Friday, August 31, 2018

DOJ sides against Harvard; Asian Americans win and lose in admissions case

A Harvard student celebrates her graduation from the Ivy League university.

SOME OF TODAY'S HEADLINES read: "DOJ sides with Asian Americans against Harvard admissions." They could easily have said, "DOJ goes against Asian Americans in Harvard admissions."

Asian Americans were on both sides of the controversy over Harvard's admissions procedures. Studies show that the vast majority of Asian Americans support the use of race in implementing affirmative action programs.

Today (Aug. 30), the Department of Justice sided with the plaintiffs challenging Harvard when it filed a Statement of Interest on the side of the plaintiff in Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President And Fellows Of Harvard College in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. 

Also today, civil rights advocates Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) alongside the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Boston-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, and pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter, filed a second amicus curiae, “friend of the court,” brief on behalf of a diverse group of students, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who support Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy. The students have special status in the case, which allows them to submit evidence and participate in oral argument. 
RELATED: Asian Americans overwhelmingly support affirmative action
“The reality is that racism and segregation continue to unfairly limit educational opportunities in K-12 for students of color,” said Nicole Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles. “Race also shapes our life experience and is part of who we are and what we bring to the table. The consideration of race as one of many factors in holistic admissions recognizes those realities. That recognition should not be conflated with unlawful discrimination against Asian Americans.”

Ochi continues, “The evidence is clear that Harvard’s constitutional consideration of race in a holistic admissions process benefits underrepresented minority students, including Asian Americans. As a civil rights organization that fights every day to end racism against Asian Americans and other people of color, we know that ending the inclusionary consideration of race will exacerbate, rather than ameliorate any problems with racial bias that Asian Americans experience.”

At the heart of this case is a dispute about how to define and measure “merit.” But contrary to the plaintiffs’ assertions, flat numerical indicators like SAT scores and grade point averages are not colorblind measures of merit. They capture and magnify racial inequalities in K-12 education, bias in the tests and the test-taking experience, and cannot be fairly evaluated out of context. 

Research also confirms that the most promising students are not always the ones with the highest SAT scores or the best GPA and that non-academic factors that predict success like grit, resourcefulness, creativity, and critical thinking are independent of (or even correlate negatively with) these traditional academic measures.

“America’s version of meritocracy is not race-blind,” said Jang Lee, a senior at Harvard who is part of the student amici group with special status before the court. “Though the opposition says we should not be using race to decide our children’s destinies, race had already bound our destinies since birth.”

The plaintiff, Students For Fair Admissions, an organization created by conservative advocates to dismantle affirmative action, alleges that Harvard College intentionally discriminates against Asian American applicants when making admissions decisions. The plaintiff seeks relief from Harvard’s alleged discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a cornerstone civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. 

The DOJ opened an investigation into Harvard’s admissions process in 2017 based upon a complaint filed by more than 60 Asian-American organizations.

As a condition of receiving millions of dollars in federal funding every year, Harvard specifically agrees to not discriminate on the basis of race in its admissions decisions, says a DOJ press release. The Justice Department believes the students and parents who brought this suit have presented evidence that Harvard’s use of race unlawfully discriminates against Asian Americans.

“No American should be denied admission to school because of their race," said 
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "As a recipient of taxpayer dollars, Harvard has a responsibility to conduct its admissions policy without racial discrimination by using meaningful admissions criteria that meet lawful requirements. The Department of Justice has the responsibility to protect the civil rights of the American people."

Sessions argued the school’s use of a “personal rating,” which includes highly subjective factors such as being a “good person” or “likeability,” may be biased against Asian-Americans. Sessions said the school admits that it scores Asian American applicants lower on personal rating than other students.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in previous anti-affirmative action cases that universities and colleges can use race as a factor, if it i not the only factor, in deciding a student's admissability. 

However, the DOJ contends that Harvard—while using race to make admissions decisions for more than 45 years — has never seriously considered alternative, race-neutral ways to compile a diverse student body, which it is required to do under existing law.

If the court decides that Harvard has discriminated against Asian Americans, as the plaintiff contends, it would be blow against affirmative action policies used by colleges to have a  racially diverse student body, a factor in creating a better learning environment, according to numerous studies.

“I have benefited from the diversity at Harvard that is made possible by its holistic, race-conscious admissions policy,” said Alex Zhang, a junior at Harvard who is also part of the student amici group. 

“At Harvard, I have found a community of Asian Americans and other students of color that immeasurably contributed to my personal development. I think that Harvard still has a long way to go when it comes to race. Improving the racial climate for Asian Americans and supporting affirmative action programs are not mutually exclusive, they are complementary efforts to reduce racial bias,” said Zhang.

“Asian Americans will never have a fair shot at life in America until racism is eradicated from this country,” said Daniel Lu, a junior at Harvard who is also part of the student amici group. “We need affirmative action to help address this racism, but it is far from enough.”

TGIF Feature: Notes while waiting in line for Filipino food

Francesca Manto interviews Bad Saint chef Tom Cunanan in the newest episode of 'Halo Halo.'

I DON'T KNOW about standing in line for three hours waiting for a restaurant to open is something I can do, but apparently lots of other people are doing it in order to eat at perhaps the best-known Filipino American restaurant in the U.S.

There are only 24 seats in the Washington, D.C. restaurant and no reservations are taken, which explains why people line up early for the 5-star restaurant. "Half the people who come in have never eaten Filipino food before," co-owner Genevieve Villamora says proudly.

It's been two years since Bad Saint was named as one of the best new restaurants in the country but it appears that high standard has been maintained as the waiting line keeps getting longer. Eater, the food-lovers website includes Bad Saint as one of the 38 best in America.

Eater's Halo Halo, hosted by Francesca Manto visits Bad Saint in its newest episode and speaks to owner Genevieve Villamora and chef Tom Cunanan, who visited the Philippines for the first time only last year. His standard and ideas for cooking come from his late mother. "I think, she'd be proud of me," he says.

Note: The name of the restaurant Bad Saint is derived from Saint Malo, the earliest Filipino settlement in North America, and quite possibly the first Asian American community, founded in 1763 in the Louisiana bayous. Its earliest inhabitants were reportedly Filipino sailors who deserted the Spanish galleons that used to sail to the Philippines from Mexico.
* * *

SOME OF THE POPULAR Filipino food trucks, which are playing an important role of exposing Philippine cuisine to the general public, are taking the next natural step towards brick-and-mortar restaurants.

The Bay Area food truck, Jeepney Guy, will be operating out of a new place in West Oakland to serve its delicious lechon, roasted pig, with its potato-chip-like skin, and other Filipino dishes.

Called 7th West, (1255 7th St.) the space will include a permanent kitchen for Filipino food purveyor Jeepney Guy owner Dennis Villafranca, an outdoor beer garden, a small dog park, and Filipino-inspired cocktails.

The restaurant/bar/event center will allow Villafranca to spread his wings and offer a including fun bar snacks like fried pig ears and chicken nuggets dredged in mochi flour and coconut milk, plus larger rice plates piled with adobo ribs or buttery shrimp. There are a couple of vegan options, too.
The space is a huge 8,500 square feet, with about half of it being an indoor warehouse space that’s part art gallery, bar, restaurant, and arcade. The other half will be transformed to an outdoor event/eating space. The space will open later this summer.
The founders are all Oakland business owners: Pancho Kachingwe is a cofounder of The Hatch, Assan Jethmal is the founder of Good Mother Gallery, and Kevin Pelgone and Donna Brinkman are both from the Overlook Lounge - the latter three are Filipino Americans.
Together, they came up with the idea of having open, outdoor space that can host community events as opposed to a typical bar. “More of a social hub, and we want it to be accessible,” Kachingwe said. “A lot of spaces charge a lot of money to have events. That’s not what we’re going for.”
In addition, there will be a dog run outside. “We want to be so inclusive that even your pets will want to come and hang out,” Pelgone said.
At some point, the owners hope to serve halo-halo, the Filipino shaved ice dessert made with ube ice cream, coconut, sweet beans, and more.
Note: Murals by local artists decorate the inside and outside of the building. West Oakland was once a thriving arts district flush with African American blues and jazz venues, but many local Black-owned businesses were pushed out with the creation of the West Oakand BART station, the post office, and the elevated freeway, as well as more recent redevelopment. 
“We really wanted to do something that revitalized the area, but we’re also cautious of what the area used to be, and not create a space that gentrifies the area, but supports the area,” Kachingwe said.
* * *
Hometown Heroes features the food of Likha.

A COUPLE of miles north of 7th West in Emeryville, the Hometown Heroes sportsbar is sporting a new menu. Likha will take over the kitchen serving a menu of modernized Filipino classics like kare kare and lumpia.
Bobby Punla and Jan Dela Paz are the two chefs behind Likha, which is Tagalog for "to create."

Bobby Punla and Jan Dela Paz.
Punla is a first generation Filipino American from Richmond, while Dela Paz is a native of Manila who has been living in the United States for the past 15 years. Both chefs have extensive fine dining experience: Dela Paz spent almost a decade in the Michelin-starred kitchen of Napa’s La Toque, while Punla worked at NYC’s NoMad restaurant, from the team behind Eleven Madison Park. Eventually, the two met while cooking at Oakland's Ramen Shop.
Inspired by Bad Saint, Punla and Dela Paz are trying different techniques they’ve picked up in fine dining kitchens, and experimenting with plating to add color and texture to classic Filipino dishes — a new shortrib kare kare, a peanut stew with fermented shrimp paste, is topped with crispy, fried tripe, and a longanisa “spam,” is their take on a popular sweet and savory Filipino sausage.
“We thought Filipino food really needed a voice here, something to keep the tradition but show how we could modernize the food,” says Punla. “Filipinos are the second biggest population in the bay area but there are very few Filipino restaurants, unless you go to Daly City where food is coming out of a chafing dish.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

AAPI Vote 2018: Filipina American wins Democratic nod in Florida race

A FILIPINA AMERICAN physician became the third Asian American candidate who will run in a congressional race for Florida this November.
Dr. Jennifer Mijares-Zimmerman beat fellow Democrat Phil Ehr even though the latter had raised six-times more campaign funds than Mijares-Zimmerman, 
In November, she will face off against incumbent, Rep. Matt Gaetz, who easily won his Republican race.
Mijarez-Zimmerman will have the odds stacked against her. District 1 is perhaps the most Republican of Florida's congressional districts. About 37,000 Democrats voted last Tuesday, but about 100,000 Republicans cast their ballots. Although there were three Republicans had three candidates in the primary, Gaentz, by himself, had more votes than the two Democrats combined.
Mijares-Zzimmerman hopes that there will be a blue wave this November that will help her defeat Gaentz, who has been endorsed by Donald Trump.
"Battles are not always won by the ones who have the biggest weapons or the most money. You have to have a purpose," she said.
Mijares-Zimmerman joins Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Sanjay Patel, running in District 7 and 9, respectively, as Asian American candidates for Florida's congressional seats this November.

Mijares-Zimmerman has been a pediatrician in Santa Rosa County for two decades. She told WearTV after caring for children and families in Florida’s 1st congressional district, she knows how important healthcare is for everyone. It was Trump's attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act that inspired her to run against Trump supporter Gaentz.

What did she learn from the primary election?

"The number one thing I have learned is that people actually listen to your truths. if you speak from the heart and you speak the truth people will appreciate that and that is what my campaign was based on. That there is love not hatred that we can work together because one of my hashtags is not only this woman can, but together we rise," she said.

25th ann'y:'Joy Luck Club' may get a sequel

The cast of 'The Joy Luck Club' as seen above, may add another generation if a sequel is made.


A SEQUEL may be in the works for the film, The Joy Luck Club, 25 years after the original made its debut.

The film’s producer, Ronald Bass, told Entertainment Tonight that a script is being circulated around Hollywood for both a film project and a TV series.

“Both the series or sequel, if they happen, will be the same cast 25 years later,” Bass said. “In other words, the mothers are now grandmothers. The daughters are now mothers and they each have a millennial daughter of their own. So, now it would be a three generation – what’s that like in mother-daughter relations? Today’s world versus first, second generations and immigrants.”

Bass made the announcement during a 25th anniversary celebration of the film held earlier this week at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills.

The announcement also comes just days after the debut of Crazy Rich Asians and the excitement and ticket sales that film has generated.

“We’ve crossed into that area where we can finally say to Hollywood in general we don’t have to be just a genre of ethnic movies. We can be anything,” said writer/producer Amy Tan to KABC.

Twenty-five years later, The Joy Luck Club still resonates with fans.

“We’re all struggling with the same issues. We all want to connect, we all want to belong, we’re all dealing with family members and trying to find our place in the world,” said Lauren Tom who starred in the original.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

AAPI Vote 2018: Asian Americans look towards midterms after primary victories in Arizona and Florida

THREE ASIAN AMERICANS, running as Democrats for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, won their party primaries today (Aug. 28) and now must gear up for the November mid-term elections.

Indian American Hiral Tipimeni will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko for Arizona's 8th congressional district just months after they ran against each other in a special election to replace disgraced former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks.

Since Lesko has been in Washington, she cemented her conservative credentials by joining the Freedom Congress, the radical right wing of the GOP.

Tipirneni, a physician and cancer-research advocate came within 5 percentage points of Lesko in April in the conservative district even though Republicans have a 17-percentage point registration advantage.

Tipirneni, who was unopposed, said she looks forward to have the chance to face off again against Lesko. She says the race for the special election was only eight weeks long, and will build on the momentum for the November contest.

“I’m really excited to do this again so quickly,” she said. “We are ready to take on that challenge.”

The close result in the special election was seen as evidence that Democrats are newly competitive in Arizona districts where they haven’t won in a generation.

In Florida, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Vietnamese American, easily won her primary to run for a second term representing congressional district 7.

She soundly beat her opponent, Chardo Richardson, who was endorsed by Social Democrat Alexandria Ocasio Coretez, who unseated incumbent.

"I look forward to a civil general election campaign based on ideas, values, and our different visions for the future of this nation," second-term congresswoman Murphy said in a statement. 

"My campaign is about jobs, security, and equality, and I’m proud of the grassroots support we've received across central Florida. In a time of historic dysfunction, I have a proven record of working with both parties to get results, standing up to the president when he’s wrong, and always putting people over politics."

Republicans have targeted Florida's district 7 as a district it could flip. Republican state Rep. Mike Miller will be Murphy's challenger this November.

Sanjay Patel, an Indian American activist and organizational transformation consultant is running for Congress in Florida's 8th Congressional District fter winning the Democratic primary Tuesday.

Patel, who was a 1-year old when his family immigrated to the U.S., has two decades of experience in the government, corporate and nonprofit sectors.

“Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has proven that a campaign for the people can be won by the people – even against long odds and established incumbents,” Patel stated in a news release, citing the upstart progressive Democrat who won an upset primary victory over an incumbent in a New York congressional district this spring. “I hope our community will continue to support us as we move our campaign to the streets to knock on doors across the district.”

Although District 8's incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey‘s has better name recognition, Patel's grassroots appeals have outraised campaign funds by almost three to one.

Tule Lake Committee denied motion to halt sale of monument land

At its height during WWII, Tule Lake incarcerated 20,000 Japanese Americans.


EFFORTS by the Tule Lake Committee to halt the sale of an airport which they say will ruin both the integrity and tranquility of the incarceration camp have failed for now.
The 18-page ruling by the judge in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento Monday (Aug. 27) leaves the door open for the committee to file the motion again, which they plan to do.

“This is very encouraging, because the order gives us an opportunity to move forward. We have the opportunity for a new motion that focuses on the areas identified in the order.” said Barbara Takei to AsAmNews.

The Tule Lake Committee is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the city of TuleLake from giving the Tulelake Airport to the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma for $17,500 in legal fees, according to Rafu Shimpo.
The Committee is asking supporting organizations to file amicus briefs to protect the historic site from “adverse impacts” due to airport activities.

“The main issue is preserving the site,” said Takei. “The tribe has expressed a desire to expand aviation activities which is incompatible with preserving the site.”

Rafu Shimpo reports the city’s lawyer, Michael Colantuono, has referred to the Tule Lake site as a “piece of dirt.”

The Tule Lake Segregation Center, at its peaked imprisoned more than 18,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. It incarcerated those who refused to take a loyalty oath in protest of what they considered the unconstitutionality of the incarceration order.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Netflix slates drama on Asian American immigrant family multi-generational journey

Alan Yang is one of Hollywood's busier producers.
JOHN CHO, who stars in the just-released Searching, will have a lead role in Tigertail, an upcoming Netflix feature from screenwriter and director Alan Yang that starts shooting next week.

Tigertail “focuses on two people’s poor life choices and the consequences of those decisions, exploring themes of regret, longing, passion and repression while spanning continents and generations, from 1950s Taiwan to present-day New York City.” 

The cast for the movie includes Arrival’s Tzi Ma and The Great Indoors’ Christine Ko. 

Although the movie that starts shooting next week was already in pre-produciton before Crazy Rich Asians opened, the latter's box office and critical success should help the project's marketability.

Tigertail should also beat Crazy Rich Asians' sequel to the screen; Warner Bros. is moving ahead with a sequel, but hasn’t officially greenlit it yet.

Yang won an Emmy for writing for Netflix’s hit comedy Master of None, which he co-created with Aziz Ansari. 

Tigertail, which is partially based on events in Yang's own family’s history, is just one of the projects being prduced by the busy Yang.

Yang is also executive producing an anthology series, Little America with Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated The Big Sick.

Little America, which will be aired on Apple's new service, is inspired by the true stories featured in Epic Magazine and described on the site as “a small, collective portrait of America’s immigrants — and thereby a portrait of America itself.” The TV series will go beyond the headlines to look at the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring and unexpected lives of immigrants in America, at a time when their stories are more relevant than ever.

Yang also has a high-profile new comedy series for Amazon via Uni TV starring Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen.

Sen. Duckworth remembers fellow veteran, Sen. McCain


AS A FELLOW VETERAN, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, had a special bond with the late Sen. John McCain.

Although elected to the Senate a little more than a year ago, Duckworth met McCain years before she was elected to office, Duckworth was recovering from her injuries when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq.

She described her first meeting with McCain in an interview with NPR's Ailsa Chang.

"There I was just a couple months after having been so severely wounded. And I was sitting on the therapy bed. And it's a room full of war-wounded and most of us amputees missing one, two or even three limbs, sitting on these mats, going through our physical therapy. And he was walking around the room. It was a little bit notable because I was one of the few women.

"And he came, and he sat down next to me on the therapy bed. And we got to talking. And they introduced me. And then they said, you know, this is Captain Duckworth. She was shot down. She's a helicopter pilot," recalled Duckworth, who is Asian American. "And I said, you know, Sir, you're a great hero to me, Senator McCain. And he said, well, you and I both - you know, we have something in common. I said - you know, of course, here I am, just in awe of this great man, this hero.

"And I was hanging on to see what he was going to say," she smiled. "And he said, you know, we both flew into missiles and rockets. That didn't take a lot of - that didn't take any talent at all. Now what you do to recover is what matters.

"I had, like, done this whole build-up talking with him about how he was my hero and everything. And he said, well, I just flew into a rocket, and so did you, and that didn't take any talent. Like, OK, well, yeah, you're right.Falling out of the sky - this is not a talented thing to do," laughed Duckworth at the recollection.

"That's the thing about John McCain. He had kind of a subversive sense of humor," she said.

After McCain's death from cancer Saturday (Aug. 25), Duckworth sent out this statement:
“My heart is heavy today as I join countless Americans across our country in mourning the loss of one of our nation’s greatest leaders and statesmen, one of my personal heroes, Senator John McCain. Throughout his life – as a Naval Aviator, a Prisoner of War who endured years of torture, a Congressman, and a six-term Senator – John repeatedly showed how anything is possible when armed with determination, a deep sense of patriotism and an unbreakable will.

“His refusal to give up in the face of adversity inspired me when I was a mission-less helicopter pilot with no legs recovering at Walter Reed. In fact, I met him there for the first time when he visited us Wounded Warriors. He joked that he and I both flew into a missile and that didn’t take much skill. It’s what you do afterwards that matters. His unyielding optimism showed me there was a way to continue serving my country and to advance the core values of the nation that we both fought to protect. His integrity and commitment to putting country above all else as an elected official is an example I have tried to embrace during the comparatively short time I have had the honor of holding political office.

“I will forever treasure the privilege of working with John McCain in the Senate—even if it was only for a short time—and I will be forever grateful for the sacrifices he made in service to the greatest country the world has ever known. I hope the heights he reached and the life he led can be a lesson to us all about the power of perseverance and the ability of every American to overcome any challenge and make our country a better place.”

Japanese American playwright Wakako Yamauchi dies at 93


PIONEER PLAYWRIGHT Wakako Yamauchi died yesterday at home in Gardena, California at age 93.

Set during the Great Depression, the play delves into the racism and injustice that Asian immigrants faced in the first half of the 20th century. It won numerous accolades, including the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award and a film contract with PBS. Following this initial success, Yamauchi earned playwright grants from the prestigious Mark Taper Forum and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Many of Yamauchi’s writings were based on her own experiences growing as a second-generation Japanese American in California’s Imperial Valley. Born on October 24,1924 into a family of farmers, she had a transient childhood — her family jumped from town to town to grow their crops, due to the Alien Land Act that forbade Japanese residents from owning property. When Yamauchi was 17 years old, her family was forced to resettle in Poston, Arizona at a World War II concentration camp.

According to one of the former directors of the East West Players, Tim Dang, Yamauchi is etched into Asian American history as a playwright pioneer. Dang said to the Los Angeles Times that most of the 60 or so Asian American theater companies in the U.S., have put on a production of “And the Soul Shall Dance” in their first season.

Compared to other early Asian American playwrights, Yamauchi’s work is unique because she features strong female protagonists. She is also the only woman in this first batch of famous playwrights.

The Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles also shared a press release celebrating Yamauchi’s literary talent. The museum is home to the Wakako Yamauchi Papers, 1950–2005, that contain items she created and collected throughout these decades. After becoming a member in 1994, Yamauchi first donated her papers in 1999, and the remainder in 2007. This collection includes “drafts of scripts, letters, short stories, promotional materials, reviews, contracts and photographs,” according to the museum website.

“Wakako [Yamauchi] was an inspiring woman who was among the first writers to bring Japanese American and Asian American experiences to the stage. Her work was powerful and influential. She will be missed but her writing will live on and be appreciated forever,” said Ann Burroughs, President and CEO of Japanese American National Museum.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Lana Condor rebukes those who wanted an AsAm love interest in 'All the Boys I Ever Loved'


ACTRESS LANA CONDOR, star of All The Boys I Ever Loved, spoke up about her views on the criticism that there should have been at least one Asian American among the boys her character Lara Jean Covey crushes on.

All the Boys I Ever Loved, a romantic comedy film based on the best-selling young adult novel by Korean American author Jenny Han features three sisters whose Korean American mother died a year earlier and are being raised by their white father.

"We tried to stay really close to the book and they weren’t written that way. If Jenny was telling a different story, we would tell it," Condor told The Cut. "But I will say this: My boyfriend in real life is Cuban but he is very light-skinned. There are times when people online will say, 'Of course she’s with a white guy.' Oh, so Asian people can only love Asian people? I can only be with my race?"

"You are being racist unknowingly and continuing to put us in a box that we don’t need to be in. It’s really unfair. People should be able to love who they want to love. It’s offensive to me — you’re continuing to promote tribalism. So I can’t be with who I want to be with? These are probably the same people who have an issue with the LGBT community. It’s the same thing — you telling me who I can love is unfair," she said.

"In my experience, I’ve loved all races. It’s not like I can only be with my people. I don’t think we should be stuck to only loving people based on what they look like," said the 21-year old Vietnamese American actress. 

Condor might be missing the point of the criticism. There was an opportunity to cast an Asian American actor but the thought never crossed the mind of the director and casting director. It only seems natural that an Asian American girl would at least know one Asian American boy. It is that way in the real world. The character wouldn't necessarily had to "win" the girl's heart, but at least have him in the game.

Author Han acknowledges that Asian males need better representation beyond the old stereotypes, but not in this movie.

There is one scene in which Lara Jean, her little sister and Peter, one of the love interests, are watching Sixteen Candles and they point out the racist nature of Long Luk Dong. That's the only presence of an Asian male in the movie.

The movie, available now on Netflix, has been widely praised and Asian American girls are reportedly streaming the film over and over. Having Lara Jean and her two sister play key roles in a popular movie is a step forward and it apparently is having a positive impact on young Asian American girls.

"For the most part, the fans are really excited and happy.  ... That’s who we are trying to please at the end of the day," says Condor.

Condor hopes the success of Crazy Rich Asians and All the Boys I've Ever Loved will open up the doors not only for Asian American actors but storylines about Asian Americans.

"Hollywood screwed up in the past. They made Asians the other — a separate group that could only hang out with each other. Of course, there’s a demand for Asian male romantic leads. And Jenny (Han) says it too. There are so many stories to tell and we are just scratching the surface. We’re proud of our story and the movie we made. All of us feel like we’re a part of something really special. I’m not going to let anyone ruin that. It’s baby steps."


RIP: John McCain 1936-2018. Recalling an apology for ethnic slur; defending a Muslim American

UPDATED August 27, 2018 to include farewell letter, Hanoi tributes and his apology for using an ethnic slur.

"AND THERE'S the monument to one of your senators, John McCain," said the tour guide on a bus tour of Hanoi. By the time I got out my camera, we were way past the monument. Too late for a proper picture. Sitting in the back of the bus, I did glimpse a sculpture of man hanging by his arms.

I guess, the tour I was on didn't want to dwell on the torture of the man who would become a U.S. senator and an American icon. His 5 and one-half years in Hanoi led to his 36 years representing Arizona in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

Today, flowers and other tributes lay at the base of the sculpture in Hanoi placed there by the Vietnamese and other admirers.

It tells you the measure of the man that after being tortured by the North Vietnamese guards for all those years, so much so that both his arms had been broken so that after his captivity and release, he could no longer raise his arms above his shoulders to simply comb his hair. he led the effort in the Congress to repair relations between the U.S. and Vietnam. 

In his first campaign for the presidency in 2000, it came to light that McCain freely used the racial slur "gooks" to refer to his Vietnamese captors, but then doubled-down on his use of the racist term by stating that he thought it was an appropriate term for those who had tortured him. He tried to clarify that he used the term in reference to his prison guards, not an entire race.

Needless to say, his use of the term caused a minor uproar among Asian Americans. “I hated the gooks, and I will hate them for as long as I live,” McCain told reporters as his campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express, rolled through South Carolina. “Every single one of my POW friends, that’s what we called them.”

In the face of mounting criticism, primarily from leaders of Asian American organizations because mostly white mainstream media didn't think the slur merited their attention, the candidate on Feb. 21 issued a statement declaring that, “I will no longer use the term that has caused such discomfort. I deeply regret any pain I may have caused by my choice of words.”

"There is no reason for me to hold a grudge or anger," McCain told C-Span about visiting Hanoi. "There's certainly some individual guards who were very cruel and inflicted a lot of pain on me and others but there's certainly no sense in me hating the Vietnamese ... I hold no ill will toward them."

At the news of McCain's death last night, my thoughts turned a blog posting, "Profiles in Disappointment," I put up a couple of years ago,. In that posting, I wondered what had happened to the "maverick" senator who voted for what he thought was best for the country, politics be damned. His reputation was that he always put country first, but in recent years, he seemed to talk a good game but when the vote came, he eventually sided with the Republican leadership.

McCain showed his independence from the GOP loyalists numerous times. Three stick out in my mind.

One of McCain's shining moments occurred during his 2008 campaign against Sen. Barack Obama, McCain was speaking at one of his rallies when one of his supporters tells him that she doesn't trust Sen Obama and insists that the Illinois Democrat is an Arab.

Before she could finish her sentence, McCain shook his head and took the microphone away from her and politely defended his Democratic rival.

“No, ma’am," said McCain. "He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign issue is all about,” he said, prompting applause from some other audience members at the gathering in Minnesota.

Senator John McCain defended Huma Abedin, a Muslim American  aide to Hillary Clinton. 

The second instance occurred in 2012, McCain on took to the Senate floor to defend Huma Abedin, a top aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He blasted five fellow Republicans who have questioned Abedin's loyalty to the U.S. and alleged she has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The allegations against Abedin, a Muslim American, are an “unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant,” said McCain.

“I know Huma to be an intelligent, upstanding, hard-working, and loyal servant of our country and our government, who has devoted countless days of her life to advancing the ideals of the nation she loves and looking after its most precious interests,” said McCain,in his floor speech.

“Put simply, Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully,” McCain added.

Those two instances raised my opinion of the Arizona senator so that feeling dopped drastically after Trump appeared to win the election. That's when McCain began his futile campaign to change the GOP from within. That's why I was crestfallen when I thought McCain was all talk and when crunchtime came, he would vote with Trump supporters.
 in McCain prompted that post expressing my disappointment

I disagreed with McCain on many issues, but I never doubted that he always put our country first. I wanted the "maverick" back to stand up for what's right and good for the country. The third instance happened in dramatic fashion when he voted thumb down against Trumpcare and for the continuation of Obamacare in that late night vote caught on camera.  

Since he was diagnosed with brain cancer a little more than a year ago, McCain has been more outspoken about the Trump administration. Perhaps he knew that his time was limited and there was no longer a need to think long-term or the next election. The return of the maverick was welcomed. In today's political climate, we need more

Even when the end was near, McCain was still working to unite our country against the current White House occupant. He left specific instructions that for his eulogy, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

He left behind a final letter to the American letter, perhaps to help us get through our current malaise fostered by the administration. He wrote, in part:

To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.
'Fellow Americans' — that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and great power in the process.

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they’ve always been.
McCain concluded:
Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Read: Beyond 'Crazy Rich Asians; 8 films for a deeper dive on Asian America

John Cho and Kal Penn as Harold and Kumar broke down the Asian American stereotype.

WHAT A MONTH! #AsianAugust is trending because of the crazy good reviews for three movies featuring Asians front and center debuting within two weeks of each other.

With the overwhelming acceptance of Warner Bros.' Crazy Rich Asians, Netflix's All the Boys I've Ever Loved and the advance reviews lauding Searching with John Cho, Asian America is in the unusual position of being noticed by the rest of America.

With Crazy Rich Asians surprisingly selling almost twice the amount of tickets than predicted in its first week, the romantic comedy is impossible to ignore.

It has been 25 years since a major studio took a risk and produced The Joy Luck Club with its Asian American story of acculturation and generational clashes.

That doesn't mean there haven't been AsAm films. There have been a bevy of the independently produced movies that came out, but they were hard to find and hardly promoted with the marketing blitz a Hollywood studio like Warner Bros. is capable of.

Criticism that CRA is not presenting Asians and Asian Americans truthfully is unfair. Above all, the movie is entertainment - a diversion from reality - and not meant to be a documentary.

It is impossible for any one movie to give a well-rounded view of what it is like to be Asian and/or Asian American. Crazy Rich Asians, as important as it is in terms of exposing a side of Asians not seen by U.S. audiences, is no more representative of Asian America as The Great Gatsby is representative of white America.

The best you can hope for is to capture a slice of a very complex community representing immigrants from a score of countries, each with its own language and customs; layered on top the various levels of Americanization of generations of Asians, some of whom could have been here since the Revolutionary War.

For those of you who want a deeper dive into the Asian America. The following films present various "slices" of the contemporary AAPI community. ("Contemporary" at the time they were made.) 

The list is admittedly not meant to a complete list. I deliberately stayed away from the costume epics such as The Last Samurai, Marco Polo, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha. Also left off the list are movies in the martial arts genre that rarely delve into contemporary issues and movies about WWII. I also included a couple of films that preceded The Joy Luck Club.

Flower Drum Song (1959)

This is perhaps the first Hollywood production to feature a predominantly Asian cast and an Asian-Asian romance. It is still a rare bird in that it's a musical featuring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. It has been criticized for yielding to offensive racial and sexist stereotypes ("I Enjoy Being A Girl")and trivializing the clash of cultures. Yet, for its time, it was the first Asian American movie to introduce the undocumented immigrant experience, the Americanization of Asian immigrants. I remember smirking to myself when I saw and heard "The Other Generation." Funny, as innocent as the songs seemed back then, they gain new ironic relevance in the context of the Trumpian era.  David Henry Hwang, who revised the musical for a 2001 revival, "had a secret soft spot for the movie version. 'It was kind of a guilty pleasure ... and one of the only big Hollywood films where you could see a lot of really good Asian actors onscreen, singing and dancing and cracking jokes.'"

Joy Luck Club (1993)
The story of four Chinese immigrant women and their second generation Chinese American daughters based on the Amy Tan novel is an epic tale that explores cultural conflict and the often-turbulent relationships between the mothers and daughters and the men they married. Directed by Wayne Wang, the drama had a primarily Asian cast. It was well received well critically and was a modest box office success. It introduced a wealth of talented actors to America, including Ming Na-Wen, Rosalind Chao, Tamlyn Tomita, Russell Wong and Lisa Lu, who has a major role in Crazy Rich Asians. For a long time, it was the only Hollywood production that depicted Asian Americans in all their complexity. 

The Wedding Banquet (1993):
This early drama from Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Brokeback Mountain”) was groundbreaking in its day as it not only put the everyday lives of Asians in America on screen but that of a gay man within that community as well. Winston Chao (“The Meg”) is a successful New York “Chuppie” (Chinese yuppie) leading a conflicted life. His traditionalist parents are urging him to take a bride while, unbeknownst to them, he’s living with his boyfriend. A marriage of convenience to a female friend sets events in motion that quickly spiral out of his control.

The Debut (2000)
It was the first movie I have ever seen about the Filipino American experience. Well ... more accurately, it's the ONLY movie I've seen about that chapter of the American story. It stars Dante Basco (Hook) as teen Ben Mercado who comes to grips with his ethnicity through his sister's debut, Filipinos' public debut of their daughters akin to the Mexican Americans' quincearas.. There's no telling what might have happened to the movies stars if Gene Cajayon's heartfelt, earnest film received the big studio support given to CRA. It includes a dance-off scene that is worth the price of admission. Here's that link.

Better Luck Tomorrow (2002):
This film launched the careers of several people associated with this drama that flipped the stereotypical image of the nerdy scholar stereotype of Asian students — straight-A students on campus, dope-dealers after school by night. Most notably, director Justin Lin is responsible for a number of the “Fast and Furious” movies as well as “Star Trek Beyond.” Star John Cho is, well, John Cho (the “Star Trek” movies as well as the critically acclaimed (“Columbus,” the upcoming “Searching”). Sung Kang became a recurring character in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, Justin Tobin stars in an upcoming Cinemax series “Warrior” and Parry Shen is a regular on the soap “General Hospital.” 

Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle (2004)
I love this film because it went completely against stereotype and wasn't afraid to depict Asian Americans in a less than desirable light. What was funny was that it went beyond the art house or Asian American audiences, inspiring two more sequels. Nerdy accountant Harold (John Cho) and his irrepressible friend, Kumar (Kal Penn), get stoned watching television and find themselves utterly bewitched by a commercial for White Castle. Convinced there must be one nearby, the two set out on a late-night odyssey that takes them deep into New Jersey. Somehow, the boys manage to run afoul of rednecks, cops and even a car-stealing Neil Patrick Harris before getting anywhere near their beloved sliders.

Colma, the Musical (2007)
The low-budget musical was massively ambitious starring a cast of Asian American unknown actors and written by Filipino American H.P. Mendoza and directed by Richard Wong. The story follows the formula of young people wanting to leave a boring hometown and seek fame and fortune in the exciting big city. The earnest effort with its catchy tunes endeared itself with critics and audiences, won a bunch of festival awards and has developed a cult following despite not receiving the backing of a big-name studio.

Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014):
The American Dream realized in the streets of Queens of the 1980s when that borough was transitioning from an Italian enclave to one now dominated by Asian Americans. The movie is "more-or-less" based on the true story of Chinese gangs ruling in Chinatown. It features Harry Shum Jr (Glee),who exhibits the kind of magnetism and charisma that one would expect from a gang leader or leading man. It draws on the universal story of immigration ala The Godfather and the need for affirmation and support when you are a newcomer and part of a minority in this country.

There's more
Other indie films with Asian and/Asian American leads worth your time and have garnered critical acclaim include: The award-winning The Big Sick with Kumail Nanjiani, Gook about the racial tensions between African Americans and Korean Americans during in the L.A. riots and a pair of Canadian-American productions starring Sandra Oh, Double Happiness (Oh's first film( and Meditation Park (Oh's newest film).

Like I said, it is not a complete list but it should give you a good start in gaining further insight into the Asian Americans and their many, many stories.