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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.

The Experts Respond

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

RINKU: I would say the biggest challenge facing us is to focus on the big ideas and resist having to drop some of our ambitions and aspirations because they're less palatable to the mainstream. For example, I know that police brutality affects lots of working-class and lower-income Asians, both immigrants and Asian Americans. But limiting the power of the police is not such a popular notion in this crime-and-punishment kind of country.

There's a lot of great activity by Asian community leaders, scholars and activists happening in community centers, schools, community organizations and all kinds of places. But many of those efforts are on a really small scale and they're very issue specific, so even if we're able to win some specific change - for example, a new set of controls on policing or the return of certain public benefits to Asian immigrants such as food stamps or Medicaid - the whole is not greater than the sum of our parts. Even though we're winning on some specific issues and specific policies, we're still losing the larger battle over the ideas that govern the country.

We need to focus at least some of our attention on hammering out the elements of a new social contract. How is society going to run? What are we going to promise to each other? Civil liberties, freedom of the press, a basic dignified standard of living, things like that. We have to continue to do the work that gets people involved because it's very local and small. But at the same time we have to build our ability to put out big ideas and support them.

FRANKLIN: In answering this question, I wasn't thinking about the big ideas, so I'll just try tossing out something that I've been concerned about for a bit now, and actually for some decades. And that's relationship to homeland - the whole question of how we keep some perspective or control over our relations or cultural ties to our countries of origin. For more recent immigrants the sense of this is perhaps even more intense.

For the whole Asian Pacific Islander American grouping, one of the things that sets us apart from everybody else is the history of having been excluded and left out of the whole paradigm of being an American. Because of our place of origin, it's important for us to be able to secure some control and I think all of us will have a different definition perhaps of what that relationship should be like. Nonetheless, I think that one of the biggest challenges we have ahead of us is how we define that and how we try to protect that or maintain it or defend it.

MONAMI: For Asian Americans in this moment in history living within the US, we really need to think critically about where we stand on the domestic and foreign policies of this government. We need to step outside the box and the narrowness of always framing the question as individual achievements or advancement for our immigrant or racial group, versus really caring about and having a sense of humanity and justice for all people. Not just here in the U.S. but around the world, given that these are the most repressive and militaristic years that this country has seen in recent history and that the world has seen under a permanent so-called War on Terror impacting the lives of millions of people across the globe.

In Iraq and beyond, particularly to millions of immigrants and people of color in the U.S. who are facing racial profiling, deportation, racism, harassment, policing, criminalization, it's really critical in this moment for Asian Americans to think about what's happening around us, to understand and look beyond most of the media and take a stand where we really show solidarity and respect for the lives of people all over the world.


Discussion 1: Asian American Identity

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