Category Archives: politics

May Day, May Day: It’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

But does any one care?

I survived Vice President Joe Biden’s warning yesterday having taken a cross-country plane trip, a bus ride, and a subway ride all within  the same 24 hours.

I’m not sure what I’m incubating, but I’m proud to say I lived to see the start of another APA month.

Coincidentally, Asian Pacific Americans are competing with others who have declared May Anxiety Disorders Month, Digestive Disease Awareness Month and Better Sleep Month ( and that’s a short list among others including bike enthusaists and hug givers).

That means there’s probably no better way to celebrate  May than to find a crazy Asian American with lactose-intolerant inspired gas attacks,  then ride a bike to their place to hug and have a great nap!

But, of course, only if you really want to get into the spirit of things.

APA Month was originally a week, but expanded to a month, perhaps because it gave people more time to forget that it was a time to celebrate.

I’ve long complained during APA month that another one comes along and no one ever sends me so much as a Hallmark card.   Some public employees  groups and non-profits annually  celebrate with food and music fests (APA Month is a good excuse to have one more lumpia and dance the tinikling).  This year,  Asian Week no longer publishes but it does have its public display, the big street festival.

But generally, the month is lost in the shuffle what with seemingly everyone else claiming May, or the month is taken for granted, if not totally forgotten. That of course is the shame. APA month is a chance to spotlight the community and let others  develop their experience and appreciation of us.  If prejudice and discrimination are based on ignorance, an APA Month should be seen as our educational tool to help non-Asians  understand that their “foreign” neighbors have real American roots. Old hat? Effective education requires repetition.

But on the eve of our month, I was forced to rethink who this month was really for.

I was on a subway in Boston and bumped into an Asian American woman a Stanford grad visiting from California.  I told her about how things in Boston had changed since I went to college in the area in the 70s. Back then, the Asians were normally elites from Asia off for an American adventure.  Asian American working stiffs from Calif. were few and far between. These days, however,  Harvard’s APA population is around 30 percent. And they’re not all Asian royalty.

As I spoke, the young Stanford grad looked at me  like I was some kind of alien.  To her, race/ethnicity was no big deal today. She even admitted she doesn’t really see herself as Asian American, or identify by her ethnicity.

It was my post-racial moment, to use the term often brought up by the ascent of President Obama.  Some have wondered what  post-racial means.  I think it’s primarily a generational view. Same as the debate among many Asian Americans who split on the Hillary/Barack debate.

If you are over 45,  race is still a relevant part of your past and present. It’s in your DNA.  But sometimes it seems that no one knows or cares about the trouble you’ve seen.

If you were born during the Reagan era, you feel you belong.  Life is good and we’re all inclusive now–in theory.  So the post-racial era is  how we all adapt to each others’ ignorance and prejudices. And maybe move closer together.  But  there’s still a generational divide in there and it’s changed the purpose of APA month.

I used to say APA month was more important as a way for everyone else to understand us and the Asianness in our different cultures.

Now with the diversity within our communities, and this new generational divide, it seems like we need APA month more than ever— just to understand how we have grown and changed as Americans.

Do you know Fred? The new Fred T. Korematsu Institute, the Asian Law Caucus dinner, and the art of going amok softly

The only thing that gives you, me,  and anyone else in this great country the right to go amok is the Constitution. And if there’s a question about that, thank God there are  lawyers at the Asian Law Caucus to make sure that we get every last right coming to us.

ALC makes sure our silence isn’t confused for a tacit acceptance of any injustice that may come our way. Groups like ALC on the West Coast and the Asian American Legal Defense Fund on the East Coast fight for us and earn our support. And at this year’s ALC fundraising dinner in San Francisco  this Thursday night (http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/62245), the group is adding a new weapon to its arsenal–the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.

Its principle goal is to make sure no one forgets who Fred Korematsu is.

Please tell me you know who Fred Korematsu is.

Continue reading Do you know Fred? The new Fred T. Korematsu Institute, the Asian Law Caucus dinner, and the art of going amok softly

Bromancing the dictator: Obama and Chavez much different from Reagan-Bush and Marcos

Much has been made about the recent photo ops between Barack  Obama and the Venezuelan president  Hugo Chavez.  In diplomatic matters,  talking is normally better than not talking.  But photo ops don’t necessarily come with context or sound. And as we know, a picture is worth a thousand words, particularly when they’re spun by ideologues from right or righter.

So now we have evidence of Obama and Chavez touching each other:  Is it really a handshake? Or is it a budding bromance? Continue reading Bromancing the dictator: Obama and Chavez much different from Reagan-Bush and Marcos

Manny Pacquiao: The Philippines’ Barack Obama?

Not since Lapu Lapu killed the colonizer Magellan (April 27, 1521) has there ever been a fighter like Manny Pacquiao.

Pound-for-pound, at 5’6″, 145 pounds, Pacquiao’s the best boxer in the world.  And he’s 100 percent pure Filipino.

All the traits are there.

He’s so religious he sounds like my mother. (“Believe in God, always pray,” he said at the news conference).  At the same time, the guy fights like a harried cock in spurs ready to bloody you to kingdom come.

And on top of it all, there’s that disarming Filipino charm.  The champ exudes charm.

It’s a formula that makes promoter Bob Arum’s jaw drop.

“He’s got a tremendous personality,” Arum told me after the baseball/boxing press conference (See it on this blog’s  first video entry). “He’s very promotable, and he’s become the best fighter in the world. That’s a dynamite combination.”

Arum should know. He had a piece of Oscar de la Hoya, the one time “Golden Boy” whom  Pacquiao turned into salsa and bean dip last December. Now Arum moves forward with Manny without missing a beat, like he’s  punching a speed bag filled with cash.

When I saw Pacquiao totally dominate De la Hoya, I wondered if Manny would ever reach the kind of media prominence that Oscar did with all his endorsements.

After all, at first glance he didn’t appear to have the same Hollywood-style of Oscar, the smooth-talking LA barrio glamour boy.

I mean, he looked like the kind of Filipino immigrant who you walk by everyday on Muni.

But Arum feels Manny’s potential is far greater than Oscar’s.

“We believe Manny has a bigger appeal worldwide than De la Hoya ever had,” Arum said. “Manny is making an impression on the world that Oscar never did. Oscar’s appeal was more regional and national. Big, but not what’s happening with Manny.”

Arum sees Pacquiao’s popularity set to rise like global warming. On May 2nd Manny moves up in class against the Junior Welterweight Champ Ricky Hatton of the UK. Billed as “The Battle of East and West,” the potential payoff to Pacquiao for the Las Vegas fight? A cool $20 million.

It’s just the beginning for a guy with Pacquiao’s irresistible “Everyman” appeal.

Indeed, the cross-promotion with the Giants was a way to test the broader market along with his ethnic base.

How did “Everyman” mesh with “Every Filipino”? Continue reading Manny Pacquiao: The Philippines’ Barack Obama?

Be like Jackie: The Politics of Pigment

Just as you remember to pay your taxes today, do remember to pay homage to No.42. Jackie Robinson.

He’s one of the reasons most of us don’t have to pay the tax for being a person of color in this country.

Robinson, of course, broke the color line in baseball.  Breaking the color line in anything is no small feat, whether 62 years ago or today.

Most of us do it in some way in our lives, some more, some less remarkably than others. Look around you. In your office.

Are you the only Asian, Black or Latino in the room? Continue reading Be like Jackie: The Politics of Pigment