Archive for February, 2009

So Now What?…o_0”

February 17, 2009

My days of preschool and kindergarten were but blurs of chunky peanut butter, banana sandwiches and glorious mounds of cherry-colored playdo. Those were the good days…Now let’s fast-forward two-three grades later and instead of rampaging through the long corridors toward the kickball fields for recess, I stayed behind with smelly ol’ Mrs. Schumann for speech classes every Wednesday morning. Apparently at the time, I had difficulty enunciating my r’s from my l’s. -_-”

True…those Wednesday, ten-thirty mornings did pale dismally in comparison to your usual second-grade dodge-ball tournaments and dizzying tire swings. Mrs. Schumann never stopped smelling like musty cats and I never failed to woefully hang my head as I walked past the shiny monkey bars. But hey, those speech classes worked didn’t they?

Unfortunately, not everyone can reap the wondrous resources provided by their local, active elementary PTAs. Smelly cats or not, unlike some urban epicenters that can afford to provide various supplemental programs such as ESL speech classes for their diverse student demographics, many cities fail to meet such standards. In that many Asian American students who identify themselves as English Learning Learners (ELLs) are not adequately provided with sufficient resources and tools to succeed, and instead are often left behind unnoticed, due to their low-profile visibility underneath the veneer of high performance.

Surprisingly, considering that Vietnamese is the second most common native language of ELLs in California, and yet a ratio of 1 bilingual teacher for every 662 Vietnamese speaking students, only provides a short glimpse of the insufficient allocation of resources available for the Asian-American community.

It is public civil issues such as these that AALDEF: Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund organization strives to confront. Originally established as a non-governmental organization, which promotes Asian-American civil rights through the forum of legal services, AALDEF touches base on various topics such as civil participation in voting rights, employment/economic representation, affirmative action, and human trafficking. However, by not receiving any government sourced funds, the organization, itself, is managed through a seventeen person staff, nine of whom are lawyers, as well as the manpower of over 300 volunteers. Now with the support of Yale AASA, our purpose is to not only become a supporting affiliate student group, but also an active advocating body shedding light upon case studies such as those mentioned above.

In regards to the previously mentioned case, the education issue was actually raised in one of the organization’s featured press releases, “Left in the Margins: Asian-American Students & the No Child Left Behind Act”. According to Margaret Fung, the executive director of AALDEF, “Since the No Child Left Behind law was enacted, we have not seen significant improvements in the quality of public education. Instead, Asian Americans-especially immigrant, poor and non-English speaking students—have been left behind to fend for themselves in securing basic educational services.”

AALDEF proceeded to provide an extensive report delineating various reforms that could be addressed in response, including the proposal of funneling of more direct funds toward the hiring of ESL specialists in traditionally underrepresented areas.

Do any of y’all have direct experiences with these issues or provide any insight in light of such problems within your high school experiences? As a blog contributer and supporter of AALDEF I can only do so much as to provide exposure upon this organization and the cases it takes up. How do you feel AALDEF-AASA could actively approach these issues?

For more related info, please visit their website & be part of the support for change!!!:


A “Goofy Face”

February 17, 2009
Mileys Goofy Face

What happens when you make a goofy face? You look stupid, right? Well, congratulations, Ms. Miley Cyrus—you’ve made a successful “goofy face.”

People may defend you. You’re just a kid. A kid with a playful, light-hearted personality. A kid who doesn’t mean anything by slanting her eyelids in a photo that you know will inevitably go around the Internet because you’re a famous 16-year old superstar. You’re “just being Miley.”
I do not condemn you for being a naïve teenager. I condemn you because you are a role model to millions of little girls around the country, my nine year-old sister included. I condemn you because all those little girls who buy every item you peddle to be just like you will think that it is okay, or even funny, to mock another race. I condemn you because of those little girls who are of Asian descent who are hurt and confused by their idol making fun of how they look.
We spoke up. The OCA , national organization dedicated to advancing the social, political and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans in the United States (, called you out on it. “Not only has Miley Cyrus and the other individuals in the photograph encouraged and legitimized the taunting and mocking of people of Asian descent, she has also insulted her many Asian Pacific American fans,” said George Wu, executive director of OCA. “The inclusion of an Asian Pacific American individual in the photo does not make it acceptable…OCA hopes that Miley Cyrus will apologize to her fans and the APA community for this lapse in judgment and takes the opportunity to better understand why the gesture is offensive.”
And only then did you apologize. Sort of. You wrote on your official site, “I’ve also been told there are some people upset about some pictures taken of me with friends making goofy faces! Well, I’m sorry if those people looked at those pics and took them wrong and out of context! In NO way was I making fun of any ethnicity! I was simply making a goofy face.”

Nice try, Miley. Pinning the blame on the touchiness and uptightness of the Asian American community rather than on yourself. It is exactly this attitude that perpetuates racist behavior. My dear, that simply is not a goofy face.
I have to admit, your second try at an apology was a lot better: “I want to thank all of my fans for their support not only this week, but always! I really wanted to stress how sorry I am if the photo of me with my friends offended anyone. I have learned a valuable lesson from this and know that sometime my actions can be unintentionally hurtful.”
I do hope you learned a valuable lesson. You’re a girl growing up in the public spotlight and still have much to learn in keeping your private life private, so I’ll forgive you this once just to show you that we’re not that uptight and can be understanding of juvenile behavior. And by letting you off the hook just this once does not mean that I condone your behavior. When and if you do make the same mistake—slighting ANY race in any manner whatsoever, I can’t wait to see you again.
P.S.: I just heard someone in LA is suing you for $4 billion on behalf of the APA community. I admit this is a bit outrageous, but I also cannot believe someone is spending so much time and effort on you. I do not wish to spend more time writing about you, but at the very least, I must thank you for bringing up racial sensitivity in the media so that others will learn from this too.

AASA 2009 Replies in YDN

February 13, 2009

By Vi Nguyen & Peter Lu

In an column published Wednesday, Gordon Siu argued that the Asian American Students Alliance (AASA) has failed in its mission of “educating the entire Yale student body … about Asian American issues,” going to the point of spreading misinformation (“AASA fails to meet its mission,” Feb. 11). While we disagree with some of Siu’s claims, he brings up insightful points. He cannot be more right in noting that the Asian American community at Yale needs an injection of political awareness.

Just two weeks ago, over a thousand Yale students attended a Lunar New Year’s event in Commons touted for delicious Chinese food. But at a screening of a seminal Asian American film (“Vincent Who?”) last semester, exactly 10 students showed up, even when the director himself was present.

This fight against apathy is always embedded in AASA’s political programming. We hold Master’s Teas, distribute InformAsians (a biweekly educational awareness pamphlet), hold leadership conferences for low-income Asian American high school students in Connecticut (AALCY), among other things. These events are the mediums through which we try to make sure that Asian Americans do not get trapped within the “model minority” myth. These are the mediums through which we try to help Yalies open their eyes to the 24 different ethnic groups that encompass Asian America, each one with varied and vital concerns. But Yalies don’t attend these events.

We recognize that AASA focuses much of its energy on social events, but this is one of the most successful ways we have of bringing the community together — whether it’s the multiple dances, the year-round basketball league or participating in free cooking lessons. One of our roles will always be to provide opportunities for Yalies to come together and develop interpersonal relationships. But we know that’s not enough: The real transformative value of AASA lies in successfully using these social bonds to create political activism.
One month into our term leading the new AASA board, we know that the Asian American body is not “…a single multi-ethnic culture.” There are 40 different Asian-American-related groups on campus invested in raising awareness about social, political and cultural issues; our goal is to serve our member groups. After all, AASA was created in 1979 so that disparate groups could tackle holistic issues together. AASA is a cross-road for these various groups on campus; reminding others that Asian Americans are apart yet a part of a greater Yale community.

And amid the current Asian American cultural groups on campus, all of which already have amazing programming, we don’t want to impose the common “Asian American” stereotype on any member. In 2009, we are dedicated to reforming and strengthening programs that will make AASA an essential resource — especially to those who feel we have nothing to offer.
We’re currently working on a slew of diverse projects that will fill often-ignored niches: a community service project with AALEDF, an Asian American civil rights non-profit based in NYC; a mentoring program connecting Yale students with disadvantaged minority students; Graduate Student Roundtables; film screenings; and awareness campaigns in collaboration with groups such as Alianza, Black Students At Yale, the Yale Democrats and the Yale Political Union. Moreover, we’ve already begun the discussion on our blog, at, and hope to use this as a forum to create ongoing, sustainable dialogue on issues relating to the Asian American community at Yale.
There is still a glass ceiling we need to break. There are still deeply ingrained stereotypes about Asian Americans that hurt our employment and social opportunities. And there will always be people who will continue to respond, reevaluate and point out areas of improvement.

To all of this we say: progress can only occur with your involvement. For 2009, we want to educate the entire Yale community at least a little about Asian American issues, provide a strong network in which peers can easily connect with each other and add value to your life. All we ask from you is your open-minded collaboration.

Peter Lu and Vi Nguyen are sophomores in Berkeley College and Davenport College, respectively. They are the co-moderators of the Asian American Students Alliance. Contact them at and

Special thanks to Hee-Sun Kang, Katrina Landeta, Christine Nguyen, and the multitude of leaders on Yale’s campus for their inputs.

YDN: AASA as a Valuable Organization

February 13, 2009

Yale Daily News
Published: Thursday, February 12, 2009
Letter: AASA a valuable organization

As a former moderator of the Asian American Students Alliance, I would like to applaud Gordon Siu for astutely pointing out AASA’s misstep in publishing a poverty statistic out of context (“AASA fails to meet its mission,” Feb. 11). AASA indeed missed out on an opportunity to explain how statistics can mask the fact that many facets of the Asian American community continue to be underserved.

But Siu goes too far in saying Yale would be better off if AASA did not exist. Rather, ethnic organizations such as AASA have long been ardent voices for racial equity and social justice on campus, even before the cultural houses came into existence. AASA and other ethnic organizations at Yale have, on many occasions, courageously protested acts of racism and prejudice on campus. Even in recent years, AASA has played an integral role in responding to incidents of violence directed at minority students, the publication of offensive articles in campus publications and hate speech spray-painted onto University property.

It is preposterous to write off AASA’s existence and dismiss its long history of combating intolerance on the basis of one error in judgment. In fact, Siu’s column simply reaffirms the necessity of strong ethnic organizations like AASA to raise awareness about ongoing injustices the Asian American community faces both locally and nationally. I suggest that Siu step up and take a leadership position in AASA; maybe then he’ll see its immense potential as a force for good.

Christopher Lapinig

Feb. 11

The writer, a former editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine, is a 2007 graduate of Calhoun College and former moderator of the Asian American Students Association.

YDN Article: AASA Fails

February 13, 2009

Yale Daily News
Published: Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Siu: AASA fails to meet its mission
By Gordon Siu

Last week I received some interesting news from the Asian American Students Alliance (AASA). “AASA Serious Fact,” the newsletter read. “9.8% Poverty rate for Asian Americans in 2004. The overall rate is 12.5%.”

There we have it. We can all go home. Asians have reached socioeconomic equality with the rest of America.

Except AASA is wrong.

Compared to whites, blacks, Hispanics and women, Asian Americans face the lowest odds of reaching management positions in private industries, universities and the federal government, according to government data compiled by the 80-20 Initiative, a national, non-partisan, Asian-American political action committee.

This is despite the fact that Asian Americans have the highest educational attainment of any other group. The percent of Asian Americans with business degrees, for example, is 85 percent higher than the national average. According to 80-20, “If Asian-American workers were paid the average national salary according to their educational attainment, the average Asian-American income would be about 15% higher than the average Caucasian income.”

There is indeed a glass ceiling for Asian Americans in this country, which is why the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued a report recommending that the president issue “an Executive Order that addresses issues of discrimination against [Asian American and Pacific Islander] employees in the federal sector, and that supports programs to encourage professional advancement.”

AASA has failed in its mission of “educating the entire Yale student body … about Asian American issues,” going to the point of spreading misinformation. AASA has devolved into a purely social organization in which Asian students hang out together, perpetuating racial stereotypes about Asians as a group.

Last June, the College Board and the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) published a report titled “Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight,” which aimed to dispel myths about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. According to the report, Asian Americans are viewed by many in the United States as a model minority that “seeks advancement through quiet diligence in study and work and by not making waves; the minority that other American minorities should seek to emulate.”

While AASA celebrates the fact that the poverty rate for Asian Americans is below the national average, the College Board/CARE reminds us that there are large variations within the Asian American category, “despite the rosy picture of a highly affluent group painted by the ‘model minority’ stereotype.”

According to the 2000 census, the poverty rates for Hmong and Cambodian Americans were 37.8 percent and 29.3 percent, respectively, while the national average was 12.4 percent. For the U.S. Census, “Asian Americans” encompasses 24 different ethnic groups, ranging from Bangladeshi to Bhutanese and Sri Lankan. But when AASA claims to educate students about “Asian” issues, we know what kind of Asians they’re really talking about: the “good” kind of Asians — for the most part, the kind that get into Yale.

AASA’s idea of a single multi-ethnic culture is about as authentic as the Asian food in Commons. This skewed caricature masks the real problems faced by the individual subgroups that make up the “Asian-American” category.

I admit, however, that other people thrust the term “Asian American” upon those of us of Asian descent currently in the United States, and that we share some common experiences in becoming American. If AASA is not too busy holding “Asian” celebrations of “Asian” culture … with “Asian” food, it can unite these ethnic groups together to show off their individual distinctions, instead of the racial stereotypes that AASA works to promote. And perhaps then we can break through the glass ceiling.

Unless this happens, Asian Americans at Yale would be better off if AASA did not exist.

Gordon Siu is a junior in Ezra Stiles College and a former member of the political committee of the Chinese American Students Association, which is represented by the Asian American Students Alliance.


#1 By 2010 (Unregistered User) 2:59am on February 11, 2009

Couldn’t agree more.

Also, this is completely true — “AASA has devolved into a purely social organization in which Asian students hang out together…” This is the reason why I, as an Asian student, have zero ties to AASA, and I like it that way.
#2 By apa student (Unregistered User) 6:18am on February 11, 2009

you don’t think that in stimulating this kind of conversation, aasa is already fulfilling a certain purpose that is lacking on campus?
#3 By (Anonymous) 9:38am on February 11, 2009

Wow, completely neglecting all the fantastic activism AASA has done on campus over the years.
#4 By Y ’10 (Unregistered User) 1:04pm on February 11, 2009

Gordon raises some important points, albeit with some extremity. Overall, this is a well-articulated and well-reasoned piece, and should start a conversation too often shoved under the rug.
#5 By Y09 (Unregistered User) 3:09pm on February 11, 2009

From a 2005 census report:

“# Black households had the lowest median income in 2004 ($30,134) among race groups. Asian households had the highest median income ($57,518). The median income for non-Hispanic white households was $48,977. Median income for Hispanic households was $34,241.”

Sounds like an oppressed minority to me…

Maybe AASA shouldn’t be anything more than it is (and probably less).
#6 By Y ’07 (Unregistered User) 4:20pm on February 11, 2009

Thanks for this perspective, Gordon. I agree that the poverty statistic is misleading, especially given the disaggregated numbers on Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans. It’s also worth noting that rates of poverty among Asian Americans are actually higher than white, non-Hispanic Americans even before disaggregation. The fact that median income and poverty are both high among Asian Americans shows the steep income disparities that must exist.

That said, I would not dismiss the political activism that AASA has done in the past and present-—or can do in the future. Things have changed drastically on campus since my time at Yale if AASA is only having the cultural equivalent of high school “fiestas” in Spanish class. Your critique of Asian American political activism on campus is a worthwhile one, but it would be more productive to sit down with the PAEC chairs and try to proactively address problems that impact Asian American communities. In the realm of health, for instance, you could talk about high rates of uninsurance among Korean Americans. Also, you pointed some very disturbing statistics on glass ceiling effects that are worth addressing. There’s a lot of education and activism to be done, so help it get done!
#7 By (Anonymous) 5:04pm on February 11, 2009

Why take an offensive attitude to create a hot topic, when the issue deserves attention without stooping to dishonorable means? Distort, defame, denounce! I actually think you make a couple good points, but the way you did it is strictly unacceptable. Well-articulated, no. Well-reasoned, certainly not. It is usually not the case when an angry writer decides to play journalist.

I am once again appalled by the wannabe journalism of the YDN.
#8 By Gordon S. 8:10pm on February 11, 2009

In June 2008, I was on Capitol Hill attending the unveiling ceremony of the College Board/CARE report. I brought it to the attention of certain PAEC chairs, who now serve on the AASA board.

It has been 8 months and nothing has been done about this issue.

Shouldn’t students take offense when their leaders take no action about an issue that they have been informed about? When their leaders care more about holding dances and basketball tournaments than addressing issues of importance?

They should not be offended. They should be outraged.

-Gordon Siu, ES ’10
#9 By (Anonymous) 9:06pm on February 11, 2009

A copy of the report, “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight,” can be found here:
#10 By Yale 08 (Unregistered User) 10:30pm on February 11, 2009

This article could be more convincing if there were less oversimplification. While higher education from premier institutions certainly opens doors to many different kinds of degree-appropriate work, accomplishments in work settings — which help form the basis for leadership selections — rely on a multitude of “soft” skills that are not indicated by degrees. Capacities such as creativity, communication abilities, networking skills, and outgoingness are just a sample of the many requisite skills demanded of leaders for which there is no widely-acknowledged certification system that signals such competencies. That being said, if the author had been able to establish equality in these characteristics beyond sheer degree attainment, he would have a very strong article.
#11 By ’09 (Unregistered User) 12:05am on February 12, 2009

AASA is a completely useless umbrella organization and it should be dissolved. The board is too large for its own good, and the meetings really just consist of board members giving (fake) “updates” while no real work goes on.

It has no real constituents, and the “member groups” of AASA are really only there for the funding they get every year. When it comes to “Pan-Asian Events”, AASA practically has to beg its member groups to participate — because ultimately, it is the member groups (cultural organizations) that students identify with, and not with AASA.

Breaking Old Campus

February 10, 2009

By Mary Zou

They downrock, they toprock, and it has nothing to do with your pet rock named Chester. Breakdancing is a subculture that began in Manhattan and the Bronx in the early 1970’s among the youth culture as a form of artistic expression. And a few Asian American superstars at Yale are giving the street dance a much anticipated revival on campus.


Daniel Ni performing an "air chair."

John Pyun and Daniel Ni are two freshmen who are members of the newly reformed breakdance troupe on campus known as FXC (short for Freestyles eXpressions Crew). The dance troupe disbanded a few years ago, but Adrian Latortue—you might recognize him as the 2008 AASA co-moderator, can we say powerhouse—reformed the troupe this past year with the help of a few dedicated b-boys and b-girls.

“B-boy is short of beat boy, which is a boy breakdancer. B-girl would be the term for a female,” explained Pyun. “We currently have 15 members apart of FXC, and 8 incredibly dedicated members.”

Pyun has been breaking since his sophomore year in high school. (Luckily, despite the connotations of “breaking,” he has not reported any major injuries.) Ni was trained in hip-hop dance throughout high school, but upon being introduced to Pyun through a mutual friend, dropped his “popper” status and is now very much a B-Boy—although the two dance styles can often overlap.

So what does being Asian American have to do with an urban dance movement that was started primarily by urban African American and Puerto Rican youths who used the artistic expression to rebel against The Man? Pyun explains that although the free styling began in urban American, “Asians dominate in the B-Boy world. [More specifically] it’s Koreans, South Koreans.” In fact, on the international breakdancing circuit, South Korea has taken home the trophy three times in the past four years.


John Pyun performing a "hollowback" on forearms.

Next question: what does it take to be a B-Boy or B-Girl at FXC or anywhere? It’s nothing special says Pyun and Ni. Pyun replies that the two main ingredients for a great B-boy are “dedication and passion.” Ni answers that people cannot be scared to try new things—such as one armed handstands or flips—because “anything is POSSIBLE!” The two encourage any people who are interested in breaking to attend a Friday practice (4-6 PM at Broadway Rehearsal Loft) or Saturday practice (4-6 PM at Payne Whitney Gym 5th Floor). Rehearsals are open to anyone who want to show off their moves or interested in breakdance.

For those are who aren’t quite ready to take up the “anything is possible” mantra of breakdancing should check out FXC’s upcoming performances this spring at the CASA and KASY cultural shows as well as during Bulldog Days. Peace out, homes.

Our Economy is bad…but why should we care?

February 10, 2009

So I know. Our economy is bad…but it doesn’t really pertain to Asian Americans specifically. Or so we thought…

Our generation is really great, great at living off what our parents have built. But perhaps sooner than later, we’ll also be great at protecting what our parents have worked so hard for. Let me tell you what I mean.

After years of effort, the Asian Pacific American Activists in Connecticut had succeeded in getting the General Assembly to pass a bill establishing an Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, on the model of the African American and Puerto Rican/Latino commissions.  Governor Rell signed the bill, with a modest amount of funding that was to begin in the new biennium.  But in lieu of the economic downturn, Governor Rell released her budget proposal a few days ago, and it elimnates, among other things, all of the state commissions for women, children, the elderly, and all ethnic groups.

So what does it mean if we were to protect the work that past generations have done for us? To start off, it would mean writing to the state representatives and senators asking that the Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission be restored and funded in the new biennium.  It will be very helpful if lots of people sent e-mails to Don Williams, Presdent Pro Tem of the State Senate, Chris Donovan, Speaker of the House, Senator Toni Harp (a Yale Alumna and New Haven resident) and Rep. Denise Merrill, co-chairs of the Appropriations Committee.  All of these e-mail addresses are available via, and following the links for the Legislature.  A list of some legislator’s e-mail addresses is also availble on the Asian Pacific American Association’s (APAC) website at
But will we do it…?

Probably not. But why not?