Tag Archives: diversity

Another Asian American bites the dust in the Obama Cabinet: Steven Chu out as Secretary of Energy

Secretary of State Steven Chu’s departure doesn’t come as a surprise. Chu had some tough political moments where his science and academic smarts may not have served him nor the president well. In politics, just because you’re right, doesn’t mean it’s right. Chu made comments about gas prices he had to recant. And there was the Solyndra episode that blew up in his face. Politics is not easy. Even if you’re a Nobel Laureate.

Today’s announcement means there’s one less Asian American in the cabinet, two if you count Chris Lu, the cabinet secretary.Obama has said to wait until all is said and done before commenting about the diversity of his second term staff. 

But Chu is one of the best and the brightest Asian Americans on the planet. When a guy like Chu can’t cut it, that’s certainly sends a message to others who aspire to serve in politics.

Here’s a presidential statement below, a White House release that massages the exit of Steven Chu. It’s followed by a link to Chu’s farewell letter to those at the DOE:



February 1, 2013


Statement from the President on Secretary Steven Chu


I want to thank Secretary Chu for his dedicated service on behalf of the American people.   As a Nobel Prize winning scientist, Steve brought to the Energy Department a unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy.  And during his time as Secretary, Steve helped my Administration move America towards real energy independence. Over the past four years, we have doubled the use of renewable energy, dramatically reduced our dependence on foreign oil, and put our country on a path to win the global race for clean energy jobs.   Thanks to Steve, we also expanded support for our brightest engineers and entrepreneurs as they pursue groundbreaking innovations that could transform our energy future.  I am grateful that Steve agreed to join in my Cabinet and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

But in Steven Chu’s letter to the Energy Department, there’s alot that was done to mark the last four years. Read his letter here.

One guy’s response to HBO’s “Girls” finale

A friend of mine said she was let down by the series “finale” of HBO’s “Girls.”

I was too.

So many missed opportunities to insert a little color into the much criticized show. 

To date, I’ve stayed out of the “Where’s the diversity?” debate in “Girls” because I’m a late comer to the program.

Generally, I do find it smarter than most TV fare, so I’m more inclined to like than dislike the show.

But the “Girls”  has a diversity quotient of zero. Can any version of New York, even on television,  be so insular in these modern times that there are no  black, Latino or Asian folks to support even a thin story thread?  Network TV’s “New Girl” or “Broke Girls” all  have a lot more  color. Is premium cable the place to say to hell with all that?

If  FB’s Zuckerberg marries an Asian American woman  in real life, you’d think  we couldn’t see an Asian somewhere in that surprise wedding party finale. But no, not even an extra.  How about as the wedding  photographer? A waiter? (I know they can’t let a forlorn but horny Marnie start kissing some person of color at wedding’s end.  But why sic her on the self-effacing schlimazal for a little mercy tongue.)

What’s distressing is if this is the reality of young 20-somethings’ lives, then their lives are merely a modern update of the plain old segregation we had in the past.  It’s so retro. And it’s all brought to you by trendy whites who apparently see diversity as a matter of taste, and not an urgent sense of social justice.

In a response to a question about people of color, Writer/director Lena Dunham admitted in the NY Times recently , “I have to write people who feel honest but also push our cultural ball forward.”

Too bad her segregated characters certainly are pushing the cultural ball backwards.

I guess the creators of “Girls”  have  bigger “real life” problems to tackle.  Like getting a job. Finding a boyfriend.  A white one. (Did they ever think they’d improve their chances in the mating game if they sought out non-whites?)

I hope that in this Judd Apatow production, the Ken Leong image in the Hangover movies didn’t hurt Asian guys.

Still,  this show has a problem with guys, all around.

On the finale, the once indifferent Adam shows his softside at the wedding and exposes the utter self-absorption of Hannah. She can’t accept that Adam is falling for her. How unromantic of her? But what’s his reward for showing vulnerability? Hannah connects with a one time partner now gay, with whom she shares an STD to be her roommate instead.  How sweet. Gays are well represented in “Girls.”  (He’s white, but don’t the writer’s know the gay friend in chick flicks is always the opportunity for the modern double minority, the gay-black or gay-Asian guy?)

Back to straight, vulnerable Adam. I get his rage totally. But the girls on “Girls” don’t get it.

Adam gets run over,and the girls would rather sit quietly alone on the beach eating wedding cake.

It’s a good thing I’m not 20-something anymore.

This show would have cured me of white girls.

Were the Oscars really that boring? Where’s Sacheen Littlefeather when you need her?

I watched and was surprised at how unfunny the Oscars were.  I laughed at Chris Rock’s jokes. But the rest of it? Emma Stone? Painful.

Lacking in humor, lacking in real diversity (lacking in Asian Americans, oh wait there was that violinist on the commercial bridges),  lacking in importance.  Do you really care about the fancy dresses?

Read my view  on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog:


Diversity’s recession-era failure: The numbers show Unity was cash cow for all, but black journalists wanted more

As a journalist who attended every Unity and believed in the mission, I was concerned about NABJ pulling out of Unity. And I admit to being surprised I didn’t hear outcry from others.

Maybe people don’t care anymore.

 In recession era diversity, where the buck matters more than the principle,it’s just not the same.

But a piece from the Poynter Institute sheds a little  light on why no one on the Unity board is all that broken up about the black journalists’ withdrawal.

Everyone made money.  

It’s just that NABJ wanted what it saw as its fair share.

According to the Poynter Institute story,  NABJ chose solvency over solidarity.  But it really wasn’t going broke. It wanted more money for extra programs and felt it should get more out of the Unity cash cow.

To me that’s a bit selfish when you’re talking about the kind of non-profit mission Unity was on.

Beyond that, Unity’s revenues were pretty healthy, about $6 million from the 2008 convention, mostly coming from registration (1.8 million), sponsorships ($2.5 million), and the career fair ($1.4 million).

Here’s the revenue split based on the Poynter story’s numbers:

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ),  $427,259.

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA ),$396,011.

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), $143,197.

NABJ felt that it deserved even more since it brought in 53 percent of paid registrants and 38 percent of the estimated 7,500 attendees. It amounted to $574,407.

With NABJ gone, the revenue split won’t be as robust. But the organizations working together still should make more than they would with individual conventions. That windfall has always helped to save all the journalism groups that have battled huge deficits in recent years.  

Given that,  what do you make of NABJ’s compromise ideas on redoing the revenue share? One of the proposals would actually hurt the smaller groups.

Doesn’t sound like NABJ was all that into solidarity from the beginning.

Still organizations are being very political.

“AAJA is disappointed that NABJ has withdrawn from Unity,” said AAJA President Doris Truong during a morning conference call today. “ But now we have to move forward. We wanted NABJ to stay in the alliance but we wish them well. We will never close the door to NABJ.”

So NABJ is gone, and all that’s left is a bigger share of a smaller pie for the journalism groups that remain.  Not the end of the world, but the end of something.

Unity was the biggest model for how real diversity could work in America.

When Unity fails to unite, that’s sad.

NABJ, the National Association of Black Journalists, pulls out of 2012 Unity convention: Not a good sign for coalitions of color

Read my column at  http://www.aaldef.org/blog  to see why it’s a shock that the black journalists group has pulled out of Unity.

Established in 1994 to be a prime example of diversity in action, Unity’s biggest accomplish was just being there every four years, thousands of journalists of color all together.

When NABJ says it wants more of cut from the big confab that Unity puts on simply because it’s bigger, that’s a bad sign not just for diversity advocates in journalism but for any coalitions based on minority groups of varying size.

Who gets the bigger say? What happened to the greater good?

Greater what? NABJ essentially is saying don’t take it personally bleeding hearts. It’s just business.

And when the largest group pulls out of Unity, what are you left with? 

Nether unity, nor Unity.

So you missed Fred T. Korematsu Day in California on Sunday? And you had the day off too. Here’s why all Americans should care: Have you been korematsued?

Who’s Fred T.Korematsu? If you know who Rosa Parks is, you should know Fred.

I’m coining a phrase to rival the Greek King Pyrrhus, who when prevailing after the Romans in 279 BC is said to have uttered, “Another such victory and we are surely undone.” Or something like that, my tape recorder wasn’t working that well in 279 BC.

So Pyrrhus had his victory. And so did Fred. I call it being “korematsued.”

As you may know, Fred is the man who stood up to the U.S. government’s internment order of Japanese Americans during WWII. He fought the order and had his conviction was overturned.  A victory? Not 100 percent. 

He was korematsued. And that’s why we all need to care about him and his story to this day.

Find out more by reading my Amok column at  www.aaldef.org/blog

Mainstream media finally notices: Olympic champion diver Victoria Manalo Draves is still dead after 19 days

I first heard of Victoria  Manalo Draves’ death more than two weeks ago.  

Draves was an important, iconic figure in the Filipino American community. Born to a Filipino father and a Caucasian mother during a time when mixed-marriages were against the law, young Vicky Manalo  was shunned as a kid in San Francsico from swimming among whites. It didn’t stop Draves from becoming an Olympic champion in 1948.

Of course, that doesn’t mean she gets the respect she deserves on the day of her death.

Today’s obit in the New York Times shows just how far Filipinos, even half-white ones, can be in terms of real inclusion.  

It took the Times 19 days to report the death of an Olympic champion, excusing its tardiness by saying  Manalo’s  death “had not been widely reported.”  I heard about it through the ethnic media.

So the mainstream’s elite newspaper is just 19 days behind in reporting a significant death of a Filipino American. At least now we can measure how far behind the mainstream can be.

So much for diversity in journalism.  At least it wasn’t 19 years.