Gurriel’s Racist Gesture to Darvish Recalls Other “Slant eye” Photos

Over the weekend, the World Series broke my heart. First, being a Dodgers fan, the way they have lost have crushed the soul out of me… and then there was the whole Yuli Gurriel incident after hitting the home run off of Japanese/Iranian picture Yu Darvish.

In case you’ve been living in a cave, here is the image of what he did:

But just to keep it in context, he wasn’t the first to do it and won’t be the last. Here is a list of other people who did the same thing.

The Spanish Tennis Federation:

The Spanish Men’s basketball team:

Miley Cyrus and friends:

Joe Jonas:

Brazilian tennis player:

Uruguayan soccer player:

Another baseball player:

A failed one, but the intent was there… Kate Gosselin:

Argentinian soccer team:

And there are others. Lots of others. In fact, so many I got tired of saving images off of Google and uploading them here. Let’s just be clear, these are not okay and not funny. And WE ARE OFFENDED.

Follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1

Chinese immigrant Hongbin Gu responds to social media criticism on bid for Chapel Hill Town Council

I saw this article by Durham, North Carolina’s The Hearld Sun posted on Facebook recently and was outraged by what I had read, and immediately made a small contribution to Hongbin Gu’s campaign for city council in Chapel Hill:

“She’s not US born,” [member of the Orange County Local Facebook group, Douglas] Roberts wrote. “What’s happened to us?”

Roberts, when asked in a comment whether Gu living in the U.S. for 22 years was enough for her to be considered American, said, “born in the USA works, born a North Carolinian is better.”

Gu, 49, responded to the social media criticism by posting her immigration story.

She was born during the Cultural Revolution in China, she said, and her parents were sent to labor camps when she was barely a month old.

Gu remembers seeing photos of tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square that brutally put down student protests in Beijing in June 1989. Gu said she was a student in Shanghai at the time and participated in similar marches and protests as part of the nationwide pro-democracy movement led by students.

“I think my experience, especially coming from an authoritarian state, makes me appreciate even more this democratic system we have over here,” Gu said.

Gu came to Chapel Hill two decades ago with just $50 in her pocket, and now has a family and researches autism as a faculty member in the psychiatry department at the UNC School of Medicine. Gu has a Ph.D in mathematical psychology.

“As an immigrant, I actually appreciate more about how valuable our system is, what it really means, and what kind of sacrifices people have made to actually make this system happen in this country,” Gu said.

Candidates for municipal office do not have to be born in the United States. They do need to be U.S. citizens, at least 21 years old, registered to vote, live in the municipality and not be a convicted felon, according to the Orange County Board of Elections.

Gu became a U.S. citizen in 2015, she said.

I thought Gu’s response was brilliant. I myself was the son of Taiwanese immigrant parents and I know my father came with almost nothing to the U.S. when he came for graduate school (in fact, he didn’t have enough money to fly all the way to Atlanta – he had to take the bus cross country from LA to Atlanta).

Except for Native Americans, it boggles my mind that some Americans refuse to recognize that the United States is a country of immigrants, and built by immigrants. The U.S. is a country that is built on ideas, not based on race. If Gu happened to have been a European immigrant, I wonder if she would have received this kind of criticism? I doubt it. In the age of Trump, I’m not surprised, but am disgusted, by this kind of criticism (I mean, after all, Melania, violated immigration law).

 

 

Wong Fu Productions: Asian Bachelorette

From a racial perspective, the reality TV shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette has been somewhat contorversial, considering that for most of the TV series existence, both shows has been pretty white. And 8Asians has covered this issue with blog posts such as:

Wong Fu Productions does an *awesome* and hilarious parody of the shows and highlights a lot of the issues related to the stereotypes of Asian American men.

The production quality is also through the roof – very similar to what you’d expect to see from a network show.

I thought the actress, Jamie LaBarber, who plays the Bachelorette,  does a great job, and couldn’t help notice that her red dress was quite a bit revealing and loose fitting …

There were some really funny lines pick-up lines that the Asian bachelor use. But what I think the parody does best is parody the style, conflict and emotions found in the The Bachelor & The Bachelorette shows.

Kristina Wong’s “How to Not Pick Up Asian Chicks”

I think I first heard of Kristina Wong (“solo performer, writer, actor, educator, culture jammer, and filmmaker”) around her antics of trying to marry her dream husband, Taiwanese American NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin, and her viral TV interview on  which was freaking hilarious on why everyone wants to date Asian women. Last April 2016, I also had a chance to catch her live in her excellent, excellent solo performance of “The Wong Street Journal.

Wong has now released a web series called “Kristina Wong’s How to Pick Up Asian Chicks” that has funny women like me, Asa Akira (the porn star), Amy Hill (“Crazy Ex Girlfriend” and “Unreal”) and child actor Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (“Modern Family”) and 15 other APIA women. The premise goes:

“Essentially, there exists a genre of self-published books written by white men on how to pick-up Asian women with such literary titles as “Asian Milf Hunting” and “Everyman’s Guide to Asian Sex.”  In the spirit of Jimmy Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” I had Asian American women read and respond to some of their writing on camera.  I bought six of these books (with my hard earned money) and we are releasing one episode per book!”

Here are the videos – enjoy!

Continue reading “Kristina Wong’s “How to Not Pick Up Asian Chicks””

8Books Review: “The Leavers” by Lisa Ko

Lisa Ko’s debut novel, The Leavers, follows a mother and son separated by immigration agents, borders, and new families. Deming Guo wakes up one day in the Bronx to find that his mother Polly has disappeared. Soon, he is Daniel Wilkinson of upstate New York. We follow Daniel as he struggles through high school, the emotional turmoil of his mom’s abrupt departure, makes a friend who isn’t white, makes a friend who was adopted from China (same but different), and graduates high school. Until he learns some information about his mom’s whereabouts.

The novel flits back and forth between Daniel’s story and Polly’s, told from her own perspective. But while we follow Daniel’s story more or less linearly, Polly’s unfolds more circuitously. From her present life in China married to a successful businessman who doesn’t know she ever had a son, we follow Polly’s life backwards and around: Days raising Deming in the Bronx to her life as a child in China, to the terrifying series of events that led to her forced separation from her son unfolding in the very last pages.

This is a story about family, about bonds that are broken and reforged. About immigration and injustice. About forgiveness and moving forward. Who are the people who live in between and how will they find their way? Lisa Ko’s two protagonists are deeply human, flawed and enticing, shaped by circumstances often beyond their control, yet seemingly fully aware of the choices they make. In the end, Polly and Deming search for themselves, in each other and in constant turmoil over what kind of life to lead. Parts of The Leavers are truly gripping, stunning in their storytelling arc, in other places, a bit slow, but overall, Ko offers an interesting arc and a truth about our current time.

8Books Review: “Trespassers?: Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia”

Because I had grown up in neighboring Newark and then lived in Fremont California for many years before moving to San Jose, I was intensely curious to read what Trespassers? Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia by Willow S. Lung-Amam had to say about Asian Americans life in suburban Fremont.  Would it present anything that I didn’t know already? After reading the book, I was surprised at how much was new to me – primarily the amount of resistance Fremont’s Asian American community encountered when it starting asserting itself in areas ranging from education to shopping centers to housing.

Continue reading “8Books Review: “Trespassers?: Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia””

8Books Review: “The Hope of Another Spring: Takuichi Fujii”

The Hope of Another Spring: Takuichi Fujii, Artists and Wartime Witness brings Fujii’s art to a broader audience with the stunning pages from a diary he kept while incarcerated during World War II. Written by Barbara Johns and with an introduction by the artist’s grandson Sandy Kita, this book offers a historical, art historical, and also deeply personal insight on to Takuichi Fujii. The first half delves into Fujii’s biography, providing an overview of his life in Seattle and the position of Japanese issei artists within the West Coast art scene, before delving into his family’s forced relocation first to the detention camp in Puyallup, Washington, and then to Minidoka, Idaho. The author also provides a as thorough an accounting of Fujii’s career and life work as possible.

But the gem of this book is the reproduction of Fujii’s diary that takes up the second half. His sketches and their accompanying notes (diary entires of a sort) provide a detailed look at life inside a Japanese internment camp and the emotional turmoil of that experience. The text ranged from a simple description to more of a thought out musing. It’s very poetic in styling and voice. All told, the works provide an intimate portrait of this life behind barbed wire fences. The Hope of Another Spring offers an issei artist’s perspective to our understanding of Japanese American’s wartime incarceration, while also bringing a valuable study of Fujii and his artistic journey and long career.

My Father’s Lost Concentration Camp (Pt. 2 of 2)

In April of this year, I was asked by Southern California Public Radio to do a presentation about my family as part of their new series called, Unheard LA. The following is the video from my talk, followed by my original speech (broken into two parts). Please note, the text is from the original draft of the speech, so at points is considerably different than the actual talk I gave.

https://www.facebook.com/KPCCInPerson/videos/1461691680518601/

Be sure to read, Part 1. 

CHAPTER 5: The story (cont.)

The “camp” my family was sent to was in Topaz, Utah.

Now imagine: People going from sunny and WARM Hawaii to the high deserts of Utah—where in the winter there was a snow on the ground and in the summer it was often over 100 degrees. They couldn’t have been prepared for that.

It is important not only to know where they were but why. In 1943, America needed soldiers and people to help the war effort. And there were 120,000 Japanese Americans sitting idly in these “camps.” But the problem was that the government couldn’t tell the “good” Japanese Americans versus the “bad” Japanese Americans. So, they created a loyalty questionnaire.

The two most important questions were questions 27-28.

There were only two possible answers to these questions. Yes, Yes and No, No. Answering one of them no, meant you were answering them both no. These two questions literally divided my community and its effects can still be felt today.

So why did people answer yes-yes? It’s pretty simple actually. They were loyal and willing to prove it. And they had no allegiances to any other country. The No-Nos were a bit more complicated. Some said, take me out of camp, take me out of this prison, I’m willing to answer yes, until then: No. And they believed Question 28 was a trick question, because the basic underlying assumption was that you had allegiances to another country.

How did my grandfather answer these questions? No Question 27 and No to Question 28.

Here are my grandfather’s words on why he answered the way he did:

  1. As an American citizen, he was insulted.
  2. He thought if he answered yes-yes, he and his family would be released on the mainland where they had no friends and family and into communities where anti-Japanese sentiment prevailed.
  3. If they were going to be deported anyway – as my grandfather believed – a ‘yes’ answer would not look good.

And, because of his answer, they were sent to Tule Lake.

…where all the “bad” Japanese were sent.

In 1944, the US government passed a law that allowed American born citizens to renounce their citizenship voluntarily during wartime. The bill was designed to pave the way for the mass deportation of Japanese Americans after the war.

It was under this law that my grandfather (and other Japanese Americans like him) renounced his citizenship. He said he did this because he was convinced that Japanese Americans were going to be deported to Japan and it’s better to be first rather than last in line. Secondly, there were pro-Japanese factions in camps that threatened him and his family if he didn’t renounce his citizenship.

Once Tule Lake closed, they were sent to Crystal City, Texas.

This camp was for an “enemy aliens” and had to adhere to the Geneva Conventions, meaning better food and shelter than the “regular camps”. And when I looked into it, there was a swimming pool in Crystal City

After the war, my grandfather and other Japanese Americans realized renouncing their citizenship was a mistake. They worked with Wayne Collins, a wonderful lawyer from San Francisco, who said, “You can no more resign your citizenship in a time of war than you can resign from the human race.” He argued their renunciations had been the result of the unlawful detention and the terrible conditions in Tule Lake and not their decision.

My grandfather argued he was an American by birth. His rights had been violated. But he wanted to remain in the country.

After much hand wringing, my grandfather and his family were allowed to stay…

… they were given $25 dollars each and one way tickets back to Hawaii. Their citizenship was returned to them 10 years later.

I don’t look at my grandfather’s story through rose-colored glasses. There are many disturbing things about his story. In fact, the first time I read it I thought he was a spy. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away before I was born. I have so many questions I wish I could ask him. The most important being, did he know about Pearl Harbor.

But even without those answers, I no longer believe he was a spy. He just got caught in a wave of hysteria and was making the decisions he thought was best for him and his family. Blaming my grandfather also takes blame away from the government, who incarcerated 120,000 based entirely on their ethnicity.

Now that I know the story, I use every opportunity to pass the story to my son.

CHAPTER 6: Passing the story

It started with a trip to Manzanar when he was four.

But this was not just a one-time thing. Every time we pass places where Japanese Americans were incarcerated here in Southern California, I make sure to remind him. So that includes Santa Anita Race track, Griffith Park, Pomona Fair Grounds, and Tuna Canyon. I tell him, “this is where they locked up our people.”

This is my life’s work, to share the story of my family and others who were locked up. In fact, I constantly tell my son that we, as decadents of people who were locked up in these “camps,” have a moral responsibility to make sure that it never happens again to anyone ever. And I share it with all of you in the hopes we don’t let history repeat itself again.

Follow me on Twitter @ksakai1.

My Father’s Lost Concentration Camp (Pt. 1 of 2)

In April of this year, I was asked by Southern California Public Radio to do a presentation about my family as part of their new series called, Unheard LA. The following is the video from my talk, followed by my original speech (broken into two parts). Please note, the text is from the original draft of the speech, so at points is considerably different than the actual talk I gave.

https://www.facebook.com/KPCCInPerson/videos/1461691680518601/

CHAPTER 1: My hero

My father’s name was Walter Sakai. He was my hero. I know a lot of people say that about their dad’s, and I’m sure they mean it, but I had a special relationship with him. You see, he had a stroke when I was born that left him unable to work. Because of it, he took care of me and we got to be very close.

The one part of him that I never understood was what happened to him when he was in “camp.”

CHAPTER 2: My understanding of what happened

“Camp” is shorthand in Japanese American for the “internment camp” or more accurately, “concentration camp.” I know people always freak out when they hear that word. This is no disrespect to what happened in Europe, because those were much worse, those were death camps. What happened here is the picture book definition of a concentration camp. In fact, the people in government originally called it a concentration camp. Calling it an internment camp is a euphemism. Another euphemism from that time is “relocation” instead of what it really was an “incarceration.”

One of the earliest memories I have of my father was him trying to make sense of what happened to him when he was a child. Time, sickness, and age had worn down his memory until he had only three left of his time in camp.

  1. His dad worked for the “Japanese government” and that’s why they were taken.
  2. That they had been in the Tule Lake, Northern California camp.
  3. That the food was really bad.

No one else in the family seemed to remember much more. When I asked my uncle, the oldest child in my father’s family, he told me they were in Topaz, Utah. And my aunt, my dad’s older sister, said they were Crystal City, Texas. My aunt also remembered a swimming pool at Crystal City! A swimming pool? In a concentration camp? What’s unusual about all of this was that most Hawaiian Japanese were not taken to the camps. So why them?

The one thing everyone said was that neither of my grandparents wanted to discuss what happened and that my grandmother would have a visceral reaction when she thought about her time in “camp.”

CHAPTER 3: Trying to find his story

Just because my father wasn’t sure what happened to him, didn’t mean “camp” didn’t keep popping up in our lives.

In 1988, my father received his twenty thousand dollars and an official apology from the government. I remember how much it meant to him when he got it. It was vindication that what happened was wrong.

A few years after that, my father took me to the Japanese American National Museum, which was relatively new when we went. I only remember one thing from the trip, my father looking up his father (my grandfather) in the library. The records indicated that my grandfather was a mechanic. My father didn’t like that! He said he wasn’t a mechanic and we left.

I didn’t see this at the time but my father was yearning to find out answers as to what happened and why.

CHAPTER 4: My path to the story

It wasn’t until I started working at the Japanese American National Museum in my mid-twenties that I started to ask questions about what happened. Being around Japanese American history and culture as well as people who had been in camp, I suddenly needed to know my family’s story. Everyone who knew—including my father—had passed away or didn’t remember much, so I started to do research. I wrote to the National Archives, Dept. of Justice, and the FBI…

CHAPTER 5: The story

… and this is the story I found…  I hope this puts my father’s soul to rest.

My grandfather was a NISEI, a second generation, or in other words an American citizen.

My father had been right, my grandfather worked for the Japanese government. He was a clerk in the consulate’s office in Honolulu which was the equivalent of working for the Taliban in New York City right before 9/11. Not a great place for him to have been.

The FBI believed my grandfather was pro-Japanese with anti-American sentiment, more “old-time Japanese” than anything else.

My grandfather was taken by the FBI and sent to Sand Island in Hawaii. He was accused of three things:

1. In 1937, he and another consulate official took a camera from a naval intelligence officer who was taking a picture of a Japanese ship.

2. During a hearing, he admitted seeing other consulate officials acting suspiciously and did not report it to the proper authorities.

3.  And probably most damming, he was paid to burn paperwork on August 1, 1941.

The charges were vacated but the government considered him so much of a danger thhat he could not be released. So, they sent him (and my family) to the camps on the mainland.

To be continued…

Follow me on Twitter @ksakai1.

NPR: His Life Cut Short, Vincent Chin Is Remembered For What Might Have Been – 35 Years Later

Recently, NPR interviewed Vincent Chin’s best friend and best nan, Gary Koivu, to remember Chin, on the 35th anniversary of his death:

 

“Gary Koivu met Chin when they were in the first grade and their teacher introduced Chin to the rest of the class. They were friends for more than 20 years and Chin asked Koivu to be the best man in his wedding.

There was an auto worker,” Koivu says. “He said to Vincent, ‘Because of little mother f****** like you, a lot of Americans are losing their jobs.’ Vincent wasn’t Japanese. He was Chinese [American], but that didn’t matter. … He was Asian.”


Chin died four days later on June 23, 1982.

Ebens and Nitz were sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $3,000.

After his death 35 years ago [today], the federal case against Ebens and Nitz was the first time the Civil Rights Act was used in a case involving an Asian-American victim. Chin’s death went on to become a rallying cry for stronger federal hate crime legislation.”

 

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I first blogged about remembering the 25th anniversary of Chin’s death.

In the age of Trump and his hateful rhetoric, it’s no surprise that violence against Muslims and Hispanics is way up. I grew up in the Eighties, so I do remember the rhetoric against the Japanese as Americans feared that Japan was overtaking the United States as an economic superpower (how did that turn out?)

If you want to learn more about Vincent Chin and the trial, the award winning Who Killed Vincent Chin can be found on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/rYY3nehKOBU

A must watch for anybody interested in Asian American history.

The Daily Show: The Slants & The Right to Discriminate Against Yourself

If you hadn’t heard recently, there was a Supreme Court decision involving the Asian American band called The Slantsthat was settled in their favor:

“Members of the Asian-American rock band The Slants have the right to call themselves by a disparaging name, the Supreme Court says, in a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases.

The Slants’ frontman, Simon Tam, filed a lawsuit after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office kept the band from registering its name and rejected its appeal, citing the Lanham Act, which prohibits any trademark that could “disparage … or bring … into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead,” as the court states.

After a federal court agreed with Tam and his band, the Patent and Trademark Office sued to avoid being compelled to register its name as a trademark. On Monday, the Supreme Court sided with The Slants.”

The Daily Show’s Ronny Chieng interviews The Slants to find out why the Asian American musicians went to the Supreme Court to fight for their right to use the racially insensitive band name – basically because of the principal. Personally, I agree with the Supreme Court ruling. I don’t necessarily agree with The Slants calling themselves The Slants, but they have the right to, according to the First Amendment and now with the Supreme Court ruling. Hopefully The Slants will be known more for their music, than the court ruling, since I’ve only heard of the band because of the Supreme Court case. – unlike Far East Movement, where I didn’t even know they were an Asian American band – only that they had a hit song, Like a G6.

EDITOR’S NOTE FROM JOZ:
Simon Tam of The Slants had previously written two guest posts at 8Asians about the subject:
Slanted Process: US Trademark Office Says Anyone (Except Asians) Can Trademark “The Slants” [2/23/2013] and Simon Tam of The Slants: “I am not the floodgate of racism that some think I am.” [8/4/2015]

HBO’s Silicon Valley’s VC-Bro ‘Ed Chen’ – Breaking the Stereotype

Recently, I had blogged about HBO’s Silicon Valley portrayal of Asian stereotypes, specifically about how I was not a fan of the character Jian-Yang.

One character I did forget to mention, was the venture capitalist (VC) Ed Chen, who is portrayed by actor Tim Chiou. Ed Chen comes across as any other douche bag, venture capitalist “Silicon Valley bro.” Chen could be of any race – but he’s not a stereotypical geeky Asian American, and in fact, in a recent episode, you see Chen take off his shirt to play basketball, and he’s pretty good looking if you ask me:

I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have a broad range of Asian American men to be portrayed – just like Caucasian men.