Politics Over Pizza Panel: Point by Point

Last Wednesday, AASA hosted the “Politics Over Pizza” discussion panel – a conversation focusing on how Asian Americans reconcile the political views of their native countries with those of Western ideals. Jenny Mei BK ’13, an AASA Freshman Liaison, came up with the theme for the panel from her personal experiences – “I believe in Western democracy, but as a Chinese-American, I also felt like I had to defend China when people attacked it.”

The panel consisted of six Yalies, all of whom have an interest in politics in Asia. Besides the yummy pizza from Papa John’s (since when has their crust become so fluffy?), I took home some interesting points on the political identity of Asian Americans:

1. First things first – how should we respond to people who criticize our native countries?

  • Faizaan Kisat BR ’12, an international student from Pakistan, said he distinguishes between criticism against the government and criticism against the people: “If people say the government is corrupt, I’ll say, ‘You’re right!’” But it’s when they criticize the people that Kisat would try to reason with them.
  • Rich Tao SM ’10 said he would sit down with the person and have a rational conversation about his views. “It makes for an interesting discourse.”
  • Ray Wang BR ’10 said that he accepts the fact that others have different perspectives, even if he disagrees with them. Unless it’s a personal attack against him or a blatantly racist view, they have a right to their opinion.

2. Are Asian Americans more active in the politics of their native countries than the natives themselves?

James Kim DC ’11 brought up this point when he talked about his experience working at a non-profit foundation for North Korea. Because the youth in South Korea live so close to the political tension of North Korea, they may either feel as if it’s too close for comfort or be indifferent to the issue altogether, whereas Korean-Americans in the U.S. may feel a cultural responsibility to participate in the issues of their native country.

3. Is political criticism against Asian countries because of their growing power?

Susan Liu MC ’10 said that criticism against China is certainly based on some truth. Nevertheless, she admitted that the media (the New York Times, for example) tended to focus more on the negative political situation in China rather than that of other less powerful countries. Kisat also pointed out how the U.S. overlooks the human rights violations of Saudi Arabia because of its dependence on Saudi oil, whereas the U.S. may feel threatened by China’s growing influence in the global economy.

4. Is there a unique Asian American political identity?

One of the attendees, Jason Chu ’08, posed this question halfway into the panel after pointing out that the majority of the discussion focused on Asian politics versus Asian American politics. Susan explained that even though she discussed her view of Chinese politics, she was still speaking from an Asian American point of view. Also, the fact that the Asian American identity is relatively new may contribute to a more ambiguous political identity.

5. Finally, Rich brought up the name of the event – politics OVER pizza – as a way to illustrate how the priorities of Asian Americans at Yale often go the opposite way. Ironically, I was the one who came up the name for AASA, and I hadn’t really thought about the connotation. But what Rich said really struck me – we have flocks of students attend social and food events (hence the pizza tactic at the panel), but the rooms are a little bare at panels, master’s teas, and other political events. What’s behind the apathy of Asian Americans for the issues that directly affect them? Is it even their responsibility to care?

Even though as a Korean-American, the tension between South Korea and the U.S. isn’t as great as the one with China, Pakistan, or other countries, the panel definitely brought up some issues that I could relate to as an Asian American. I encourage any one who’s reading this post to come out to these kinds of discussions in the future – you never know what you’ll take away from it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>