Saturday, June 30, 2018

Ultra-conservative Indian American jurist under consideration for Supreme Court

Judge Amul Thapar


SUPREME COURT JUSTICE Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Court on Wednesday (June 27). Now, major news outlets are reporting that Indian American Judge Amul Thapar is on a short-list of potential nominees.

Donald Trump will be choosing a nominee from a list of twenty-five names that were compiled during his campaign and released in November. The New York Times reported that Judge Thapar and 6 other names are being considered among the front-runners CNN called Judge Thapar the “McConnell favorite” saying that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “handpicked” Thapar to be the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

The Federal Judicial Center says on their website that Thapar received a Bachelor’s of Science from Boston College and attended UC Berkeley Law School. According to CNN, Thapar was nominated and confirmed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. Thapar is the first South Asian judge to serve on a federal court.

In addition to discussing his judicial experience, reporters have begun to investigate Thapar’s rulings and political views. recently ran an article on their website titled “Amul Thapar’s Political Views: Five Fast Facts You Need to Know.” The article described Thapar as being “dismissive of sexual harassment suits” and tough on “drug-related crime.” The article also noted that Thapar believed in a literal and “strict textual” interpretation of the Constitution.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Judge Thapar is one of three minorities on President Trump’s list of 25 potential nominees. If he is nominated and confirmed to the court, Judge Thapar will be the first Asian American Supreme Court justice.

"The President’s list of potential SCOTUS nominees are complete non-starters," said California Sen. Kamala Harris. "They are conservative ideologues, not mainstream jurists. We cannot and will not accept them to serve on the highest court in the land."


Friday, June 29, 2018

TGIF FEATURE: Nico Santos on being gay on 'Superstore' & 'Crazy Rich Asians'

CHARMING AUDIENCES with his sarcastic wit and outrageous sensibility, Nico Santos has that rare ability to be crass and snarky while at the same time remaining completely likable.

That sort of describes the character he plays as Mateo, and undocumented, queer, Filipino American, in NBC's hit comedy Superstore. Santos will play Oliver in Crazy Rich Asians

"The fact that I get to play a queer Filipino on television and another queer character in Crazy Rich Asians is huge. I never thought I’d have a career being myself," quipped Santos in an interview with Huffington Post.

The Filipino American comedian was asked if he felt there was any extra pressure for Crazy Rich Asians to be successful.

"I do hope that Crazy Rich Asians leads to more work because I do want to expand what I’m doing out there. I mean, I try not to think, like, “Ugh, if Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t do well, then they’ll never make another Asian movie ever again.” I really hope that’s not the case. I hope the industry doesn’t see this as the one shot we get. We should be making these kinds of movies and telling these kinds of stories. There should be five more movies coming out this year that are just like Crazy Rich Asians and five more movies just like Black Panther.”

Listen to this interview about his role in Superstore, and what it was like working with an all-Asian cast and largely Asan crew in the upcoming movie Crazy Rich Asians.

Democratic National Committee will lean on Asian American to steer the party

Seema Nanda will help guide the Democratic National Committee through a critical period
AS THE PIVOTAL midterm elections head into the home stretch with perhaps the selection of a Supreme Court Justice on the immediate horizon, the Democratic National Committee is depending on an Asian American to keep its house in order.
Today (June 29), the Democratic National Committee announces Seema Nanda as Chief Executive Officer. As CEO, Nanda will manage the day-to-day operations of the organization.

“People are hurting all across our country. And I believe that Democrats are offering the positive solutions so desperately-needed right now – solutions forged by the strength of our diversity, the rigor of our ideas, and the decency of our values," said Nanda.

The first Asian American to head the DNC in recent memory, Nanda takes the reins from interim CEO, Mary Beth Cahill, in overseeing the financial and political trajectory of the DNC at a crucial moment.

Nanda served on​ DNC Chair Tom​ Perez' transition team, which took a fresh look at the ​committee's operations following the 2016 election and put in place an infrastructure​ that contributed to wins in 2017 and 2018.

Most recently, Nanda has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where she oversees strategy and manages day-to-day operations.

Prior to that, Seema was Chief of Staff to then-Secretary Tom Perez at the U.S. Department of Labor. While at the Labor Department, she also worked as Deputy Solicitor and as Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to Perez, managing a portfolio that included immigration, workforce development, and internal management issues.

This decision was made after a five-month search led by current CEO Mary Beth Cahill, who will continue to serve the DNC through the transition and as the DNC heads into the 2018 cycle. Nanda will start later next month. 

“I’m beyond excited that Seema is bringing her talent and brilliance to the DNC,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “I’ve seen firsthand Seema’s exceptional ability to lead. She is a seasoned manager who has a proven track record of success and a well-documented history of fighting for our Democratic values, whether it’s on immigration, civil rights or leveling the playing field for our workers. As we head toward such a crucial election, I’m one hundred percent certain that Seema’s leadership will help the DNC capitalize on the unprecedented grassroots energy and enthusiasm surging throughout the country.”

As Asian Americans seek to find their seat at the political table, that community's vote will be crucial for a number of races throughout the country. Along with DNC vice chair Grace Meng, the congresswoman representing parts of New York, Asian American women will hold two of the top and visible positions for the Democratic Party.

Nanda is a founding member of the DC chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, where she works closely with several immigrants rights and Asian American advocacy groups around Asian Pacific American issues; and a founding board member of a nonprofit in DC (Odanadi) that seeks to raise awareness and money to fight sex trafficking in India and globally.  

With immigration issues becoming a key issue in the midterm elections, the DNC is also emphasizing Nanda's past experience as head of the DOJ's Office of Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.

The Democrats are trying to generate a "blue wave" to wrest the majority in the House from the GOP by anchoring Republicans to a controversial and unpopular president, who has consistently voiced anti-immigrant policies from the Muslim travel ban to his handling of immigrants at the country's border with Mexico.

Democrats are also facing an internal reckoning on how to craft the best message for November and channel the emergence of a more progressive wing illustrated by the victory of political newcomer, 28-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over seasoned and moderate Democrat incumbent Joe Crowley.

As the Center for American Women and Politics has noted, "Democratic women are the real drivers of the surge in female candidates in 2018: women are 33% of all Democratic candidates but only 14% of all Republican candidates."

“Women are not only making their voices heard, but this hire also signals that women are leading the Democratic Party, and I couldn't be prouder of that," said the DNC's communications director, Xochitl Hinojosa.

Nanda's experience also includes practicing labor and employment law and served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations.

She is a graduate of Boston College Law School and Brown University and a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

"This position is the opportunity of a lifetime, for which I am incredibly honored and humbled,” said Nanda, "I am grateful to Chairman Perez and Mary Beth for selecting me, and I look forward to joining my new DNC colleagues in the fight for our nation’s values and future.”

Indian American congresswoman arrested at immigration protest

Concgresswoman Pramila Jayapal was led away by police as she sang "This Little Light of Mine."

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL, D-WA, was among the 575 people arrested in a "mass civil disobedience" demonstration that involved about 1000 people, most of them women.

“I just got arrested with a group of over 500 women who took over the center of the Hart Senate Building, protesting the inhumane and cruel zero-tolerance policy of Donald Trump and this administration, the separation of families, the caging of children, the imprisonment of asylum seekers,” she said. “These women understand, they’re from all over the country...they understand that this is far beyond politics, this is about right and wrong. We have to step up and put ourselves on the line.”

“I’m proud to have been arrested with them, to put myself in the camp of people who believe that the United States of America is better,” she added. “As a member of Congress, I refuse to let this president and this administration do what they are doing to children, parents, and asylum-seekers in my name.”

Jayapal was processed at the site of her arrest and then released. On June 30, Saturday, she paid her fine.

One of the reasons for the protestl was because Congress is set to break for a week-long recess, without having passed any legislation as a solution for the growing crisis at the United States-Mexico border.

The Women’s March organized the protest against Donald Trump's immigration policies. Most of the participants were women and at one point, were joined by Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth, Illinois; Mazie Hirono, Hawaii; and Kamala Harris, California.

Duckworth, who joined the protest with her newborn baby strapped to her chest, later said, "I wanted to show my support for the folks here today." She added, "I could only imagine what it would be like to have my daughter — my breastfeeding child — ripped away from me the way some of these other moms' babies have been."

Sen. Tammy Duckworth brought her baby to her first protest.
When the demonstrators reached the Hart Senate Building, about half the demonstrators entered, chanting, "We Care," and sat on the floor. Some of the women were draped in the tinfoil blankets, similar to one issued to the children separated from their parents.

According to the AP, the protesters were charged with “unlawful demonstration,” and were released at the scene after being processed.

Today's protest is a warmup for larger protests slated for Saturday, with “Families Belong Together” that will take place throughout the nation. 
  • Click here to find a protest near you.
  • Stand Up: If you can't attend an event, there are other things you can do.
Linda Sarsour, a co-founder of the Women’s March, said she hoped the protests, apart from sending a message to the administration and Congress, would mobilize people to vote in the midterms. 
“We believe that women voters are going to commit to going to the polls and make sure that we win back the House and the Senate this year,” she said.
(UPDATED: June 30 7:30 p.m. to add Pramila Jayapal paid her fine.) _______________________________________________________________________________ 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Judge orders reunification of migrant families in 30 days.

Over 2000 children remain separated from their parents.
A FEDERAL JUDGE ordered that all children affected by Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy back with their parents in 30 days. 

"These families thought they might never see each other again. Tonight's court ruling will change lives," said Lee Gelernt of the ACLU's Immigrant Rights Project.
Kids younger than 5 must be reunited with parents within 14 days; older children must be reunited within 30 days, according to the Los Angeles Times. 
"Families belong together in communities, not in cages. Despite Trump's attempt to clean up his manufactured crisis, the executive order issued last week keeps children in jail and continues to treat families cruelly and inhumanely," said John Yang, executive director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice. 

In a ruling brought about by a "chaotic circumstance of the government's own making," US District Judge Dana Sabraw noted "the unfortunate reality" of cars, money, and other personal items being tracked better than the more than 2,000 children who've so far been taken from their parents, per Politico. "Certainly, that cannot satisfy the requirements of due process."
Under Sabraw's mandate, parents also can't be detained or deported without their kids, unless it's shown a parent is unfit or otherwise poses a danger, and prompt phone contact between parents and kids must be allowed, per NBC News
The court-ordered injunction was a response to a class-action lawsuit on behalf of two women separated from their children, including a Congolese woman who made headlines. 
Sabraw's ruling comes on the heels of an executive order from Donald Trump that was supposed to remedy the separations, but which stayed "silent on the issue of reuniting families that have already been separated or will be separated in the future," wrote Sabraw, a George W. Bush appointee.
 "Tears will be flowing in detention centers across the country when the families learn they will be reunited," said Gelernt.
In a scathing 24-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw granted the American Civil Liberties Union the preliminary injunction the group had been seeking since March.
Sabraw said that it was of note that the government is capable of keeping track of “personal property of detainees in criminal and immigration proceedings ... money, important documents, and automobiles, to name a few ... yet, the government has no system in place to keep track of, provide effective communication with, and promptly produce alien children.”
As of yet, despite Trump's executive order, there are doubts the federal government could comply with the judge's order. According to media reports, the government hasn't revealed any plans for reuniting the approximately 2000 children -- including infants and toddlers who have not learned to speak yet - with their parents who remain in detention.
The Department of Homeland Security said that it would revert to the procedure employed during the Obama administration when families stayed together in detention.
According to a ruling based on the Flores v. United States, the government cannot detain children longer than 20 days. During the Obama era, when the 20 days were reached, the parents were released along with the children with the promise that they would return to the courts when a decision had been reached on their status.

“Unfortunately, more than ever, it is important that we look to the past and remember the lessons of Japanese internment," said Rep. Mark Takano, D-CA. "It took 40 years for the American government to admit to its cruel and racist mistakes. I pray this Administration learns those lessons now and stops ripping families apart, swiftly reunites every family this has happened to, and ends it’s unnecessary “zero tolerance” policy of criminalizing refugees and asylum seekers.”

Chinese American hopes to make history in Wyoming politics

Mike Yin could make history in Wyoming.

DEMOCRAT MIKE YIN could become Wyoming’s first ever Chinese American lawmaker if he is elected as the state representative for Wyoming House District 16 in Teton County, reports the The Casper Star Tribune,

Yin’s campaign website states that he is a software engineer. He is the son of two immigrants and is originally from Atlanta. He says he moved to Wyoming for “the natural beauty.”

Yin told the Tribune that if he is elected he could help represent racial minorities and “say that there are other people besides Caucasian Americans in Wyoming.” However, that is not the central focus of his campaign. Instead, Yin wants to focus on making sure Wyoming continues to be a good place to raise a family. 

According to his campaign website, he wants to achieve this goal by “building a stable economy” that will move away from a “boom and bust” economy.

The article in The Casper Star-Tribune stated that there are no records that can officially confirm that Yin would be the first ever Chinese American lawmaker in Wyoming.

“I could not find any historical records that track the ethnicity of Cowboy State lawmakers and the issue is complicated by the fact that racial identity is often arbitrary and deeply personal,” the author of the article, Arno Rosenfield, wrote in a parenthetical statement. 

“That said, the only past legislator I could find who identified as Asian American was the India-born Nimi McConigley, a Casper Republican who served in the House for a single term during the mid-1990s.”

As it stands, if Yin were to be elected, he would likely be Wyoming’s first Chinese American lawmaker. Yin is running against Republican former county commissioner Barbara Allen. Primary elections will take place on August 21, and general elections will take place on November 6.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

SCOTUS finally overturns infamous Korematsu ruling

ONE OF THE WORST decisions made by the Supreme Court was revoked in the Supreme Court decision rendered today in regards to the Donald Trump Muslim ban.

In the June 26 ruling by the conservative majority and in the dissent by the liberal minority, 1944's  ruling that justified the interment of 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent, Korematsu v. United States, was repudiated.
RELATED: A divided Supreme Court upholds Muslm ban
Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent the “stark parallels between the reasoning of this case and that of Korematsu v. United States,” 
In the intervening years since Korematsu, our Nation has done much to leave its sordid legacy behind … Today, the Court takes the important step of finally overruling Korematsu, denouncing it as “gravely wrong the day it was decided.”…This formal repudiation of a shameful precedent is laudable and long overdue. But it does not make the majority’s decision here acceptable or right. By blindly accepting the Government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security, the Court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one “gravely wrong” decision with another.
Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority decision apparently took offense and addressed Sotomayor's inference that Trump’s travel ban was the same thing as the internment of Japanese Americans.
Finally, the dissent invokes Korematsu v. United States, 323 U. S. 214 (1944). Whatever rhetorical advantage the dissent may see in doing so, Korematsu has nothing to do with this case. The forcible relocation of U. S. citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of Presidential authority. But it is wholly inapt to liken that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission. See post, at 26–28. The entry suspension is an act that is well within executive authority and could have been taken by any other President—the only question is evaluating the actions of this particular President in promulgating an otherwise valid Proclamation.
The dissent’s reference to Korematsu, however, affords this Court the opportunity to make express what is already obvious: Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—“has no place in law under the Constitution.” 323 U. S., at 248 (Jackson, J., dissenting).
With that, Roberts' Court formally overturned one of the most shameful decisions rendered by the High Court.

Korematsu was decided after Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American of San Leandro, Calif., refused to relocate to an internment camp. U.S. officials arrested him convicted him for refusing to comply. He eventually fought his conviction all the way up to the Supreme Court — but the Court, in 1944, ruled that Korematsu was violated the executive order 9066 signed by President Frankly Roosevelt and the U.S. acted lawfully in attempting to intern not just him but other Japanese Americans.

Although Korematsu died in 2005, in 2011, the Justice Department issued a formal "confession of error" in the his case, acknowledging that government lawyers lied about the severity of the security threat posed by Japanese Americans.

Ironically, the confession was ordered by the acting solicitor general at the time, Neal Katyal, who represented the challengers to the Muslim ban.

Yesterday (June 26) Korematsu's daughter, Karen Korematsu, issued this statement:
"Yet again, I am disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision. The Muslim travel ban is unjust and singles out individuals due to the religion they practice, similar to Execudtive Order 9066 that unconstitutionally imprisoned my father due to his Japanese ancestry.
"In Korematsu v. United States, the Court ruled against my father, a decision that constitutional scholars, on both sides of the aisle, have continued to criticize. Although the Court overruled my father's case today,  it only has substituted one injustice for another.  
"This decision motivates me more to continue my work as Executive Director of the Fred. T. Korematsu Institute to educate, advocate and protect our civil liberties for all."

Don't cry for jilted John Graham, he's going to Paradise

Tech guy John Graham has gone deeper into the show than any other Asian American bachelor.

JOHN GRAHAM seemed genuinely hurt that he was sent home by Becca Kufrin, the Bachlorette. In the final shot of John he was wiping away a tear; or, was that something in his eye?

He won't have a whole lot of time to mourn. He's coming back on spin-off, Bachelor in Paradise, which is set to premiere on Aug. 7.

Eliminated on the fifth show of this iteration of Bachelorette, Graham has lasted longer than other Asian American contestants. Fans began to question Becca's decision-making when she let John go home since she allowed to remain some contestants of questionable character.

John, a San Francisco resident, was on the ground floor at money transfer ap Venmo, is probably one of the richest contestants that has appeared on the series. He currently works for an artificial intelligence company called Fin Exploration. Renaissance man John also has a Facebook series called Kitchen TalkHe seems to be a nice guy but didn't get a whole lot of screen time with Becca (a telling sign).

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A divided Supreme Court upholds Trump's Muslim travel ban

The Supreme Court ruling on the Trump Muslim ban drew protests.

Views From the Edge

THE SUPREME COURT this morning (June 26) in a split 5-4 decision ruled President Trump’s travel ban against Muslims is constitutional.

This is the White House’s third attempt at a travel ban and the only one to be upheld.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the ban fell “squarely” within the president’s authority, reports CNBC It rejected claims the ban was based on religious bigotry or hostility.

Roberts concluded the White House showed a “sufficient national security justification,” but added “We express no view on the soundness of the policy,” according to Reuters.

Under the executive order, immigrants, refugees, and visa holders from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen are banned from entering the US.

The vote among the nine justices was along party lines, Roberts was joined by conservative Justices Sanuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Anthony Kennedy.
RELATED: SCOTUS repudiates infamous Korematsu ruling
In desent were the liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

In her scathing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote: “A reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was driven primarily by anti-Muslim animus, rather than by the Government’s asserted national-security justifications. Even before being sworn into office, then-candidate Trump stated that ‘Islam hates us.’”

The majority did not take into consideration Donald Trump's numerous anti-Muslim statements during his campaign and which he continues to make since he has taken office.

The conservative justices basically ruled that the Chief Executive has the authority to limit immigration without making a judgement on the "soundness of the policy."

"Today's ruling sits alongside other similarly shameful Supreme Court decisions allowing Japanese American internment and segregation,” said Lena Masri, National Litigation Director for the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

"The Muslim community will join other advocates of civil rights to show the ban for what it is -- an illegal expression of anti-Muslim animosity," said CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas.

In a statement in reaction to today’s ruling, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

“This is a setback; not the end of the road. Today, the Supreme Court made it clear that the responsibility will continue to be on the American Muslim community and its allies to push for an end to the Muslim Ban.

“The Supreme Court's decision is an invitation to inject discrimination back into our immigration system. More than half a century ago, Congress abandoned a racist immigration system that preferred some races over others. This decision is an abandonment of that milestone.

“The Muslim Ban's bigotry should have been as clear to the Supreme Court as it is to the Muslims demonized by it. Apparently, everyone but the Supreme Court can see the decision for what it is: an expression of animosity.”

“This juncture in U.S. history is an ideological juncture–and it is one that has to contend with the histories of oppression that have marginalized and disenfranchised our communities for decades,” said Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, said to AsAmNews.

“We at SAALT choose and have always chosen, to build a nation where families are not torn apart, where children are not detained in cages, where differences are not criminalized for partisan gain. Today as hate separates families and places our communities at the cross hairs of hate, we vow to continue the fight for justice, dignity and full inclusion.”

“In affirming President Trump’s bigoted Muslim Ban, the Supreme Court has given a green light to religious discrimination and animus,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. “Not since key decisions on slavery, segregation in schools, and Japanese American incarceration, have we seen a decision that so clearly fails to protect those most vulnerable to government-led discrimination.

Since the Muslim Ban was allowed to go into effect late last year, the administration has separated families and loved ones; and denied people opportunities to work, travel, study, seek medical care, and better our nation, simply because of what they believe and where they come from. This decision puts the basic rights of all Americans at risk.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-WA, released the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to allow some provisions of the Muslim Ban to go into effect:

“The Supreme Court has failed to consider the anti-American, discriminatory nature of President Trump’s Muslim Ban – an executive order that remains, in my view, unconstitutional and deeply antithetical to our country’s moral values,” said Jayapal. “Major courts across the country have already rejected the Muslim Ban, recognizing it as a threat to constitutional protections. In allowing parts of the ban to take hold before considering the case, the Supreme Court has done a grave disservice to core American values.

“Today’s ruling will have consequences that stretch far and wide: undermining our national security and hurting our economy by restricting tourists, who may have no relationships here, from entering the country," said Jayapal.

“Let me be clear – this decision is not a victory for President Trump,” Jayapal added. “The Supreme Court has not given him the green light to unilaterally ban travelers to the United States. In fact, the court makes it clear that Trump cannot restrict many immigrants from seeking a better life in the U.S.”
The American Civil Liberties Union strongly condemned today's ruling, responding on Twitter that "this is not the first time the Court has been wrong, or has allowed official racism and xenophobia to continue rather than standing up to it."

Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement that the court's "ruling will go down in history as one of the Supreme Court's great failures."

Lt. Gov. Doug Chin
 "Today is a dark day for our country," said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-HI, She claimed the Supreme Court "handed the president unfettered power to continue to target minorities."

Hirono asked, "Is the president going to say that it's our national security to ban people from Canada? To ban people from Guatemala? From Honduras? Who's next?"

Lt. Gov. Doug Chin, who led Hawaii’s challenge against the travel ban when he served as attorney general, issued a statement to the Honolulu Star Advertiser saying, “I hurt today for Hawaii families and others who have experienced discrimination and scapegoating due to President Trump's bullying remarks and orders.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, tweeted, "This decision from the Supreme Court upholds a policy that is an affront to our values. Trump's Muslim Ban is discriminatory and betrays our country’s history as a nation of immigrants."
“Today, our current vetting system is capable and successful at weeding out threats, which is why immigrants and refugees from these countries have not been terrorists or criminals, but instead have settled peacefully and are contributing to our communities," said Rep. Judy Chu, D-CA, who is chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. "Many of them fled war and violence only to find opportunity and peace here. That’s how our laws should work. But now, the Supreme Court has given license to Trump to continue labeling all Muslims as threats, denying them a chance at a better life, and encouraging xenophobia and isolating communities.
"We should not repeat racist and discriminatory policies based on national origin that are hauntingly similar to the treatment of the Asian American community at instructive times in our national history," said a statement from AAAJ. "From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the unjust and inhumane incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, our country has an unfortunate history of prejudicial laws that threaten this nation's founding ideals."

Bruno Mars BET award should silence charges of 'cultural appropriation'

Bruno Mars performs with Cardi B during the Grammy's.

SO THERE! Bruno Mars, an all-American singer, who is part Filipino, Puerto Rican and Hasidic Jew, was named Best male R&B/Pop artist at the 2018 BET awards Sunday (June 24). Beyonce easily won the female counterpart of the award.

As the only non-African American winner Sunday, the win validates Mars as one of the best R&B entertainers in the world today.

Let's hope this puts an end to accusations of "cultural appropriation" that at its most intense earlier this year bordered on racism against the Hawaii-born artist. Even Mars' multicultural background was used against him. 

"Bruno Mars 100% is a cultural appropriator. He is not black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres," said Seren Sensei, a writer and activist who tackles African-American issues in the web series “The Grapevine.”

Let's get this straight. Mars grew up in the 90s listening to R&B artists and he's never denied those influences. He said he cannot help but be influenced by R&B artists like Boyz II Men, Dr. Dre, Diddy, Aaliyah, Babyface, Whitney Houston, and TLC, to pop stars like Michael Jackson.

And he's made a point of repeatedly crediting those artists who came before him. In an interview with Latina magazine, Mars said: “When you say ‘black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop, and Motown. Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland. So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag.”

When the accusations of being a "culture vulture" started up after Mars swept the Grammy Awards earlier this year, R&B legend Charlie Wilson came to Mars' defense. The Filipino American entertainer helps "bring back that classic New Jack / R&B sound to the masses when it was left for dead years ago and hard for artists to get that sound back on mainstream radar," said Wilson.

The venerable Stevie Wonder had a one-word response to the debate over Mars. He called the whole controversy, "Bullshit!"

"God created music for everyone to enjoy, so we cannot limit ourselves by people's fears and insecurities. He's a great talent," Wonder went on to explain to TMZ. "That other stuff is just bullshit."

Early in his career, agents tried to convince Mars to limit himself to Latino songs, even though his musical influences were much wider. If we limited artists to perform based on their ethnic heritage, Mars could very well have been stuck forever singing "Tiny Bubbles" in some Waikiki bar, or "Dahil Sa Iyo at countless Filipino weddings.

The whole debate of cultural appropriation can lead to a swamp of accusations. Is soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, a Maori, singing an Italian song for an opera that takes place in Spain cultural appropriation?
Is Paul Robeson singing "Old Man River," written by a white man for a black character, cultural appropriation?
Is Eminem, a white rap artist, ripping Donald Trump, waving his arms and strutting around the stage like a Baptist preacher, stealing an art form made popular by African/Americans?

When African/American ballet dancer Misty Copeland performs in Swan Lake, a European art form and European storyline, is that culturally correct?

And the examples go on and on, up to and including Nicky Minaj using Asian costumes and symbols when she performs her new single "Chun-Li," which was inspired by the long-running character from the video game series, "Street Fighter," which is in itself a cultural mishmash of a Chinese character created by a Japanese game maker.

At the height of his career, Mars has become an easy target. He was not the first to be influenced by black artists -- can you say Elvis? How about Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones or any rock-n-roller -- nor will he be the last. That's how much we -- as Americans -- are indebted to African American culture, which in itself are extensions of the cultures from Africa.

During the height of the debate over Mars success, Black Lives Matter activist and writer Shaun King tweeted: "I just want to be practical here. Are people saying that Bruno Mars shouldn't sing? Or that when he sings he needs to somehow whiten that s--- up and sound more like Rod Stewart … I'm dead serious. What type of music is this man ‘allowed’ to do?"

"It’s about burning an artist you don’t like at the stake under the guise of faux intellectualism. White privilege is real, and so is cultural appropriation, writes music critic Stereo Williams in Billboard. "But when you ignore how much an artist has said about his influences; how much said artist clearly loves and reveres both what he does and who inspired him to do it; when that artist has composed/produced for black artists and made sure to introduce non-black audiences to his faves by shouting out Teddy Riley, Babyface and Jam & Lewis during his Grammys acceptance speech; you’re manufacturing a villain for your own agenda."

Mars success and the music he loves to perform has opened the door to other R&B artists whose art form has been essentially forgotten by the onslaught of hip-hop and rap on the airwaves and iTunes.

"Fortunately, Bruno (Mars) made it easy for us to be ourselves again," said Babyface, who said he was "humbled and honored" to be mentioned by Mars during his Grammy Award acceptance speeches.

"I'm very proud of him and his accomplishments," Babyface says. "I had the opportunity to go into the studio and work with and write with him, and I had so much respect for his work ethic 'cause it was very close to how I did it, and how I do it. I think he's genius in his approach and one of the best entertainers we've had in a very, very long time. I consider Bruno in the same category with Prince and with Michael Jackson; He's one of those guys who can actually stand with those artists, and there aren't a lot of artists I can actually say that about and say it with confidence and feel like he would deserve to be on that same stage as them."

Enuf said!

Last March, following Mars’s grand-slam win at the 2018 Grammys, the American singer-songwriter received criticism on social media for allegedly using traditionally and historically African-American genres like soul, funk, R&B, hip-hop and reggae, although he is not really an African-American.
Mars's mother was Filipina immigrant Bernadette San Pedro Bayot, while his father is Jewish-Puerto Rican Peter Hernandez.

"Bruno Mars 100% is a cultural appropriator. He is not black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres," said Seren Sensei, a writer and activist who tackles African-American issues in the web series “The Grapevine.”
“What Bruno Mars does, is he takes pre-existing work and he just completely, word-for-word recreates it, extrapolates it… He does not create it, he does not improve upon it, he does not make it better. He's a karaoke singer, he's a wedding singer, he's the person you hire to do Michael Jackson and Prince covers. Yet Bruno Mars has an Album of the Year Grammy and Prince never won an Album of the Year Grammy,” Sensei has been quoted by CNN as saying further.
African American artists, nonetheless, came to Mars’s defense.
Mars, according to R&B singer Charlie Wilson, helps "bring back that classic New Jack / R&B sound to the masses when it was left for dead years ago and hard for artists to get that sound back on mainstream radar."
Wilson is among the singers Mars has been alleged of copying.
“Keep making that funky ish, @BrunoMars!!!! Do you always love," tweeted Grammy-nominated rapper Rapsody.
Meanwhile, “Black Lives Matter" activist and writer Shaun King tweeted: "I just want to be practical here. Are people saying that Bruno Mars shouldn't sing? Or that when he sings he needs to somehow whiten that s--- up and sound more like Rod Stewart… I'm dead serious. What type of music is this man ‘allowed’ to do?"
Mars, in a February 2017 interview with Latina magazine, said that his music is a tribute to the African Americans who inspired him to become an artist.
"When you say 'black music,' understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop and Motown… Black people created it all,” he enthused.
“Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland (Africa). So, in my world, black music means everything. It's what gives America its swag.”
As a child raised in the '90s, he said he cannot help but be influenced by R&B artists like Boyz II Men, Dr. Dre, Diddy, Aaliyah, Babyface, Whitney Houston, and TLC, to pop stars like Michael Jackson.
In 2015, to prevent ticket reselling that happened during the week of Mars’s Super Bowl halftime show, Hawaii passed the “Bruno Mars Act.”
At the Grammys 2018, Mars became the second musician to win Song and Record of the Year awards with two varying songs from the same album, “24K Magic.”
As of 2018, Ed Sheeran and Mars are reportedly the world’s only artists with two songs at the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 for at least half a year.


STEVIE WONDER called attempts to besmirch Bruno Mars with accusations of cultural appropriation is "Bullshit."

There! I hope that editorial proclamation from one of musicdom's living legends settles that debate.

Mars has been under fire after winning six Grammys at the award show last month.

But I suspect that won't satisfied Mars' critics. Cultural appropriation in Mars' case is a complicated issue. Actually, I've been waiting for those accusations to break out ever since the Filipino/Puerto Rican, who was raised in Hawaii, broke out into the nationa music scene several years ago.

It appears his Mars winning six Grammy', including Album of the Year with his 24K Magic album, was the tipping point for some people.

For the past several weeks, Twitter was all abuzz about how Mars musical success using the musical genres based on African/American musical styles was because he was not black.

In the ensuing debate, Mars was called a karaloke performer who stole rhythm and blues, do-wop to win six Grammy Awards this year, including Best Album, and in the categories that have traditionally and historically rooted in Black culture -- best album, song and performance in rhythm and blues.

"Bruno Mars 100% is a cultural appropriator. He is not black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres," writer and activist Seren Sensei said in a clip for "The Grapevine," a web series that explores African-American issues.

"What Bruno Mars does, is he takes pre-existing work and he just completely, word-for-word recreates it, extrapolates it," she added. "He does not create it, he does not improve upon it, he does not make it better. He's a karaoke singer, he's a wedding singer, he's the person you hire to do Michael Jackson and Prince covers. Yet Bruno Mars has an Album of the Year Grammy and Prince never won an Album of the Year Grammy."

Part of my hesitancy of delving into this current subject is the potential that the debate to muddle the growing relationship and necessary coordination to achieve our common interests. Regular readers of this blog know that I have long advocated that the AAPI community acknowledge our debt to African/Americans in regards to the civil rights we enjoy today. I also advocate closer ties between communities of color in our fight to change the institutional mindset that reinforces the racist foundation that denies equal opportunities and employs unequal justice to people of color.

“When you say ‘black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop, and Motown. Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland,” Mars said in an interview with Latina magazine. “So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag.”

That doesn’t sound like someone who is trying to erase the origins of the music he creates. Rather, one who pays homage to it. The video for the remix to “Finesse” pays homage to “In Living Color” and opened a portal to that variety show that the younger generation may not have had before. It actually created awareness, and that’s more than what others have done before him.

Also, it’s not like Bruno Mars is just getting over because of his racial ambiguity. He’s a damn fine performer who, unlike many of today’s artists, has made sure that the stage presentation of his music is nothing short of exceptional.

If you don’t like Bruno Mars’ music, don’t listen to it. But that’s about as far as this should go. Leave the accusations of cultural appropriation at the door and be ready to apply them to someone who does openly steal from our culture. If we keep insisting on using these terms, they will ultimately lose value when they are needed most. Keep that in mind the next time you want to criticize and artist and not the system. - Andreas Hale, Revolt

Bruno Mars was a fixture atop Twitter’s trending topics this past week, and it wasn’t because of a new single or video. Mars, for what felt like the umpteenth time, was at the center of a raging debate about cultural appropriation, Black music and authenticity.
Mars has become one of the more polarizing artists in contemporary pop, ever since the singer-songwriter refashioned his shiny brand of pop into a retro-funk and new jack swing amalgamation, and especially since his 24K Magic LP took home album of the year at the 2018 Grammys in February. He’s become an artist that many flat-out love -- and that so many others just flat-out hate, for reasons that have little to do with his ability, or lack thereof.
The latest round of Bruno Hate was kicked off by a pointed but fairly innocuous Meshell Ndegeocello comment about the star. While promoting her upcoming covers album Ventriloquism, the acclaimed singer/bassist spoke to Billboard and offered this take on Mars’ sound:
“What he’s doing is karaoke, basically. With ‘Finesse,’ in particular, I think he was simply copying Bell Biv DeVoe. I think he was copying Babyface. And definitely there were some elements of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis back when they worked with Human League. I feel like there’s just all these threads running through there but not in a genuine way.”

3/11/2018 by  / Billboard
When asked about the difference between “karaoke” and artistic interpretation, Ndegeocello clarified:
“It’s really a matter of musicality and being able to manipulate the tropes in a way that makes it feel personal... It can’t just be a pastiche, where you’re copying or mimicking an old sound or just doing karaoke. There has to be a form of sincerity.”
That’s been a common critique of Bruno Mars for the past few years -- that he’s a mimic. But that aspersion in and of itself isn’t all that damning; famed retro rocker Lenny Kravitz was dismissed similarly 25 years ago by rock critics that thought he was aping Hendrix, the Beatles, Prince and Sly Stone without bringing anything original to the proceedings. And while evaluating someone for their “sincerity” and how “genuine” they are, from the outside looking in, is highly questionable -- there’s no reason to assume that Mars or anyone else is making music for cynical purposes -- what Ndegeocello said wasn’t exactly an indictment of Mars’ character.
But that was just the spark. Once the Internet’s cadre of Mars disparagers were made aware of the interview, it reignited the adjacent criticism that has long dogged Bruno Mars: that he’s a “culture vulture," an appropriator looking to gain fame and accolades by stealing from Black artists who have done such music far better than he ever could. Later in the week, a clip from an episode of the YouTube panel series The Grapevine, in which 30-year-old activist Seren Sensei slammed Mars for appropriation, went viral--leading to some cheers but mostly a whole lot of criticism of Sensei's argument.
"Bruno Mars 100 percent is a cultural appropriator,” Sensei says in the video. “He is not Black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres.” She elaborates; saying that Michael Jackson would suffer today because of artists like Mars.
"I don't even think that Michael Jackson in this day and age would be able to get to the point that he got to previously,” she offers. “Because people have realized that they prefer their black music and their black culture from a non-black face… We have artists now that are much more willing to step into ‘Black genres’ who were not willing to--they didn’t want to do it, Black music was seen a certain type of way.”
Sensei’s take is ahistorical, in that she presupposes that appropriation is now more prevalent and prominent than ever. White folks making Black music is not a new phenomenon. At the height of Michael Jackson’s popularity, there were several white artists whose music was blatantly influenced by Black music and artists. Daryl Hall and John Oates shot to the top of the charts with a mix of soul and pop that was more or less an MTV-era version of the sound coming out of Philadelphia in the ‘70s (a sound that most obviously influenced their own charting hits from that decade); much like Michael Jackson, Prince and Lionel Richie merged soul and pop in the 1980s. Madonna’s early hits were so R&B-flavored that singles like “Borderline” were played on Black radio, and some early fans initially didn’t know she was white. White rappers the Beastie Boys had the best-selling hip-hop album of the 1980s. In 1990, Vanilla Ice sold 10 million copies of To The Extreme.
George Michael’s late ’80s solo breakthrough was particularly telling. Michael’s blockbuster Faith album was also promoted heavily on Black radio because most of his singles -- particularly “Father Figure” and “One More Try” -- were more or less R&B. Prior to his solo career, several of his hits with Wham! (“Careless Whisper,” “Everything She Wants”) had gotten similar treatment. Then in 1989, Faith won the Grammy for album of the year. He would also take best R&B artist (beating Michael Jackson and Bobby Brown) and favorite R&B album (beating Keith Sweat and Gladys Knight) at the 1989 American Music Awards. The latter victory prompted Knight to criticize Michael.
"The black male artist works very hard to get his due," Gladys Knight said in a 1990 interview, featured in Michael’s appearance on The South Bank Show that same year. " If [Bobby Brown] could compete in the same category George Michael competes in, that would be a whole 'nother thing."
The criticism of Michael at the time led to the singer taking a different musical approach with his second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, in 1990. In Freedom, the posthumous Showtime documentary released in 2017, there is audio of Michael addressing the backlash. "I won these two awards that were traditionally received by Black artists, and I think there was a perception that it had gone too far," Michael said. "I see their point; I saw their point at the time. I just felt it was sad that white and black people recording together was dancing with the enemy.” Even Spike Lee and Public Enemy slammed the singer on the B-side of the group's landmark “Fight the Power” single. "I don't think there's any attempt to steal black heritage in what I'm doing," he stated in the 1990 South Bank Showfeature. "All I think is happening is I'm trying to make good music."
Michael’s words echoed those of similar white artists who’d preceded him. Elvis Presley talked about his love of black music in a 1957 interview with Jet magazine: “Rock ‘n’ roll was here a long time before I came along,” he said from the set of Jailhouse Rock. “Nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. Let’s face it; I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that. But I always liked that kind of music.”
For generations, Elvis Presley has been vilified as an underhanded thief as opposed to an artist making the music that moved him. That vilification has led to people assuming the worst about him -- that he’s a racist who said he only wanted Black people to “shine my shoes,” that he literally stole “Hound Dog” from Big Mama Thornton in 1956 and supposedly only paid her $500 -- and it led to perception becoming reality. But the shoe-shining story is apocryphal, and Mama didn’t write “Hound Dog,” and thus wouldn’t have gotten money from Elvis covering it four years later. And right now Bruno Mars is being refashioned as a villain, because people don’t know how to address the inequality and racism in the music industry that supports him without assuming that an artist they consider vacuous is making music with bad intent.
But making music without feeling has never been the same as making music without integrity.
We’ve reached a tipping point in the “cultural appropriation” conversation. It’s become knee-jerk and lacks nuance. When a prominent writer implies that Charlie Wilson is out of bounds for stepping in to defend Mars, it begs the question: what are you fighting for? Because if this is about celebrating the originators of an artform, how do you justify being disrespectful to one of funk’s living legends?
It’s not about celebrating those legends. It’s not about preserving anything. It’s about burning an artist you don’t like at the stake under the guise of faux intellectualism. White privilege is real, and so is cultural appropriation; Bruno Mars’ mixed ethnic heritage (his mother is Filipino, his father Puerto Rican) certainly doesn’t mean he’s incapable of participating in the latter. But when you ignore how much an artist has said about his influences; how much said artist clearly loves and reveres both what he does and who inspired him to do it; when that artist has composed/produced for black artists and made sure to introduce non-black audiences to his faves by shouting out Teddy Riley, Babyface (who spoke enthusiastically with Billboard about Mars, post-Grammys), and Jam & Lewis during his Grammys acceptance speech; you’re manufacturing a villain for your own agenda.
His critics will point to the lawsuits against “Uptown Funk,” Mars’ inescapable 2014 hit with Mark Ronson, as evidence that he is a thief. But there has been no such backlash against producer/songwriter Pharrell Williams, who famously lost a suit filed by the estate of Marvin Gaye against him and Robin Thicke for their hit “Blurred Lines” in 2015. In the 1990s, pop icon Janet Jackson was forced to pay an undisclosed sum to singer-songwriter Des’ree for Jackson’s 1997 hit “Got Til It’s Gone,” which borrowed from Des’ree’s 1992 song “Feel So High.” Jay-Z, Drake, Kanye West, Destiny’s Child and countless other beloved artists have been on the receiving end of such suits and had to pay money or share credit.
Meanwhile, some non-Black artists who “sound Black” have proven easier to love because their success never eclipsed their Black contemporaries or their Black influences. Bobby Caldwell, Teena Marie, Jon B, Nikka Costa -- there’s never been a time when they were disproportionately elevated by the mainstream. But an Elvis Presley or a George Michael -- and now, a Bruno Mars -- becomes a flashpoint largely because they are given a platform that too often is denied Black artists. That’s true regardless of how you feel about their music. And that’s true regardless of how much they love the music they make. That’s why despising and defaming Mars personally is unnecessary, and misplaced. There’s no evidence that his intentions aren’t pure; only that the industry is biased towards him.
So you don’t happen to like the music he makes. Which is fine. If you don’t like the sound, it stands to reason that wouldn’t change if he sold ten albums. But it doesn’t mean he’s the bad guy. If anything, it just means he makes bad music -- to you.