A few weeks ago, Ly Tong was arrested for pepper-spraying Vietnamese singer Dam Vinh Hung at his Santa Clara concert. Of course, a YouTube clip captures the entire episode, recording the very moment Tong, decked out in his best female attire, douses the singer with the chemical. No, he was not frustrated by the shrill heartache requisite in every other Vietnamese song. Tong is an infamous Vietnamese American anticommunist activist. Dam Vinh Hung is a spiky-haired Vietnamese pop star who has been accused of being a communist puppet. Their incident highlights a persisting divisiveness that, 35 years after the Fall of Saigon, lingers among the Vietnamese people.
The reasons vary. We have personal records to set or a pair of running shoes that are in dire need of attention. Some of us are looking for a socially acceptable reason to blast Miley Cyrus on our iPods and wear form-fitting spandex in the daytime. A handful of us are tired of being (supposedly) the lone San Franciscan in the room running less than ten miles a day. A few, like this writer, cite all of the above.
Every year on April 30, I comb through any and all news articles featuring the words “Fall of Saigon.” The top images are familiar scenes -- black and white photographs of Vietnamese chaotically scrambling for the last departing helicopters, of the broken gates that once surrounded South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace. I read through the accounts of Vietnamese, now Americans, relaying a pain and anger that still lingers over three decades later.
USA Today has an interesting, if maybe inadvertently stereotypical article, about the infallibility of Asian Americans and Asian immigrants in this economy. It is an article that oscillates between fascinating statistics and under reported conclusions turned generalizations. There's even a reference to a dry cleaner!
According to the article, the good news is that Asian Americans and Asian immigrants have a lower reported unemployment rate (7.5 percent) than the national average (10.2 percent). More specifically, the unemployment gap among Asians is "far lower than the rates for whites, blacks, Hispanics or the national as a whole." Of course, the strong showing among Asians in our disillusioned, disgruntled American workforce is attributed to cultural factors like "education benchmarks and cultural traditions that foster family support when someone is out of work." Cue image here of the overworked geek of indeterminate Asian origin, rising above the rest of American society .
In a moment of naivety, I opted to watch Searching for Sandeep prior to bed -- choosing it over Warrior Boyz (to be reviewed soon!) under the rationale that a documentary about love would be far less disheartening than a feature on South Asian gangs in Canada. Although I cannot directly compare the hardships of relationships with gang warfare, I had forgotten how terrifying love can be. The aforementioned statement is particularly true for Searching for Sandeep's protagonists -- two queer women who foster an intimate relationship in spite of geographical, racial, and personal differences. Searching for Sandeep, one of the films slated to be screened at the 3rd I South Asian Film Festival, is a fascinating documentary that highlights the complex, central role of identity in relationships.
Yesterday, President Obama, justifying that Nobel Prize a teeny bit, reestablished the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders -- an Executive Order originally signed by Bill Clinton back in 1999. The initiative aims to improve the health, education, and representation of AAPI populations and will be led by Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, and an Executive Director who has yet to be selected. Let the short-listing begin!
Mad props to Obama for several things: First, for slapping the "model minority" myth in face and openly acknowledging in signing remarks that the community still faces "health disparities like higher rates of diabetes and Hepatitis B," "educational disparities" like "high dropout rates, low college enrollment rates" and, in this financial period of strugs, "higher rates of poverty in some communities, and barriers to employment and workplace advancement in others."