Most Asian Americans say they don’t know Asian American History

I have run a number of Asian American history talks and events for an Employee Resource Group (ERG) in my company, and a common responses from my fellow employees is that they had no idea about much of the history that was being presented.  I have to confess that I often also had no idea about much that history. My fellow employees and I am not alone. A recent Pew Research Center study found that most Asian Americans admit that they are not well informed about Asian American History.

Across Asian American groups as a whole, 24% said that they had little knowledge of Asian American history, while 24% said that they were well informed. Some 37% said that they learned about Asian American history in college, and 33% learned about it from K-12 schools.  This data was part of a larger study on shared Asian American experiences and identity.

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Larry Itliong’s Son and Grandson talk about him on StoryCorps

While we often write about notable people, we rarely talk about their families, much less talk about them from the viewpoint of their families.  That is one reason that I found a particular StoryCorps story so interesting. We hear about Larry Itliong from the viewpoint of his son Johnny, who was remembers when Larry Itliong did notable labor work.

In many ways we are lucky to have this viewpoint. The fact that Larry Itliong had children was more an exception than the rule. Immigration and anti-miscegenation laws in the US during the majority of the 20th century tremendously diminished the chances of Filipino Farm workers of having families. Johnny’s voice cracks when he recalls the farm workers who died alone and unaccompanied by family members.

StoryCorps is a great resource for recording and preserving oral histories.  I have recorded my parents’ stories, and I encourage people to do the same.


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WWII Soldier Remains identified 80 years later as Wing O. Hom

Photo credit: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

We have talked about Asian Americans who have died for their country during military service, and the identification of the remains of Wing O. Hom adds another to that list. Hom, from Boston, was killed in action in Italy during World War II. Anthropological and DNA analyses were used to identify his body, which was buried at the Sicily-Rome American cemetary in Nettuna, Italy.

I was surprised to learn that there is an entire agency, called the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), that tries to identify missing military personnel. Here is the profile it has on Hom. The Sons of Liberty Museum also tracks Missing in Action (MIA) military personnel going back as far as WWI.  I looked around its list (time consuming as there are a lot of MIAs) and found a number of MIA Asian Americans.

Hom will bere buried in Brooklyn, New York on October 11, 2023.

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Lawsuit Targets One of Harvard’s Last Bastions of Affirmative Action – Legacies

After losing its affirmative action case in the US Supreme Court, Harvard is seeing one of its last bastions of affirmative action – legacy admissions – become the target of a lawsuit. Lawyers for Civil Rights filed the civil rights lawsuit on behalf of three organizations, the Chica Project, the African Community Economic Development of New England, and the Greater Boston Latino Network. These groups charge that Harvard is violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Michael Kippins from Lawyers for Civil Rights says the following:

Harvard’s practice of giving a leg-up to the children of wealthy donors and alumni – who have done nothing to deserve it – must end. This preferential treatment overwhelmingly goes to white applicants and harms efforts to diversify. Particularly in light of last week’s decision from the Supreme Court, it is imperative that the federal government act now to eliminate this unfair barrier that systematically disadvantages students of color.

Interestingly enough, this is one point where the liberals and conservatives (including those from Students for Fair Admissions, who sued Harvard and won) can agree. Legacy admissions started as a way to keep down the number of Jewish students at Ivy League Colleges. The lawsuit says that almost 70% of Harvard’s donor-related and legacy applicants are white, and legacies are 6 times more likely to be admitted than regular applicants. Legacies made up 28% of Harvard’s class of 2019.

Even if legacies as a privileged category is elminated, there are a few other remaining preferred admissions categories.  These include the children of faculty and staff, those on the dean’s interest list (donors), and athletes. This paper concludes that removing various combinations of these preferences would signficantly change the racial mix at Harvard, typically to the benefit of Asian Americans.

Elite universities like Harvard say that legacy and donor admits are help with fundraising and maintain academic quality. Other selective and academically excellent schools have gotten rid of legacy admissions and still manage to raise funds. Another argument in favor of legacies is that the number of nonwhite legacies will increase over time. The numbers cited above show the disproportionate impact that legacies currently have. This article sums up a lot of the arguments that pro-legacy universities makes and debunks them.

The lawsuit asks the US Department of Education to investigate Harvard for Title VI violations. It also asks the department to declare legacy and donor practices illegal. You can read the text of the filed complaint here.


Posted in Current Events, Discrimination, Education | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Kimchi: Good or Bad for You?

In the last few months, I have seen a number of  articles about kimchi and in particular, its health benefits.  As understanding of the human microbiome has grown, articles like this one talk about the probiotic and other benefits of eating it.  Years ago, Tim wrote a post about the link to kimchi consumption to certain kinds of cancer.  Yet now, some medical organizations are recommending eating kimchi, such as this one suggesting consuming it with antibioitics.  This leads to the question – is kimchi good or bad for you?

“The dose makes the poison” – Paracelsus

After reading more articles and papers on the health effects of kimchi, I would say that kimchi’s goodness or badness really depends.  This review of eleven randomized controlled trials on the health of effects of kimchi finds that there are numerous studies that show some positive benefits such as lowering cholestrol and increased fiber intake, but more rigorous studies need to be done. In places where increased gastric cancer is associated with kimchi, kimchi consumption averages 1 to 1.5 cups per day according to this article. Taking a cue from the saying from Paracelsus says and as other articles and papers suggests, moderate consumption is likely to be not problematic (I am not a doctor though).

I personally like kimchi, and after I had a round of antibiotics, I did eat extra kimchi after that. I eat it only occasionally and definitely not in the the cup per day kind of volume, so I think that given my limited intake and my taste for it, it’s good for me.


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American Born Chinese: Jin & Amelia

This blog post contains spoilers.

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Asian American Frozen Foods: MìLà’s “Soup Dumplings” found at Costco

I saw a friend of mine post  this photo on Facebook after she went shopping at the same Costco in Silicon Valley where I shop. I’ve been aware of MìLà‘s (formerly known as Xiao Chi Jie) Xiao Long Bao (“XLB”) or also known as “soup dumpling,” having done my search for frozen ones. I’ve been a fan of soup dumplings ever since trying them at Din Tai Fung back in 2002 in Shanghai. More recently, back in 2019, I reviewed Synear’s ‘Pork Soup Dumplings’ that I found at my local Ranch 99.

Once I did a search on soup dumplings, MìLà’s social media marketing ninjas targeted me on Facebook. I would see their social media ads all the time. Back then, they did not have retail distribution that I was aware of, so unless you lived in the Seattle area (where I believe they are still headquartered), you had to order online and had them delivered (with dry ice) and that made a 50 piece bag costs $39.99 (before tax and shipping), making it $0.80 cents per dumpling. I like XLB, but not that much! Thus I was excited to see that MìLà had distribution at my local Silicon Valley Costco – for $13.99 for 32 pieces – $0.44 cents per dumpling – with no shipping. I had to make a trip the same day, as my friend said that Costco was running out of them.

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Randall Park’s UCLA 2023 Commencement Address

This past week, actor, comedian, writer, director, and UCLA Alumnus Randall Park delivered the keynote speech at all three UCLA 2023 college commencements. In this speech, he walks through his career ups and downs and how they shaped himself to the person he is today – that the adversity you face may help pave the way for future success. His speech is both funny and wise – worth spending the time to listen to it. It’s also fascinating to see how his career has evolved since we interviewed him in 2011.

I first blogged about Randall Park way before I knew who he was in one of my first ever “Asian American Commercial Watch” series of blog posts, Asian Americans going on a date in a Wells Fargo commercial. In the ad, Park is portraying a man getting ready to go on a date. Since then, Park has had quite a career as you can see from his IMDB listing. That’s quite remarkable to see for an Asian American male actor (or for that matter, Asian American female actor), especially if you’ve grown up in the 1970s and 1980s seeing a paucity of Asian American faces in TV and movies.

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Asian American Medical Hazard: Hidden Fat and Hidden Diabetes

“Hidden fat” at first glance doesn’t look like a bad thing. Who wants to have everyone see where your fat is? But for Asian Americans Pacific Islanders and the Filipino, South Asian, and Pacific Islander subgroups in particular, fat tends to be stored around the liver and other internal organs, making these groups more vulnerable to diabetes and less likely to be diagnosed if their BMI or waistlines or A1C tests look normal and do not indicate diabetes. This is becoming an increasing concern as the number of Asian Americans with diabetes is on the rise.

These articles from NPR discuss two Asian American researchers in particular working to understand how diabetes works in their communities.  The first is Dr. Alka Kanaya who explains how hidden fat works.  Rather than ending up in the hips or thighs, fat tends to be “in all the wrong places” such as “in the liver, around the abdominal organs, in the muscle, around the heart.” We have talked before about some her work with the South Asian Americans in the MASALA project.

The second is Maria Rosario Araneta, who first noticed the problem when she heard that many Filipino American Navy men who weren’t overweight and sedentary were hospitalized with kidney damage from diabetes. This hit home for her, as she is Filipino American and has a father and grandmother who had diabetes and were thin. Another problem that Araneta has found is that the common tests for diabetes, the A1C test, does not find diabetes in many Asian Americans using the standard scale.

This article is also hits home for me as Filipino American.  My father is not overweight and is active yet has diabetes. We have done many stories on the increased vulnerability of Asian Americans to diabetes compared to the general population. I know many many Filipino Americans who are diabetic, and this study shows that many are undiagnosed. I also work with many South Asians who may be vulnerable to these same sort of problems.

The article suggests that in the long term, more studies of different Asian subgroups would be useful.  In the near team, increased monitoring is importing.  This includes checking for diabetes with Asian Americans with BMI at 23, and doing further diabetes tests for Asian Americans in the “pre-diabetes” A1C range.  Also, I have noticed that while many Filipino Americans might not be overweight, they have poor lifestyle habits that involve consuming too much sugar and not exercising sufficiently. Lifestyle changes can make a difference. The article says that for some South Asians, the South Asian Healthy Lifestyle Intervention Program (SAHELI) program has made a big difference.  The Joslin Asian American Diabetes Initiative website has many useful resources for Asian Americans concerned about diabetes.


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SF DocFest: How to Have an American Baby

I had first heard of ‘birth tourism’ from a former co-worker/friend of mine more than a decade ago. When I heard that Chinese women were coming Southern California to give birth so that their kids could get U.S. citizenship, I was incredulous. A few months after that, I had read this in January 2013 LA Times article:

“USA Baby Care’s website makes no attempt to hide why the company’s clients travel to Southern California from China and Taiwan. It’s to give birth to an American baby.

“Congratulations! Arriving in the U.S. means you’ve already given your child a surefire ticket for winning the race,” the site says in Chinese. “We guarantee that each baby can obtain a U.S. passport and related documents.”

That passport is just the beginning of a journey that will lead some of the children back to the United States to take advantage of free public schools and low-interest student loans, as the website notes. The whole family may eventually get in on the act, since parents may be able to piggyback on the child’s citizenship and apply for a green card when the child turns 21.

USA Baby Care is one of scores, possibly hundreds, of companies operating so-called maternity hotels tucked away in residential neighborhoods in the San Gabriel Valley, Orange County and other Southern California suburbs. Pregnant women from Chinese-speaking countries pay as much as $20,000 to stay in the facilities during the final months of pregnancy, then spend an additional month recuperating and awaiting the new baby’s U.S. passport.”

When I saw that “How to Have an American Baby” documentary was coming to the 2023 San Francisco Documentary Festival (“DocFest”), I definitely wanted to see it.

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Smartwatch Heart Rate Monitoring for Darker Skin

As a smartwatch user who uses one to track health and fitness statistics, I have wondered how accurate it is, especially since my skin tone is on the darker side (see picture).  We have written about how pulse oximeters have been shown to be less accurate on people of color, but what about heart rate monitoring using smartwatches?  Are there similar issues?

I found this systematic review of studies looking at smartwatch heart rate data accuracy vs skin tone. Out of 10 studies found, four reported a significant reduction in accuracy for those with darker skin. Four studies noted no effect, and two had mixed results. The review states that that preliminary evidence is inconclusive. The lead author of the study, Dr. Daniel Koerber, says in an interview:

Ongoing research and development of these devices should emphasize the inclusion of populations of all skin tones so that the developed algorithms can best accommodate for variations in innate skin light absorption.

I wondered why some studies would show an effect from skin tone while others did not. The systematic review pointed out that the studies were not blind and had small sample sizes while using different devices. I think the using different devices makes a large difference.  I looked up how my Garmin smartwatch that I use is affected for skin tone issue.  Garmin says that their watches compensate for dark skin by using more light. Darker skinned people may see slightly more power being used.

My takeaway from looking at this question is that smartwatch heart rate monitoring can be accurate for dark skin. Buyers for smartwatches who want to use this feature should look up for themselves whether or not the smart watch that they want for heart rate monitoring compensates for their skin tone.

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CAAMFest 2023: Review – Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story

I was supposed to review Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story (trailer here) during or around CAAMFest 2023, but I let the screener link expire and the screening during CAAMFest was on Mother’s Day. I finally reached out to the filmakers and was able to watch the documentary. When I first saw the list of films that were going to be screened at CAAMFest and saw this one listed, I knew I had to watch it.

I was a “friend” of Corky Lee, at least on Facebook but had never met him nor did I really know much about Lee (except that he appeared to be a photographer based on all of his postings) until I watched the documentary Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story:

“Born in Queens, Corky Lee, for a half-century, had been documenting New York  City’s Asian American community.   

His photos show the little-known struggle of Asians in America,  including civil rights protests, racist immigration legislation, and  violence towards Sikhs and Muslims of Asian descent since 9/11. “

Having blogged for 8Asians since January 2007, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in the Asian American community (Corky & I have 77 mutual friends on Facebook) and learn about our history. I knew that Lee was a photographer and that was about it. After the watching the documentary, I could really relate to him, as his ethos was – that if an event wasn’t photographed, it really didn’t happen.

I also try to live by that ethos, except that I would add that if also wasn’t recorded on video, it didn’t happen. In many ways, my efforts to document events on 8Asians is the very same as Corky’s – if I’m not going to do it, who is? That’s why I’ve tried to document Asian American events or people that don’t get as much coverage that I am interested in, in particular around politics, and think I have one of the deepest coverage and focus on Asian Americans for certain events, like at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 & 2016, Fred Korematsu Day in California, the City of San Jose apology to Chinese Americans, Celebration & Commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Wong Kim Ark Day [3/28/1898] in San Francisco, etc.

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