Korematsu Insititute. Besides being an actor, Takei is a social justice activist in his own right, so its fitting that he speak at an event honoring the civil rights hero.

Many recent immigrants from Asia often forget that many of the rights that they enjoy today are due to the struggles of minorities who were the United States before them. Korematsu is one of those heroes barely known outside of the Asian American community. He saw the injustice of Executive Order 9066, which allowed the internment of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during WWII.

Fred Korematsu
From the website of the Fred Korematsu Institute:
Fred T. Korematsu was a national civil rights hero. In 1942, at the age of 23, he refused to go to the government’s incarceration camps for Japanese Americans. After he was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order, he appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1944, the Supreme Court ruled against him, arguing that the incarceration was justified due to military necessity. 
In 1983, Prof. Peter Irons, a legal historian, together with researcher Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, discovered key documents that government intelligence agencies had hidden from the Supreme Court in 1944. The documents consistently showed that Japanese Americans had committed no acts of treason to justify mass incarceration. With this new evidence, a pro-bono legal team that included the Asian Law Caucus re-opened Korematsu’s 40-year-old case on the basis of government misconduct. On November 10, 1983, Korematsu’s conviction was overturned in a federal court in San Francisco. It was a pivotal moment in civil rights history. 
Korematsu remained an activist throughout his life. In 1998, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton. In 2010, the state of California passed the Fred Korematsu Day bill, making January 30 the first day in the US named after an Asian American. Korematsu’s growing legacy continues to inspire people of all backgrounds and demonstrates the importance of speaking up to fight injustice.
In October last year, MSNBC's Melissa Harris Perry discussed the landmark case:


Friday, January 23, 2015

Study: Coma patients respond to loved ones' voices

Loved one's voice calls Filipino American patient out of his coma

Godfrey and Corinth Catanus
IT'S AN AMAZING, inspirational story; part medical miracle, part a story of faith and a story of love.

Four years ago Godfrey Catanus had his hands full. He was a new dad and an inspirational youth pastor in Southern California. He led groups of volunteers who helped rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and traveled to the Philippines on a charity mission. But then a blood clot in his liver sent the 32-year-old and his wife Corinth rushing to the hospital.

This week, CBS News brought this story to our attention about a Filipino American who went into a coma and the love and faith of his family kept his spirit alive even in his deep slumber.

His wife Corinth writes on their website:
"On February 11, I brought my husband to the ER for symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. They found a blood clot in the portal vein, one of the major veins of his liver. He was admitted to the hospital that evening and over the next several days, they ran tests and procedures and were still unable to find the cause of the blood clot. He was discharged from the hospital the afternoon of February 17. That evening, he started having severe abdominal pain along with more vomiting and I took him back to the ER. The morning of February 18, his body went into shock. He was placed on a ventilator and rushed to the intensive care unit. The blood clot in the portal vein had extended into the mesenteric areas and was rushed to the Operating Room and ended up having 3 1/2 feet of small intestine taken out. They soon found out that he also had a brain hemorrhage and underwent neurosurgery for 9 hours that same afternoon."
Today, Godfrey is back home in Irving, California but his recovery will be long. He is able to communicate with his iPad.

He says that he remembers hearing his wife's voice while in a coma and was comforted as he fought his way back out of the darkness.

View the CBS report below and read about the miraculous recovery of Godfrey Catanus.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Say it ain't so, Manny, let it go; will Mayweather ever fight Pacquiao?

Uh ... Manny Pacquiao sings "Let It Go" from Frozen

BIG NEWS! Manny Pacquiao is giving up singing.

The Filipino pugilist and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world announced that he is quitting singing as a career, much to the consternation of his adoring fans.

Even after two successful albums, the boxing champ said that he wouldn't be producing a third. "I love music, but I don't think music loves me," he told TMZ.

Pacquiao said, "My first album was platinum in the Philippines, so that's good enough." The fighter is known to love going to nightclubs to sing after his fights.

Pacquiao just premiered the documentary "Manny," at the famous TLC Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, which had a red carpet for his Hollywood friends and a bevy of models.


Meanwhile ... the on-again, off-again fight between Pacquio and Floyd Mayweather has hit another snag after it seemed that all the conditions asked by Mayweather had been met.

Just a few days ago, it seemed like the fight was a done deal. Mayweather, who has never lost a fight, even picked May 2 as the date.

Now the fighter wants Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, out of the negotiations. Arum and Mayweather have had an acrimonious relationship when both accused the other of reneging on past payments.

For years, fight fans have clamored for a fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather, arguably the two best fighters still in the game. Even though Pacquiao is 35 and Mayweather turns 38 next month, the draw hasn't lost any of its luster.

The proposed fight between the two would have the largest payoff in history for a single sporting event. Mayweather placed conditions as obstacles that prevented the fight from ever occurring. One of Mayweather's conditions, was his demand to receive 60 percent of the take and Pacquiao would take 40 percent -- no matter what the outcome.

Some fight experts estimate that Mayweather might earn $120 million and Pacquiao would get $80 million if they fought each other. The pay-per-view price would be in the upper $80s.

Manny Pacquio has won crowns in 8 different weight divisions, the most ever held by one fighter.

Now that both fighters are past their prime, the fight might not mean as much but it will still bring in a considerable payoff. 

In the past, when Pacquiao was in his prime, he turned down the 60/40 split considering he was the clearcut champion. Now that he has lost two fights, it appears that is no longer an  issue. The Filipino fighter has even agreed to Mayweather's ridiculous demand for drug testing prior to the fight.

When Mayweather initially agreed to the fight a week ago and set the May 2 date, it was a matter of paperwork, working the final deal with HBO and Showtime and signing the contracts. While Pacquiao's team worked out details with the pay-for-view event, Mayweather still hadn't signed his contract. Instead, he demanded another condition. 

Pacquiao won't put up with Mayweather's stalling tactics forever, however. He has given Mayweather until the end of January to sign the contract. 

The ball is in Mayweather's court and Manny - and the fight world - await his response.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Let's continue the legacy of Martin Luther King

MTV devotes
 a day's
about race

KUDOS to MTV for devoting today, the Martin Luther King Holiday, to a conversation about race. The station is devoting 12 hours of programming starting at 9 a.m. EST and PST. Link here to join in. It is MTV's attempt to get Millennials and other young people involved on the topic of race, race relations and how to perhaps resolve some of the issues.

“Underlying some of the blindness around bias and prejudice is a lack of understanding of the history – of why we are where we are today,” MTV President Stephen Friedman told The Huffington Post.

“That’s why Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is so critical. It’s a day when we’re immersed in the history and his great legacy, and we can look back at how far we’ve come and, very importantly, look ahead at how far we still need to go.”

According to a recent MTV study, 73% of 14 to 24-year-olds believe that having more open, constructive conversations about bias will help people become less prejudiced, yet only 10% report having those conversations often.

Although in Black & White, let's remember that The Talk needs to be widened to include Latinos and Asians. The Talk is more complicated than the old black and white paradigm, in should now include brown, yellow and red and all the shades in-between.

For you new immigrants, the short-lived Asian American civil rights movement of the 70's owes itself to the strides made African Americans.

There's an excellent article by author Eric Liu on the CNN website where he states:

"As a Chinese American, I am an inheritor of what white people wrote in the Constitution and what they did to subvert it. I am the beneficiary of what black people and people of every color have done to redeem the Constitution. I am sometimes the object of a presumption that yellow people are presumed foreign until proven otherwise. 
"I own the good, the bad and the ugly of this country. None of this is neat. None of it is colorblind either."

If you're uncomfortable talking about race, clicking here might help.

MTV wants you to be part of conversation. Share your story using the hashtag, #TheTalk. Your tweet may appear on-air, or on

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Oscar for best Caucasian goes to ...

Minorities shut out of acting nominations

The headline of the Contra Costa Times (SF Bay Area) says it all.

IT'S IRONIC that the nomination for the 2015 Academy Awards were announced on Martin Luther King's birthday. The civil rights hero might be turning over in his grave about now.

Based on a 2012 report by the Los Angeles Times, of the nearly 7,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 94 percent are white, 77 percent are male and 86 percent are age 50 or older. The Academy is the perfect example of institutional racism that builds upon itself year after year, decade after decade, until it becomes so ingrained that it's impossible to undo because the very culture that perpetuates the racism doesn't even know its existence.

That might explain the snubs of some the actors and crew that worked on THE minority film of the year, the critically acclaimed Selma. The movie did get a Best Picture nod, but not its director Ava DuVernay, nor its star, David Oyelowo, who portrayed Dr. Martin Luther King.

Oh, for the sake of diversity, the Academy did nominate the song from Selma, "Glory" by John Legend and rapper Common so we will see some faces of color on the Red Carpet this year.
Asian artists get first annual Eddie's awards
It's a white industry, it just is
African Americans were not the only ones shut out of the nominations, there weren't any Latinos either, who because of their coloring are allowed to play a wider range of roles. So the largest minority group in the country have no one representing them. Certainly, there were zero Asian or Asian American movies or actors nominated.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, responded to the criticism for the lack of diversity. The academy president, who is African American, said the voting results points out the need to hasten the academy's drive for more inclusiveness and diversity. The outreach to women and artists of color is a major focus of the academy, she said.

Although the majority of the Academy is made up of old, white men, the real culprit is the lack of movies featuring minority characters. I know I write about all the productions featuring Asians and that might seem like a lot, but of the hundreds of films released in America in 2014, only a handful could be classified as "minority" productions. Of the thousands of movie roles in those motion pictures, significant roles played by minority actors can be counted on one hand.

The Academy could only choose from the movies that were released theatrically in 2014, therefore, the choice of minority productions and actors were rather slim. Increase the production of so-called minority films, or give more work to minority actors would widen the pool. 

Yellow characters may have hurt The Lego Movie's
chances for an Oscar.
However, the likelihood of increasing the number of so-called minority films are not good considering the attitude of studio honchos as revealed by the hacked emails of Sony executives that included some racist remarks. If the Sony decision-makers are typical of other studio heads, then the future looks dim.

(A couple of observations here: The Sony executive whose emails were hacked, Amy Pascal, still has her job; and can't the Japanese-owned company institute some diversity practices?)

The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition said the responsibility for diversity should be industry-wide. In a statement, the coalition said: 

"It behooves Hollywood -as an economic imperative, if not a moral one - to begin more closely reflecting changing face of America."

Boone agreed and said, she hopes the Academy "continues to make strides towards becoming a more diverse and inclusive organisation, we hope the film industry will also make strides toward becoming more diverse and inclusive."

Selma supporters were not the only ones unhappy with the Oscar nominations this year. Makers of The Lego Movie were sorely disappointed that their production didn't get nominated for an award in the animation category. If only they had painted their Lego characters white.

Oscar's diversity problem explained in two minutes in the video below produced by


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Kamala Harris wants to make history

Indian American to run for U.S. Senate

Kamala Harris with Gavin Newsom and President Obama.

IF ELECTED to the U.S. Senate, California Attorney General Kamala Harris would make history as the first Indian-American in the Upper House.

The 50-year old Harris was the first to declare her intention to run for the Senate seat being vacated by long-term Sen. Barbara Boxer, who last week announced that she would not run for a fifth term.

Her mother is Indian American and her father is Jamaican American, but growing up in the diverse East Bay, she has not had problems with her mixed heritage. "I grew up in a family where I had a strong sense of my culture and who I am, and I never felt insecure about that at all," she told the Associated Press. "Slowly, perhaps…, people will start to understand the diversity of the people."

Harris, the former District Attorney of San Francisco, handily won her second term as the state's top law enforcement officer last November.

She is considered one of the up-and-coming stars for the Democrats along with former S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is California's Lt. Governor. A day before Harris declared her candidacy, Newsom said he would not run for the Senate seat. It is highly expected that he will run for governor at the end of Gov. Jerry Brown's term in four years.

"I will be a fighter for the next generation on the critical issues facing our country. I will be a fighter for middle class families who are feeling the pinch of stagnant wages and diminishing opportunity," said Harris in a statement on her campaign website

A good friend of President Obama, she headed up his campaign in California in 2012. Her name has been linked to several vacancies in the Obama administration, including as a Supreme Court Justice.

Within hours of her announcement, Sen. Elizabeth Warren began campaigning for Harris' Senate bid. "Kamala Harris is a smart, tough, and experienced prosecutor who has consistently stood up to Wall Street," she told her supporters via email.

"Harris demanded real accountability from the lenders," Warren wrote. "She wasn’t intimidated by the big banks. When the negotiations in the National Mortgage Settlement weren’t tough enough on the banks, Kamala took a bold move. She said that her job was to protect the people of California, not help the big banks, so she pulled out of the group negotiations and later secured $20 billion in relief for struggling California homeowners." 

Besides going after the mortgage lenders and their tactics, as attorney general, she placed an emphasis on fighting organized street gangs and their links to international activities in drug dealing and human trafficking. 

Be declaring her candidacy so early, Harris may wrap up the early endorsements from powerful Democrats like Warren. In the November election, Harris was endorsed by senior Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom and Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It’s critical Senator Boxer’s seat stays in the hands of a champion for women and families,” said Marcy Stech, spokesperson for the powerful pro-woman Emily's List.

In a heavily Democratic state, the other candidates who have expressed interest in running for the Senate include two Latino Americans, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villariagosa and Rep. Xavier Becerra. 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Golden Globes: We have an Asian sighting

Margaret Cho skit stirs controversy

OO-O-O. Look, there's an Asian! There's another one. Oo-o-o. Is he one, too?

A couple of posts ago, I gave out the first annual Eddie Awards for Asian American performers because I thought there were no Asians at the traditional award shows. Well, I'm happy to say: I was wrong. There has been an Asian sighting at the Golden Globes award show.

Comedienne Margaret Cho made an appearance on the Golden Globes, not as a nominee, not as a presenter, but as a character who was supposed to be the newest member of the Hollywood Foreign Press, who vote on the Golden Globes. She was supposed to be from the unsmiling North Korean media. Unfortunately, the skit committed the greatest sin for a comedy skit -- it wasn't very funny.

The nervous audience didn't know if they were supposed to laugh, or they were too afraid to laugh because they might be caught snickering at what some consider a racist portrayal. instead of a way to joke about the Sony hack as a result of the satirical portrayal of North Korea's President Kim Jong-un in The Interview.

At first I was happy to see Cho in her cameo, -- at last -- but later, I had second thoughts which I'll discuss later.

Chrissy Teigan's "cry-face" went viral.
There were two other Asians on the show. Chrissy Teigan's husband won for writing the song used in "Selma," and as the camera is wont to do, it panned to Teigan's tear-streaked face. Within seconds, the sweet moment turned into a meme that went viral.

Less we forget, the presenter in that same category, was no other than Filipino American Prince! Oh, let it rain purple! Another Asian American!

Meanwhile, back to Cho, whose standup I really enjoy, her performance came under the scrutiny of Sonia Saraiya, writing in Salon. 

"It was a challenging, uncomfortable minute of performance—not easily condemned as 'offensive' or immediately praised as being “subversive.” The minute-long bit where Margaret Cho was actually onstage was closer to uncomfortable than it was to hilarious ..."

"Meanwhile, this industry in particular happens to be very, very white—of the 96 nominees, only 14 are people of color, most from just two films (“Birdman” and “Selma”). Four were nominated for the same award (the writers of “Birdman”). And two aren’t even in the film industry—singer John Legend and rapper Common. Of the 49 presenters, only seven were people of color—including two more musicians (Jennifer Lopez and Prince) and one television mogul (Oprah Winfrey)."

“These are the kind of jokes that are seemingly innocuous that can have incredible impact in shaping biases and prejudices,” says PaKou, director of, a movement to empower the Asian-American and Pacific Islander political voice.

“You have to consider your audience. How many people in that audience even know Margaret Cho’s body of work, her internalized issues with racism that led to depression and eating disorders? How many people know what is actually happening in North Korea? We are not in a post-racial world. There are people who see that and think if Margaret Cho makes fun of it, I can make fun of it.”

Time Magazine chimed in explaining why the only official Asian presence in a show devoid of Asians was so critical: "It’s the extra burden placed on women and comedians of color. White, heterosexual male comedians don’t have to carry the responsibility of representation."

Read more here:

Cho, who in her short-lived sitcom All American Girl, was victimized by the producers wanting her character by more stereotypical, didn't apologize for the role she played in the awards show.

Two days after the Golden Globe, Cho tweeted:

In light of the defense of freedom of expression stirred by the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, you'd think we'd give Cho and the Globes some slack.
UPDATE: Margaret Cho gives a more extended interview on her Golden Globes appearance in a Salon interview "Comedy is about offending" by Kevin Wong. 
We know the need for more roles for Asian Americans, but let's forget that for moment because the reasons can be complex and involves a lot about demographics, money and racism. Let's just try to simplify things and put forth a broader question. All this talk about Cho distracted from the real question the Golden Globe and other award shows should be asking themselves: 

Why are Asians, who represent the largest movie-going public in the world, and who have the most prolific movie production facilities in Hong Kong and Mumbai, extensive facilities in Tokyo and Shanghai, being ignored -- and, it appears, excluded from these ceremonies?

As Salon's Saraiya concludes, it seems the organizers forgot a whole continent.