The One Where Emily Hates Stereotypes

I’m not smart, but I am a nurse!
Part Four in my ongoing series about Asian Americans
(Part One begins here)

I brought up the Vincent Chin incident in the previous post, because after finally opening my eyes to racial disparity at the age of 14, I became self-conscious of being Filipino American. Especially as this country perceives Asians as “different” – or rather, “inferior” – to them.

I’m sure most of you know that Hubby is also Filipino American; he was born in Manila, but came to the US.  Being only 5 at that time, most of his upbringing has mirrored those of a first generation Filipino American. [i]

Growing up, I didn’t think I would marry another Filipino. In my eyes, I naively thought that in order to “assimilate” to the US culture, I would have to marry a non-Filipino. Yes, I realize how silly that sounds. Then I met Hubby and realized that it didn’t matter what ethnicity my spouse would be. What mattered was that my spouse would be my best friend and partner-in-crime with every adventure we would take.

Unsurprisingly, most non-Asian people automatically think that Hubby and I are “fresh of the boat.”[ii] We especially experience this when we’re somewhere we don’t visit often enough for people to at least recognize us. Typically, it’s while shopping further away from home, but especially when we’re out of town.

We notice the stares from others for being the only Asians in their area. We get suspicious looks when at any store or restaurant, almost as if they’re saying, “Who ARE those people and WHY are they here?” We get surprised looks when we speak very clear English. [iii]

Then there’s the flip side: Individuals who think they know everything about Asian Culture. They’re typically the ones that introduce themselves with, “Where are you from?” Yet despite telling them that I’m from Detroit, they continue to ask other insane questions like, “I mean, where are you originally from?” or “Where are your parents from?” It’s as if they have a hard time saying, “What is your ethnicity?”

Once they get the appropriate answer, these individuals (I refer to them as ATA’s) [iv] tend to say one of two things: “I knew you were Filipino,” followed by mentioning some other random Filipino celebrity (Pacquiao, for example) followed by some random Tagalog phrase. OR they are disappointed because they have a “really close friend that is <insert any Asian ethnicity>” and I’m sure you probably know him/her.”

Seriously, look it up on YouTube.  There are TONS of parodies about this exact situation. Or listen to Ruby Ibera’s Circa91 album [v] – the entire thing. There are quite a few interludes between songs (think of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill“) that are totally worth listening to, that provide a great example of growing up Asian American.

And then there are the stereotypes about Asians. Yes, I know every ethnicity / culture has them, [vi] and I’m sure you’re quite familiar with all of them as well. But FFS, let me respond to these stereotypes.

All Asians are NOT smart. They are NOT all doctors, nurses, engineers, or accountants. All Asians do NOT pass every test with A’s. [vii]

On the flip side, not all Asians are “lazy” and “don’t want to better themselves.” Yes, they may take on low-paying jobs — several at once, may I add — in order to provide a better life for themselves. If not for them, then certainly their children, parents, or siblings either here in the US or back home in their native land. They want to make sure that their family becomes successful because they DO NOT want them to take “dead end jobs.” They want them to have a profession with the ability to climb a career ladder.

No, they do NOT take up your slot in a university that you applied to. Or leadership positions, private business, job opportunity, for example. If anything, Asians often have to fight harder for what non-Asian persons have. Some of which entails omitting ethnicity to avoid being treated unjustly.

Not all Asians are “smart with their money” or “cheap” or “trying to low-ball you.” They are not “always trying to work a deal.” Not all Asians have nail salons, Asian grocery or party stores, or Chinese or Thai restaurants. Not all Asians eat dog meat.

Most of all (as of recently, that’s for sure), not ALL Asians are purposefully making “cheap” or “defective” clothing or electronics. Not ALL Asian countries are trying to sell you fake masks or other PPE.

And Asians are NOT purposefully trying to create a pandemic throughout the world by releasing a deadly virus that (thanks to the former “leader” of the free world) has been nicknamed “The China Virus” or “Kung Flu.”

Do you — as a human being — REALLY think that an entire ethnic group is THAT heartless and apathetic to the rest of the world? If so, then (IMHO) it takes one to know one.

Harsh, I know. But if the tables were turned and any other ethnicity / culture was saying things about Americans, imagine how you would feel.

I specifically mean words; not emotion. We already are bombarded with “you’re not patriotic” or “Go back home / to your own country.” As it is now, many Asian Americans feel that they are viewed as a “forever foreigner” despite being a US citizen by birthright. And yes, we are as “Patriotic” as any US citizen would be, regardless of any emotions (anger, hate) and actions (hate crimes, insurrection). [viii]

How would you respond if someone threw microaggressions [ix] your way? What would you want to DO about it? How would you defend your culture?

I ask these questions only to emphasize that Asians and Asian-Americans are constantly having to prove their worth in America.

And again, I want to emphasize that these actions & behaviors did not start at the onset of COVID-19, or even after the 2016 Election.

These actions, those words, the exclusion … they have been happening for decades.

[i] Kids under the age of 12 that immigrate are usually referred to as half-generation Asian Americans.

[ii] Fresh of the Boat (or “FOB” as most Asian Americans say). This refers to being new to America. “Boat” is used in reference to having traveled by the Trans-Pacific Ocean Liner. Many parents of 1st Gen Asian Americans born before the mid-80’s were FOBS, since Air Travel was very new at the time and expensive at that time. Now, the “B” has been known to replace “Boat” with “Boeing.”

[iii] I was constantly told that they (patients, families, friends of families) were surprised that I spoke English. I’ve even had some remark that they couldn’t understand me because my accent was so thick. Let me remind you, I grew up here. I don’t know Tagolog (the Filipino language). I speak perfectly clear English, thank you very much!

[iv] People that love “All Things Asian”

[v] IMHO Ruby Ibarra’s track, “Us” should be an anthem for every Filipina American girl out there.

[vi] Remember how I said — er, rather wrote that other countries view a “Typical American” as selfish, brash, and loud?

[vii] Prime example: I barely made it into Nursing School at Oakland University because I was one point away from failing my Microbiology prerequisite class.

[viii] And by “Patriotic,” I mean show and have pride for our country. Not the type of patriotism that believes “America needs to stay the same and not move forward” and/or “America is not the same way it used to be,” or “Change is a bad thing.” And certainly not the type of patriotism that promotes violence amongst its own people and government, More on this in the next (and final) post.

[ix] Microaggressions are “a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.

Here are a few examples of micro-aggressive statements:

      • “Well, you didn’t grow up here in America, so you wouldn’t understand.”
      • “Huh, you don’t have an accent.”
      • “You should know. You’re <insert random Asian ethnicity> and you’re are all smart.”
      • “Can you read this <random ethnic restaurant>’s menu?”
      • “He/She <points to Asian friend> would know more about these things because he/she is Asian.

The One Where Emily Reflects on Asian-American Experiences

Random Acts of Crime-ness
Part Three in my ongoing series about Asian Americans

(Part One begins here)

I’m back like a bad habit. But as you can see, I’ve had a lot of emotions about being Filipino-American bundled inside me for many years. I figured that since I had a captive (??) audience, I could give you other experiences I’ve encountered. Take it as you would, my point in telling you these stories is to make others aware of what happens when you’ve been judged solely on the color of your skin and what your ethnicity is.

Let’s start out with the most recent incident. Three weeks ago, Hubby and I headed out to run some errands. It was strangely very sunny on this blustery day which made the scratch on our car much more apparent.

We knew for sure that scratch, extending from wheel to wheel on the driver’s side, was NOT there two days ago when we did our weekly grocery run. At first, we thought that a runaway grocery cart produced this scratch. However, on further inspection, it looked like someone deliberately took his/her key and ran it on our car as he/she was walking away.

TBH, Hubby and I tried not to read into things, but given the amount of violence against Asians these days, you never know. A person may have seen us exit our car and saw that we were Asian. Or they may have looked at my Subaru Forester be disgusted that it wasn’t an American car. Either way, it was more annoying, rather than unsettling; which is what I think this petty person was hoping to achieve.

Shortly after the 2016 Presidential Election, I never experienced so much vitriol and hate from another person. Since then, I’ve been told to go back to my own country several times.[i]  I’ve had several racial slurs directed at me[ii], though they could never get the actual ethnicity correct. I’ve cringed at news about racial disparity more so than I had in the past. It seemed as if the results of the 2016 Election gave others permission to spew such hate.[iii]  But let’s face it; prior to 2016 these type of Hate crimes for Asian Americans and any marginalized minority group have occurred throughout the history of America. In fact, I’ve had several instances where I was consciously aware that I was being “profiled;” of being the recipient of micro-aggressions.

As I mentioned before, I became consciously aware in high school that there were people in the world that saw and treated me inferior to them. After that realization, I began to reflect on other instances where I may have been singled out just because I was Asian.

Here is “Early 80’s Emily”with our family beagle, Muffin

One of them was a popular childhood chant that aimed at Asian-Americans of Chinese or Japanese descent. While I won’t repeat it, it infers that these people had “dirty knees” and was therefore unclean. I remember certain classmates squinting their eyes while using their hands to perpetuate the stereotype that Chinese eyes slant upwards, while the Japanese eyes slant downwards.

The irony is that this rhyme speaks volumes about the exclusion of Asian Americans in the US. It’s a direct reference to the living conditions where Asian Americans lived. This silly childhood rhyme reveals the exclusion of Asian Americans by refusing to supply government services such as water and to the area where they reside.[iv]  Sadly, by passing this childhood rhyme down to kids, it continues to teach the next generation of children that exclusion is good.  It perpetuates their belief that Asians were inferior to Caucasians in America.

Around that same time period (specifically in June 1982), a young man named Vincent Chin was a victim of a hate crime, resulting in his death four days later. He was bludgeoned with a baseball bat.

This became national news at the time, yet I was oblivious to it until 1987 (the year I started *that* job) when Ron Ebens was cleared of any federal crime. That summer, I read everything I could about Vincent Chin’s death. I also tried to find information about other racially-motivated hate crimes. Sadly, at that time, my only way of obtaining information was to go to the library and use an *actual* card catalog to flip through random cards by various authors or subjects. The selection of books was very slim.

Chin Memorial FerndaleIf you can recall, in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the auto industry was in a slow, unequivocal free fall. The energy crisis had hit the industry particularly hard. Since Detroit is known as the “Motor City,” the birthplace of mass-produced cars, many autoworkers were facing wage-cuts and/or job eliminations.

In contrast, the Japanese auto industry was booming. Many Americans outside the auto industry were purchasing Hondas or Toyotas or Mazdas; Japanese brands that they felt were more efficient on gas and didn’t require as much maintenance or use as much gas as the Big Three[v] cars did.

Leading up to June of 1982 there was obvious animosity towards all Asian Americans. The encounter between Chin and Ebens & stepson, Michael Nitz began at a club.  Ebens called out to Chin, specifically stating, “It’s because of you little the m*therf*kers that we’re out of work.” Ebens, was clearly lumping Chin, a Chinese American, as a Japanese American.

A brawl ensued between the three resulted in the club’s security throwing al of them  out on the street. Chin made the mistake of challenging Ebens & Nitz to another fight. At that point, Ebens grabbed a baseball bat from Nitz’s car and both began to chase after Chin, who ran away on foot.

Ebens & Nitz spent 20 minutes looking for Chin, even paying another man $20 to help them find him. Chin was eventually found at a McDonald’s location close by. Nitz held Chin down as Ebens repeatedly bludgeoned Chin with the bat until his head split open. Sadly, Chin died 4 days later, never having gained consciousness. He was due to marry his fiancé later at the end of June.

A 1984 federal civil rights case against the men determined that Ebens was guilty; he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Nitz was acquitted. In 1987, a retrial for Ebens (who’s conviction was overturned in 1986) was moved from Detroit to Cincinnati due to the publicity of this trial. At this trial, the Cincinnati jury cleared Ebens of all federal charges. Ebens never spent a night in prison.

As a result, the case is viewed as the critical turning point for Asian-American civil rights engagement. It also became a rallying cry to the federal government for the need for stronger federal hate crime legislation. In 1999, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act became federal law.

Today, there remains a memorial plaque placed on Woodward Avenue’s median just east of 9 Mile Road in Ferndale; where Chin worked at Golden Star Chinese Restaurant where he worked.[vi]  Not many Detroiters are aware of this plaque, thus indicating that Vincent Chin has been all but forgotten. At least until recently.

Vincent Chin is far from being the only instance of Asian American hate crimes. In 1975, Peter Yew was a victim of police brutality from the NYPD. The Stockton Schoolyard Massacre of 1989, where media and government focused on the need for better gun control; barely mentioning the deaths of five Vietnamese children in a mostly-Vietnamese elementary school. Hung Truon, a 15-yo Vietnamese boy from Katy, TX was kicked to death in 1991 by two teenagers while repeatedly shouting, “White Power.”

Then there’s Jim (Ming Hai) Loo, who in July 1989 – only two years after Ebens’ trial – who’s death was eerily similar to that Vincent Chin.

The reason why Vincent Chin’s story is still being told 40+ years later is not because of his death.[vii]  Rather, it remains the most prominent example of a modern day, post-civil rights, racially-motivated hate crime. This happened more that 30 years after the events in Little Manila; yet the reason behind such hate remains the same.

And it continues to this day


[i] Which I find ironic seeing that I was born here and AM in my own country

[ii] Also funny since they could never get the actual ethnicity correct. Am I Chinese? Am I Thai? Am I Latino? Yes, I’ve been mistaken for Latina several times that people have asked me if I can translate Spanish to English for them.

[iii] Basically, the government refused Asian Americans their basic Human Rights.

[iv] Lead by example, I’ve been taught. Sadly, the leadership at that time was heavily promoting bigotry, misogyny, disparity, identity, equity and other issues.

[v] For those unfamiliar, the Big Three are Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.

[vi] Currently Imperial Restaurant, known for their street-tacos (see it in the background?)

[vii] Nor is it simply due to recent hate crimes affecting Asian Americans

The One Where Emily Gives a History Lesson

Roadtrips, Internment, and Vandalism, Oh My!
Part Two in my ongoing series about Asian Americans
(Part One begins here)

It’s funny about history. When we look back, we can recognize that many historical events occurred during times of uncertainty and fear. Most wars have been based on anger, hatred, and (let’s face it) ideas or goals are different and that one feels that their own is important. It’s based on fear of the unknown; the uncertainty of what may happen next. Take, for example, the Japanese Internment camps.

On our 2017 West Coast Road Trip, Hubby & I planned a stop at the Minidoka National Site in Jerome, ID on the drive home. We both wanted to understand why this country would take Japanese Americans away their homes and businesses for the “safety of America.” Why this country would force them into remote areas that were not suitable for doing anything else but farm. Why did they fear that all Japanese were spies for Japan?

While walking around the site, we saw one of the tar paper-covered barracks where these Japanese Americans lived. Each barrack was divided into small rooms where an entire family (sometimes as large as 8) were expected to sleep and eat.

As Minidoka was hastily constructed and incomplete, many of these barracks would fall apart.  The type of wood used to construct the barracks shrank over time, bringing about structural imbalance which could cause them to shift or sink. The tar paper easily ripped apart, leaving some with no privacy. 

We saw what the internees’ daily life would entail. Providing unpaid labor to complete the camp under the military commander’s order is one example. They also learned to farm in order to provide sustenance for themselves is another example. For entertainment (and only in the warmer months), they would play baseball on a field that they made. Imagine having to build your own prison and then farm for your meals. While I can never experience what they went through, I was so angry that a “civilized” nation would do this to their own citizens.

After the war, these Japanese Americans were “released.” Yet since they had been forced to vacate their homes and abandon their lives (within two weeks or less) prior to being incarcerated, they had no longer had a “home.” Despite being given a small stipend to “restart” their lives, most found their homes occupied, their businesses taken over. For that reason, many of these internees wished to stay on the land.

These Japanese Americans knew that their jobs were taken and they would face discrimination when trying to find a new job or start a business. Many of them knew nothing outside the camp as they were interned at a young age. They never knew what life was like outside the camp. Most of these younger Japanese Americans only knew how to farm potatoes (they were in Idaho, after all), so they saw purchasing the land that they lived on as an opportunity to “reset” their lives. Yet, despite the request to purchase the land, they were never even given the opportunity to bid for it. Instead, the US Federal Government allotted the land for white WWII vets.

Much of Minidoka is now bereft. All but two tar paper-covered barracks remain, but the guard towers, and most of the barbed-wire fences are now gone. Today, this land is considered a part of the National Parks Service and is registered as a  National Historic Site.

Every time I reflect back on that visit, I also remember that day in grade school where we learned about the European concentration camps. I remember being told that over 6 million persons of Jewish descent were forced to uproot their lives and placed in those camps. And how close to 2 million had died in one simply because of who they were and could not change. I remember how horrified my entire class was to learn that this happened before and during WWII. And how it’s been considered a taboo topic, yet everyone throughout the world acknowledges that that it happened. [i]

(And before I say what I’m going to say, let me be very explicit that I – by no means – am comparing these events with one another. Nor am I trying to undermine what happened in Europe. My hope is that you continue reading with an open mind.)

I find it interesting that more Americans remember what happened in Europe. And I realize that talking about Japanese Internment Camps are also a taboo subject. I just find it – what’s the word – disheartening that, to this day, many Americans don’t know about these camps [ii] nor do they acknowledge (or want to acknowledge) that America also disrupted the lives of its own residents because of something they cannot change.

Take a moment to reflect on that. And then, even though it’s taboo, talk about it. Educate others. Read more about it. This, to me would be one way of acknowledging that Minidoka and the 10 other Japanese Internment camps existed. And point out that we, as US citizens essentially did the same to Japanese Americans that Germany did (albeit, much more extensively) in Europe.

Our next trip out west will be a stop in Seattle. [iii] We want to see the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial; a city where most of the Japanese Americans from Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, were sent to prior to being shuttled by bus (with the shades pulled down) or train to Minidoka. We want to learn more about this period of American History that hasn’t been readily taught in schools.

On that same trip, Hubby & I made a side trip to visit the Little Manila Center in Stockton, CA. On the drive out west, we heard news about vandalism to the front entrance of the Center. Words like “whittie” and “bigotted” were scrawled onto the windows (later to be to be interpreted as “white property, you’re a brainwashed bigot”).

Included in the vandalism were display banners, which were put up to celebrate Filipino American History Month. What was more damaging was the loss of donated photographs from a time in history where Stockton was the largest Filipino community in the United States. Though many viewed this as a hate crime, ultimately local authority ruled it simply as an “act of vandalism,” which is a felony charge if damages exceeded $400. [iv] No one was ever caught.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the Co-founder and Executive Director of Little Manila Rising, Dillon Delvo. Despite being in the midst of a group Zoom meeting, Dillon was gracious enough to provide us with a one-on-one tour of the Center and stories behind many of the artifacts displayed. He painted a vivid picture about the lives of Filipinos in 1920-1960’s Stockton that I will never forget.

For instance, did you know that Filipinos were the first to set foot in what would eventually be Morro Bay, CA 33 years before Pilgrims from England arrived at Plymouth Rock? Mind you, they came over as low-paying servants of a Spanish fleet trying to establish a trade route from Cebu, Philippines to Acapulco, Mexico. This landing happened on October 18, 1587 which is why October is known as Filipino American History Month throughout the US.

More importantly was the story of how downtown Stockton came to be known as Little Manila. In the 1920’s and 30’s, Stockton became a popular destination for young, single, Filipino men who came to be referred as “manongs” [v] who migrated to the area for promises of a job as a farm labor and a good wage.  These men came to the US in order to establish a better life for their family back home. Unfortunately, the wages were cheap and the labor was, at times, unbearable under the California sun.

Due to “laws” that only allowed Filipino men to immigrate, [vi] there were no Filipina women in the area. Stockton became a central place for other manongs to reconnect with friends from the same province. Filipino shops lined the streets to help them feel at home. Many of them would come to drink the bars and gamble at gambling dens, spending what little wage they earned. Many of them had a room in the Filipino Federation Building and stayed there until they were able to find (and afford) their own place.

At the Filipino Federation Building they often held social events with dancing and singing. Many of the local white women would attend these dances, as the Filipinos in Stockton were good dancers. Obviously, this made other non-Filipino men angry, claiming that it was against the law and forbade any Stockton women to go to Little Manila or be seen with a Filipino. From there, local places in the city began hanging up signs stating, “No Filipinos Allowed.”

Looking back at this time period, the Anti-Filipino sentiment likely stemmed from the lack of job opportunities during the Dust Bowl era and the Great Depression. Migrant workers feared that the Filipinos, known for their hard work ethics, were stealing their jobs. Aggression from white nativists in this time period was plentiful for all non-white persons, which produced fear that Filipinos were taking over the land that the believed was rightfully theirs. [vii]

The first recorded incident of violence against Filipinos in the US happened on New Year’s Eve 1926, where “Eight whites and Filipinos were stabbed and beaten when white men entered Little Manila’s hotels and pool halls.” They were, according to news reports, “looking for Filipinos to attack.”

On January 29, 1930, a white mob bombed the Filipino Federation Building.  Local papers wrote about how “whites in an automobile hurled a bomb into the building, blowing the façade clear across the street and throwing occupants of the club from their beds.”

Incidents as those happened quite readily (one reported that a group of 22 white men spent 5 days looking for Filipinos to shoot) until WWII when Filipino Military and Filipino Americans who signed up for duty suddenly became allies by fighting alongside in battles. Yet, despite being “allies,” Filipinos and other Asian immigrants were deemed “inferior” to the whites. That sentiment still applies today; and the violence to Asians & Asian Americans of late is proof that this remains an issue.

Here’s another little-known fact: Did you know that Filipino Americans in California led the way in unionization efforts amongst ALL immigrant farm workers in the 1930s and 40s? In fact, Larry Itliong, a Filipino union leader was the driving force behind the famous Delano Grape Strike, yet Cesar Chavez is the one that was given credit for starting the strike.

In fact, Filipino farm workers were the first to walk off the grape fields establishing this famous strike. Other ethnic farm workers did not join as they were afraid of retribution from the owners. Itliong then appealed to Chavez & his fellow Mexican laborers and other ethnicities to join the strike. Unfortunately, Chavez became the face of the Delano Grape Strike and Itliong’s important role was overshadowed. [viii]

There’s not much left of the original Little Manila. In the 1950s and 1960s, large sections of Little Manila were bulldozed by the city to “improve” the look of the downtown area. There are no streets named after Itliong; [ix] though there are for Cesar Chavez throughout the country. Other than a street post with a sign to mark a historic site, there is no real evidence of Little Manila in Stockton. The space in which the largest number of Filipino Americans lived was replaced by a freeway, displacing many Filipino homes and establishments.

In fact, before hearing about the vandalism in Stockton on our road trip out west, we were already informed that Little Manila Rising was trying to save the last large lot of what was Little Manila. Unfortunately, they were not successful and a McDonald’s restaurant replaced the once historic site.

Most recently the Rizal Social Club succumbed to demolition. Little Manila Rising were first notified about the city’s plan to bulldoze the building down in mid-July of 2020. The demolition was scheduled for the end of that month, despite ongoing talks within the City Council. Advocates for Little Manila managed to get an extension into the end of August, but the cost of repairing the damage to the building would have left them with no funds to keep the Little Manila Center open. On October 22, 2020 the Rizal Social Club building was torn down.

I’m sharing all these examples because it’s important everyone knows that America has a long history of marginalizing other ethnicities. From the beginnings of colonizing North America, through the Great Depression. From the Delano Grape Strike to removing Filipino American history by destroying important landmarks. This can be said of every Asian ethnicity.

In fact, many Chinatowns, Koreatowns, et al had been destroyed over the years with the guise of “improving the city.” Detroit’s original Chinatown had been demolished in the 60’s to make way for the Fisher Freeway. Currently the majority of the former Chinatown is now the MGM Casino.

Instead, the City moved Detroit’s Chinatown further northeast to the Cass Corridor. This left Chinese American residents without a home and a job. Anyone who has driven through the Cass Corridor in the mid-80’s to the 2000’s knows that it was not a very welcoming neighborhood. Although Wayne State University [x] is just blocks away and Woodward Avenue just one block east, not many Asian Americans of my generation and on had ever been interested in touring the area, simply because we were too young to remember what Detroit’s Chinatown may have looked like.

Today, Cass Corridor has been “revived.” Restaurants and bars have opened up in the area. New condo buildings replaced older homes & businesses in disrepair. There is even a frickin’ Whole Foods Market just a block away from Cass Ave. Yet there is little to show that this used to be Detroit’s 2nd Chinatown; mainly because all the Chinese Americans left.

After visiting Stockton and Minidoka, I do believe that “beautifying” the land / city, is one of the many ways that try to erase parts of white American History that we “don’t like” or even remember. The point of American History is to remember these types of circumstances; even more so, understand the context behind these events. And talk / write / debate about these events. If we fail to remember or even speak about it, then that history will disappear. That is certainly what’s occurring today, as many fail to remember (or refuse to learn about) these events and the circumstances behind them. As the quote says, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Our previous president’s is a prime example of someone that refuses to understand context, or that actions all have circumstances. During the 2020 Presidential campaigns and in response to the New York Times’ (NYT) 1619 Project, he blatantly announced (at the National Archives Museum, of all places) that the current history lessons being taught in our schools are “toxic propaganda.”

On November 2, 2020 (on the day of the 2020 Presidential Election), Trump established by Executive Order the “1776 Commission. He threatened to cut federal funding to schools that teach the 1619 Project and/or use of the Critical Race Theory. He also indicated that funding for the schools that fail to instill “patriotic education” in their curriculum will also be cut.

This 1776 Commission’s goal was to end what Trump called the “radicalized view of American history” in which Trump claimed was an attack on our Founders. In true Trump fashion, he hand-picked the 18-person group, none of which are an American Historian by profession. Then two days prior to the end of Trump’s term, the 1776 Commission released their report. 

Hours after the inauguration of our current president, an executive order was issued dissolving the 1776 Commission.

So that’s my history lesson; my way to talk about these tragic events. I write about it because it’s necessary to look at history and all of its actions & consequences to these occasions so we can learn from our mistakes, let alone repeat it over and over.

(More to come in Part 3)

[i] It’s funny (but not) that I happened to stumble on this article while writing

[ii] Mostly because the Gen-Y & Millennials no longer had family that can remember certain event, as the numbers of The Greatest Generation are dwindling. Many don’t even know the names of the Jewish concentration camps, let alone any of the Japanese internment camps

[iii] And, let’s face is … a mini car ride to Lake View Cemetery to pay our respects to Bruce Lee.

[iv] Estimated cost of damage for this act of vandalism was approximately $800. Anything lower than $400 is considered an act of graffiti and is only a misdemeanor; while vandalism is considered a felony.

[v] Manong loosely translates to older brother or uncle

[vi] These local laws were established under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Immigration Act of 1924

[vii] Which, IMHO, is a joke since – well, besides the Native Americans, Filipinos were the first to step on US soil in Morro Bay.

[viii] Have you heard of Larry Itliong street anywhere? Neither have I; however, I do see a lot of Cesar Chavez streets in some – okay, most major cities.

[ix] He does have a school, a bridge and a day named after him, though!

[x] Interesting fact; Wayne State’s Walter Reuther Library has the original Larry Itliong papers

The One Where Emily Hates the Term “Oriental”

Don’t mistake me for a rug, or lamp, or china doll for that matter
Part One in my ongoing series about Asian Americans

I’ve had these thoughts in my head for a while now. And to be honest, I’ve wanted to write them into one cohesive “thought” since I was in my early 20’s. With the recent events in Atlanta and throughout the entire US; now seemed to be the right time to sort all those thoughts and write them down and share it with you.

I warn you now, I have a LOT to say. Rest-assured, I will separate these thoughts into a series of posts. Perhaps, so as to be overwhelmed with what I’m writing. Because I really hope you read the following posts and learn something from them. And perhaps share what you learned with your family & friends.

I’ve overheard people talk about how they do not think the violence against Asian Americans is real. Or they believe that, based on our ethnic culture, we don’t “mind” that such actions happen. But what you see and read in the media today about such hate crimes are absolutely true. As a First Generation Asian-American (well, technically Pacific Islander), I do believe that we (AAPI – Asians and Pacific Islanders) tend to feel that “disconnect” in life-experiences more acutely; we tend to feel torn between two cultures. We tend to say that we live two different lives.

It’s tough having to blend both our AAPI and American cultures together. This is why you’ll constantly hear that immigrants & 1st Gen Asian Americans feel like they live in two different “worlds.” Each culture has a way of doing things, getting the job done. There’s my Filipino heritage; one that has many customs that has been passed down from generation to generation. These things I learned from my parents and aunts & uncles who had grown up in the Philippines.

However, with the American culture, I simply learned along the way. At school there was maybe one or two Asian American kids other than me and my brother. I discovered that my classmates and teachers would routinely perform actions or say phrases that I had never heard or seen before, leaving me bewildered. Yet these same behaviors were normal to them. Growing up with our Filipino family & friends, I felt comfortable enough to ask questions and learn more about my Filipino culture. In contrast, I was afraid to ask questions about “normal” American behavior for fear of being judged. To solve that, I would simply observe my classmates and teachers to determine what they considered as run-of-the-mill everyday stuff. And of course, watching TV shows; I wouldn’t have known that porkchops went well with applesauce until Peter Brady said so. Growing up this way, I felt torn between the differences in culture. It often felt as if I was being torn apart and pulled in two separate directions. And somehow, I had to find a way to cope with this.

That said, my experience (as well as other Filipino friends / family), there is usually that ONE event in our lives (despite our parents’ warnings) where we acutely recognize how different we look from our classmates, and it becomes blatantly clear that we are seen differently in their eyes. I believe that this learned behavior is passed on from parent to child. And I also believe that this behavior usually rears its head when my teachers, classmates and co-workers, when feel that we pose a “threat” to them. But more of that later. I promise.

I’ve shared some of them in previous post, but the one that REALLY opened my eyes was my first summer job.[i] I’ve shared the story before in other posts, but here’s the gist of it. At 14, I was hired at a fast food joint because I wanted to make some extra spending money. I figured it couldn’t be too hard to work a register and take orders. But that’s not what I was assigned. At first it was washing dishes in the back. Then it was being put on the food line, all while other “new hires” got to work the registers and take orders. I had a gut feeling it was because management didn’t want customers to see me.

Needless to say, I lasted 3 months at that place and refused to work there again the next summer. Though I left that situation, I regret not having said something to that manager. Or even the assistant manager, who recognized what was going on.

Growing up in the 80’s, I was labeled every kind of Asian celebrity out there; from Margaret Cho to Ming Na Wen (in her Joy Luck Club days, not the Agents of SHEILD days). Later it would become Sandra Oh or Lucy Lui. Any other person out there may have thought it was a compliment to be compared to beautiful actresses. For me, those “compliments” felt as if I was just viewed as an object in non-Asian persons’ eyes.

Which brings me to the next issue: Being called “Oriental.” IMHO, I think that being called “Oriental” feels as if I were an object or a property to be owned; a vase, a rug, a style of decor for example. I feel this way for two reasons:

    1. That term lumps every Asian Ethnicity into one group, when — as of the 2010 US Census data (2020 still not available), there are close to 30 different Asian cultures around the world.
    2. It’s rude. Seriously, would any other subgroup like German Americans or Italian Americans like it to be lumped as European? Yes, the term “Asian” does the same, but Oriental makes it sound as if I was from a distant land in the East where so many luxurious items could be taken back to the US. Things like jade, gold, porcelain, mah jong (ii). And also, not ALL Asians are in the “East.” There’s a reason that Pacific Islanders are added to the mix, as there are other countries / ethnicities west of Hawaii (the Philippines being one of them).

Yes, I realize the term “Asian” does the same thing. However, being called but Oriental makes it sound as if I was from a distant, came from Eastern World where so many luxurious items could be taken back to the US. Things like jade, gold, porcelain, mah jong. [ii] And also, not ALL Asians are in the “East.” There’s a reason that Pacific Islanders are added to the mix, as there are other countries / ethnicities west of Hawaii (the Philippines being one of them).

I’ve taken many people by surprise when saying that I don’t like the term “Oriental.” By no means do I believe that using the word “Asian” is JUST a “politically correct” term for “Oriental.” I truly believe that if you are going to label a person by ethnicity or race, then get your terms (or even just the correct country) right.

As an RN, I’ve taken care of every age group including WWII and Vietnam / Korean War Vets. [iii] While I’m conscious that “Oriental” was the term they previously used; but, if my Mom can (for the most part) use her iPhone to send emails, chat or even look at the FB app, then I would think that someone can learn how to keep up with other changes in society.

And, oh BTW — did you know that in 2016 a federal law was passed to remove any mention of the word “Oriental” in any federal document? [iv]

(more in Part II)

[i] Well technically it was babysitting. I’m still amazed how parents were confident in me to leave their child(ren) in my care! 

[ii] Yes, I know mah jong has been the go-to Asian game (especially when betting is involved) for all Asian ethnicities. Also the mah jong you see as a pesky ad while mindlessly playing games on your phone … that’s not the mah jong that Asians play.

[iii] Interesting anecdote: WW2 vets either despised me or loved to share stories about their time in Asia. Vietnam / Korean vets; however, tended to be more angry and very suspicious (of which I can empathize).

[iv] That is the same law that was passed to strike the term “Negro” in all federal document