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Rinku Sen Helen Zia Sheryl A. Levart

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Discussion 1: Asian American IdentityDiscussion 2: Beyond the Model Minority Myth
Experts Respond
The Experts
Quang BaoMitra KalitaSheryl LevartHelen ZiaMonami MaulikFranklin OdoRinku Sen

Click on each panelist's name or thumbnail to learn about them and to read their statement.

Discussion 1: Asian American Identity

We convened our panel of experts to discuss questions submitted after "Searching for Asian America" first broadcast. Click on the corresponding question to read their responses.

QUESTION 1: One of the panelist statements mentioned that some people are beginning to include Middle Easterners as Asian American, especially since 9/11 when they have become more racialized. Do you think that being more inclusive will dilute the Asian American identity? Where do you draw the line?

QUESTION 2: What do you think of Asian American fraternities, sororities and other Asian American-only membership organizations?

QUESTION 3: In the past few years, it seems like Asian culture is "in" - whether it's food, clothes, kung fu movies or feng shui, it's everywhere you look. Do you think awareness of Asian culture helps people understand and be more sympathetic towards Asian American concerns or is it just about commodification and money?

QUESTION 4: In the popular media, Asian American men are often depicted as weak or emasculated and Asian American women as sex objects. In my experience, this translates into a weird, self-hating dynamic where AA men accuse AA women of selling out for dating white men and AA women dismiss AA men and/or feel like they all have a chip on their shoulder. Whether or not it's right, the reality is that "outmarriage" is increasingly common. Do you think Asian Americans should be encouraged to marry one another more? How can we heal this divide within the community?

QUESTION 5: If Asian American is a racial/political term for achieving equality, do you think there will ever be a time when we should stop using it?

QUESTION 6: A good friend of mine is Taiwanese American. He identifies as ethnically Taiwanese, but not as Asian American, because he doesn't feel any commonality with other Asian groups. I think his perspective is fairly common among "brain drain" immigrants who have achieved a certain level of socioeconomic success and don't think racism affects them. Should everyone who is of Asian descent identify as Asian American?

QUESTION 7: I've heard that some white parents who adopt Chinese baby girls consider themselves Asian American. What do you think about this and the way a lot of these parents immerse themselves and their children in Asian culture, almost obsessively?

QUESTION 8: How is multiraciality changing the way Asian Americans view themselves?

QUESTION 9: I feel that the recent wars against Japan, Korea, and Vietnam have a profound impact on the way Asian Americans are viewed - instead of immigrants who have contributed a lot to the building of America, they're seen as mass groups taking advantage of limited opportunities that American GIs fought to secure. Do you think the rest of America can accept the wars against Asians plus the North Korean threat and not have hostility toward the growing Asian population?

QUESTION 10: What is the biggest challenge facing Asian Americans today?

QUESTION 1: I think a lot of Asian Americans, especially recent immigrants, feel like the model minority idea fits their experience - achieving the American Dream through hard work and no handouts. I can understand how it might make other minority groups look bad, but it also helps Asian Americans gain a certain amount of acceptance and respect. Why should they sacrifice something that benefits them?

QUESTION 2: I work with a lot of Southeast Asian youth in my community. The experience of a lot of these kids is closer to Blacks and Latinos in terms of what they have to deal with and what opportunities they can tap in to. How do they fit into the so-called model minority?

QUESTION 3: One of the problems with the Asian American community is that whenever somebody achieves a high level of mainstream success, they're scrutinized for every little misstep or criticized for selling out and not doing enough to help advance other Asian Americans. Isn't it unrealistic to expect one individual to represent and be responsible for the whole community? I think this kind of attitude is self-defeating and one of the reasons Asian Americans can't get anywhere as a group.

QUESTION 4: Why do you think advertisers and retail companies think it's okay to put out demeaning racist images of Asian Americans, like Abercrombie & Fitch, to name one example? So much stuff that passes for humor would never be acceptable if it depicted other groups that way. And what is an appropriate response by Asian Americans? A lot of times, protest campaigns aren't taken seriously. They're seen as proof that Asian Americans have no sense of humor.

QUESTION 5: If Asian Americans want to be accepted by others as full Americans, why don't you stop using hyphenated terms like this? It seems divisive, like you're setting yourselves even further apart. Also, if Asian American is a racial political term for achieving equality, do you think there will ever be a time when we should stop using it?

QUESTION 6: In many discussions of race that take place in America, Asians aren't mentioned and the focus is on Black-white relations. If the model minority myth is a way to divide and conquer different racial groups, how can we counter this strategy and thus work together to achieve equality? How can we insert Asian Americans into the larger discussion?

QUESTION 7: The model minority myth creates a strange situation for Asian Americans, where we are held up as an ideal minority yet at the same time, we're invisible and don't have much cultural or political power. How do gain influence over the way we are perceived and at the same time, make real gains in terms of cultural and political power?

QUESTION 8: A while back, there was a Committee of 100 study that polled White Americans on their views of Asian Americans relative to other minority groups. Two things struck me in that poll: a large percentage of people said that they would have a problem with an Asian American as their superior in an office, and one out of four respondents thought that Asians were more likely to be disloyal than other groupings. Can you comment on this?

QUESTION 9: What is the biggest challenge facing Asian Americans today?

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