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See how the experts responded to your questions in a roundtable discussion.
A common perception of Asian Americans is the model minority: hardworking immigrants who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and are living the American Dream. Although some may view this as a positive stereotype, it nevertheless fails to acknowledge the diversity of Asian Americans and the challenges and hardships they face. Scholars and activists have been debunking this myth for years, even pointing to the contradictory, equally common perception of Asians as unassimilated foreigners - yet the stereotype endures.
What makes the model minority myth so persistent and pervasive? What does this suggest about the position of Asians in American society?
We've asked four panelists to write statements in response to the opening question above. Click on each panelist's name to learn about them and to read their statement. Suggest a related question for the panelists to discuss by clicking the link below. We will be accepting questions until May 19, 2004. Check back later to see how the panelists responded.
Rinku Sen is Communications Director of the Applied Research Center. From 1988-2000, she was on the staff of the Center for Third World Organizing, a national network of organizations of color. As a staff member, then Co-Director of the Center, she trained new organizers of color and crafted public policy campaigns around poverty, education, racial and gender equity, health care and immigration issues. Sen was recognized by Ms.Magazine as one of 21 feminists to watch in the 21st century, and she received the Ms. Foundation for Women's Gloria Steinem Women of Vision award in 1996. Her book, Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing, was released by Jossey Bass in the Fall of 2003.
As Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Margaret Fung is actively engaged in fostering a wide spectrum of legal rights for Asian Americans. A graduate of Barnard College in New York City, Margaret Fung earned her law degree from New York University, where she was a member of the NYU Law Review, an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow and a Root-Tilden Scholar. Fung also received an honorary LL.D. from City University of New York (CUNY) Law School in 1997. Over 10,000 Asian Americans benefit yearly from legal counseling and community programs provided by AALDEF, which is a nonpartisan organization formed in 1974 to protect and promote the civil rights of Asian Americans, through litigation, education, and legal advocacy.
Dr. Franklin Odo is Director of the Asian Pacific American Program at the Smithsonian Institution as well as a curator at the National Museum of American History. He received Ph.D. in Japanese history from Princeton University. Odo has also been a professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawai'i and was visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. He is and co-editor OF ROOTS: AN ASIAN AMERICAN READER and the editor of THE COLUMBIA DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF THE ASIAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, published in 2002 by Columbia University Press. His latest book IS NO SWORD TO BURY: JAPANESE AMERICANS IN HAWAII DURING WORLD WAR II published by Temple University Press in 2003.
Monami was born in Calcutta, India and migrated to the Bronx, NY as a child where she came to political consciousness as a working-class immigrant woman. Monami graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Third World Development Studies with minors in South Asian Studies and Women's Studies from Cornell University in 1996.
Since then, Monami has been working as an immigrant rights, labor, and youth organizer in New York City. In 1999, Monami co-founded DRUM- Desis Rising Up & Moving as one of the first low-income South Asian community-based organizations for social justice in the U.S. Prior to that, Monami worked with the NY Taxi Workers Alliance, the Women Workers Project at CAAAV (Organizing Asian Communities), TICO (Training Institute for Careers in Organizing), and served on various city-wide coalitions and campaigns around prison abolition, youth, and People of Color organizing. Monami serves on the Community Funding Board of the North Star Fund, the Steering Committee of the NYC Organizing Support Center, and represents DRUM on the national steering committee of Racial Justice 911.
In 2001, Monami received the Union Square Award as co-founder of DRUM and the Open Society Institute Community Fellowship of the George Soros Foundation. In 2002, Monami received the Jane Bagely Lehman Award from the Tides Foundation in recognition of her organizing for immigrant rights and civil liberties post- September 11, 2001. Monami has spoken to audiences around the U.S. and outside of the U.S. on immigrants rights, detention, and political movements of low-income Third World immigrant communities in the U.S. and presented on the human rights violations against immigrants in the U.S. post 9/11 at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Meeting in Geneva in 2003.