Read the article here at Racebending.

Like an earlier article about Cloud Atlas, once again, Asian actors are being denied roles in favor of white peers. In the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of a piece set in 13th century China, almost all the (Chinese) characters are played by white actors. Unlike the case of Cloud Atlas, these actors are at least not using yellowface as far as I can tell, which is at least one point in their favor. However, as the writer points out, while the producers used “colour blind casting,” the preferred actors had experience doing British classical acting with the RSC, where major or meaningful roles are usually closed off to minorities. The entire casting process was basically stacked against minority actors, who were only cast to play small, background roles. The claim is made that there aren’t enough qualified British East Asian actors auditioning to fill the entire cast, but apparently there aren’t enough to fill the role of even one major character.

This is just one more incident in the trend of telling Asian actors they aren’t Asian enough to play someone from their own ethnicity or race. The author, being of multiethnic descent, has also faced discrimination in the form of “not being Chinese enough” for some roles. There’s always been a history of non-Asian people describing Asians and their culture; it seems that they must also act out that culture on behalf of Asians who can’t do a proper job of it. Like in the Prashad reading, Asian men and women are often portrayed by white men and women in brown or yellow face and “Oriental” clothes – a European idea of what Asia is like is perpetuated by Europeans/European Americans. The perpetual stranger is too strange to be even himself. Britain may not have the same exact history of immigration-based exclusion as America, but this certainly isn’t an act of inclusion or equality.

It may be too late to change the casting of this play, but unless the RSC applies color blind casting to all their productions, even those where people would argue that the characters are unlikely to be minorities, there’s no excuse for having such misrepresentation in their plays.

– Rachel (ryw6)


Read the article here. 

Throughout the semester, we have talked extensively about the concept of model minorities. When we talk about model minority in class, we typically talk about a group of immigrants, such as Asian Americans as a whole, or sometimes specifically the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, or other such communities. Usually the words are tied to Asian Americans for their hard work and high education levels and standards. These days, it has gotten to the point where being an Asian may even be a disadvantage in affirmative action, because the pool of overachieving Asian Americans is rather large.

However, there is a big error in looking at one group of immigrants as “model minorities” while considering others to not be the same. In every group of immigrants there are those who work hard and climb up the social ladder, and those who, for one reason or another, don’t. In the above article, Ronnie Cameron, a defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns, talks about his parents and his upbringing. His parents were both 1st generation immigrants. His mother from Haiti, and father from Trinidad and Tobago. Both of his parents worked very hard to provide for their three children in the U.S. and also for families overseas. All the while, they saved enough money to put a down payment on their home, and each started their own businesses. Growing up watching these model parents, all three children also became hard workers.

Just as Cameron’s parents show, model minorities should be sought individually, around us. It should not become a blanket statement to separate groups of immigrants from each other. The title is something that should be earned, not given by merit of skin color or origin.


Read the article here at NYTimes.

Ever since the presidential elections earlier in the month, many articles have been written about the voting power and political leanings of minority groups, especially of Latinos and Asian Americans. This article points out a few reasons why Asian Americans may have in general voted Democratic, when “Asian Americans” as a whole seem to be a group that Republic values would conform well with. This argument generally references the fact that, as the article says, Asian Americans are “highly educated” and “relatively affluent.” A lot of this idea seems to pivot directly around Asian Americans being a block of model minority voters, with strong traditional family values, but as this article also points out, Asian Americans are a diverse group of people from very different backgrounds. Some believe that if the Republic party were to try harder to embrace minorities, they would find much more support from those groups, but perhaps the model minority just doesn’t really work as an minority analogue to educated, affluent white voters.

As this article says, many immigrants are from Asian countries, and of those, many are from China. They may be put off by the anti-China sentiments being thrown around. Asian American immigrants historically have strong transnational ties, whether a Chinese laborer from the late 1800s or a Cambodian refugee from the 1970s. White voters may not have these same bonds to their ancestral homelands, and those countries may not be receiving the same kinds of criticism that China is.

I found myself noticing the initial framing of the racial groups was typical: Asian Americans were set up as a group that is nonwhite, but unlike other racial minorities, rich/educated/etc. like white people. Once again, there’s a hierarchy here: minorities are at the bottom, but Asians can find themselves rising to the top like the white majority, only this time, the story is about how Asian Americans “sided” with other minorities, despite their “better” position in the hierarchy.

– Rachel (ryw6)

Read the article here.

Every four years, the U.S. Presidential Election presents not only an opportunity to vote and create change, but also an opportunity to reflect on how the American people are defining their nation. Do the votes of the election represent a more cohesive United States or a “fractured” nation? Or do the policies approved during the election show that a previously-reserved America is become more liberal? In “The New America: What the Election Teaches Us about Ourselves”, Josh Levs discusses what the results of 2012 Presidential Election show about the American viewpoint, and what this implies for the nation as a whole.

A topic that Levs focuses on in his article is whether or not the United States now is a more inclusive nation or more “racially polarized”. The article argues that the election of more women, Asian-American, and Latino representatives to Congress, along with the reelection of Obama, shows that “Americans are moving toward a much more inclusive sense of what an American is” (as quoted from Clara Rodriguez, a sociology professor at Fordham University). However, the fact the Romney received the white and elderly vote, while Obama received the minority and youth vote, can be an argument for a divided America. The “inclusive America” viewpoint represents that progress has been made for minorities, while the “fractured America” viewpoint presents the problem of how to unify America. Both viewpoints are reminiscent of Asian American activism. The activists pushed for inclusion by defending attacks against their race and promoting a diverse learning environment at universities. The activists also had to figure out how to reconcile their heritage differences in order to form a strong, cohesive group. This is similar to what the United States population will have to do in order to create complete inclusion.

While not discussed extensively in the article, I think it is interesting to note how the election results show a diverse, inclusive America on the outside, but a separated America on the inside. This is at the essence of the difficulty with creating a completely inclusive America. In order to be completely inclusive, people need to be accepting of an inclusive mindset. The article puts it best by stating that “America will soon belong to the men and women … who can comfortably walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that…there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions.” (as quoted from writer David Simon). An inclusive America can exist, but only if U.S. citizens are comfortable with the idea. The article offers few suggestions on how to achieve this mindset, and to create the “reactive solidarity” which motivated Asian American activists seems unattainable on a national level. Perhaps the human condition will unite the U.S., but forming a unified nation truly accepting of inclusion may be a challenge America itself faces in the years to come.

-Rebecca (rv88)

Read the article here.

Affirmative action, initiated by President John F. Kennedy more than 50 years ago, is still the topic of many debates and arguments around the country. As Fischer v. U of Texas rages on in the supreme courts, Harvard students had their own heated debate over their school paper, the Crimson. The debate started with Jane Doe’s (Jane remains unnamed as the author of this article, Wyatt Troia, wished) article arguing that affirmative action does more harm than good. Two more articles were then written in response, arguing against Jane Doe. However, these three articles were not the end of the discussion. Taking form through online social media, Jane Doe received many hateful, snide comments attacking her character, such as being called “one of the most dangerous types of rich white people” and “a dumb illiterate piece of [sh*t].”

There are distinct positive and negative effects of affirmative action, as we have discussed in class. It brings about a rich and diverse environment in schools, where students from different walks of life can meet in a classroom and discuss the varying viewpoints they bring to each discussion. At the time of its creation, it gave talented minority students the assurance that they would not be denied admission based on the color of their skin. It is true that using affirmative action also decreases the chances of some majority students from gaining admission. Whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs in this situation is a very difficult question that is hard to answer without causing an explosion of emotions on both sides.


Read the article here at NYTimes.

What’s interesting about this article is that it shows the other side of Chinese immigration, that is, of non-Chinese workers into China. Many of these immigrants are from other Asian countries, but there are those from America and Canada as well. These young foreigners see China as a place with large economic growth, but unfortunately, that doesn’t automatically mean economic opportunities. This stands in contrast to the increased immigration post-1965 in America, when many professionals and scientists were allowed into America, and quickly made a secure life for themselves. Here, many of these immigrants are also professionals, but China has no real place for them. They mostly find themselves teaching English, which is interesting, and shows an international focus on the part of China. There certainly weren’t young Indian or Korean immigrants coming to America to teach languages. Traditional language barriers exist: those who don’t speak Mandarin have a more difficult time, as many Asian immigrants likely had as well when going to America. Many find themselves leaving after a short stay in China, because there are few choices of work. This is the opposite of the experience of Chinese immigrants who never intended to stay long but found themselves in America for extended periods of time anyway.

The experience is quite different in some ways from the Asian professionals traveling to America, but some of the underlying forces are the same. Those who cannot find a job at home look elsewhere; but elsewhere now includes places in Asia. China is a much different place now, receiving workers instead of sending them away. It seems unlikely though, that many of these workers want to obtain Chinese citizenship. They may be interested in the country, but probably won’t seek to become citizens, which is another major difference between the different immigrant groups.

– Rachel (ryw6)

Access article here.

The selected WSJ article discusses the increasing political participation of South Asian Immigrants in the United States, the most recent manifestation of such being the US President Election that occurred just this month. Although the impact of South Asian immigrant votes was not instrumental to have switched the winners otherwise, as much as 72% of the South Asian American voters coming from New York, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania voted for Obama.

The article attributes South Asian immigrants’ fervent support for Obama to very practical reasons: that “the community will benefit from the president’s drives to fix the tax code, bring about comprehensive immigration reform, support small businesses, make education more accessible and fully implement the Affordable Care Act, which aims to reduce the costs of healthcare.” However, there seems to be an additional element – one that is less tangible or logical so to speak – that have played into factor in the election game. Although it is very likely that many of the more well-versed South Asian immigrants have participated in the election process than those that are already preoccupied with making a living in the United States, it is a pretty much given that in general a large portion of the voting population -anywhere in the world- do not vote based on a thorough analysis of each electoral candidate’s pledges. In lieu of such phenomenon, what portion of the South Asian voting population would have chosen Obama based on practical reasons as outlined above?

In addition to some of Obama’s policies that can, in many ways, benefit the South Asian immigrant population, another important factor that played a role in their avid support for Obama is perhaps a sense of kinship. One extreme view of Asian American as a political identity is that anyone can be an Asian American as long as there exists a struggle for equality and freedom. Even if these voters did not necessarily believe in this extremity, they perhaps felt a natural sense of commonality, having shared the past of struggle and present of latent discrimination that still exist in many forms despite abolished by law.

All in all, although getting better, the political presence and activism of South Asian immigrants still has ample rooms for growth, as suggested by Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer at Columbia University and co-founder of the South Asian Journalists Association. Most probably, this issue will persist for quite awhile, given the general tendencies and occupation inclination of Asian Americans in general as discussed in the previous post, Rise of the Tiger Nation.

By Jill (ds632)