fall 2006

MOdern PercePtiOns Of AsiAn AMericAns

fall 2006, XI issue no.1
cover graphic by Cecilia Yang


6 10 12 20

Modern Perceptions of Asian Americans...................................................3 Introducing MTV Chi, MTV Desi, and MTV K......................................4
The largest commercialized debut of Asian American pop culture in the U.S.

Stepping Up.......................................................................................6
Asian American athletes on the rise

communicASIANS is published semiannually by the Asian American Activities Center (A³C). Views expressed in communicASIANS are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the A³C. communicASIANS welcomes all signed letters of opinion, which are subject to editing for length, accuracy and grammar.
Asian American Activities Center 545 Lomita Drive Stanford, CA 94305-3064

The Interest in Asian Media..............................................................8
The repercussions of this interest on the image of Asian Americans in the U.S.

How the West Can Be Won.................................................................9
Increasing Awareness of Muslim Culture

Making a Mark in Hollywood............................................................10
APIs and the Film Industry

Editor-in-ChiEf Julie Kim

Memoirs of a Chinese American in China........................................12
A Stanford student’s experiences while studying abroad in China

the News
Domestic Violence.....................................................................................14
Why are Asian and Asian American women more silent about this injustice than others?

Wired Together..........................................................................................16
Facebook, Xanga, and more: How & Why Asian Americans connect

Linda Lee: 10 Years Later-The Status of AA Studies Today.....................18

oN campus
Discovering Leadership Through the API Community..............................20
Resources to help develop and implement leadership skills

aSSoCiatE Editor Christine Chung Copy Editor Kelvin vuong Layout Editor Cathryn Chu ContributorS DelanD Chan samuel Chen Christine Chung aram hur linDa lee riCh liu tammy Phan Dwight tran Jazib zahir theresa zhen

Editor’s lEttEr
Back at the star t of freshman year, you may have participated in an activity where you anonymously shared your identities, both those that are public and those that you keep to yourself. At the first overnight staff retreat in the history of the A3C, the staff took part in this same activity. After we wrote down our public identities on pieces of paper and our directors, Cindy and Shelley, posted them on to the whiteboard, the descriptions we saw did not surprise us. While the words we chose, like Asian American and student, were expected, it was interesting to note how so many of us associated with similar ideas. Then came the second stage of the exercise. We wrote down the phrases that describe our hidden identities. Here, the surprise came. As Cindy and Shelley posted this new set of words, we were surprised (and possibly relieved) to see that we shared traits, even though we would not normally discuss these openly with others. This activity allowed the staff to bond and get to know each other beyond names, majors, and staff positions. It also allowed us to begin to consider the perceptions we hold of ourselves. So now you may be thinking, “Great. The A3C staff bonded. But why does this matter to me?” The realizations that this exercise brought about highlight a broader issue. The exercise dealt with how we, as individuals, believe others perceive ourselves and how we perceive ourselves. To extend this concept, how are Asian Americans perceived and how do Asian Americans perceive themselves? The feature of this issue deals precisely with this question. The articles in this feature are intended to provoke new thoughts and reevaluate old notions about the modern perceptions of Asian Americans. Perhaps (and I hope) you will love this issue of communicASIANS. Maybe you’ll think after reading an article, “Hey, I would’ve said the same thing.” Or perhaps you will staunchly disagree. One way or another (and what editor’s note would be complete without a plug), send me your feedback at Until then…
Enjoy, WeBmAster

A3C StAff
AssistAnt DeAn of stuDents & Director Cindy ng AssistAnt Director Shelley Tadaki ADministrAtive AssociAte yang lor Aim coorDinAtor diana auSTria Alumni relAtions coorDinAtor linda Tran AsiAn AmericAn stuDies linda lee

“But why does this matter to me?”

CaThryn Chu ChriSTine Chung Julie kim kelvin vuong community BuilDing coorDinAtor Tammy Phan computer services STeve nguyen culturAl progrAmming BeiJia ma fAcilities coorDinAtor marCia lee frosh interns ChriSTie Cho JaSon Jia lan le euniCe lee andrew PiPaThSouk grAD stuDent progrAmming aliCe Siu puBlicity coorDinAtor CeCilia yang speAker series coorDinAtor JaSon lee ChriSTian TaBing amy yu
Top photo by Alvaro Ponce. Bottom photo by Julie Kim.

The A3C staff smiles for the camera at the overnight staff retreat.

juliE Kim, Editor-in-ChiEf
2 communicasians


hat do you think when you hear the word “Asian?” What about the word “American?” Now if you put the words together to form “Asian American,” what comes to mind? Stereotypical perceptions of Asian Americans pervade American culture. Quiet and timid. Intelligent and studious. Over the past decades, Asian Americans have been pushing the limits imposed upon them, redefining their role in society. They are not simply the engineers, computer programmers, and doctors of this country. They are breaking new ground in the entertainment industry. They are forging new destinies in the sports sector. Asian Americans are redefining the public perception of what it means to be Asian and American, and moreover, what it means to be Asian American. And it’s all happening now.

From right to left, top to bottom: photo courtesy of,,,,; Background:

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You are Cordially Invited to the Largest Commercialized, Mainstream Debut of Asian American Pop Culture in the U.S.—

(Attendees are asked to bring a guest, as well as prepare themselves for a litany of doubt and suspicion.)
by Christine Chung

Introducing MTV Chi, MTV Desi, and MTV K
photo courtesy of


n an attempt to serve the growing demographic of hyphenated Americans (a la Korean American, Chinese American, etc.), MTV created another addition to the MTV family—MTV World. The banner program already hosts MTV Desi, MTV Chi, and MTV K, but before supporters uncork that proverbial bottle of wine, a close look into MTV’s possible motivations can bring a little damper to the celebration. The channels target teens and young adults who identify themselves with the three subcultures. MTV Desi launched in July 2005 with the goal of attracting South Asian Americans (including Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Indian Americans). MTV Chi followed suit in December 2005 and offered viewers a taste of everything from Chinese American hip hop, Cantonese pop, and Mandarin pop. Lastly, MTV K was launched in June 2006 with shows like “Hip Hop Seoul” and “Top 10 Kountdown.” Each channel also hosts programs co-hosted by its international affiliates and is already available to DirecTV subscribers. Considering that Asian Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, tend to be more affluent and better educated than the rest of America, it was simply time for media conglomerates to let go of the likes of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku craze (we know, it hurts) and truly serve America’s third largest and fastest growing ethnic group. Further, because the number of Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) nearly doubled from 1990 to 2004, APIs simply grew out of the unpubli4 communicasians

cized likes of AZN TV, American Desi, and Imaginasian TV. Even Nusrat Durrani, General Manager/Senior Vice President of MTV World, claims that the young API community is “a very influential audience. It’s the most educated, it’s also the most tech-savvy, and it is […] underserved.” With the credibility and modern day might of MTV, any of its subprojects easily has the power of shaping the opinions of millions of viewers worldwide. Likewise, MTV Chi, Desi, and K all have the power of bringing Asian Americans closer to the forefront of American young adult culture. But MTV World’s power to govern how non-Asians perceive APIs can be easily used or abused. If the three channels slowly abandon their current devotion to viewer-selected programming, they may fall under the danger of gravitating towards the decisions of nonAsian forces and thus offer a misrepresenta-

tion of APIs to their audiences. H o w ever, this paranoia becomes null when compared against the positive influence MTV World could have. MTV has long been considered the pulse of young America, and to see MTV World flourish would be a notable gain towards Asian-American assimilation into the greater media. A sense of unconditional optimism almost always follows at the coattails of any colorfully progressive act by a well-known company, however, and the same holds true for MTV with MTV World. To counter against the danger of accepting MTV World too easily, consider the possible motives behind

Clockwise, from left: MTV Desi fans are able to view featured content on; MTV Chi recently aired its first concert; a selection of features available on; MTV K viewers voted BoA’s “My Name” the first video to win the ‘Top 10 Kountdown.’


photo courtesy of photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

MTV Chi, Desi, and K, and it will seem as if the intentions behind MTV World may not be of the purest sort. The talk of the 2004 Superbowl was not about the game at all. After exposing her semi-naked breast during the MTV-sponsored halftime show (she had a strategically placed “sticky”), Janet Jackson’s songs and music videos were banned from MTV indefinitely. But viewers are easily able to watch Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” in heavy rotation, while Jackson’s newer releases are still nowhere to be found. The ethnic underpinnings of the blunder complicate MTV’s treatment of minorities by putting a dubious light on any of its ethnicity-related projects, which questions whether MTV World is simply one of MTV’s own oscillating attempts to deal with the minority issue. Is MTV World the product of MTV’s desire to appear more politically correct and

to “make up” for past grievances with its African American viewers? Despite the temptation to suspect the worst, more evidence supports the fact that like any other company sensitive to its market, MTV simply made a wise investment into a burgeoning source of profit (in this case, young APIs). After being accused of not representing enough African Americans, the network developed several African American-themed programs such as “Pimp My Ride” (2004) and “Wild ‘N Out” (2005). MTV presented these programs not just to ameliorate relations within the African American community, but to experiment with a bit of diversity with its programming. The decision

must have been a good one for MTV, as both shows are wildly popular with the whole of MTV’s viewers—African American or not. It is highly doubtful that the premeditated decision to create MTV World would stem from such dubious motives, and MTV has done a good job of dispelling the fear by allowing viewers to become involved with its programming decisions by voting for shows online. In order to ensure its full success, MTV will need to accept the fact that while Asian Americans will enjoy their respective MTV World channels, they are still part of a larger culture that supersedes ethnicity— young America. ■
communicasians 5

Asian American on the


by Samuel Chen


ichael Chang. Amy Chow. Michelle Kwan. These names may look somewhat familiar, but the truth is, the current list of widely recognizable, high-profile Asian Americans who are gracing our nation’s athletic arenas is remarkably short. Yet this list is beginning to expand. A similar truth regarding the Latino-American population could have been uttered in the mid-20th century. But just a quick glance over the numbers of Latino-American athletes competing in today’s junior, collegiate and professional ranks, would tell you that their influence and participation in athletics in this country has significantly changed for the better. While still admittedly lagging behind most other large demographics in the U.S., the popularity of sports is rapidly escalating within the Asian American community. The participation in organized athletic activities by Asian Ameri6 communicasians

cans is on the rise, and at the higher levels of competition, the Asian American population is making its presence felt. It can no longer be said that Asian Americans shy away from high-profile sports, ei-

ther. Nearly all major sports are advancing their numbers with regards to participation by the Asian American community. For instance, in football, a sport not traditionally associated with Asian American, linebacker Dat Nguyen, quarterback Timmy Chang, wide receiver Hines Ward and Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow are prominent examples of the ongoing change. This change involves the acceptance of the notion that no race or ethnicity can be counted out. Nguyen, the first athlete of Vietnamese descent ever to play in the National Football League, was a star linebacker at Texas A&M in the mid- to late-nineties. He followed up an All-American and award-filled collegiate career with a solid seven-year career in the Dallas CowDat Nguyen, 36, was boys linebackthe first Vietnamese American drafted into ing corp. Chang, the National Football who is currently League. a free agent, but has had a number
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Michelle Wie, 17, was recently named “One of 100 People Who Shape Our World” in 2006 by Time magazine.

photo courtesy of


photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

of professional teams express interest in his Above: Despite her worldwide fame, Michelle Kwan, 36, has services, is of Chinese never won an Olympic gold medal. descent. He holds the Right: Hines Ward, 30, with his current NCAA Division mother, Young Hee Kim. Ward was 1-A record for All-Time born in South Korea and attended passing yards from his the University of Georgia. time at the University of Hawaii. Perhaps the most recent Asian American s p o r t s football player to rise onto the big stage is m a r Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and 2006 k e t i n g Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Hines at the Ward, whose mother is Korean. And of Univercourse, intellectual contributions to the game sity of Central Florida and a native Korean. are not without precedent anymore. Norm “This is why it is so important that Asian Chow, the legendary former-USC and cur- American athletes have to rise to the top and rent Titans Offensive Coordinator, has set show the general public that Asian Amerihimself apart from his contemporaries as one cans can also achieve excellence in sports.” of the offensive play-calling greats, at least at And this is what is beginning to happen the collegiate level. in the Asian American community. ProfesThere is no doubt that the high-profile suc- sional golfers Tiger Woods, who is half-Thai, cesses of even just a few Asian Americans and Michelle Wie, who is of Korean ancesathletes inspire the next generation. The next try, are two prominent members of a group wave of athletes are ready to buck the preva- of movers and shakers. Their stories demonlent misconception that Asians are inferior strate the power of Asian American athletes athletically to other races in this country. to inspire other Asian Americans. As two of And this is a very real stereotype. the most publicized golfers in the world, they “It is common that coaches and teachers at are part of the movement catapulting entire schools presume that an Asian American kid populations to be enthralled with a sport. belongs in the science lab, not on the football The contribution of the Asian-born athfield,” says Yun-Oh Whang, a professor of letes in this country to the rising Asian

American athletic participation cannot be discounted either. Yao Ming, the star center of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, has inspired a great number of Chinese-Americans to pick up a basketball. In a similar manner, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, just two of the many Asians now starring in American baseball, have motivated countless Asian American youths to pursue their athletic dreams on the baseball diamond. So while Chang, Chow and Kwan may be among the few Asian American athletes that the average guy can currently name off the top of his head, the stage is set for Asian Americans to put themselves at the forefront of the American athletic community. And we can see that they are beginning to step up. ■
communicasians 7



Interest in Asian Media
Asian Americans in the U.S.
by Rich Liu

Above: Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’; Center, below: ‘Better Luck Tomorow,’ directed by Justin Lin.

Repercussions on the Image of
Hollywood films dealing with Asian American issues are Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) and Better Luck Tomorrow (2002). Both of these films depict Asians in a light different from the stereotypically studious and socially awkward Asian, and are steps toward representing Asian Americans. But these are merely two films among approximately 8000 U.S films made in 2004 and 6000 U.S. films made in 2002. Next, couple these figures with the underrepresentation in prime-time television. A 2005 report by the Asian American Justice Center confirms that Asian and Pacific Islanders comprise only 2.6% of all characters on prime-time television. Only 14 of the 102 prime-time shows feature even one Asian American. Only one program, ABC’s Lost, casts more than one Asian American character. Asian Americans are severely underrepresented. According to the 2000 U.S. Census figures, Asian Americans constitute 4.3% of the total population, roughly translating to 12 million people and they are also the fastest growing minority group. But this growth is not paralleled in the American media. Clearly, Asian Americans are unequally represented in the United States media, and the first step may be to differentiate themselves from what is considered solely Asian. Roger Garcia, an Asian American scholar contends photo courtesy of that, “Asian America is a distinct and discrete entity--it is not a sub-set of China, Japan or Vietnam, but a constituency that has lived, breathed and contributed to the nation for over a century. It has its own achievements, artists, stories and traditions that have grown separate from its various Asian roots.” ■

and its


ction packed Chinese martial arts films punch through global sales records. Japanese anime and horror films saturate America. Despite this growing interest in Asian media, however, Asian Americans are still trying to find their own place in the entertainment industry. Martial arts films from China and Hong Kong draw large audiences around the world. Stars such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li are among the international box office elites. The 2000 martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became the highest grossing foreign film ever released in the U.S. In 2005, Crouching Tiger director Ang Lee became the first Asian director to win the Oscar for Best Director for his film Brokeback Mountain. Japanese media garners cult following in the United States. Hollywood takes of Japanese horror films, such as The Grudge, draw box office crowds and sequels. Japanese anime is a booming multi-million dollar industry, giving Disney enough reason to license many of director Hayao Miyazaki’s award-winning anime films, such as Spirited Away, the 2003 Oscar Winner for Best Animated Feature Film. TV networks are starting to show more anime in their weekly line-up, following the success of Pokemon and other anime series. These examples show that there has been an influx of Asian media but the films fall short of representing what being Asian American really means. The media has helped American audiences gain glimpses into Asian culture, but the same cannot be said for the Asian American culture. Two recent, prominent
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How the West Can Be Won
Increasing Awareness of Muslim Culture
arlier this year, an eminent Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten courted controversy by printing caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The action was condemned as blasphemy by the Muslim community. But several prominent western institutions such as The Economist and the American Presidency responded by lauding the newspaper for its commitment to free speech. The dust has mostly settled around this contentious issue but many aspects of it still remain open to debate. Jyllands-Posten claims the purpose of this exercise was to initiate a dialogue on why Muslims have traditionally been so sensitive about physical depictions of their revered figures. The dialogue unfortunately was only confined to some intellectual circles. Many more Muslims responded to the perceived attack on their faith with fiery torches. Personally, I think the written word would have been a more conducive channel to raising awareness on this issue. It is somewhat unreasonable to offend someone’s blind faith in the hope that he responds in a civilized manner. But this clash of civilizations illustrates a deeper issue in our contemporary world. For instance, it was revealed later that the very same newspaper had once chosen not to print cartoons deemed offensive to Christianity. Also this very year historian David Irving was jailed for his provocative claim that the Holocaust may never have occurred. In fact, denial of the Holocaust is unconstitutional across much of Europe. By the same logic used to justify the Danish cartoons, all this could be considered legitimate on grounds of free speech. Why the double standards? It may just boil down to an issue of perceptions. The West is obviously respectful of the views of the Christian majority. Minorities like the Jews are also quite well assimilated into their society. One of


by Jazib Zahir

With little knowledge of the logic underpinning Islamic faith, people have little reason to empathize with Muslims.

the primary reasons for this assimilation is that the Jewish experience has been woven into western culture through films like Life is Beautiful and Schindler’s List. The media has made the average Westerner well aware of the hardships endured by the Jewish race. Consequently, the public bays at the thought of anyone disputing their history. Conversely, western media has not positively depicted the Muslim experience in the same way. More often than not, the depiction of Muslims has been limited to terrorists in television series like 24 and the unqualified aggressors in movies like Munich. The average Westerner’s perceptions of Islam tend to be molded entirely by CNN reports on Al-Qaeda activity. With little knowledge of the logic underpinning Islamic faith, people have little reason to empathize with Muslims. In reality, the Muslim world has a rich cultural tradition. The civilization has been around since the 7th century but how many people realize its seminal contributions to mathematics, medicine and astronomy? How many people realize that the origins of many aspects of our lives including chess, pottery, watch-making and photography are derived partly from the Muslim tradition? Muslims need to find a way to emphasize these contributions to the rest of the world. More importantly, they need to communicate the message that there are two sides to every story. Yes, some Muslims resort to violence but to understand their motives we need to better understand Muslim grievances generated through the situations in Kashmir, Kosovo and Palestine. This communication needs to come through the media; Muslims need to make movies and write books that teach the world more about themselves. If the West were better educated about Muslim values and experiences, it may come to regard these traditions as sacred too and balk at the idea of outsiders questioning them. ■


communicasians 9

Red Doors directed by Georgia Lee

APIs and the Film Industry


by Dwight D. Tran

isions of Asian actors (male and female) are no longer limited to the imports from the Hong Kong, South Korean, and “Far East” markets. Over the past few years the American entertainment industry underwent a greater influx of Asian presenceor at least a more public one. So how do we, Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs), confront and integrate these works in our lives? While the great strides are taken in the realm of Asians in entertainment, we as members of a constructed society must decide where our own roles incorporate on this front. We are the nexus from which word-of-mouth about works spread, and we must grow to understand the potentials and setbacks that inherently exist within the works that are presented to the public for enjoyment and critique. Society looks for validation from individuals who have the ‘authenticity’ to comment. So go ahead, plug a film. Or not, but learn about one and decide. APIs are not only carving out a niche within the exclusive industry, we are setting records and gaining recognition. Specifically,

APIs are not only carving out a niche within the exclusive industry, we are setting records and gaining recognition.

works such as Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain to the recent Indie fave, Georgia Lee’s Red Doors, are breaking down the barricades in Tinseltown. Lee won an Academy Award for Best Direction in a Feature Film. Red Doors created waves on the Independent Film Festival circuits and had the highest gross per screen in the nation during its opening weekend. What took so long for APIs to create a marked presence in Hollywood? What is our current position and where should we be? Hollywood has mainly, if not only, provided API actors with roles that involved some form of martial art, geisha-esque subservience, or more often than not, as some drone worker bee in a beauty salon. While Memoirs of a Geisha, which received an Oscar for Best Cinematography in a Feature Film, presents problematic issues (e.g. where Chinese Actors portray and ultimately represent Japanese women and culture to the masses), it is notable that the cast and plotline include positive API characterizations. Many films are being made independently or with smaller studios, providing the artists involved the freedom and luxury of vision, albeit with a possible financial hindrance. Unfortunately, the majority of society dictates what actually gets placed into the laps of Americans. All three movies – Brokeback, Red Doors, and Memoirs – deal with


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photo courtesy of

Making a Mark in


Featured Films

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
“Nitta Sayuri reveals how she transcended her fishing village roots and become one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha”

Saving Face (2004)
“A Chinese-American lesbian and her traditionalist mother are reluctant to go public with secret loves”

Red Doors (2005)
“The Wongs struggle to cope with life, love and family dysfunction in the suburbs of New York”

issues of sexuality and identity. These are issues which we as Asian-, Asian-American-, or non-Asian -identified individuals contend with daily. Ultimately, a story exists within each of us. For Georgia Lee that story comes through her films as she integrates her own family’s home videos into the movie. Everyone has the experience and background necessary to judge the quality of these pieces and should exercise that ability. While Jackie Chan, Ziyi Zhang, and Jet Li continue producing movies that gross hoardes of money and gain a public forum for APIs in the broader society, movies such as Red Doors and Saving Face (written and directed by Alice Wu) largely fly under the radar of the broader society. But in some ways, maybe that’s a good position. What is interesting, however, is that these films that poignantly portray the disjoint between generations of APIs are being created by ‘converts’ – people who started out in a completely different career track. Georgia Lee was a Biochemistry major and a consultant; Alice Wu a Computer Science major who worked at Microsoft. Both also attended Harvard and Stanford, respectively. Ang Lee holds a Masphoto courtesy of

ters of Fine Arts from New York University. So does it take an elite from the ‘intelligentsia’ to break out of the stereotypical Asian mold? Or maybe it just requires a moment of introspection and a bit of luck at the right moment? In the end, how do we as individuals of the API community deal with these artistic works? Ultimately, it just comes down to the individual. I know that I have a difficult road ahead which becomes less precarious as more API’s enter into the industry. Like so many other career paths and with greater magnitude than others, social networking dominates the inner-workings of entertainment. When we finally realize that becoming doctors, engineers, and other pre-constructed dreams are not necessarily our own, we can begin to explore the “less traditional.” After all, taking a risk pays off; even if that means you’re a starving actor, it‘s not forever. And, at least you took the chance. ■ For more information about Saving Face or Red Doors, visit: and
photo courtesy of

Saving Face directed by Alice Wu

Memiors of a Geisha directed by Rob Marshall
communicasians 11


Memoirs of a Chines
by Deland Chan


rior to boarding the plane to study abroad in Beijing for the next three months, I made a “To Do” list. Condense life into one suitcase, check. Buy Stanford memorabilia for Chinese friends, check. Have one last authentic Mexican enchilada, check. Then I arrived at the bottom of my list: Become more Chinese. So you might wonder at this point, how does one become more Chinese? Should you practice the language so that you achieve near fluency? (Yes!) But should you also review Confucian principles of filial piety? Or memorize important dates in Chinese history? How about exercising your thriftiness and deferred life plan? In many ways, this task was indicative of the nagging fear in the back of my mind. It boiled down to one simple question. I looked the part; I walked the walk, but was I Chinese enough to survive in China? Originally from the East Coast, I didn’t realize so many fine shades of Chinese-Americans existed until I came to California. My childhood friends were also born and raised in lower Manhattan, and we had no interest in trumpeting our “Asianness” because that would isolate us further from the Puerto-Rican and orthodox Jewish kids down the block. I never visited the Motherland until I was in college because my extended family was already in New York, and geographical proximity ensured that flights to Europe were always cheaper. It was not until I arrived at Stanford that I developed an academic interest in China and realized that I would like to go there to study. But unlike someone who was born in China at an early age and then moved to California or someone whose entire ancestry is several degrees removed from Asia, I found myself smack in the middle. Without the language tools and innate cultural knowledge to pass as a Chinese person, I also lacked an excuse for not knowing


12 communicasians


I looked the part; I walked the walk, but w
how to conduct myself in a Chinese manner since my physical appearance proved otherwise. I was afraid that if a non-Asian person said, “Ni hao”, my Chinese peers would applaud this simple effort to speak a little Mandarin, but if I said the same thing, the response would be, “That’s all you can say?” Thankfully, my experience was less traumatic once I arrived in China. Nobody could tell that I was American. Whenever I walked

se-American in China


Confucius, also known as Kong Zi, strongly influenced the beliefs of the East Asian region through his teachings and philosophy.

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was I Chinese enough to survive in China?
around with my friend, who apparently looks like a Korean pop star and speaks Mandarin with a Taiwanese accent, we became Korean. When I asked storekeepers to guess where we were from, usually they guessed in this order: Korea, Japan, and then Singapore, never America until we told them. My pinnacle moment was when I visited a construction site to do fieldwork for my honors thesis. My translator introduced me as “the American student”, but the security


guard looked me up and down for a minute before responding, “She’s American? She looks Chinese!” I was extremely relieved after this incident. As long as I did not open my mouth and sauntered down the street, I could easily blend in. Wishful thinking dictated that if I wore the clothes I purchased in Beijing and replaced the plastic rimmed glasses I bought in Hong Kong, I could pass as a local. Worse come to worse, I would still carry the foreigner label but at least from a country somewhere in the Asian continent. However, the more pressing question was, “Why am I so pleased to make this discovery?” After some pensive reflection, I realized that the benefits of masquerading as a Chinese person was more than just the savings I accumulated over time when bargaining and paying prices exempt from the foreigner tax. The victory did not stem from my supposed ability to cheat people into believing I am someone else. But I did realize the futility of sorting out my cultural and national affiliations when I obviously cannot claim any definitive boundaries. This experience might vary for other Asian-Americans, but my inclination to visit China was purely a result of geographical proximity and my environment. It was not an explicit goal to “return to my roots.” Perhaps if I think about it, the costs of adopting a mismatched identity that limits one’s ability to experience something fresh, regardless of cultural proximity, is far higher than I am willing to pay. In other words, we pick different identities when we travel to a foreign country, and the most ideal choice would be to do as the Romans do when in Rome. Trying to adapt to the new environment by shedding your pre-existing identity only enhances your experience. So when in China, I prefer to be more Chinese than not. Or maybe in actuality, Korean… ■ For more information regarding studing abroad in China, please visit:
communicasians 13

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the news



ain is something that I must endure for the sake of my family, my name. If I reveal to anyone that my husband hurt me, I might as well strip myself bare of dignity and honor. My neighbors – they will speak in whispers, but their whispers will resonate with the strength of a thousand drums. I deserved it… I broke a sacred oath of loyalty by reporting him… he is a good man and I am now the cause of his demise. The government will take my children, my financial security, and my home and leave me with nothing. Will I be saving myself if I run to the authorities? Will revealing my bruises save my children? No. This pain is transeient. I’ll just hold my tongue now so that I may have a chance to live later.”
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Domestic Violence
American Women
and Asian

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Domestic violence and its i have largely been defined by legal system, and is a Western terms of diagnosis and tr


by Theresa Zhen

nfortunately, the voice of this victim, along with the muffled screams of countless other women caught in a similar struggle for freedom, is not likely to be heard. The majority of battered Asian and Asian American women who suffer in silence remain paralyzed until external forces intervene. And it is often only by way of these forces that domestic violence is revealed, not because the victims acknowledge their distress, but because medical service providers discover suspicious wounds on their victims and report the abnormalities. This trend is particularly pronounced in Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian communities, which begs the question: Why do Asian and Asian Americans suppress this type of injustice more so than others? Are Asian women just inherently submissive? No. More often than not, they are misunderstood. Medical service providers, social workers and case managers of APA (Asian Perinatal Advocates, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of Asian American victims of domestic violence) report that their victims simply do not have a comprehensive definition of domestic violence. Domestic violence and its implications have largely been defined by the American legal system and is a Western injustice in terms of diagnosis and treatment. It has arisen as a

Sigma Psi Zeta (SYZ) is a multi-cultural, social, educational and community service oriented sorority at Stanford University. The national philanthropy is the noble endeavor of combatting violence against women. As the first Asian American interest sorority to take on this worthwhile cause, SYZ hopes to bring awareness to each of its universities and its surrounding communities about issues regarding domestic abuse against women.

implications the American n injustice in reatment.

limb of the feminist movement in the Western hemisphere, been condemned in efforts to be politically correct in a politically charged domestic con-

text, and addressed by the implementation of preventive actions that only benefit women who vocalize their pain. Recent immigrants and refugees from Asia are less likely to fully grasp the legalities within this realm, and are, understandably, more threatened by the legal ramifications of stepping forward to reveal their spouse’s misconduct. The Asian cultural background offers a different perspective on the husband-wife relationship as well. By social convention, a family is not as private as one would like. Information travels quickly through tightly knit communities. By acknowledging the problem of domestic violence in one’s home, a woman is automatically inviting the community to scrutinize the family’s internal problems. This often leads to disgrace and shame, even in the modern world. Children further compound the problem. Children who witness domestic violence are at risk for psychological problems, and the degree of severity is largely dependent upon what type of help they receive immediately after they are exposed to violence. Without psychological help (which is considered taboo even in modern Asian American families), children can grow up in a persistent struggle with their parents and themselves. Advocates also note that unfamiliarity with the English language and American values leave Asian women feeling without support. If a woman, already weakened by a horrific ordeal, cannot speak the language or navigate through the system which promises to deliver justice, the feeling of defeat is unfathomable. How, then, do we level the playing field? Harriet Taylor Mills, in her essay Enfranchisement of Women, speaks for women when she says, “we deny the right of any portion of the species to decide for another portion, or any individual for another individual, what is and what is not their sphere.” But how can a woman draw the boundaries of her “sphere?” Education. Advocacy groups like APA (Asian Perinatal Advocates) arose with a mission to pre-

the news
photo courtesty of


vent child abuse in the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community in Chinatown, San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. They operate on the belief that eliminating the language barrier is essential to educating Asian women of their domestic rights in America. They lead workshops for the community in Asian languages (including Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog, for example). They also as offer support groups for domestic violence victims, partner with the Filipino community to provide direct services, and provide oneon-one bilingual counseling. In Chinatown, evidence shows that domestic violence is especially prevalent among Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese women. Studies show no correlation between level of income and incidence of abuse. Furthermore, of all the possible abuse cases in Chinatown (such as child abuse or domestic violence), 25% involved Chinese women. A startling 50% of the cases involving Filipino women revealed victims of domestic violence. These statistics expose a startling reality. While domestic violence is not an issue that is voiced prominently in the AsianAmerican community, it should at least be acknowledged as an evil that crosses race, ethnic, cultural and class lines. After all, violence is a race-blind injustice that can be eradicated so long as women are educated in a culture-sensitive manner about their rights as human beings. Perhaps then, women will not feel as if they are resigned to suffering in silence. ■

The Asian Perinatal Advocates was founded in 1987. Visit www.apasfgh. org to learn more about the APA’s programs and mission statement.

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Facebook, Xanga, and more: How & Why Asian Americans connect

Wired Together
by Aram Hur


eing Asian has never been easier; it is literally at your fingertips. Simply log on to Facebook, search under the keyword “Asian,” and instantly you will have more than 500 different groups at your choosing. From official groups such as the “Asian American Theater Project” to those just for fun, like “You know you’re Asian when..,” the representation of ethnicities within Facebook groups is unending and, apparently, unmatched. The same search under keywords for other minority groups like “African American” or “Hispanic” only yield 431 and 275 groups, respectively. On Xanga, a blogging service that has always been open to any and all users, the difference is only amplified—the 221 African American and 629 Hispanic groups are just meager competition to the 5889 user-created Asian

blogrings on the site. While Asians as the most wired is nothing new, the ways they are connecting are worth nothing. The 2001 Pew Internet and American Life Project’s “Asian-Americans and the Internet: The Young and the Connected” demographic report already cited Asians as having the highest Internet penetration among minorities – the way they are connecting is worth noting. The sheer number of online groups is telling of the communal nature of Asian digital life, and its titles are even more revealing of a specific type of community—one based on an overwhelmingly shared

The sheer number of online groups is telling of the communal nature of Asian digital life...

pride in identity. With groups such as “Asian Invasion,” “Chungs do it best,” and “Asian (Or I wish I were) and PROUD of it!” gaining more members by the day on Facebook’s global network and perpetuating the phenomenon, Sociology Professor Gi-Wook Shin, author of Ethnic Nationalism in Korea, theorizes that the reason for the prevalence of these groups stems in part from the digital edge that Asian immigrants have. “Asians not only have a strong sense of their own national identity, but also they are the ones who are most wired,” Shin said, “The combination of these two features makes them more prone to the formation of online communities.” In fact, expanding digital access only intensifies this characteristic, as increased access simultaneously provides more venues to stay in touch with one’s homeland culture by shrinking the global village, and more outlets through which to express such cultural familiarity and pride. Shin claims that the other possible reason may lie in remnants of communitarian culture. Traditionally, the Con-

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really identify with the group and many of the things on the list,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Oh my parents do that too,’ and ‘Hey, I’m not the only one!’ ” Percentage of American men and Percentage of Internet users, by race, who go While the meanwomen, by race, who go online online an average day ing of participatMen Women ing in such online Overall U.S. Inter- 55% Entire Internet 52% 48% activity will differ net population Population for each individual, Shin pointed out a Asian Americans 70% Asian Americans 72% 60% common limitation to how Asians use Whites 57% Whites 55% 50% online technology. “Until now, the Hispanics 47% Hispanics 48% 45% use is mainly for social and cultural purAfrican Americans 39% African Americans 38% 37% poses,” Shin said. “The next step will Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project 2000 Survey. be to question if such activities can transfucian ideals of harmony and community Indeed, Facebook actually lets users se- form into tools for political mobilization.” Only then would Facebook or any type of outweighed individualism in Asian cultures lect the proclaimed purpose of their group, across the board. and the majority of Asian-themed groups digital medium transcend a mere mode of ex“While Asian countries have changed a fall under categories such as “Just for Fun,” pression to a vehicle of change. ■ lot as more of them become capitalist, cul- “Entertainment and Arts,” and turally they still lag,” said Shin. Although the “Common Interest.” Most of flourishing market increasingly emphasizes them are not intended to be sethe individual, most Asian Americans are rious proclamations of loyalty still trapped by a social pressure to promote and pride in one’s ethnic roots. communitarian ideals on the surface. However, sophomore Dianna While such historical and cultural pro- Bai says that even casual groups jections can explain the trend in Asian on- cannot entirely be passed off line communities, students diverge on what just as harmless fun. According joining these groups mean. On the one hand, to her, such light-natured groups some argue that attributing the prideful and can nevertheless be heavily exclusively Asian nature of online groups as laden with potential for serious characteristic of its individual members may identity formation. “One of my be too much of a leap. friends, who was adopted from Faris Ali Mohiuddin, ASSU Senior Class Korea by Caucasian parents, alPresident and one of the members of “I went ways felt like she lost a lot of to an Asian High School, Bi---!” says that to her Asian identity because her do so may be “projecting meaning where it parents are not Asian,” she said. isn’t there.” “So she made a lot of effort to “I don’t look at joining Facebook groups identify with Asians and Asian as an effort to seriously connect with the peo- pride.” ple therein,” he said. “The group, at least to Bai, herself, is part of the me, was just a double click, not a profession Facebook group of interest in an ethnic group.” “You know Left: “You Know You’re Asian Mohiuddin also pointed out an impor- you’re Asian When...” is one of many Facebook tant point about the nature of this particular when...,” a list of groups targeted towards the Asian group, which extends to most online groups all the humorous American population. Right: in general. “It’s a joke group – hence, there signs that one is Searching for “Asian Invasion” on was nothing substantive to be hesitant about, Asian. “I joined Facebook results in 45 groups. regardless of my race,” he said. it because I could


Asian Americans?
Overall Usage

How Connected Are

Daily Usage

communicasians 17

photos courtesy of

2006 marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Stanford University established the program as a result Linda Lee of student activism and pledged to develop the ethnic studies programs offered to meet the need. Ten years later, what has changed? In the fall of 1996, Stanford established the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. With that came the founding of Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Chicana/o Studies, Asian American Stud1971, through the Student Workshops on Political and Social Issues (SWOPSI- pronounced swap-see), Asian American undergraduate and graduate students taught courses in Asian American history and experiences. Gordon Chang, then a graduate student in the History Department, taught one of the first Asian American history courses at Stanford. Today, Professor Chang continues to teach Stanford’s Introduction to Asian American History course. Ten years ago, Stanford made a commitment to developing its ethnic studies programs. Ten years later, not much has changed. It is not to say that during the last ten years nothing changed; the institution certainly did improve the ethnic studies program. With the guidance of Chang and Palumbo-Liu, teach an excellent course about North American taiko, focusing not only on the practice of taiko (you can learn how to play), but also on the history and evolution of taiko. Courses about South Asian experiences discuss the intricacies of South Asian identity and experiences in the diaspora. This winter, there will be a


10 Years Later
The Status of Asian American Studies Today
ies (AAS), and Native American Studies— all degree granting programs. The late St. Clair Drake established African and African American Studies in 1969. Following student strikes at University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University in 1968, Stanford still did not establish degree-granting programs in these areas, even though students began to demand them a year later. (The Green Library Archives holds boxes donated by the Asian American Activities Center that include these correspondences urging the development of ethnic studies at Stanford.) But, students would not let the lack of a degree granting program prevent them from engaging in issues and courses relevant to their lives and experiences. Beginning in
18 communicasians

AAS has graduated a number of students who contribute to the research in Asian American Studies and who have gone on to work in law, teaching, non-profit sectors, and com-

Stanford University must follow through with its commitment to the development of all ethnic studies programs.
munity organizing. People who are leading experts in their field teach courses reflecting Asian American experiences every quarter. Steve Sano and Linda Uyechi continue to

course about Southeast Asian refugee experiences, something new to AAS. Many great things and great people come out of AAS, but the work to develop great programs is never over. Today, the problem is not that we only have two professors in AAS; the problem is that we still only have two professors in AAS. Those we see in AAS are the same two professors hired ten years ago to teach courses that reflect Asian American history and experiences. Visiting academics supplement the teaching staff on a regular basis. While the courses taught by visiting instructors are incredible, there is one major problem. Visiting instructors and graduate students cannot and do not stick around. Because of this, they are unable to serve as official advisors to students

sianAmerican A Studies
Course TiTle

Courses in
Ethnic Humor Introduction to Asian American Cultures Whiz Kids, Perpetual Foreigners, and Macacas: Stereotypes and the Contemporary Asian American Experience Southeast Asian Migration and Community Formation Comparative Fictions of Ethnicity Contemporary Dramatic Voices of Color Education of Immigrant Students Writings by Women of Color Special Topics in Race and Ethnicity South Asian Histories and Cultures Through Popular Film: Bollywood and Beyond Multicultural Issues in Higher Education

AAS 175S




photo by Julie Kim

Course number

5 5 5

CompLit 148 AAS 176C

and often cannot provide the mentorship that a full-time faculty member can. Without more faculty members and visible university support for AAS, structured spaces to discuss issues of race and incidents of racism will decrease. Without AAS, students will have fewer opportunities to learn about the history of racism against Asian Americans in a historical and political context. Without AAS, there will be fewer safe spaces to deconstruct representations of Asian Americans in an informed manner that is rooted not only in personal experiences but also in academia. Without the necessary faculty and investment into research in AAS, students at Stanford University will not be able to fully develop a critical analysis of race and race studies necessary to guide the future of politics and policies in the United States. Stanford needs AAS. The lack of tenure-track professors teaching in all ethnic studies programs, including AAS, reflects Stanford’s failure to make good on its commitment to develop a strong ethnic studies program. In order to build a strong academic program in the scholarship of race and ethnicity, Stanford University must follow through with its commitment to the development of all ethnic studies programs. To do so our university must provide its students with the faculty that is needed to sustain a program that is up to date and on the cutting edge of research in communities of color. Stanford is already the best in everything else, why not this too? ■

AAS 185D CompLit 241 Drama 169 Educ 177 English 45/145 CSRE 10 CASA 74

5 5 5 4 3-5 1-3 5

Educ 381 181P Psych 75 Soc 147 Educ 193F Music 17Q Psych. 217.

4 5 5 5 1 4 3


Asian Americans in Film and Video Introduction to Cultural Psychology Comparative Ethnic Conflict Peer Counseling: Asian American Community Perspective in North American Taiko Topics and Methods in Cultural Psychology

communicasians 19

on campus

DisCovering leaDership Through The api CommuniTy
by Tammy Pham here are many dedicated, multi-talented, and dynamic student leaders at Stanford. Unfortunately, there are also students who exhibit less than inspirational qualities, despite their good intentions. In order to aspire towards the former and avoid the latter, there are several opportunities provided by the university to learn about what leadership truly is. Leadership is more than just the ability to delegate, make decisions, regulate, or even motivate. Leadership is the ability to relate to others. Participants in the Learning through Education, Activism, and Diversity (LEAD) program, sponsored by the A3C, BCSC, and El Centro, differ ethnically from each other, but together they form an image of diversity at Stanford. Despite their differences, these students apply to the LEAD program because they share the desire to maximize their leadership potential to make an impact at Stanford. LEAD gives students training in the social change model of leadership development along with resources to implement a two-quarter project promoting multicultural awareness and education. The program advocates a different model of leadership – one based on social change that challenges the hierarchical structures of most student organizations. For example, through a faciliA group of LEAD students participate in team building exercises.


tated exercise, LEAD participants, who were strangers before the program, exposed their hidden identities – such as socioeconomic status, immigrant background, religious affiliations, and other definitions that one would rarely share with others outside of the closest circle of friends. Through discussions of their personal values, participants are able to connect with each other on a level beyond the titles and duties that accompany many organizations. In this way, LEAD promotes the development of thoughtful and active leaders who empathize with members of their organizations and other communities. Maintaining this empathy is easier said than done, however, given the turbulence that most student organizations face when mobilizing volunteers and implementing programs. Fortunately, the Haas Center for Public Service, the Asian American Activities Center, the Black Community Services Center, the Graduate School of Business Student Life Office, the Office of Student Activities, and the Women’s Community Center initiated the Student Leadership Training Series (STLS) this year to address the challenges student organizations face on an operational level. STLS takes place every quarter, with each workshop developing a specific skill set. The fall leadership training series took place in October and focused on strategic planning to integrate the mission of the organization with the skills that members bring in order to better implement programs. Next quarter’s leadership training series will focus on how to retain membership during the winter quarter slump. Programs such as LEAD and STLS were created to respond to specific student needs, ranging from cultural diversity issues to basic building skills. Within the Asian Pacific Islander community, the Asian American Activities Center (A3C) also provides tailored leadership trainings to student organizations. These quarterly retreats bring representatives of student organizations into one room to develop a forum through which these leaders can identify resources, look to each other for

photos courtesy of LEAD

LEAD participants pose for a photo.

support, and discuss the larger role of student organizations in building community at Stanford. Programs such as LEAD, STLS, and A3C’s quarterly leadership retreat are designed to help students make their organizations more viable and all members’ experiences more valuable by integrating both community building and skills training into leadership practices. ■

Useful Links
LEAD elcentro/lead STLS OSA/workshops/solts.shtml A3C dept/a3c Visit these sites to find out more about the programs, their histories, and how to get invovled!

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communicASIANS fall 2006

Non Profit Org. U.S. Postage Paid Palo Alto, CA Permit No. 187

Published by the Asian American Activities Center, 545 Lomita Drive, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-3064 (650) 723-3681

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