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A Reflection on My Non/Asian American Life

“[T]he positioning of Asian Americans as the least oppressed in dominant discourses on race…puts Asian Americans in a position where the only choices we have are to be in collusion with white supremacy against other people of color, or an ally to another community. Whether villains or allies, what both positions have in common is that they are tangential—we are marginalized, we marginalize our own experience and our own communities. It is tremendously important to work in solidarity with other communities. But we are more than allies. More than villains. We need nuanced, even empathetic, critical examination of our people …

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Part II: An Interview with Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom

(Check out Part I: #ChinkHumor and Sweden’s Race Problem)

“[A] strong tradition of “gook humor” [is] alive and well to this day, where comedy is based around ridiculing and degrading East Asian bodies, supports the notion that somehow the Asian body is less than human.”
— Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom, Illustrater and Comic Artist

I had the pleasure of finding Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom’s beautiful and powerful illustrations online after reading an article she coauthored with a fellow Korean adoptee and scholar Tobias Hübinette. The article was a response to a yellowface sketch by an all-male comedy troupe called ”Killinggänget”.

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Part I: #ChinkHumor and Sweden’s Race Problem

(Check out Part II: An Interview with Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom)

“Racial biology taught the general population to differentiate between the superior Aryan race and undesirable others, communication to the public at large through literature, films and cartoons directly.”
-Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom, Illustrator & Cartoonist

Last month, I found this article on the Internets that talked about “Gook Humor”—or, more broadly, “Chink Humor”—in Sweden. The article was a response to a long-standing yellowface sketch (think Saturday Night Live) by a popular comedy collective called Killinggänget, co-authored by illustrator and comic book artist extraordinaire Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom and Swedish race and …

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The Slants’ Battle Over Their Name Wages On

Loyal readers may remember back in October of 2013 we ran a post from Simon Tam of the band The Slants. They have been engaged in a long battle with the US Trademark Office to trademark the name of their band. But the US government, always sensitive as it is to perceived racial injustice, believes the name to be a racist slur. The backstory can be read here. This is an open letter Simon Tam has written to the US Trademark Office as their battle continues.

To the US Trademark Office:

Of all government departments, you should know that …

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What “Racial Equity” Does and Doesn’t Mean

An article I wrote responding to UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh’s Washington Post editorial, “How the Asians Became White ” ended up creating a bit of a flap. There was a flood of angry comment, most of which was deleted.

Note to readers: comments that begin with “you f**king Nazi,” or that refer to me as a “genocidal maniac” don’t ever make the queue because, well, comparing racial equity in employment to the Holocaust is not something I support. Genocide, as well, is not something to be trivialized. If you want to do something to stop genocide, I suggest …

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Model Minority Suicide: Five Reasons, Five Ways

It’s time to kill the Asian American model minority myth, and I mean really kill it.

That myth is one of the tenets of American racism, used repeatedly for decades to promote the idea that racism and structural racial disadvantage are either non-existent or at least entirely surmountable, while suggesting that some people of color, and Black people in particular, are just whiners unwilling to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And that belief, that the black poor are just entitlement junkies, has negative consequences for all poor people because the tough “love” solutions this belief inspires, like cutting back …

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Anatomy of a Racist Joke

The whole kerfuffle that began on twitter and ended up inspiring articles everywhere when the hash tag #cancelcolbert trended got me to thinking about the place racist jokes, ironic and otherwise, have assumed in our supposedly post-racial society.

Now, I’m not on the #cancelcolbert bandwagon. Given his obvious good intentions (yes, there should be no place in our culture for a football franchise that uses a racist, anti-Indian epithet as their brand name), I would much rather educate Colbert than cancel him. I also think that humor can play a positive role in the struggle to end racism and other …

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The Movement Will Not Be Twitterized

I haven’t had the heart, energy, or time to read through the #CancelColbert tweets. From the resulting hullabaloo, it seems that on the whole, Suey Park’s intentions were completely missed. Also importantly missed was, you know, the whole genocide/ disenfranchisement/ misrepresentation of Native peoples thing, AND Colbert’s original gross display of anti-Asian racism, not just the “offending” Comedy Central tweet.

That said, I had the same reaction to #CancelColbert as I did last winter when I scanned the #NotYourAsianSidekick tweets. Thousands of young APIA women and allies were connecting virtually. My ambivalence about hashtag activism is that, while it has …

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The Model Minority is a Lever of White Supremacy

The Asian American model minority myth has been getting a lot of attention lately. Articles like this one, in Colorlines, and posts here on Race Files like this one and this one are just a few among a growing number of attempts to speak to the origins and meaning of the Asian American model minority. To me, that’s great news. Anti-black racism may be the fulcrum, or pivot point, of white supremacy, but the model minority myth is one of white supremacy’s many levers.

The articles referenced here all make the important point that the model minority is …

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MSNBC is Doing Asian Americans No Favors

When it comes to racial diversity among the Sunday political talk shows, MSNBC is the undisputed leader. In two studies conducted by ChangeLab (January-June 2012, and January-June 2013), MSNBC’s anchor weekend talk programs, Up with Chris Hayes/Steve Kornacki and Melissa Harris Perry included more guests of color and hosted more discussion of issues of race than all of the other networks offering similar programming combined. The difference is not just in quantity but in the depth and quality of the discourse. Now, mind you, the standard established by the major networks is set pretty low, but they do at least …