Archive for the ‘AASA & Yale’ Category

“Single Asians”: a harmless joke or a perpetuation of stereotypes?

March 26, 2009

On Monday morning I emailed this question and the “Single Asians” video out to the InSight panlist, wondering what the responses would be at the dinner meeting that night.

Obviously, racist jokes based on stereotypes are not cool; but how does this change, if at all, when those who are telling them are part of the satirized—or maybe more accurately, victimized—race? Our consensus was that regardless of the teller’s race, racist jokes are destructive because they perpetuate harmful stereotypes, the long-range effects of which cannot be controlled by the good-natured intentions of the teller. However, looking at the collection of comments under the YouTube and IvyGate posts of the video, the consensus seemed to be that racial self-parody is benign and humorous:

wow. it’s amusing how some people can take jokes so seriously.

whether you are asian or not, it’s supposed to be funny. they

are just making fun of the stereotypes that asians get everyday.

there really is nothing harmful about this. lighten up.

HELLO, it’s a JOKE. Are you familiar with the concept? I am

also a Yale Alum of color and I think this is *funny.* Lighten

UP people. Anyone remember ‘Mean Gays?’ Calm down,

Asians– you’re not the only ones who get poked fun at.
I wonder what bubble all the people offended by this video are
living in. For heavens sake Family Guy and The Simpsons are
more offensive than this on a regular basis! Bad dancing aside
(sorry girls) this is a well written parody by some smart girls
who are willing to poke fun at themselves and not take it too
seriously. Everybody needs to chill out and just appreciate it
for what it is.

(emphasis added)

My first reactions to these comments included the following:

*Of course Asians aren’t “the only ones who get poked fun at”; but that doesn’t mean that any group should be stereotyped!

*One “Yale Alum of color” does not have the authority to speak for everybody!

*Comparing this video to “Mean Gays”, “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” doesn’t justify it!

*Just because these are “the stereotypes that Asians get everyday”, doesn’t mean they aren’t hurtful—being told that you are a nerd is not pleasant at all, and the image of Asians as overachievers has been used to justify everything from poor working conditions to underpayment!

But more subtly, I noticed that there was a lack of comment from those who found the video offensive, and understandably so: being told to “lighten up”, to “calm down” and to get out of your “bubble” isn’t exactly conducive to dialogue. At the risk of sounding like a killjoy “[un]familiar with the concept” of a joke, I’ll provide the other perspective.

I was offended by this video—not so much by its portrayal of Asian Americans per se, but rather by its demeaning portrayal of Asian American women. We have all heard of the Asian fetish, a term describing an attraction towards Asian women that reduces them to obedient and submissive sex objects. Although this so-called “Yellow Fever” may seem benign at first (perhaps a little creepy at most), it can have real, dangerous consequences: serial rapists have admitted to targeting Asian women precisely because they are see them as more compliant. Sallie Kim and Shannon Stockdale wrote in a 2005 YDN article of the trend in violent Asian fetish incidents on college campuses. Particularly shocking was their description of the abduction and rape of two Asian college women who were videotaped, and “told that if they told anybody what had happened, the videotapes would be sent to their fathers. The three white assailants admitted targeting Asian women precisely because they had a sexual fetish for ‘submissive’ Asian women, but also because they believed that this same submissiveness and cultural shame would prevent the women from reporting the assaults.”*

“Single Asians”—however inadvertently—is a part of the media that includes Family Guy and the Simpsons and that degrades and objectifies Asian women as “geisha[s] just for you”; and this not only leads to popular perceptions of Asian women as passive and docile but to real tragedy and harm. In light of this, the comment made by one viewer (which perhaps wouldn’t have been made on a non-Asian themed song) becomes rather upsetting:

    I’m both turned on and offended at the same time. I want
    an apology…and a date.

With all that said, I wish I knew the perspective of the producers of this video. I wish I knew for sure that it wasn’t meant to be offensive or to say that all Asian women are China dolls and geishas dedicated to bringing “honor to the famiry.” I wish I knew that they had intended to be funny and cute in its light-hearted spoof of “the stereotypes that Asians get everyday,” in the same way that the movies “Bend it Like Beckham” and “Bride & Prejudice” poke fun at stereotypes of South Asians. As one viewer pointed out:

I assumed not so much that it was a parody of Asians, but

more that it was making fun of people who think Asians are

like that. My Asian friends always get annoyed when people

assume that they’re into math and science, or that they’re

Chinese when they’re not.

Unfortunately, for every person who laughs at the video, understanding it to be a clever parody of a stereotype, there will be one person who doesn’t quite understand, and buys into the stereotype itself.

Kavita Mistry is president of InSight: Yale’s Asian American Women’s Forum and Chapter of NAPAWF

Further Reading:



Bone Marrow Drive–Coming to you Soon!

March 17, 2009

Hi guys!!

AASA hopes you’re enjoying Spring Break. =)

We wanted to present an opportunity to you and hope to have your participation.

The Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) at the Yale Med School and AASA will organize a Bone Marrow Registry Drive this April. This national Bone Marrow Registry is the last hope for patients with leukemia or other cancers, allowing them to search for bone-marrow-transplant matches. Unfortunately, minority patients face significant disadvantage in finding potential matches because the closest matches are those who share ethnic backgrounds but few minorities are registered.

We’d love to have you help us change this by to running registration drives on campus. We’d like to get a list of 50 volunteers. We’ll then send out a list of times and dates where registrations will happen and you can volunteer according to your schedule. We know you’d be great help so if you are interested and/or have questions, please email me ( back with your name and phone #.

We hope to work with you. =)

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.

Hello, Yale!

February 2, 2009


Dearest Yale Community:

We admit it. The Asian American Students Alliance didn’t cut it. No, really.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault–the past leadership, especially Adrian (SM’10) and May (ES’10), did a terrific job running AASA smoothly. In the past year, Fusion, Spring Formal, and the Basketball Tournament all captured the minds of our community. Yet we still sucked. In this springs forth our public promise to you for 2009, Yale: AASA will suck no more. It will be relevant. You will care about it, if not actively participate in it. AASA. Will. Be. Legit.

It’s hard to bring 9 different cultural organizations together–Japanese and Muslim food? There’s no overlap. And China and Taiwan, in the real world? Forget about it. Each group under AASA’s umbrella (-ella, ella, ey, ey) has been seamlessly working on its own for the last 10 years. Why tamper with a good thing? Why force other groups to collaborate under the stilted ‘pan-asian’ identity we’ve imposed on our members? Why re-hash the old, tired, activities?

In 2009, AASA is going to achieve collective identity by focusing, paradoxically, on the individual. Our events, from the twice-a-month Asian cuisine lessons to weekly basketball tournaments to Asian American high school mentoring, are not designed to have wide, shallow appeal. They’re meant to drive directly to the passions of our community members, instill a fierce and long-lasting dedication, and promote a community within a community, much like the residential college system. We understand everyone here has their own identity: Pundit, YPU, or Science-hill goer. All we’re hoping for is to make AASA a resource–to help people learn and connect to the ideas and peers abundant on this great campus. We’ve got a great board behind us, and all we ask for from you is an open mind. This, is AASA 2009. We hope you enjoy.

Your Humble Co-Moderators, Vi Nguyen and Peter Lu