Danny Pudi and an audience member do the “Troy and Abed handshake” at the Mixed & APA in the Media event held on October 6. Photo: Sara Clayton.
In order to promote awareness of mixed Asian Pacific Americans in film, television, and the Internet, HapaSC and the Asian Pacific American Student Assembly came together this past Thursday, Oct. 6, to host “Mixed & APA in the Media.”
The panel event, which took place at USC’s Rosen Family Screening Theatre, featured a number of notable and influential Asian American guests. Panelists included Danny Pudi, the half-Polish and half-Indian actor best known for his role as Abed Nadir on NBC’s Community; Susan Hua, director of marketing at Spyglass Entertainment; Christine Yoo, director of Wedding Palace, an upcoming movie satirizing love and family in Asian American culture; the K-Town Cowboys – Peter Jae, Daniel “DPD” Park, and Shane Yoon – who run a webseries dedicated to their glory days in Koreatown; and Velina Hasu Houston, a multiracial professor, Associate Dean of Faculty, Resident Playwright, and director of the undergraduate playwriting program here at USC.
Houston led the discussion by recounting how her ethnically diverse background – a mix of Japanese, African Native American, and Blackfoot-Pikuni – affected her way of viewing the world around her. Houston felt that she had the privilege of “having a foot in two countries.” She went on to ask the panel about their opinions on the lack of mixed race actors as well as Asian Americans in the media.
Pudi, a multiracial actor familiar with playing only single-ethnicity roles answered, “Most people look to artists you would like to emulate… but when you’re mixed race, there’s not a lot of that… you have to forge your own path… but in this sense, you get to explore yourself more than other people.”
Christine Yoo shared how she faced rejection after rejection for the longest time because of her film’s all-Asian cast.
“There was nobody in Holly wood that would by Wedding Palace… it was a kiss of death for financiers.”
However, after explaining how her perseverance finally paid off, she added, “you can find strength in what people find a weakness.”
After discussing their personal experiences, the panelists showcased their talents as well. Pudi read a self-written monologue on how he has played four different Sanjays in his career, Hua and shared a preview of Wedding Palace, and the K-Town Cowboys played one of their videos, which included a cameo by Mad TV’s Bobby Lee.
And after all was said and done, the panelists took time to meet with audience members, pose for pictures, and sign autographs.
Through all the controversial debate surrounding the discriminatory bake sale, writer urges naysayers to take a look at bigger picture.
By Jessie Wong
What’s your flavor: red velvet, creamy chocolate, or French vanilla? For UC Berkeley students the only color that mattered was the one on your skin. Well, sort of.
There were protests in response to the racist bake sale at UC Berkeley. Some argued for SB 185 and others against.
The point was to raise awareness
and get a message across. And in this writer’s opinion, the members of the university’s College Republicans did just that.
Gov. Jerry Brown seemed to receive the message loud and clear as he vetoed Senate Bill 185 on Saturday. It was a bill that would have allowed public universities to consider one’s race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, and other relevant factors in their admissions process.
According to The Daily Californian, Shawn Lewis, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, issued a statement supporting Brown’s decision to veto the bill, stating that college admissions decisions should be based on “the qualifications of the applicant and the individual challenges he or she has faced” rather than race.
But it all started with a little bake sale.
The now infamous “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” held last month involved cupcakes and cookies sold at different prices according to the buyer’s race:
$2 for white students
$1.50 for Asian students
$1 for Latinos
75 cents for African Americans
25 cents for Native Americans
And of course, all women received a 25-cent discount.
Yes, it was a racist bake sale. I don’t think anyone is denying that. But those that decried it missed the whole point of the bake sale.
“We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point,” Lewis wrote in response as reported by CNN. “It is no more racist than giving an individual an advantage in college admissions based solely on their race (or) gender.”
The racism in the sale clearly parallels the racism in the controversial and discriminatory state bill.
Regardless of your position on affirmative action, the amount of anger and hurt feelings over this bake sale was overblown and unjustified. University campuses, especially one as liberal and tolerant as Berkeley, are supposed to be bastions of free speech even if the stance is in the minority.
There was no need for Associated Students to gather in an emergency meeting and condemn the use of discriminatory methods for all occasions. This sent the message that students are unable to freely voice their opinions and share in deep and provocative discourse.
If deep and provocative discussion isn’t safe in the academic atmosphere of college life, where is it safe?
The College Republicans did not obstruct anyone’s way or physically harm anyone.
So, why did this story pick up so much press? The idea of hosting “bake sales” to prove a point certainly wasn’t unprecedented. Bake sales have been used on other college campuses to make a political argument or stir up public discussion.
And this sale was a piece of cake compared to other more radical protests at the top teaching and research university.
Everybody needs to take a step back and examine the bigger picture. The story isn’t about race and a petty bake sale, but the construction of race and its role in a piece of legislation that threatens to reinstate affirmative action in California.
Cupcakes are colorblind or are they? Photo: Flickr.
Editor’s Notes: Do you have questions or comments? Feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment below or E-mailing the columnist directly by clicking here.
A teacher finds more attentive students at a private elementary school because their perceived wealth indicates private tutoring and increased pressure on students to succeed. Photo: Flickr.
It was 6: 50 in the morning on August 27th. A school tram arrived on time to pick up Kangang, a 6 year-old boy, whose parents both work as migrant workers in Dongguan. This was his first day of school. Dongguan, located in southeastern China, is renowned as the “workshop of the world” and holds the greatest number of peasant workers in China. Currently there are 549, 000 unregistered students in the city, according to the Yangcheng Evening News.
The school Kangkang attends is called Zhuoen. Formerly a public school owned by the local government, it was later purchased by the Zhuoen Educational Group and transformed into a private kindergarten and primary school. The school has trams to transport students to and from their homes every day, three on-campus meals, and afternoon recess. “It is relatively a good one, comparing to other private schools in Dongguan,” said Kangkang’s father. He has been living and working here for 12 years, yet is not a registered for permanent residence in Dongguan.
The school fees are not cheap. It costs 5000 renminbi (RMB) for one semester: 2800 RMB for tuition fees and the rest for living expenses such as food, books, school uniforms, and so on. If Kangkang went to a public school, the fees would not be so high. Going to a public school, however, would send Kangkang back to his hometown and away from his parents. It was a big decision for his family. “Grandparents can only take care of his eating and clothing. They cannot help with his studies. It is easy for them to spoil the kid as well,” say his parents. They wanted the best for Kangkang, so they sent him to this private school.
“In fact many migrant laborers would like to send their kids to public schools. But the policy is too strict,” lamented Kangkang’s father. Since 2009 the Dongguan government has implemented a new point-based policy to provide more openings for students like Kangkang. It decides students’ qualifications according to their parents’ education, professional training, length of service in the city, length of social insurance, households, and taxes. One of the problems of the policy is that many local employers provide social insurance for the employees only after the newly modified labor law of 2008.
Although there has been an increase of 1544 openings in public elementary schools this year, there are only 14564 positions for migrant children. Districts such as Fenggang have about 400 public schools, but only permits 245 applications.
Last month some schools closed down in Beijing, depriving 14,000 migrant students of education. Children are the future of a country and migrant children should not be an exception, considering the immeasurable contributions their parents make to the Chinese economy. As Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out earlier this year, the issue requires two paths of action: intensively promoting education in rural parts of the country and providing equal opportunities in urban areas. “Kids will accept excellent education no matter if they are at home or in the city,” said Premier Wen this February to Xinhua News.
Diversity’s back in the limelight, and it’s getting more than 15 minutes of fame. Recent events, notably the Increase Diversity Bake Sale held at UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza in September, have stoked discourse to a blaze. The Berkeley College Republicans, whose members sought to expose the “unconstitutional” aim of one Senate Bill 185, sold cupcakes to ethnic minorities for a discounted price, whereas white males were charged a premium (two bucks) for a baked treat.
What might have been insensitive — or just rude — has, however, called for significant discussion. The bill — which would enact an affirmative action policy, allowing UC’s and CSU’s to consider “race, gender, ethnicity,” and so on — doesn’t only demand we ponder the constitutionality of giving preference to applicants based on their ethnicity, but whether diversity’s really all it’s cracked up to be.
Diversity’s supporters claim that the chief benefit of a diversified student body — one that more or less satisfies a baseline number, or “critical mass,” of minority students — is an enriched college experience. What better way to learn, if not in the classroom, than connecting with students from all different backgrounds? Many times, indeed, college is the venue wherein young men and women first become exposed to harshly contrasting forms of worldview, religion, language, food — the list goes on. These eye-opening experiences — which are what college is “all about” — make for more well-rounded students. And it’s certainly important to escape that ingrained “small town” insularity. Think of it as a necessary rite of passage, into adulthood, or maturity.
Now, go to the other end of the spectrum: you’ll get thumped by statistics, recent studies. But, as is expected, the studies have a lot to say. Prominently, in 1999, one Stanley Rothman headed a new project at Smith College. With just two other men under his wings, Rothman impressively surveyed a combined 4,000 students and faculty members from 140 colleges nationwide. Participants answered benign questions questions (like: “How do you rate the quality of education you receive?”), and the answers were then evaluated under a relevant context: the proportion of minority students enrolled at each school. If diversity’s proponents were correct in their assumptions, the schools with higher minority percentages would report higher rates of cultural acceptance among their students and faculty, more positive evaluations of the educational conditions, etc. Shockingly enough, Rothman results were exactly the contrary. Not only were the diversified schools increasingly eager to complain about discrimination, their students held lower estimations for both the quality of education they received and the perceived work ethic of their colleagues. Rothman said it loud: diversity does more harm than good.
Things became even more interesting when Rothman looked into how a concentrated enrollment of a particular minority affected the survey results. Hispanic students remained fairly neutral a factor, whereas — appealing to the stereotype — schools that saw higher rates of Asian enrollment reported greater student quality. Faculty members generally perceived their students as performing at a higher caliber.
I’m stuck (and it’s okay!). As with most normative issues, it’s difficult to arrive at a stance that seems overwhelmingly “right.” Studies here, studies there — it might seem logical to dissuade, or even disallow, colleges from the use of affirmative action. Constitutional or not, we’ve seen that diversification might not even be effective. But, while the statistics don’t lie — for those 140 colleges, at least — people aren’t afraid to stand up to numbers, normal distributions, et al. . . . So I’ll say it: Let’s never forget to make the distinction between what’s effective and what’s upright.
E. J. Bies is currently a technical writing intern at Versatile College Consulting.
Taking an in-depth look at India’s anti-corruption movement and diving into the idea of fasting as a form of political protest.
By Harsh Vathsangam
Social activist Anna Hazare went on fast unto death demanding greater public role and more powers in an anticorruption bill earlier this year. Many prominent Indians and organizations all over the country are supporting Hazare’s demands. Photo: Flickr.
To many he is a messiah –
a face that represents millions of nameless people who have endured the brunt of India’s corruption. To skeptics he is a showman with a dubious track record – a pawn in a circus of politicians and media members each dedicated to furthering their own interests.
Either way, one thing is for sure, one simply cannot ignore Anna Hazare.
Over the last two years, India has been rocked by a series of debilitating corruption scandals, each one more spectacular than the last.
The most aggravating aspect of these controversies has been the government’s scant disregard and disrespect of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. These scams are simply larger-scaled versions of the endemic, everyday corruption that permeates India’s current cultural landscape.
The South Asian country is a place where one cannot get an electricity connection without greasing the palms of an Indian babu or a sleazy bureaucrat.
Sanjay Yadav, an auto rickshaw driver, described best how bribery has become commonplace.
“You go for a driver’s license you pay a bribe, if you go to the vehicle registration office you pay a bribe, you drive on the road you pay a bribe, you commit a crime you pay a bribe, you don’t commit any crime you pay a bribe,” Yadav said in an television interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
But even with recent legislation, it is disturbing to note that there exists very little protection for people who want to fight this system. As India strives to become a contender on the world stage, the anguish and resentment felt by many citizens have arguably highlighted corruption as venom that threatens to destroy the dreams of a new India.
Enter Hazare, who some have bestowed the honor of being called the modern-day Gandhi.
Related Video Story:
Indian activist Anna Hazare and his anti-corruption movement wage a public hunger strike in New Delhi. Thousands of Indians are flocking to New Delhi to join Team Anna. Video: YouTube user linktv.
For the past few months, Hazare has been at the center of what history might judge as one of the most important revolutions in modern India. Hazare started an indefinite hunger strike on April 5 to pressure the Indian government to enact a stringent anti-corruption law or the Jan Lokpal Bill.
The fast ended when government officials agreed to the demands and an Aug. 15 deadline to pass the bill. When that didn’t happen? Hazare went on to detained and released before not eating for 288 hours straight, according to the India Times.
If approved, the bill also referred to as the citizens’ ombudsman bill would call for an ombudsman with the power to deal with corruption issues. Prominent lawyers and social activists drafted the bill. Some of the authors are N. Santosh Hegde, former justice of the Supreme Court of India; Prashant Bhushan, a senior lawyer in the Supreme Court; and Arvind Kejriwal, a leading social activist.
After initially dismissing the movement as a frivolous sideshow, the government’s response evolved from ignorance to arrests to acquiescence. The change in response was due in large part by endorsements from almost every section of society including leading opposition party members pushing their own political agenda, media channels hoping to boost their television ratings, religious saints staging parallel fasts, Bollywood icons vying for the spotlight, members of the normally apathetic middle class sporting “I am Anna Hazare” T-shirts and landless laborers just hoping to catch a glimpse of the man who finally gave a voice to their suffering.
Police estimate that as many as 100,000 supporters gather to stage dramatizations in New Delhi yearly, reports the Times of India. Graphic: Flickr user ssoosay via Creative Commons.
Another interesting facet of the movement was the extensive use of Twitter and Facebook. Such social media sites helped organize gatherings and plan protests. “Facebook has over a hundred pages dedicated to fight against corruption,” reported an NDTV journalist during a newscast earlier this year. “Anna Hazare has become a trending topic on Twitter with tweet every five seconds.”
With many subsequent multi-day fasts by Hazare and enough TV drama to make a Bollywood producer proud, at last the effects were seen. Important ministers in the Union Cabinet with tainted records resigned and some were even put behind bars. The government decided to table its own version of the bill in Parliament and incorporate prominent Hazare supporters in the drafting committee. A debate on the Jan Lokpal bill was held in the Indian Parliament on Aug. 27.
Hazare demanded three principles: citizen charter, lower bureaucracy to be under Lokpal through an appropriate mechanism and establishment of Lok Ayuktas, anti-corruption ombudsman organizations, in the states with both houses agreeing to the principles.
Critics against the movement claim that the addition of an ombudsman against corruption only adds a layer in an already multifaceted corrupt system.
The establishment of anti-corruption laws would only be the first step in bringing about a cultural change in Indian society starting from the individual and working its way through the government. However, one fact cannot be ignored. Not since the struggle for independence from the British or the 1975 Emergency when the president could rule by decree has such a mass movement galvanized the Indian public and become as powerful as to shake the legitimacy of the incumbent government.
Another striking aspect is how the entire movement has been completely non-violent, the only weapons of choice being civil disobedience and fasts, a technique that has echoes of Gandhi in it and has been adopted by freedom fighters around the world.
Harsh Vathsangam is currently a PhD student at the University of Southern California’s
Viterbi School of Engineering.
According to The New York Times, Hazare ended his 12-day fast Aug. 28 only after India’s Parliament agreed to his “central demands for shaping legislation to create an independent anti-corruption agency empowered to scrutinize public officials and bureaucrats in India.”
In the end, one can’t help but admire how this movement represents a great example of why India is considered a future star on the global stage. There are people nonviolently making their voices heard, a government willing to listen and respond to its people, a noisy opposition and mass media intent on exposing wrongdoings. Such characteristics are what make a democracy successful.
And at the center of it all, has been Anna Hazare.
Editor’s Notes: There was additional reporting by Jeffrey Ledesma. Do you have questions or comments? Feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment below or E-mailing the columnist directly by clicking here.