Thursday, June 30, 2016

Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences takes first (small) step to diversify membership

Some of the actors invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 2016.

THE ACADEMY of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences invited 683 artists to become members of the organization which sponsors the Oscars. Forty-one percent of the invitees, or 272, are people of color. Seventy of those are Asian or Asian/American.

The move to diversify the Academy's membership was not unexpected after the firestorm that overlooked actors of color for any acting nominations for two straight years.

Academy President Cheryl Boone, who is African/American, promised to double the Academy's minority membership after the embarrassing voting results that spurred the #OscarsSoWhite outcry that spotlighted the lack of diversity in the motion picture industry.

“We’re proud to welcome these new members to the Academy, and know they view this as an opportunity and not just an invitation, a mission and not just a membership,” Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy president, said in a statement. She also encouraged Hollywood and the larger creative community to “open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry.”

James Hong
What was a jaw-breaking surprise to me, though, was who was among the invitees - many  of whom have been in the industry for years and have a long resume of movies - were not Academy members. I -- and most of the public, I'd venture to guess -- just assumed anybody in the business would have been members.

RELATED: For complete list of invitees, click here
For example, among those invited to join the Academy were James Hong, who has been in the movie business for decades and who has been in innumerable films had never been invited before. He's one of those character actors whose face is instantly recognizable but whose name most people overlook; Daniel Day Kim from TV's Lost and Hawaii 5-O also did the movies Spiderman 2, Crash, Insurgent and Allegiance; and Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire.

Other big names invited and who I assumed were already Academy members included Kate Beckinsale, Idris Elba, Emma Watson, America Ferrera, Michael B. Jordan, Daphne Zuniga and Damon Wayans, Jr.

Among Asian/American directors, Cary Joji Fukunaga who has Beasts of No Nation and Jane Eyre under his belt; Karyn Kusama, Jennifer’s Body and Girlfight;  and James Wan, The Conjuring and Saw received invitations.
Academy graphic

“The Academy will supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity,” AMPAS said in a press release when the anger over #OscarsSoWhite became evident.  

Among the invitees were a number of actors, directors and technicians from other countries to help obtain the diversity the Academy sought.

Tatsuya Nakadai
I'm glad to see an invitation was extended to Tatsuya Nakadai, he of the haunted eyes, who starred in a bunch of samurai movies, often as an outlaw samurai. Who can forget his scenes opposite Toshiro Mifune in Sanjuro and the  movie's (gasp!) powerful ending; or his character study of a man gone mad in Sword of Doom.

But really - the needle towards inclusiveness and diversity has barely moved. Prior to  the invitations being sent out, only 8 percent of the Academy membership were minorities. Even if all the minority invitees accepted, there would only be 11 percent minority membership. Hardly enough to make a significant change in the Academy's voting patterns. 

In order to meet the stated diversityi goals, the Academy will have to add 500 non-white members and 1,500 female members in the next five years.

The list of invitees, the largest number ever, was not without controversy. A mini-revolt was fomenting within the Academy causing a handful to run for the executive board with the intention of overturning the new recruiting strategy. However, after the voting was over, only one critic was successful. The counter campaigns did show that an institution such as the Academy is not changing willingly. 

Though the June 29 announcement represents only a slight bump in diversity, it is an improvement over past years. But it also shows, that there is plenty of room for improvement.

Maybe the 2017 Oscars will be worth watching  -- if they do away with the Asian jokes.

Adnan Syed, subject of popular podcast 'Serial,' granted new trial

Adnan Syed in high school, left, and as he appears today, 16 years into his life sentence.
THE MAN convicted of killing his Asian/American girlfriend 17 years ago, will be getting a new trial after an NPR podcast of his case drew attention to alleged irregularities in his trial.

The 35-year old Adnan Syed's conviction was the subject of Serial, the highest rated podcast in NPR history. He was convicted of killing his girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee. The 2014 podcast produced by reporter Sarah Koenig won a Peabody Award and was downloaded millions of times.

In his order issued today (June 30), Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin Welch said that Syed’s attorney at the time rendered “ineffective assistance” by failing to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert about the reliability of cell tower location evidence.

Welch wrote that Syed's attorney in the 2000 trial "rendered ineffective assistance when she failed to cross-examine the state's expert regarding the reliability of cell tower location evidence."

"The court finds that trial counsel's performance fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment when she failed to cross-examine the state's cell tower expert regarding a disclaimer obtained as part of pre-trial discovery," Welch wrote.

Hae Min Lee
Syed's original lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, died in 2004.

During a news conference, Syed's lawyer was asked if a new trial would have been granted without Serial. “I don’t think so,” said attorney C. Justin Brown.

Brown said the state has 30 days to file an appeal. In the meantime, Brown said, he would work to get Syed freed on bail.

RELATED: NPR'S 'Serial' raises questions of Adnan Syed's defense
"It is the continued desire of the Attorney General to seek justice in the murder of Hae Min Lee," the Maryland Attorney General's office said in a statement. "The state's responsibility remains to pursue justice, and to defend what it believes is a valid conviction."

During a hearing in March, Deputy Maryland Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah said Syed was convicted based on "overwhelming evidence."

"He did it, and the state proved it," Vignarajah said.

Lee's family did not participate in "Serial" and did not speak out in any of the articles, spinoff podcasts and websites that followed but did issue a statement during the March hearing.
 Lee's family broke a long silence to say that "those who learn about the case on the internet" and were pushing for Syed's release were "misinformed," and that it was "more clear than ever" that justice was served the first time.

"It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae," the family said in a statement released by the attorney general's office.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Chinese national guilty of smuggling high-tech U.S. military hardware to China

High-tech scopes such as the one pictured above gave the U.S. military an advantage in night fighting.

A CHINESE national who had false papers identifying him as a natural-born U.S. citizen  was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release for trafficking the United State's high-tech military weaponry. 

Kan Chen, 26, of Ningbo, China, in Zhejiang Province, was convicted for conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations; attempting to violate the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations; and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, according to Department of Justice representatives.

On June 16, 2015, Chen was arrested by HSI agents on the Northern Mariana Island of Saipan following an eight-month long investigation into his illegal conduct and has remained in custody. He pleaded guilty to the offenses listed above last March 2..

“The United States will simply never know the true harm of Chen’s conduct because the end users of the rifle scopes and other technology are unknown,” said U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly. “No matter their nationality, those individuals who seek to profit by illegally exporting sensitive U.S. military technology will be prosecuted..”

“These sophisticated technologies are highly sought after by our adversaries,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Nevano. “They were developed to give the United States and its allies a distinct military advantage, which is why HSI will continue to aggressively target the individuals who might illegally procure and sell these items.”

According to court documents, from July 2013 through his arrest in June 2015, Chen caused or attempted to cause the illegal export of over 180 export-controlled items, valued at over $275,000, to China. Over 40 of those items – purchased for more than $190,000 – were sophisticated night vision and thermal imaging scopes, which can be mounted on automatic and semi-automatic rifles and used for military purposes at night.

Apparently, no crime has been committed by the seller of these devices. Chen purchased the devices legally. Chen is being convicted for trying to move them overseas.

Given the sensitivity surrounding these military-grade items, Chen devised a complicated scheme to smuggle these items through Delaware and outside the U.S. He purchased the devices via the internet and telephone and had them mailed to several reshipping services in New Castle, Delaware, which provide an American shipping address for customers located in China, accept packages for their customers and then re-ship them to China. 

In order to further conceal his illegal activity, Chen arranged for the re-shippers to send the devices to several intermediary individuals, who in turn forwarded the devices to Chen in China. Chen then sent the devices to his customers. 

During the sentencing hearing, the government noted the lethality of these items when combined with weapons designed for use on a battlefield. For example, one of the 100 mm scopes, which Chen purchased for $8,428.39, is described by the manufacturer as “an ideal product for force protection, border patrol officers, police SWAT and special operations forces providing them the tools they need to be successful in all field operations both day and night. Uncooled thermal imaging cuts through dust, smoke, fog, haze, and other battlefield obscurants.”

As the government further noted, Chen’s conduct was particularly harmful because he sold this military technology indiscriminately. Thus, it could have ended up in any number of nefarious hands – including agents of foreign governments, or individuals or organizations involved in the drug trade or human traffickers. 

Once these rifle scopes were exported to China and distributed by Chen to his customers, the military technology contained inside these items could have been reversed engineered or used anywhere in the world for a variety of purposes by oppressive regimes, terrorists, or others to threaten the United States or its allies’ military advantage, said a press release from the Department of Justice.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

#BeingAsian trending worldwide reveals humor, pain of being Asian

ON TUESDAY #BeingAsian trended on Twitter. First posted by 17-year old Michael Tarui on Twitter, Tuesday the hashtag really gained attention by the afternoon PST. By then, Asians all the world began contributing.

Tara told NBC News, "The purpose of the tag was to create solidarity amongst us youth (many of us use Twitter to advocate), form friendships, and learn from one another."

It was like everyone had this pent up frustration and pride that they wanted to share as the hashtag exploded. Following are some of the tweets:

Health: Gene discovered in Asians that creates a craving for fast food

The craving for noodles may be beyond one's control.
STUDYING LATE at night and all of sudden, you get a craving for pizza, french fries or that good ol' college standby - a bowl of ramen noodles. A little voice in your brain keeps repeating, "Eat junk food, eat junk food."
A new UCLA study has found a gene that may be the culprit for Asian/Americans. The gene, DRD2 A1 is the gene that causes some Asian/Americans to crave unhealthy food like french fries or fast food.
Despite the popular myth of the existence of a skinny gene among Asians and the immense cultural pressure for Asian women to be skinny, Asians and Asian/Americans are just as likely to become obese as any other race.
RELATED: Asian/American women battle body image issues
However, the DRD2 A1 gene is also found among Asians who still live in Asia where the obesity epidemic has become a problem. As Asian countries become more urbanized, fast food outlets proliferate and traditional recipes are used only on special occasions.
The bad gene is a variation of DRD2 (dopamine receptor D2), a type associated with various forms of addiction.
Dr. Zhaoping Li, senior author of the study, believes that their findings are important in addressing addictive behavior among people with the genetic variation. While the research specifically involved Asian/Americans, its findings are reportedly applicable to anyone of Asian descent. It also proves promising in tackling obesity for the particular demographic.

Fast food is gaining popularity in Asia, too
RELATED: White rice leads to Type 2 diabetes
In a 2014 article, Gen Re reported the rise of obesity in Asian countries, a trend that was attributed to economic growth and cultural factors. At the time, Malaysia had the highest prevalence of obesity (14 percent), while Vietnam scored the lowest (1.7 percent).

The publication also cited other studies which pointed to the vulnerability of Asians. As it turns out, the group is said to: (1) have a higher percentage of body fat, (2) be more susceptible to developing central obesity and (3) do less physical activity than Euro/Americans.

The Diplomat sees the increasing rural-to-urban migration in the region as a catalyst for obesity. Migrants consume more processed food and lead more sedentary urban lifestyles. Asia is expected to be 64 percent urban by 2050, calling for more strategic interventions and policies.

RELATED: Calif. governor rejects bill to document disparities among Asians
One of the UCLA study’s important goals was to understand the genetic factors that contribute to obesity so that better treatment plans could be developed for obese people, and the researchers write that there is a specific need for more in-depth analysis of obesity in Asians and Asian/Americans. In the meantime, authors of the UCLA research propose further studies to investigate the possibility of reducing food cravings through dopamine-like drugs. Whether these medications help in weight reduction for those with the genetic variation is yet to be known.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Petition seeks President's apology for the Chinese Exclusion Act

By Shirley N Lew
Reprinted from AsAm News

Local political pressure is now on President Obama to make an official apology for the passing of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act before he leaves office.

In early May, Senior Director of the Chinese Freemasons, Karlin Chan created a “We The People” petition in an effort to have President Obama offer an official apology for the Chinese Exclusion Act, but it fell short of the 100,000 signatures required within the 30 days. It garnered about only 2,000 signatures.

Days earlier, Chan collaborated with Democratic Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim who pulled in 20 other local politicians to sign a letter Kim wrote to the president requesting a formal apology.

The letter was signed on Monday, June 20. A formal press conference is to follow in the next few days.

View Assemblyman Ron Kim’s letter to the president.

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act violated the Chinese of their basic American civil rights solely because of their race. They were denied entry into the US, their right to become naturalized citizens and their right to vote. The Chinese were the first ethnic group to be denied their civil rights explicitly because of their race. The Chinese Exclusion Act was later renewed for an additional ten years in 1892 and eventually became permanent in 1902.

In 1943, it was repealed when Congress passed The Magnuson Act solely because China joined forces with the US in World War II.

Some feel that the passing of Congresswoman Judy Chu’s bill, H. Res 683 in 2012, to express regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act by Congress, fell short of a full apology, which prompted Chan last month to start his first petition.

When we last spoke with Chan, he knew the goal of 100,000 signatures for the petition would be difficult to meet even with the help of social media. However, he felt it was a good “warm-up” in creating awareness of the history of racism towards the Chinese and to create a second petition with no time deadline.

You can sign Chan’s new petition on to ask President Obama apologize for the passing of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act by clicking here.

REPORT: Political hate rhetoric catalyst for the rise in anti-Muslim/American acts

"BEING MUSLIM/AMERICAN already carries a decent amount of baggage.," writes actor Aziz Ansari in a New York Times oped published over the weekend. "In our culture, when people think 'Muslim,' the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from Homeland or some monster from the news."

His fears are justified. A report from the UC Berkeley Center for Race & Gender done in collaboration with The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)  was released last week. Entitled Confronting Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States, reports the increase in hate crimes against Muslims or people mistaken as Muslims.

The last two months of 2015 saw 34 incidents in which mosques were targeted by vandals or those who want to intimidate worshippers. This is more incidents than usually recorded in an entire year.

Aziz Ansari

Islamophobia has unfortunately moved from the fringes of American society to the mainstream. Contenders for the office of the presidency have suggested un-constitutional policies such as banning all Muslims from the United States or suggesting that a Muslims could not be president of the United States. Elected officials in 10 states have enacted legislation designed to vilify or otherwise target Islam. In at least two states, the way school text books are selected was changed because some activists wrongly believe that introductory religious courses that teach children Islam’s five pillars are “indoctrination” and “proselytization.”

The last two months of 2015 saw 34 incidents in which mosques were targeted by vandals or those who want to intimidate worshippers. This is more incidents than we usually record in an entire year.

The strategy outlined in this report is an evolution from the opposition-centric strategy CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia has pursued since we published Legislating Fear in 2012. The proposed strategy focuses instead on changing the environment.
Islamophobic groups have enjoyed access to at least $205 million to spread fear and hatred of Muslims, says the report. Inner-core groups, which have a primary purpose to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims, have seen an increase in total revenue from $42,692,945 in 2008 to $205,838,077 in 2013.

“The hate that these groups are funding and inciting is having real consequences like attacks on mosques all over the country and new laws discriminating against Muslims in America,” Corey Saylor, author of the report and director of CAIR’s department to monitor and combat Islamophobia, said in a statement.

He also said politics has played in a role in perpetuating the prejudice, including the rhetoric of the current U.S. presidential race.

“The 2016 presidential election has mainstreamed Islamophobia and resulted in a number of un-constitutional proposals targeting Muslims,” he said.
“’Confronting Fear’ offers a plan for moving anti-Muslim bias back to the fringes of society where it belongs.”

The study examines two overlapping time periods: January 2015 through December 2015 and March 2015 through March 2016 (the 2016 presidential election season). It found approximately 180 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence: 12 murders; 34 physical assaults; 49 verbal assaults or threats against persons and institutions; 56 acts of vandalism.

Confronting Fear acknowledges that acts of violence committed in the name of Islam “have undoubtedly contributed to negative public perceptions of Islam and Muslims in the United States.”

However it states that Islam and Muslims “are more likely to be held collectively responsible for the actions of an aberrant few.”

A goal of the report is to promote societal rejection of Islamophobia, as attrition in the acceptability of this form of prejudice would bring about change. It notes that societal rejection of the hate group Ku Klux Klan and its message resulted in less public support, visibility and impact.

“Islamophobia and groups that promote bias will likely always exist,” Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, said in a statement. “But the current environment that grants anti-Islam prejudice social acceptability must change so that such bias is in the same social dustbin as white supremacism and anti-Semitism.”
"Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray," writes Ansari, a comedian and actor, whose TV series Master of None received accolades for its depiction of people of color. "It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Asians are still the fastest growing group in the U.S.

PEW graphic
THE GROUP 18 Million Rising , a group of activists trying to increase the influence and presence of Asian/Americans, might have to change its name. There are now 20.3 million Asians living in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2014 data that was released last week. 18 Million Rising was formed in 2012 and the data of that year reflected the 2010 Census results.

Additionally, Asians remain the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, according to latest information from the Census Bureau.

“The next half century marks key points in continuing trends — the U.S. will become a plurality nation, where the non-Hispanic white population remains the largest single group, but no group is in the majority,” said Acting Director Thomas L. Mesenbourg.

RELATED: AAPI community no longer "statistically insignificant."
Furthermore, the population is projected to grow much more slowly over the next several decades, compared with the last set of projections released in 2008 and 2009. That is because the projected levels of births and net international migration are lower in the projections released last week, reflecting more recent trends in fertility and international migration, especially immigration from Asia.

Sam Garrow, a Census Department demographer, said Asians have been the fastest-growing race group since about 2000, and the main driving force is international migration. In 2013, China replaced Mexico as the top sending country for immigrants to the U.S., officials said.
RELATED: Impact and influence of AAPIs is growing
The nation's Asian population grew at 3.4 percent between July 2014 and 2015, with migration responsible for the majority of the growth, government officials said Thursday. There are now 21 million Asians in the United States. California has the largest population of Asian Americans at 6.3 million, a bit over 15 percent of the state's population. 

Hawaii, where the population is 56 percent Asian, is the nation's only majority Asian state.

The term “Asian American” is too general to describe ethnicity in Hawaii, said Jonathan Okamura, an ethnic studies professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“Diversity is recognized,” he said. “We tend to use categories like Filipino, Japanese and Chinese to describe people who immigrated from Asia,

“Talking about Asians as the fastest-growing group is meaningless,” he said.

Instead, people should take specific looks at the Filipino or Japanese population on Hawaii to get a feel for the Asian American population in the state, Okamura said.

Since 2010, Filipinos are the second-largest ethnic group in Hawaii, he said. In 2010, people who identified as Filipino increased 24 percent from the 2000 census. The ranking knocked the Japanese population down to the third-largest ethnic group in Hawaii.

California has the largest number of most racial and ethnic groups, with more Hispanics, whites, Asians and American Indians than any other state. New York state has more blacks than any other state, and Hawaii has the largest numeric population of Native Hawaiians than any other state. 
RELATED: America's problem, learning to live with itself
The second fastest-growing racial group was those who claim two or more races, government officials said. The number of people who claimed two or more races grew 3.1 percent to 6.6 million. This group was also the youngest group of all racial or ethnic groups with a median age of 20 years old.
RELATED: Multi-racial people becoming the new normal
The fast Asian growth rate appears to be occurring beyond the traditional destination states such as Hawaii, California, Illinois and New York. Asians are dispersing themselves in throughout the country including states as disparate as Wisconsin and South Carolina.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pride Parade features Asian/American grand marshals

The Transcendent cast are, from left, Bambiana, L.A., Xristina, Nya and Bionka.
THE CELEBRITY Grand Marshals of the Pride Parade in San Francisco will include the cast of Transcendent of the Fuse TV network. Two of the five cast members are Filipinas, Nya and L.A.

The Ladies of AsiaSF, who perform at the popular restaurant/nightclub AsiaSF, achieved stardom last year with the launch of Transcendent. The show, produced by World of Wonder, the people behind RuPaul’s Drag Race, documents the struggles and triumphs of the five performers as they navigate their professional and personal lives. The show introduces trans women to mainstream audiences and rises above stereotypes, showing the real-life joys, heartaches and daily lives of these women. 

Nya has been working at the club since she was 19 and L.A. is the youngest of the group and is just beginning her transition. 

The other cast members are Bambiana, Bionka and Xristina. 

“We are five transgender women who have had to overcome heartache and struggles, but we have transcended and we are who we are and we celebrate who we are,” said Nya. “We get to be our authentic selves every day, and we are loving it.”

The other celebrity Grand Marshals will include Chinese/American chef Melissa King, a finalist in the Top Chef TV competition, and actor Michael K. Williams.

The Pride Parade will be the culmination of a weekend of events. It starts Sunday, June 26, 10:30 a.m. along Market Street between the Ferry Building and the Civic Center where the celebration continues with a Festival starting at 11 a.m.

Pride weekend kicked off Friday when the S.F. Giants will host LGBTQ Night at AT&T Park; the Celebration starts at the Civic Center 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

"There's still a long way to go," Nya told NBC News. "You know, trans folks are in the media, not a lot, but a lot more than before. Being Asian — there's hardly any cisgendered actresses. Well, in the United States, at least. I think it's definitely groundbreaking."

Supreme Court finds no bias towards Asian/Americans in college admissions

Harvard University, above, faces the same charges of bias as the University of Texas.
By Louis Chan
Reprinted from AsAm News

A  CLOSER LOOK at the majority opinion in Fisher v University of Texas reveals the four Supreme Court Justices found no discrimination against Asian/Americans in holistic admissions.

By a four to three vote, the justices ruled the University of Texas did not discriminate against Abigail Fisher, a White student who did not rank in the top 10 percent of her high school class, when it rejected her application.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

Therefore, although admissions officers can consider race as a positive feature of a minority student’s applica­tion, there is no dispute that race is but a “factor of a factor of a factor” in the holistic-review calculus. 645 F. Supp. 2d 587, 608 (WD Tex. 2009). Furthermore, con­sideration of race is contextual and does not operate as a mechanical plus factor for underrepresented minorities. Id.,at 606 (“Plaintiffs cite no evidence to show racial groups other than African Americans and Hispanics are excluded from benefiting from UT’s consideration of race in admissions. As the Defendants point out, the consider­ation of race, within the full context of the entire applica­tion, may be beneficial to any UT Austin applicant—including Whites and Asian Americans”); see also Brief for Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund et al. as Amici Curiae 12 (the contention that the University discriminates against Asian Americans is “entirely un­supported by evidence in the record or empirical data”). There is also no dispute, however, that race, when consid­ered in conjunction with other aspects of an applicant’s background, can alter an applicant’s PAS score. Thus, race, in this indirect fashion, considered with all of the other factors that make up an applicant’s AI and PAI scores, can make a difference to whether an application is accepted or rejected.
RELATED: Read the entire ruling by the Supreme Court majority 
The decision is a blow to some Asian/American groups, most of whom represent first-generation Chinese/Americans, who contend Asian/Americans have been rejected and less qualified Blacks, Hispanics and Whites have taken their spots.

It’s also a blow to a lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions, which has actively courted Asian/American groups to its side. The Students for Fair Admissions was founded by Edward Blum, Fisher's attorney, who is associated with several cases trying to dismantle affirmative action programs.

RELATED: Who is really behind the Students for Fair Admissions?
Students for Fair Admissions filed a discrimination case against both Harvard and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill which is very similar to the Fisher case.

“At Harvard, we strive to foster a diverse campus community that prepares our students to thrive as citizens and as leaders in an increasingly connected world and global economy,” Harvard University President Drew G. Faust said. “We are pleased that today’s Supreme Court’s ruling in Fisher v. the University of Texas has upheld this integral value.”
RELATED: Asians being used as pawns to fight affirmative action
Law professor Laurence H. Tribe took it one step further.

In the Harvard Crimson he called the decision in Fisher “favorable to what Harvard has tried to do over the years to overcome racial stereotypes.” He went on to say the lawsuit by Students for Fair Admissions is “overwhelmingly likely to fail.”

However, don’t expect those who contend Asian/Americans are victims of bias to go away.

Affirmative action opponents might be cheered by the dissenting opinion written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who read his dissent from his seat:
It pointed to a study showing that African American, Hispanic, and Asian American students were underrepresented in many classes. See Supp. App. 26a. But UT has never shown that its race-conscious plan actually ameliorates this situation. The University pre­sents no evidence that its admissions officers, in adminis­tering the “holistic” component of its plan, make any effort to determine whether an African American, Hispanic, or Asian American student is likely to enroll in classes in which minority students are underrepresented. And although UT’s records should permit it to determine with­out much difficulty whether holistic admittees are any more likely than students admitted through the Top Ten Percent Law, Tex. Educ. Code Ann. §51.803 (West Cum.Supp.2015), to enroll in the classes lacking racial or eth­nic diversity, UT either has not crunched those numbers or has not revealed what they show. Nor has UT explained why the under representation of Asian American students in many classes justifies its plan, which discrim­inates against those students.
(Views From the Edge contributed to this report.) 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

TGIF FEATURE: Constance Wu - Outspoken, thoughtful, articulate, unafraid, true to herself

The opinionated actress Constance Wu is not afraid to speak her mind.
CONSTANCE WU is fast becoming the No. 1 choice for interviews regarding the need for more diversity -- especially for Asian/Americans -- in the entertainment industry.

Perhaps it is because she is one of the most visible Asian/Americans with her role as Jessica Huang in the successful sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, or more likely, it is because she is unafraid to speak her mind and tackle head on the bias ingrained into the industry's decision makers. 

"Let's talk about some race shit!" she says at the beginning of an interview by Vulture's E. Allen Jung. 

Wu is "the actor Asian America has been waiting for: funny, bold,analytical, and outspoken about Asian-American representation in Hollywood," writes Jung.

Read her first two responses to Jung's questions:
How do you feel about the end of the second season of the Fresh Off the Boat? I feel good about the second season. We straddled the line of having the show be influenced by Chinese things, but not having it always be about being Chinese. Because that is essentially how we work. Yes, I have issues that have to do with growing up Asian-American. But there are other things, like doing my taxes or whether or not I should go here for vacation or what my Halloween costume is going to be. Regular human experiences, which for the most part have been only allowed to be white experiences. You're either Asian-Asian or you're white American. The in-between has not been explored very much. 
How do you consider the trope of the tiger mom in relation to your character? That's something I never thought about until I had this part. So bless this for making me think about what it must be like to have a kid you are responsible for, especially if you came to a country and people gave you shit for your accent or decorum, and it felt bad, and you don't want your kids to feel that bad. Also, you kind of want to say "Fuck you!" to the haters who gave you shit. How do you do that? By saying "Well, you know what? My kid got a 1600 on his SATs, and he's better than yours." That's your way of showing up all the haters. So that's how you open up the stereotype into a person. I almost think it's impossible not to have a stereotype, except in white culture we call them "archetypes," right? It's true!
Good stuff, right? Read the entire Vulture interview

In a David Yi article with Mashable, the outspoken 34-year-old Wu said:
"For some reason, Hollywood thinks marginalizing or teasing Asians is acceptable because we do okay. There’s been a culture of invisibility and I think some people think that we don’t have the right to seek representation or to file complaint because many of us “do okay” in the socio-economic aspect. But that’s only valid if you think that true happiness is defined by a bank account and a social status."
Mashable interviewed eight Asian/American actors/performers. Besides Wu, the group included: comedian Margaret Cho, Ken Jeong of Dr. Ken, director John Chu, actor Waris Ahluwalia, rapper and actress Awkwafina, Crazy Ex-Girlfirend's Vincent Rodriguez III, and DKNY designer Dao-Yi Chow. 

Mainstream media also has learned that Wu is good for some interesting quotes. In a Time Magazine interview last year, Wu confronts the question of using an accent for her portrayal of Jessica Huang in FOtB:
"If there were jokes written about the accent, then that would certainly be harmful. But there aren’t jokes written about it. It’s not even talked about. It’s just a fact of life: immigrants have accents. Making the choice to have that is a way of not watering down the character and making it politically correct. It’s choosing authenticity over safety, and I think that’s bold."
Wu, among others, was interviewed by the august New York Times in an article titled "Asian-American actors fighting for visibility.
“An Asian person who is competing against white people, for an audience of white people, has to train for that opportunity like it’s the Olympics,” Ms. Wu said. “An incredibly talented Asian actor might be considered for a leading role maybe once or twice in a lifetime. That’s a highly pressured situation.”
With Fresh Off the Boat renewed for a third season and the viral #StarringConstanceWu, the female counterpart to #StarringJohnCho, both questioning Hollywood's bias against Asian/American actors in lead roles, Wu is sure to be the subject of more interviews.

If her career continues its upward trend, could she be the voice the AAPI needs to turn around the mindsets of Hollywood producers and casting agents to be more inclusive when making their creative decisions? 

Wu's name was at the top of the list of The Hollywood Reporter's dream cast for the upcoming film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians. Wu has a good chance of being nominated for an Emmy as Best Actress in A Comedy Series this year amid some stiff competition. If she was to win, her stock and influence would skyrocket.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Earlier versions of this post incorrectly said that Constance Wu was nominated for an Emmy in 2015.
Whatever the future holds, she most certainly won't be afraid to rock the boat. “I'd rather lose all my stuff than lose myself,” Wu tells Vulture, “because I've done that before, and that feels way worse.”

Asian/Americans condemn SCOTUS ruling against Obama's immigrant plans

Protestors outside the Supreme Court in Washington D.C.
By Louis Chan
Reprinted from AsAm News

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S executive order protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allowing them to work has been blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices deadlocked 4-4 and that means the Texas appeals court ruling blocking the plan remains in affect.

"For more than two decades now our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken," Obama said. "And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn't able to issue a decision today doesn't just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be."

Obama’s plan known as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) would have allowed parents of American citizens or permanent residents to apply for the program. It would affect almost 4 million people.
RELATED: Ruling may impact 400,000 in California
The justices who voted against DAPA acknowledged the president had the authority to prevent the deportation of individuals, but objected to the blanket protection DAPA offered.

“As a national civil rights organization that advocates for fair immigration policies, we strongly supported the president’s immigration actions that would have provided relief from deportation and employment authorization to almost 1.5 million undocumented Asian immigrants in this country,” said Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund to AsAmNews. “While the Court’s 4-4 decision is a setback that has delayed the hopes of millions of undocumented immigrants and their families, we will explore all options in continuing the fight for immigrant rights.”

“The anti-immigrant forces and the Supreme Court are ignoring a clear truth,” said Grace Shim, executive director of the MinKwon Center. “Enforcement and deportation cannot solve the broken immigration system. Congress has repeatedly failed to enact large scale immigration reform, most recently in 2013 when the Senate passed a comprehensive reform measure but the House refused to even consider it. The Obama administration has also not been able to deliver on its initial promise of comprehensive immigration reform and has provided relief for a very select populations of DREAMers through his first executive action.”
The Supreme Court Justices who voted. 
“Each day these programs are delayed means that millions of immigrants and their families are left to live with fear and uncertainty,” said Sally Kinoshita, deputy director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which leads Ready California. “Today’s Supreme Court decision denies valuable members of our communities the opportunity to live and work without the constant risk of being torn from their families while more fully contributing to their local economies. When and if these programs become available, we are determined to help eligible Californians realize the full benefits of these critical immigration benefits and prepare for eventual immigration reform.”

According to Ready California,the original DACA program launched in 2012, continues to be available to more than a million qualified applicants and is not affected by the Supreme Court decision. Eligible undocumented immigrants can continue to apply for and renew DACA in order to access its many benefits, including a temporary reprieve from deportation, access to a work permit, and a social security number.

“I believe we are stronger together. When we embrace immigrants, not denigrate them. When we build bridges, not walls,” said presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “That is why, as president, I will continue to defend DAPA and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and do everything possible under the law to go further to protect families. It is also why I will introduce comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship within my first 100 days. Because when families are strong—America is strong.”

“Among the things America, its history and its people has really taught me: You don’t give up. You move forward. You fight on," said Jose Antonio Vargas, founder of Define America and an undocumented immigrant himself.

"By definition, immigrants are resilient, resourceful, courageous people. We will not give up. I will not give up.”

Views From the Edge contributed to this report.