Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Justice Department finds Kung Fu Saloon biased vs. Asian and African Americans

The Kung Fu Saloon and Restaurant in Dallas, Texas.
YOU WOULD think that an establishment called Kung Fu Saloon - I'm not lying - would welcome Asian patrons.
Well, you'd be wrong.
For years there have been complaints against the Texas-based bar for discriminating against patrons based on their race, and the U.S. Department of Justice agrees.
Today (June 30) the DOJ announced that it has reached a settlement resolving allegations of race, color and national origin discrimination with the owners and operators of Kung Fu Saloon, a bar and restaurant with locations in Dallas, Houston and Austin, Texas.
According to a DOJ press release, the department’s complaint alleges that the defendants – Routh Guys LLC doing business as Kung Fu Saloon; Washington Guys LLC doing business as Kung Fu Saloon; and Grand Guys LLC doing business as Kung Fu Saloon – violated Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against African-American and Asian-American patrons because of their race, color and national origin. 
A dress code was used to discriminate
against some customers
Specifically, the suit alleges that in dozens of instances, the defendants denied African-American patrons entry into Kung Fu Saloon locations based on a dress code when similarly dressed white patrons were permitted to enter. The complaint also alleged that the defendants engaged in other practices to limit the number of African-American and Asian-American patrons at Kung Fu Saloon’s locations. 
“The terms of the decree require the defendants to comply with federal law by not discriminating against patrons on the basis of race, color or national origin; to post and enforce a non-discriminatory dress code policy; to implement a system for receiving and investigating complaints of discrimination; and to conduct monitoring to ensure that Kung Fu Saloon’s employees are acting in a non-discriminatory manner consistent with federal law.”
In other words, the Justice Department has to sign off on everything, from what the dress code says to how training is conducted to how policies are enforced.

In some instances, the doorman would use an alleged "dress code" (ie. wearing Converse shoes is a no-no) to limit black and Asian customers entrance to the restaurant and bar. Moments later, similarly dressed white customers were allowed in. 

A former hostess said she was told to tell black and Asian customers wishing to make reservations over the phone that the restaurant is booked. She said she could distinguish the race by their accent or dialect.

She says her boss would complain to her, "That its too dark in here," if there were too many African Americans in the restaurant; or "It's too Asian." 

Here is the consent decree and the complaint.

“Places of public accommodations, such as bars and restaurants like Kung Fu Saloon, should be open to all persons, regardless of race or national origin,” says Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a prepared statement. 

“The Justice Department will continue to work vigorously to protect the rights of persons of all races and national origins to be free from discrimination in public accommodations across the country,” says Gupta, herself an Asian American.
On second thought, a place called Kung Fu Saloon doesn't deserve your business.

Monday, June 29, 2015

All you need is love - and Loving; the long road to equal rights

Mildred and Richard Loving made history by challenging anti-miscegenation laws.
I DIDN'T want the month of June to pass without mentioning the June 12 anniversary of a court decision that is just as precedent setting and just as controversial at the time, as last week's Supreme Court ruling that allows marriage between members of the same gender.

In fact, Loving vs. the State of Virginia, which allowed members of different races to marry each other, was used as a precedent and foundation for the historic gay marriage decision.  was the 47th anniversary of the 1967 case. Prior to that ruling, anti-miscegenation laws existed in 38 states.

Most of the laws were directed against marriages between blacks and whites but in some states, such as California, the laws included Asians, or members of the Mongolian race. Filipinos argued that they were Malayan and thus the law didn't apply to them. A lower court agreed with that argument so the state legislature amended the law to include so that Malayans would be included. California didn't repeal their law until 1948 but the anti-miscegenation laws of other states were not affected until the Supreme Court ruled in the Loving case.

Even after 1967, many states kept the law in the books. Little by little, state by state, the remaining anti-miscegenation laws were tossed. it wasn't until 2000 when the last state, Alabama, repealed its unenforceable   anti-miscegination law.

In this age when intermarriage between the races is becoming more and more common, its difficult to imagine that only 46 years ago, it was still illegal for members of different races to marry each other. 

This couple understood the connection between interracial marriages and rights of  gay and lesbian couples.
Virginia residents Mildred and Richard Loving married in Washington DC in 1958 because  their home state of Virginia had outlawed interracial marriages. They returned to their home in Virginia where police learned that they were living together, thus living in "unlawful cohabitation," also against the law. Police raided the Loving house at night hoping to find the couple having sex, which would have broken another racist law of the state.

The couple was asleep when the police arrived. Mildred Loving pointed to the marriage license on their wall but that didn't stop the police from arresting them. The marriage license from the nation's capitol was not recognized in Virginia. They were found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail. However, the judge told them he would suspend the sentence if the couple left the state of Virginia. The Lovings opted to move to Washington DC.

Inspired by the civil rights movement, in 1963 Mildred Loving wrote then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy for his help to overturn the Virginia law. Kennedy recommended that the  ACLU take her case. 

The merits of the Loving case based on equal rights formed the foundation of the argument against the laws that forbade marriage of gay and lesbian couples. As in the Loving case, proponents of the laws cited Biblical references for their position.
In June 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Loving, Mildred Loving issued a statement that said:

"I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry... I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

Indeed, minorities understood the argument for equal rights. Their histories are full of battles fighting for those same rights. The black community, especially the African American clergy, who many have assumed to be against homosexual unions, understood the concept of equality. Thus, in a matter of a few years, popular opposition to the concept eroded.

Justice Anthony Kennedy referred to Loving in his argument for the majority:

"A first premise of the Court's relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause." 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What if women harassed men on the streets the way men harass women?

To demonstrate the amount of catcalling a woman has to endure while walking in New York City, see video below.
WALKING  on the sidewalks of almost any major city in the world can be a terrifying gauntlet for many women. We know of the whistles and catcalls some men think are compliments but there is another type of street harassment that is even nastier and threatening.

Comedians Soojeong Son, who goes by SJ, and Ginny Leise visited a New York City park to demonstrate the practice of drive-by street harassment, which they define as the act of whispering something gross into the ear of a woman who is alone in public, then quickly walking away before there is time for her to react. 

The two women wanted to turn the tables to show men how "invasive and threatening" it feels. The two women took to YouTube to demonstrate what would happen if the situation was reversed. They spent a day in Manhattan's Bryant Park with SJ whispering vulgarities in the ears of unsuspecting men, before quickly walking off, leaving the "victims" with little to no time to react. 

SJ looks into the camera, " We might get punched in the face today, That's what I'm concerned about."

How did the men react? Did the women prove their point?

Uh, the results were not what they expected. Venus and Mars do not align again. 
Most of the men seemed to enjoy the experience. 

The flaw in their experiment is that men did not feel threatened by SJ, who - in all cases - is smaller in stature than the male "victims." If the "harasser" was - say - a 6'6", 300 lb. weightlifter, they might have reacted differently.

The other thing: because men seemed to enjoy that sort of attention, most men tend to assume that women enjoy the same type of treatment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

The project's results shouldn't take away from the scary harassment that women must endure  from men in our culture. Some men are aggressive, some are stalkers, even those who just leer is creepy.

series of attacks on Asian women in New York City recently had women on edge. The suspect in that case may have assaulted four different women in unsuccessful attempts to strike up a conversation with them. A few days after a search for the suspect bega, he was found dead from suicide.

The video below is of a woman in New York City over a period of 10 hours. She's dressed simply, not provocatively at all. As you can see, street harassment against women is nothing to laugh at. 


Friday, June 26, 2015

Watch Obama sing 'Amazing Grace' during Pinckney eulogy

President Obama sang the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" and brought the congregation to its feet to sing with him.
AMAZING ... GRACE! This is one of the emotional highpoints of eulogy delivered by President Barack Obama for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was one of the nine people who was killed by white supremacist Dylann Roof.

The eulogy itself was one of the president's best speeches. He was in front of a friendly audience and he drew from the cadence and spirit of other black orators who had their training on the pulpit.

At first glance, even though the eulogy might appear to have nothing to do with Asian America, it has everything to do with being an American and that's why I am writing about it in Views From The Edge. 

It would be difficult to not say something about this singular powerful moment in history because of what it means to race relations, all people of color and to America's future. Even die-hard Republicans have to admit that it was a moment to remember.

If you missed it because you were at work or the gym, this MSNBC video captures ... that ... moment.

The Rev. Clementa Pickney
The audience was nodding in agreement, "Amening" to the President's statements, punctuating his every phrase. Besides race relations, talked about gun control, faith, forgiveness - and grace. Boy, did he talk about grace.

I can't remember any other president soaring like Obama did, moving into song and singing a cappella the old spiritual "Amazing Grace."  I don't think any other president could have pulled it off. It seemed so spontaneous but, you know it had to be planned and when the president reached that point in his speech, it was up to him to take it down that road, or not. It was a daring ploy, but it was so natural, so fitting and not at all fake or insincere. He was obviously feeling it ... in the moment. He paused, and repeated "Amazing Grace!" He looked down to his notes, paused for a good 25 seconds as if he was pondering, "Should I do it? Should I do it?" 

He went for it! When he sang his first note, the ministers behind him realized what he was doing - a technique they probably all employed in their sermons - and they were laughing and applauding in joy. The entire congregation stood up with him and joined the president in those inspirational lyrics. 

It was a daring decision to take it to the next level. The incredible moment will go down in history. Simply, amazing.

Ban on the Confederate flag gains momentum, thanks to Indian American Gov. Nikki Haley

Obama praises Haley during eulogy for the Rev. Pinckney; what to say to defenders of the controversial flag

Gov. Nikki Haley's political stock has risen since she took a stand to remove the flag from state grounds.
“FOR TOO LONG we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens," said President Obama at the funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people killed by the gunman Dylann Roof "It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats now acknowledge — including Gov. Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — we all have to acknowledge the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride."

South Carolina's Gov. Nikki Haley's politics is not - to put it mildly - my cup of tea. If I was a resident of South Carolina I most likely would not vote for her. So, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with her when she came to the belated realization that the Confederate flag is too divisive and needed to come down from in front of the state capitol after a Confederate flag-loving loony shot and killed nine members of a black church. And I find myself siding with her when she is being attacked for being an Indian American.

When Haley announced her change of position on the flag last Monday, she knew she would be drawing the wrath of many of her constituents, who still think the pre-Civil War South was a land of gentility and charm and "old times there are not forgotten."

“I’d really like to like Nikki Haley since she is a Republican, but on the other hand, she’s an immigrant and does not understand America’s history,” conservative firebrand Ann Coulter told the host of a Fox TV show.

RELATED: Time to bring down the Confederate flag
Ann Coulter
Haley's parents are Indian Sikhs who came to the United States before she was born in Bamberg, S.C. Yup! She's American through-and-through; educated in South Carolina schools where they teach southern history like the Gospel.

Coulter continued to show her ignorance: “Anyone who knows the first thing about military history knows that there is no greater army that ever took the field than the Confederate Army.”

Does Coulter know who won the war? What history is she studying?

Here is what the Vice President of Confederacy said was the cornerstone of the secessionist government.
"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition," Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander H. Stephens said. "This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical and moral truth."

That pretty clearly states what the Confederacy - and that darn flag - is all about. The South Carolina legislature still must vote on the issue of the flag's removal from state grounds. Two-thirds of the lawmakers must approve that action before it can be taken down.

“For many - black and white - that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation,"  Obama said in his moving eulogy for the Pinckney. "We see that now removing the flag from this state’s Capitol would not be an act of political correctness, it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers, it would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.
'For many - black and white - that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.'
- President Barack Obama
It's ridiculous that 150 years later and the Civil War is still being fought. The flag has become a litmus test of sorts for the Republican candidates for president as they are being forced to take a position, one way or the other. It's a lose-lose proposition. Side with the flag and you lose what's left of the moderates in the GOP. Vote against the flag and you lose the radical right that has become the base of the conservative party.

Amazon, eBay, Walmart and other chain stores said they would stop selling Confederate paraphernalia, including the flag. It is not against the law to display or own the southern banner, Haley only wants it removed from state grounds as if the state sanctions what it represents. People can still have their Constitutional right of freedom of expression by displaying it on their bumpers, t-shirts and wherever they want.

The popular use of the pro-slavery symbol, the Confederate flag, speaks to the current state of  racial inequality in America, particularly. We - as a nation - cannot fully move forward until it rids itself of pro-slavery symbols disguised as historical artifacts and the ideology it represents.

What would you tell all those folks who believe that the flag is simply a historic symbol of the South's heritage and pride? On the Nightly Show, actor Joe Morgan issues a perfect retort in his monologue as "Papa" Pope, the character he plays on the television series Scandal.

TGIF FEATURE: A busy weekend in California -Kollaboration LA 2015 and Kalayaan-SF

TWO BIG EVENTS are taking place this Saturday, June 27, in southern and northern California. Both showcase the abundance of talent we have in the Asian American/Pacific Islander community.

In Los Angeles, experience an unforgettable evening of live music, entertainment, and community as Kollaboration presents some of the best local up-and-coming artists in the Asian/Pacific Islander (API) community.

Kollaboration Los Angeles 2015 ShowcaseSaturday, June 277:00pm
The Los Angeles Theatre Center514 S. Spring St.Los Angeles CA 90013
Six talented finalists from all across Southern California were chosen through an intense and competitive round of auditions to compete for the chance to move on to the Kollaboration Star finale later this fall and perform for the national title and $10,000 grand prize! In addition to the talent competition, Kollaboration Los Angeles will also feature amazing performances from prominent Asian American guest artists.

The finalists for 2015 Kollaboration Los Angeles are:

  • Lisa Sonoda, Singer/Songwriter
  • Perry & Danielle, Acoustic Duo
  • Peter Chung, Singer/Songwriter
  • Rosy Donovan, Singer/Songwriter
  • Track IX, Beatbox
  • Will Park, Singer/Songwriter
It's going to be a fun evening. Buy your tickets here. For further information about Kollaboration Los Angeles, visit the Kollaboration website or refer to the Facebook event.

Meanwhile, up the road in northern California ....

In San Francisco, the Filipino American community will be winding up its two-week celebration of Philippine Independence Day with a free concert featuring Jessica Sanchez, first runner-up in American Idol, and Gab Valencia of Manila.

Kalayaan-SF started June 12 with a formal affair at City Hall but this event is for the people. There'll be food, booths and performers galore. All for free!

A Philippine Independence Day Celebration 
SAT, JUNE 27, 2015UNION SQUARE, San FranciscoFree Admission to the festival and concert!
OUTDOOR FESTIVAL:12:00 PM – 8:00 PMA showcase of Philippine dance, art, cuisine, crafts and exhibitors
TFC EVENING CONCERT:5:30 PMFull-length concert featuring American Idol top-2 finalist Jessica Sanchez and Manila headline artist Gab Valencia
Have a great weekend!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Children of Asian immigrants say 'thank you' to their parents

The Diokno family, circa 1961. My parents, Felicidad and Melchor, are seated in front.
ONCE, I was giving a speech at a dedication of a mural depicting the immigration of Filipinos to the United States. I managed to slip in the landing in Morro Bay in California, Manila Village, sugar cane workers in Hawaii, the Alaskeros and farmworkers, then suddenly ... I got choked up. I had to pause to fight back tears. I had rehearsed the speech (sorta) and knew what I was going to say but the well of emotion that overcame me was totally unexpected.

When I was giving the short speech about Filipino immigration to the U.S. and the hardships they endured, I was also talking about the journey of my own parents, who had to leave all that was comfortable, all that was familiar, their families, friends and barrios full of more relatives in order to make the trek here for a better life for their children. 

I thought of the discrimination that they encountered here even as they didn't recognize it as such: not getting the promotion, not being able to buy homes in certain neighborhoods, receiving poor service in stores and restaurants, being invisible and overlooked by the dominant culture, and all the small slights ("racial micro aggressions" is the current term) that build and build. In most cases, they were too proud to complain. They couldn't even bring themselves to complain about their beloved adopted country. "Discrimination, bigotry, racism," those words were not in their vocabulary. 

Only as an adult, when I recall instances and actions that they faced, did I realize what they had to put up with in order to make sure that I had a comfortable life, a good education, a productive career and a future much better than they could ever have imagined in the Philippines. 

The difficult choices they made in the 1940s to immigrate to a foreign land, as a young couple with their three young children, set off a chain of events that has left a lasting legacy for scores of their descendants, some of whom may not even know their names: Melchor and Felicidad. Our family, now into it's fifth generation of Filipino Americans, owe so much to them. The life I'm able to live today is the fulfillment of my parents' long-ago dreams.

That's why I was on the verge of tears at the speaker's podium. Everything my parents had done, all their sacrifices, what those triumphs have meant to scores of children they will never know - came crashing down on me. I took a deep breath and somehow finished the brief speech without totally losing my composure completely. Whew! 

To my parents, and to all the immigrant parents from countries around the world who aspire for a better life for their children, I give my most sincere and humble gratitude.

Watch these young Asian Americans as they give thanks to their immigrant parents, but first, have a box of Kleenex nearby. Thanks to Buzzfeed for the video.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gov. Bobby Jindal running for president

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will try to rise from his underdog campaign for President of the U.S.A.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR Bobby Jindal this morning announced that he will be running for President of the United States of America. It was no major surprise to political news junkies, but I kind of like the way he announced his major decision. In contrast to the high-tech use of Twitter or Instagram that other candidates have been using, he did a simple video of a conversation with his children, whom he wanted to tell the news to his three children first.

It's kind of a strange video in that the single shot scene was from high up in a tree looking down at the Jindal family. You can't even see the governor (he's behind a tree branch) except for the top of his head. Weird.

As the conversation continued, his daughter Selia took a cue from the Obama daughters and took the opportunity to ask for a puppy. "I gave in, but with some conditions." said Jindal on his Facebook page.

The Louisiana-born Jindal, 44, is the first Indian American to run for president, AKA Leader of the Free World, or even to seek the GOP nomination. (By the way, he derides the use of Indian American. He believes hyphenated Americans should be considered Americans first.)

In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, he received less than one percent support from Republican primary voters. In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, he received less than one percent support from Republican primary voters. In the most recent Fox News poll, the news was even worse. Jindal wasn't just behind all the other candidates, he was also behind "None of the Above," which got 2 percent.

He is considered a long shot but his announcement will put his name out there into the  national landscape, beyond his state of Louisiana and maybe that would get him the serious attention he needs to run for higher office.

He was once viewed as a rising star in the Republican party but a series of decisions and issue positions he took appeared to be an attempt to appease ultra-conservative voters and distanced him from the mainstream Republicans. He has recently struggled with low approval ratings in his own home state amid budget problems. 

But Jindal's supporters believe his resume and accomplishments will appeal to conservative Christians in the GOP primary electorate. He describes himself as an evangelical Catholic and he has been an outspoken advocate for Christian values and boasts of deep cuts to spending in his home state.

This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting presidential campaigns in recent memory. Jindal, Donald Trump and 10 others on the Republican side; Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the Democrats' side. Just think, only 18 months to go!


Tim Lincecum interviews Bruce Lee; Giants to hold tribute to martial artist, July 7

THIS IS an awesome, awesome video - with Filipino American Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner, interviewing Bruce Lee. It is done really well as a promo for the upcoming   Bruce Lee Tribute the San Francisco Giants are holding at AT&T Park on July 7, on what would have been the martial artist's 75th birthday.

If you're in town that night, you should take in the game against the NY Mets. The stadium enhances the game atmosphere since it has the one of the best vibes of any baseball park, That, plus the Bruce Lee tributes throughout the game, should be worth the cost of a ticket.(If you can get a ticket.) I'm looking forward to it. The Giants sell out regularly but additional tickets may still be available under their special events.

Proceeds will benefit the Bruce Lee Foundation.

The Giants have a fantastic marketing team and they really know their audience. They were the first among the Bay Area professional sports teams to have Chinese Heritage Night, followed by Filipino Heritage Night and Japanese American Night to join their events honoring the Irish, Jewish, Italian and  the LGBTQ community.

When Lincecum retires from baseball, he might have a career as an actor. He does a credible job as a 1960's interview host. But, that moustache needs to go. Would you buy a used car from this guy?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

2-minute YouTube video leads to the feature "Awesome Asian Bad Guys"

Some of the Asian bad guys and gals featured in the movie Awesome Asian Bad Guys.
TODAY'S THE DAY! Awesome Asian Bad Guys is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and Playstation! 

AABG has been a work in progress for several years. Buzz has been building with advance screenings at film festivals around the country and fundraising  on kickstarter to reach the $50,000 needed to finish the project has been going on concurrently.

If you’ve wanted to watch Stephen Dypiangco and Patrick Epino — better known as the National Film Society — reunite iconic Asian bad guys from the ’80s in the action/comedy Awesome Asian Bad Guys, but couldn’t attend one of the many festival screenings, now is your chance to download the film and watch it in the comfort of your own home.

An irreverent homage to the unsung villains of ’80s & ’90s action flicks, this nonstop romp plunges a motley crew of washed up Asian bad guy actors into a deadly mission to take down Los Angeles’ most nefarious mob boss.

Set in present day Los Angeles but packed with homages to classic ‘80s and ‘90s action movies, AWESOME ASIAN BAD GUYS is an ode to the tough as nails character actors who built their careers getting pulverized, impaled, and literally blown to bits. By becoming the heroes of their own story, these often overlooked icons fight for and earn the recognition, respect, and redemption they’ve long deserved.

The website states: 
"When we were growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, we’d always see hard-hitting Asian bad guys in flicks like Die Hard, Bloodsport, and Karate Kid 2. These badasses were often cooler than the heroes they fought, but they’d usually have a 2-minute lifespan before they were mortally wounded or beat to a pulp. It really sucked that you barely saw them on screen and rarely got to know them.
"We want to celebrate Asian bad guys (and girls) and their continuing inspiration and kick-ass contributions to pop culture history. Everything we do is devoted to our staunch commitment to give these guys their due.
"Being an Awesome Asian Bad Guy is a lifestyle – how you walk, how you talk, how you stroke your mustache. We believe everyone, Asian and non-Asian, should embrace the diabolical mastermind/henchman/crime boss/magical wizard/assassin who lives inside us all!"

The cast includes Tamlyn Tomita, Dante Basco Al Leong, Yuji Okumoto, George Cheun and a host of others whom most of us wouldn't know their names but whom we'd recognize  as soon as we'd see them.

The National Film Society is a digital movie studio co-founded by filmmakers  Epino and  Dypiangco, who’ve decided to take their talents to YouTube. With a uniquely brainy and offbeat style, they produce original content, collaborate with talented creators and make fun of each other as much as possible. Cue the harbinger of evil: G-O-O-N-N-N-N-NGGG!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Time to bring down the Confederate flag

“TODAY we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds.” With those words, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina took a step away from her base and another step towards sanity.

The church shootings in S. Carolina continues to send shockwaves throughout the nation. Republican politicians, who owe much of their power in the conservative (nee white) south, have split on the issue the display of the Confederate flag.
UPDATE: July 23, 2015, 11 a.m.. A day after Haley's announcement, In the wake of Walmart, Sears, and eBay’s announcements that they will stop selling goods with Confederate flags printed on them, sales on Amazon of such goods are soaring, with purchases up more than 3,000 percent in the past 24 hours. Go figure.
UPDATE: JULY 23, 2015, 3 p.m. Amazon has announced that it will stop selling any products with the Confederate flag.
Haley, the first and only Sikh elected as a state governor and the second Indian American chief executive, had a change of heart after pressure intensified, not only from the national media, but from her own constituency. Previously, as a politician, she avoided taking a stance one way or the other.

The Confederate flag has become a flash point between those who think that is a sign of the feudal society that depended on slave labor and those who see it as a symbol of past glories. A November poll from Winthrop University in South Carolina found that 73 percent of whites in the state want the flag to remain where it is in front of the state capitol. The same poll reported that 61 percent of blacks want it taken down. 

The most common argument for keeping the flag is that it historic and represents southern heritage and pride.

The Confederate flag is still popular in the South.
"It's a symbol of family and my ancestors who defended the state from invasion. It was about standing up to a central government," said Chris Sullivan, who is a member of the Sons of the Confederacy. "The things that our ancestors fought for were not novel and they really are the same issues we have today."

Uh ... but, didn't the South lose the Civil War? Are they proud that their ancestors fought and died for a lifestyle and culture that perpetuated slavery, human bondage and racism? A society that encouraged a oligarchy of the super wealthy and a class of serfs consisting of black slaves and poor whites?

Imagine how we would feel if Germany insisted on continuing the use of the Nazi symbol on their flag because it represented their heritage and culture.

For me, anyone touting the Confederate flag - on a pole, a t-shirt, belt buckle, a bumper sticker or hat - is saying, "Yeah, I'm racist. People of color are inferior and should be treated as such. Whaddya gonna do 'bout it?"  The problem is, there appears to be a resurgence of Confederate pride among young people and people are emboldened to show their feelings that used to be socially unacceptable and their true beliefs out. All that's missing are the white sheets.

Haley agreed with GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush that the Confederate flag's proper place is in a museum. 

"On matters of race, South Carolina has a tough history. We all know that," Haley said at a press conference on Monday.

She was joined by the state's two Republican senators. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Tim Scott along with Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus in calling for the Stars & Bars to come down. 

It will take a two-thirds vote by the state legislature to bring down the flag in front of the state capitol.

It's unfortunate that it took a tragedy that took nine lives before some people were able to see the folly of keeping alive the spirit of the Confederacy - remember, those states sought to rip apart the Union. We have to give Gov. Haley some credit for taking this step, albeit a little too late for the victims at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. 

Why the court denied birthright citizenship to American Samoans

A WASHINGTON DC Circuit Court panel ruled unanimously June 5 against citizenship for American Samoans. What is especially surprising, is that the Justice Department under President Obama, is arguing against granting birthright citizenship using outdated racist laws that was used to justify racially segregated schools. The Supreme Court overrode those same -some say "racist" - laws to outlaw segregated schools in the landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education.

Tuaua v. United States is a federal lawsuit brought by Leneuoti Tuaua, the Samoan Federation of America, and others born in American Samoa who believe that so long as American Samoa is a part of the United States, people born in American Samoa have the birthright to U.S. citizenship under the Constitution.

Plaintiffs are represented by Neil Weare, president of We the People Project, a national organization dedicated to achieving equal rights and representation for the nearly 5 million Americans living in U.S. territories and the District of Columbia; Arnold & Porter, LLP, an international law firm; and Charles V. Ala'ilima, a prominent American Samoan attorney.

The lead plaintiff, Tuaua, who resides in California, was denied an opportunity to join a California police agency because he is not a citizen. Currently, the 55,500 or so American Samoans are considered non-citizen nationals, meaning they don’t have voting rights in federal elections and can’t work in government jobs. They can apply for citizenship, but that is a long drawn-out process and there’s no guarantee they’ll be approved.

Despite the double-standard applied to American Samoans'
citizenship claims, enlistment in the U.S. Armed Forces is
among the highest in America.
The U.S. Justice attorneys relied heavily on the controversial Insular Cases as precedent for denial of citizenship to the American Samoans. According to a Mother Jones article:
Justice Henry Brown—famous as the author of Plessy v. Ferguson, which gave the court's blessing to segregation—refers to the inhabitants of the new territories as "savage" and "alien races" in the Insular Cases. Brown contended that Congress would treat the territories well because it was guided by "certain principles of natural justice inherent in the Anglo-Saxon character." His colleague, Justice Edward White, hypothesized in one case that granting citizenship to an "uncivilized race" in a new territory would "inflict grave detriment on the United States" from "the immediate bestowal of citizenship on those absolutely unfit to receive it."
"A lot of people are justifiably embarrassed by the Insular Cases because they really do capture an earlier imperial moment that is saturated in white supremacy," says Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas-Austin School of Law.
In subsequent cases, the courts have seen fit to grant citizenship to the other U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Marianas but denied that same privilege to the American Samoans.

In this day and age and under this administration, it is surprising that the government, which has argued on behalf of immigration reform, would rely on a set of racist laws to justify its current position towards the islanders.

Although the Justice Department is required to defend acts of Congress, the administration can on occasion opt out of defending a law it believes is unconstitutional. (The Obama administration's refusal in 2011 to defend part of the Defense of Marriage Act is one recent example.) The Justice Department declined to comment on the case.

Unfortunately, in the case, the three-judge panel also took into consideration that perhaps the biggest opponents of the case are the Samoans themselves - at least, the Samoan leadership.

“Despite American Samoa’s lengthy relationship with the United States, the American Samoan people have not formed a collective consensus in favor of United States citizenship,” the decision says.

Although American Samoans cannot vote for president, they can vote for their local government officials, who pass local laws and have control over immigration and land ownership in the islands. Here is the crux of the island government's argument, they believe that if full citizenship rights were given to their residents, they would lose autonomy over local laws, which includes a law that allows the land to be communally owned by Samoan families. About 90 percent of American Samoa falls under this status. The land cannot be sold or rented to anyone "whose blood is less than one-half Samoan."

American Samoa's own government sided with the U.S. government, which was a critical factor in the judges' decision. The court held that the American Samoa should have a referendum to decide if the majority of its residents want full birthright citizenship.

Weare says that he will appeal the case to the circuit court's full 11-judge panel and if that request is denied, he is prepared to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"American Samoa is the only inhabited US territory whose citizens don't receive birthright citizenship," says Stephen Vladeck, a constitutional law expert from American University's Washington School of Law. "I don't know that the government has a particularly compelling reason other than history and the views and wishes of the American Samoans themselves for why American Samoa should be singled out that way."

Saturday, June 20, 2015

TGIF FEATURE: It's hard to classify Charlyne Yi's humor

Charlyne Yi
IT'S DIFFICULT to describe Charlyne Yi. She's an actress (she played Dr. Park in House was featured in a handful of movies), she's a comedian (watch her interview below on Conan O'Brien), she's an impersonator (she impersonated a turtle in her audition tape for Saturday Night Live), and lately, she's a singer in a band (you be the judge.)

She just has a funny (as in strange) way of looking at the world. 

In an interview with Sheila Heti in The Believer, the Filipino American describes herself: 
"I tried theater in college, but I was such a bad actor. I would sincerely try to act how I was feeling, and people would start to laugh because I was so bad and so nervous. There would be a serious scene with a husband and wife arguing, and I’d be shaking. My teacher was saying that there’s a very fine line between drama and comedy, and I thought, He’s totally right. And I slowly realized, Oh, this is funny! I think that’s when I discovered that people were laughing at the real me in the awkward situation I was in, trying to act.

"The first time I performed was at a comedy audition. I pulled up the mic but it hit my mouth because it came too high, and it dropped and I couldn’t figure out the mic, and I couldn’t see anything on stage because of the lights. There were four judges there and I had to perform with them laughing, which made me even more uncomfortable, and I was just shaking and talking and they were laughing the whole time. Afterwards I was talking to one of the judges and he was like, “That was hilarious!” I was like, What are you talking about?

"Then I realized he couldn’t tell if I was joking or not about being nervous. He thought maybe it was an act, but he wasn’t sure. I thought, That’s so interesting—maybe I’ll master that. So I’d constantly try to do stuff like that in theater class once I learned that you can make people laugh in a way that they’re unsure of what they’re laughing at, and are slightly embarrassed that they’re laughing."
She is succeeding at that. You don't really know if she is putting on an act or if it is the real Yi. At any rate, she has managed to parlay her ambiguity into a number of roles. 

It's hard not to laugh when watching her when she is on screen, but I don't think she minds.

Right now, she says she's retired from acting. "Well… kind of. I always like to say that I retired, just because it sounds cool. But I always say I quit acting, and then I always go back to it like two years later, and I’m like, 'OK, I’ll say two lines on this movie.' And besides, I like starting rumors about myself as well, where half of it’s true and half of it’s not." 

She's kidding, right? 

Have a great weekend!