Bloomberg Does Not Apologize for Profiling

So at a Tuesday press conference, Mayor Bloomberg defended the NYPD surveillance of MSA’s in the Northeast and refused to acknowledge any sort of profiling:

“If going on websites and looking for information is not what Yale stands for, I don’t know,” said Bloomberg. “It’s the freedom of information … Of course we’re gonna look at anything that’s publicly available and in the public domain. We have an obligation to do so. And it is to protect the very things that let Yale survive.”

A reporter pointed out that recent reports indicate that the NYPD did more than look on websites, including the rafting trip.

The mayor responded: “The only whitewater rafting I’ve done I did with my daughter. I don’t think she has a lot of information that I was interested in in terms of her political views. It was a long time ago. I’m not sure at that time she had political views. She certainly does now.”

A lot of people are saying that the NYPD had every right to keep surveillance of MSA websites and blogs because they’re in the public domain– but that’s not the issue.  The issue is religious profiling, an idea summed up by Yale MSA’s vice president Faisal Hamid in this YDN article:

“Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks reveal a startling acceptance of religious profiling conducted by the NYPD,” said Faisal Hamid ’14, the Muslim Students Association’s current vice-president, in a Tuesday evening statement to the News on behalf of the organization. “Profiling on the basis of faith is just as wrong and unacceptable as profiling on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or any other identity and we hope that Mayor Bloomberg comes to realize this.”

NYPD Monitored Yale Muslim Student Association

By now, I’m sure everyone’s heard about the NYPD spying on college Muslim Student Associations across the Northeast, including Yale’s– so wrong.

And it comes right after the Muslim Student Association’s op-ed about Islamophobia received over a hundred comments like this–

What the MSA does not realize (but other Yalies do, even if they don’t have the guts to say it) is that the fuzzy warm tolerant brand of Islam that they try to present is nowhere near what is actually practiced in many Muslim countries. I’m certainly not concerned with the Muslim neighbors in my hometown, but there is no denying that the multitude of Muslims in the world have very backwards ideas about the treatment of women and nonbelievers (amount other things).

I’m an atheist, and always have been skeptical and concerned with the negative side to every religion, from Christianity to Hinduism (so I’m not trying to single out Muslims here). But Islam is especially screwy, and screw cultural relativism, it’s not ‘Islamophobic’ to say that.

And

The more I learn about Islam the more I understand why people fear it.

Here’s the YDN article:

In a Monday night email to the Yale community, University President Richard Levin responded to reports that surfaced on Saturday that the New York Police Department monitored Muslim students at Yale and at least 14 colleges around the Northeast.

Levin said the Yale Police Department did not participate in the NYPD’s surveillance, which included trawling the websites, forums and blogs of Muslim student associations at colleges including Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 and 2007. He said the University was “entirely unaware” of NYPD activities until the Associated Press first reported the monitoring Saturday.

“The Yale Muslim Students Association has been an important source of support for Yale students during a period when Muslims and Islam itself have too often been the target of thoughtless stereotyping, misplaced fear, and bigotry,” Levin wrote. “Now, in the wake of these disturbing news reports, I want to assure the members of the Yale Muslim Students Association that they can count on the full support of Yale University.”

The NYPD recorded the names of students and professors involved in Muslim student associations and related events in reports prepared for New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, though none were charged with a crime. In a Nov. 22, 2006 NYPD secret document titled “Weekly MSA Report,” an NYPD officer reported that he visited the websites and forums of Muslim student associations at Yale, Columbia, Penn and eight other colleges and “did not find significant information.”

In response to those activities, Levin stressed that police surveillance based on religion, national or “peacefully expressed political opinions” is “antithetical” to the values of Yale and the United States.

The Associated Press documented NYPD undercover monitoring of Muslim student associations as recently as 2009, when police set up a safe house in New Brunswick, N.J., to follow the Muslim student group at Rutgers University.

Songwriter Calls for the Eradication of All Black People

So this is a pretty offensive/disturbing piece about Jenny Hyun, the songwriter for Girl’s Generation and Chocolat, posting MINDBLOWINGLY RACIST posts about black people on twitter. She posted this tirade after reading Floyd Merryweather’s tweet about Jeremy Lin—“Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”

And in response, Hyun called for the eradication of all black people…

Angry Asian Man posted this update:

At some point, realizing that her statements were just a little bit offensive, she issued an “official apology to the black community”, in which she doesn’t actually apologize at all, in any way. Shortly after that, this troubling statement appeared on her blog:

apology to all
Posted on February 19, 2012 by Jenny Hyun

Jenny Hyun has been admitted to a hospital today. She is a paranoid schizophrenic and has been battling mental illness, a debilitating disease for many years. Friends and family of Jenny want to extend their sincere apology for any harmful statements made verbally or via the web that Jenny has made while she was in the height of a psyshosis episode. We appreciate your understanding during this difficult time for her.”

I don’t know — do you buy it? She apparently has a self-described history of mental illness. Well, it’s clear that something’s wrong with Jenny Hyun. I’m not sure what a “psyshosis episode” is, but it doesn’t quite explain away or justify the ugly attitudes revealed in her behavior. This is a pretty naked display of racism, and it kind of blows your mind.

Racist, terrifying, and seriously mindboggling.

 

Undocumented Student In Need of Help

The APA group at Cornell just sent this to me about Eric Hyun Jae Choon, an undocumented student at Cornell, who needs to raise $10,000 in order to pay tuition to graduate.  Here’s his blog and an article in the Cornell Daily Sun.  Please spread this!

Here’s his letter:

Dear students, allies,  DREAMers, and supporters,

I would like to start by expressing my deepest gratitude to all of you for your interest, help and work you have done for me and other DREAMers across the Cornell campus. Your support has given me a tremendous amount of courage and strength, and I am certain that other DREAMers are honored to have supporters like you.

My family and I moved to the United States when I was twelve years old, in June 2001. My family contacted a business owner in New Jersey before we immigrated and he agreed to sell his business to my family. We immigrated, settled down ,and my brother and I started school. It turned out that my family had been scammed by the business owner. Unfortunately, we did not know about this until February of 2002. I could always hear my parents arguing afterwards over what to do and what would happen to my family. I remember my dad asking me, “Do you want to stay in the U.S. or return to Korea?” I did not even hesitate and said I wanted to stay here because I loved this country, my school, and the people around me.

Unlike many other DREAMers, I knew I was undocumented. However, I did not really know what being undocumented meant. I asked myself: “Does it mean I cannot go to school anymore or travel overseas?” During my last year of high school, my mom told me to go to a community college instead of an expensive private university and I listened to her. While I was in community college preparing to transfer to a four-year college, I learned more about what my limitations are as an undocumented immigrant. In terms of going to college, I cannot get federal financial aid. I also do not qualify for state residency tuition in New Jersey, not because I pay too little tax, but because I am undocumented. Fortunately, Cornell, with its need-blind admission policy, accepted my application as a transfer student.

During the summer before I came to Cornell, I worked hard to save money for my education. I applied for international financial aid but I was deferred. With those savings and some of the savings from my parents, I could successfully finish my first year at Cornell. But those savings were not enough; in fact, they are not even close to what I need to continue my education at Cornell so I decided to take a leave of absence and plan my future steps.

During the time that I was away, I worked long days and nights in order to save money. I joined a non-profit organization to work on comprehensive immigration reform during the first year of the Obama Administration. From my discussions with Congressmen, I figured that comprehensive immigration reform was impossible so I came back to New York and worked in restaurants and as a tutor. I also saved extra money by working on websites.

With the savings I made in New York and generous people’s donations, I came back to finish my junior year at Cornell. I am very thankful for everyone who helped me.

Now I am here. Over the winter, I raised $10,000 out of the $20,000 I owed for the Fall 2011 semester. Now, I need your help. Even if I raise $10,000 through this campaign, I still have to raise another $20,000 for the Spring 2012 semester. But I do not want to give up. My status and financial difficulties can slow me down, but with your help, they will not stop me from achieving my long time goal of graduating from Cornell University, making me the first member of my family to receive a college degree.

Please make a contribution and show that the Cornell community supports its mission that any person, can find instruction in any study. Even a person like me.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Eric Hyun Jae Cheon
www. CornellDreaming.com

Information Science, System and Technology ‘12
College of Engineering
Cornell University

Main blog: cornelldreaming.com
Tumblr: cornelldreaming.tumblr.com
Twitter: @EricCheon
Click here to sign the petition.

“Legit” Majors

A little bit of a change of pace for this post–

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with my friend about senior essays (really practical conversation for second semester sophomores, especially when one of the parties—me—doesn’t have the foggiest idea about what she wants to major in).  My friend asked me what I would want to write about, and after pausing for a few seconds, I started babbling about how awesome it would be to write my senior essay about Chinatowns (this, after telling her that I was kind-of-maybe considering econ).  I think I talked for about five minutes straight before my friend interrupted:

“Maybe you should be an Ethnicity, Race, and Migration major.”

“Nah,” I said.  Then I paused—I’ve always been interested in ethnic studies, particularly in Asian American history, but I never considered ER&M as a major, largely because I didn’t want to double major, but now that ER&M is a stand-alone, because I still felt there was still something about having a degree in “Ethnicity, Race, and Migration” that seemed so un-legit.

There has been lots of debate over whether Ethnicity, Race, and Migration should be a stand-alone major—the one that got the most attention was this op-ed in the Yale Daily News by Nathaniel Zelinsky, which argues that ER&M should not be a stand-alone major mainly because he thinks that the major would not provide students with a broad enough world view.

To me, I think that understanding race and ethnicity is crucial to understanding society, especially American society, where race has been such a large part of our history.  Some say it might be limiting, but I think it’s just as limiting as any other major, in that you have to focus on one thing to the exclusion of others eventually when picking a major.  A lot of other criticism brought up around Ethnicity, Race, and Migration has been about whether or not an interdisciplinary major should be its own major, whether it provides enough depth and keeps students from studying things that are just random, which I suppose brings us back to the purpose of a liberal arts education in general.  For me, I think college is a place to grow and figure out your own head for four years, and unless I decide to suddenly go into the sciences, I feel like what I major in won’t have much bearing on my future career.  Most of the adults in my life ended up forgetting most of the academic lessons they learned in college—it was just an experience that helped them get to the next portion of their lives.

As someone who angsts a lot over choosing majors, I always find it comforting to think of something my advisor told me once when I was mulling over being an English major and whether or not studying literature would leave me informed about the world (I was pretty sure it wouldn’t).  He told me not to worry about that, that if English made the world seem “a little bit bigger to me” that’s enough.

I think that for some people, Ethnicity, Race, and Migration is what makes the world seem “bigger,” at least for that part of their lives.  It’s the thing that gets them excited for these four years.

And I think that’s enough.

This is just racist. Period.

By now, I’m sure everyone heard about Hoekstra’s mind-bogglingly racist campaign ad that aired during the Super Bowl. If not, see for yourself here:

There was also the particularly infuriating finding that the HTML code for Hoekstra’s website uses “yellowgirl” to label the image of the video’s “Chinese” girl. Needless to say that this is outright racist attempt to turn people against Asians and by extension, Asian Americans. Hoekstra has pulled the ad and the corresponding website, but has not offered an apology and according to a Huffington Post article, “told old reporters Monday that his ad’s ‘insensitive’ only to the spending philosophy of Stabenow and Democratic President Barack Obama.”

All the coverage of the story I’ve read do note how outright racist Hoekstra’s campaign is, and many have already pointed out the ad’s inaccuracies (the background looks more like Vietnam than China), but much of the mainstream coverage inevitably goes back to political candidates and their views on China. Consider this New York Times post:

Senator Stabenow is likely to run on her record opposing trade deals with China and calling for crackdowns on the country’s manufacturing practices. That gave Strategic Perception the idea of trying to kill two birds with one stone: hitting her on government spending, a perennial Republican line of attack, and linking overspending to helping China at the expense of the United States economy.

“This is one area she can’t compete against Pete on,” Mr. Kenyon said.

A press release on Mr. Hoekstra’s Web site said he spent $150,000 on the ad, which will run for two weeks.

Reading the comments on the New York Times post, it seems like a lot of people don’t find this ad offensive because it’s parodying Chinese people, not Asian Americans, but from one listen you can tell the girl is obviously a native English speaker faking a bad accent. Obviously, the people who make this comment don’t’ really understand the distinction between Asians and Asian Americans, something that has grown more common as we in the US have been becoming increasingly panicky about China. Articles that touch on racism against Asian Americans and then conclude by analyzing politicians’ views on China only exacerbate this. Like others have already said, it was because people refused to distinguish between Chinese and Japanese, between Asian and Asian American, that Vincent Chin was murdered.

You think we would learn more from our history.

Asian guys– are they really that awkward?

Asian men are nerds. Antisocial. Awkward. They never get girls. These are some of the stereotypes touched on in this blog post Jeremy Lin and the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations, which criticizes way sports commentators seemed so surprised by the fact that Lin played well in a recent Knicks game:

I loved watching Jeremy’s aggression on the court and his enjoyment of the game.  I loved seeing his teammates’ celebration, since Jeremy has obviously won their hearts with his courage and kindness.  I did not love the belittling comments.  Now, I’m always reticent to cry “racism,” and I won’t cry “racism” in this case.  The commentators are not showing hatred of a race.  I won’t even call it bigotry — at least not bigotry outright.  If anything, they’re showing what President Bush famously called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”  Their astonishment at the sight of Jeremy Lin outperforming the other players, their consistent references to how exhausted he must be, and how “magical” a night he’s having (rather than a natural result of talent and hard work) suggests that they’ve bought into the stereotype of the physically inferior Asian-American male.

Although, as many have already pointed out, the author might be being unfair to the commentators, the post touches on a problem that often gets overlooked in a sea of “I’m just not into Asian guys” and “Asian guys are just too…feminine” that shifts the blame onto those poor, short, awkward Asian guys. And I think that it’s great that the post points out how Jeremy Lin and others like him can help to break down those stereotypes, and I like that he suggests that the way to break down this stereotype is to have more figures like Jeremy Lin in the public eye so that people can actually see Asian and Asian American men aren’t effeminate nerds. I feel that conversations about Asian masculinity devolve into “Asian men should feel better about themselves and try to get white girls.” Girls can try only so hard to be attracted to a guy they’re not originally interested in, and guys can only make so much effort to pursue girls who have decided that their entire race is un-dateable. I think it’s unfair to shift the blame to individuals, especially when it comes to questions of what makes an attractive male, which can as we all know, be a very arbitrary, irrational process even when race isn’t thrown into the mix. In the long run, I think it’ll be through pushing to have more figures like Lin in the mainstream that will make people finally realize how awesome Asian guys are.

This is a thought-provoking piece by Jeff Yang about the deaths of Private Danny Chen and Corporal Lew and how they’re connected to the high rates of anti-Asian bullying (according to the US Departments of Justice and Education, over half of Asian American teenagers said they’ve been bullied at school).  Yang disagrees with people who think that what Chen experienced was a result of hazing:

 Their shocking deaths have raised new questions about hazing in the armed forces — but the truth is, “hazing” isn’t even the right word for what they experienced.

After all, hazing is generally part of a process of initiation, in which a newcomer voluntarily undergoes ritual abuse in order to win acceptance within a group.

There was nothing voluntary about the punishment Chen and Lew experienced, and it was designed to alienate them from their peers, not create a path to solidarity. In Chen’s case at least, the program of isolation included being repeated called racial slurs like “gook,” “chink” and “dragon lady” by his tormentors (all of whom were white).

To what extent are these deaths connected to the larger anti-Asian bullying and sentiment in the US?  There have been some articles about Chen’s death that in some ways seem to downplay, the role of racism in the “hazing” he experienced.  Consider this excerpt from the New York Magazine article on Pvt. Chen that seemed to play up Chen’s being “quiet and shy” and how that contributed to the bullying Chen experienced.  Consider this description of Chen in high school:

In high school, things began to change. He started lifting weights, spending every afternoon at the Y on Houston Street with his friend Raymond Dong. Danny wasn’t very athletic, but he was determined to try to put some muscle on his skinny frame. He didn’t have any girlfriends in high school—“He was really, really shy,” says a friend—and when he wasn’t working out, Danny would pass the hours playing handball and video games like Call of Duty. Or eating. Most days, he and Raymond would eat all afternoon—one meal right after school, then another after they worked out, then home for dinner. But Danny couldn’t seem to gain any weight. By the end of high school, he was six foot four and towered over his friend, but he still looked as thin as a feather.

And this:

Unlike his fellow recruits, Chen didn’t have to worry about using expletives in his letters, since he knew his parents would never read them. They couldn’t read English, and, like many first-­generation ­Chinese-Americans, he couldn’t write in Chinese. His parents would have to enlist a relative to translate, and he knew his curses would be edited out. Besides, it felt great to sound like a soldier.

And not just sound like one. For Chen, one of the Army’s appeals was the chance to actually fire real weapons. No more just playing shooter video games in his bedroom.

What this article does is emphasize how “different” and meek Chen was and how that made him an easy target for the inhumane treatment he faced in the military.  Even if it does say that the racism faced by Asian Americans is wrong, it does make it seem like Asian Americans are partly responsible for attracting this kind of abuse.  This help put some of the comments on Yang’s article in context (and I know online comments aren’t where you go to find earth-shattering critiques of race relations in the US, but they do capture a general sentiment)—many of the commenters seemed skeptical that Asian Americans and even Pvt. Chen and Lt. Lew were the targets of racist bullying:

Dear Author: An epidemic must consist of more than two examples. Also, if you ask anyone they’ll tell you how hard it is to be . Ask a fat person and he’ll say fat people are bullied. Ask a black person and he’ll say blacks are bullied. Ask a white man…well, you get it. Everyone is bullied. It is always wrong, but it will always be here.

Opinions like these are detrimental to understanding.  To downplay racism is to not give proper proper respect to these tragedies.

Magnetic North – Home:Word [MV]

A beautifully made video for anyone feeling a little homesick as the holiday (and finals) season kicks in…

Magnetic North’s new music video for their soulful hip-hop song, “Home:Word”, featuring Taiyo Na, from their album of the same title. Produced by Wong Fu Productions, “Home:Word” tells a genuine story about an Asian American family’s domestic struggles. The song “Cold”, another song on the album, plays during the credits.

Wong Fu follows the video with heartfelt words:

Dedicated to our families.

Like the mother and daughter, we all have those moments where we neglect our parents, too busy living our own life, we often forget that on the other side our parents are working hard and have struggled to give us as good a life as they can.
Like the son, pressures from school can be the biggest struggle for young people. While it’s important, sometimes stepping away to find that true peace keeps us going. Whether it’s in art and photography, making videos, singing, dancing, or even video games with friends.
Like the father, jobs and financial worries can bring us down. Especially in these tough times, when so much is uncertain, the greatest gift we have is knowing that there is one constant, family.