In 2015, is there a bigger story for Asian Americans than Islamophobia?
What? You’re not Muslim? Aren’t you a big-beach-umbrella-Asian American? You
don’t have to like sand.
What about a golf umbrella?
It amazes me how I still hear comments from people who should pick up a history
book and understand that every kind of Asian who has come to America has been
through the politics of fear.
Chinese took jobs and got kicked out. Filipinos took jobs and women and got
kicked out. Japanese looked like the enemy and got jailed.
Now it’s the South Asians and the West Asians. And as the fear plays out,
it threatens our existence as a community if we don’t all stand under the
umbrella as one.
I know, it’s popular to say Asian Americans are not a monolith. It came up when
I wrote about the affirmative
issue this year. Or when New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote that
Asian Americans have an
We’re a diverse group, and we prefer to call ourselves by our ethnicities. It’s
who we are. But as Asian American, or the ultra-inclusive AAPI (my preference)
or AANHPI, we can’t forget that our real power comes when we’re positively
ASIAN AMERICANS GOOD AT NUMBERS
That we’re even here at all is pretty amazing. And that’s the most unappreciated
story of 2015.
For Asian Americans, it’s hard to look at this past year without an appreciation
It struck me when I attended a 75th year celebration of my college radio
station, WHRB-FM, in Cambridge in October, on the weekend of the 50th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
Without that law, America would look like this:
- Whites: 75 percent
- Blacks: 4 percent
- Hispanics: 8 percent
- Asians: Less than 1 percent
Thank goodness it passed, ending years of racist quotas that were tantamount to
You’ll still see the old demographics in place. At one of my event’s sessions at
Harvard’s Science Center, I looked out at the audience and didn’t see many Asian
But outside, on the way to Harvard Yard, there was a food truck selling banh mi
The new demographics are taking root. At least gastronomically.
And yet, we are still encroaching Asians, hidden dragons.
We are still underplayed when it comes to real life.
In the fight for justice, the killer of Vincent Chin continues to evade a civil judgment
that has ballooned to more than $8 million.
Personally, as I’ve pondered the murder of my
I’ve wondered if Asian American lives still matter.
Real life is tough still. Fake life?
It’s another story.
THE REVOLUTION IS BEING TELEVISED
As a former TV reporter in a three-network era, I know the power of TV. But I
was too dumb to understand why older people often came up to me in San Francisco
and thanked me. They had never seen a real live Filipino on TV before.
Like that was important?
But in 2015, Filipinos and Asian Americans seem to be all over the place and not
just on the ethnic channels.
Yes, that was Vanessa Lachey, nee Minnillo, the former Filipino American teen
queen (born in the Air Force Hospital in Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines) on
an NBC prime time sitcom, “Truth Be Told.”
This blog’s year actually started with a bang with Margaret Cho’s star-turn at the Golden Globes
and my interview
“Fresh Off the Boat”
continued to grow as a show, and I was a fan. But I didn’t realize it really was
because of Randall Park and Constance Wu.
When they were snubbed for an Emmy nod, I was miffed.
They deserved their success perms.
Later in the year, when “FOTB” returned, for a second go-round, I wasn’t sure
about the story lines and characters. But I noticed it was less about the kids,
and more about the parents and grandma. Better. The show isn’t “Leave it to
Beaver.” It’s “Father Knows Best.”
“FOTB” is still a sitcom, and by my laugh-meter standard, there were way more
laughs on the critically misunderstood “Dr. Ken.”
I’ve written about Ken Jeong
in other publications, like KoreAm back in 2009. He was funny before you were
doing the whip and the Nae-Nae (so 2015). His show isn’t an arty sitcom in the
Louis CK auteur vein, and it may have less of a message than “FOTB,” but the
laughs in “Dr. Ken” will improve your abs.
As good as those two shows were, the winner for taking the modern sitcom up one
more notch is Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None.” The second episode on parents and
the comparative stories of fathers was an especially good episode and worth
In 2015, Ansari has proven to be the jack of
everything. He sold out multiple shows in Madison Square Garden; Came out with a
book, “Modern Romance,” on dating and relationships in June; Was on the finale
of “Parks and Rec” on NBC; And he wrote an essay
on modern casting’s continuing diversity problem in the arts section of the
Sunday New York Times.
He was even lauded by PETA for speaking out against eggs and factory
(Disclosure: my wife is a PETA executive.)
Aziz is building a kind of celebrity that could make a difference as he
continues to mature and grow and becomes more outspoken in his projects, both in
and out of show business.
His collaboration with Alan Yang on “Master of None” is just a harbinger of the
new ground he’s breaking for Asian Americans.
I’ve always liked Aziz’s standup act. But “Master of None” was historic from the
opening shot, where Aziz is seen having sex with an attractive white female
without benefit of working condom (always a comic trigger).
OK, it was on Netflix.
But when was the last time you saw an Asian American male do that?
Even the groundbreaking “Girls” still thinks Asian guys are all “gaysians.”
For all that, Aziz is my Asian American person of the year. Is there any Asian
American male who is more in your face visible right now in the mainstream
media? This is what I mean about building for the future. There just aren’t many
Asian Americans who have the kind of name recognition that Aziz has now. And at
age 32, he has what in the old days of tech used to be called “up side.” With
Aziz, it’s way-up.
He may even kick off 2016 in a big way. The Golden Globes are on Jan. 10, and
Aziz is up for Best Actor, television series, musical or comedy.
In the age of U.S. Islamophobia, that would be a positively monolithic event for
all of us in the New Year.
THANK YOU DEAR READERS
In 2010, at the Asian American Journalists Association convention in, of all
places, Hollywood, land of broken dreams, I began a conversation with AALDEF’s
Margaret Fung. It ended up with the migration of my “Amok” column from the now
defunct “Asian Week” to this very blog.
The AALDEF website has been the home of my column, or
And 2015 has been a banner year. I’m still
It was also gratifying to win AAJA’s 2015 Suzanne Ahn Award for Civil Rights
But as I look back, the story that continues to get the biggest play on this
blog is the one I wrote in 2012, where Ronald Ebens
to me for the killing of Vincent Chin.
Here are the rest of the top posts this year to read while you wait for your
Wi-Fi to boot up “Master of None” on Netflix. Have a Happy New Year!
The Amok Top Ten of the Year:
Ebens owes millions:
Vincent Chin’s killer continues to evade judgment.
Let’s end the civil war on affirmative
How some Asians are being used as human shields.
Do Asian American Lives
Justice is elusive for Stephen Guillermo.
Nick Kristof’s Asian
Just because you write for the Times doesn’t mean….
Asian American Emmys
I’d vote twice for Randall and Constance.
In Kentucky, Asian Americans stand up for their rights.
There was an Asian American at Selma 50 years ago.
Margaret Cho stole the Golden
And maybe a military uniform.
You have to see it.