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Archive for the ‘Asian Americans’ Category

(Late reflections for Mother’s Day)

Of all the made-up commercial holidays, Mother’s Day, for me, is the least irritating. After all, if I was going to be guilted into blowing money on cards, flowers, and the obligatory brunch, at least it was going to be for Mom. So to moms everywhere, y’all rock.

And this goes double for the moms we do not celebrate on Mother’s Day — the ones  who get painted as fiscally and sexually irresponsible, the deviant  mothers who are subjected to discipline and sanction.

For decades, the deviant mother has served as a convenient scapegoat for state ills. As Anna  Marie Smith has observed, “the State lays the blame for poverty at the door of the deviant mother who is ideologically constructed as black, heterosexual, unmarried, and sexually precocious.” These are the mothers who are somehow painted as undeserving.

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As we celebrated the eve of November 4th, I was struck by a comment from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He pointed out with pride the role of the Latino vote in Obama’s election. I wish I could say that about my fellow Filipinos.

And yes, I know, the Filipino vote is not monolithic. I am specifically talking about Filipinos like me, who have immigrated here in our adult lives. We’re working to make ends meet. Many of you are raising families, go to church every Sunday, support extended families back in the Philippines. The Philippines that would theoretically be a very red state if it could vote.

So yeah, there are lots of factors behind this particular Pinoy demographic’s support of McCain and Proposition 8, but I will dive into the one that presents the most challenges.

Filipinos can be quite forthcoming when talking about race. In news interviews in the Philippines and in Pinoy gatherings, many immigrant Pinoys have made it abundantly clear that their “discomfort” over Barack Obama is not due to the rumors that he’s an inexperienced, socialist, Muslim politician. Their discomfort is from Obama’s blackness.

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Please read professor black woman’s post about the continued exploitation of migrant farmworkers in California, then sign the UFW petition for farm workers’ rights.

For my fellow Pinoys, please remember that in 1965, led by Larry Itliong, Philip Vera-Cruz, and Pete Velasco, 1,500 Filipino farm workers went on strike in Delano, California. The agribusinesses responded by sending goons to beat the strikers, and by turning off the gas, electricity, and water in the labor camps. When the agribusinesses brought in Mexican laborers as replacements, Itliong turned to the Mexican National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), headed by Cesar Chavez.

Itliong’s group, the Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) and Chavez’s NFWA later merged to form the United Farm Workers of America.

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About a year ago, a heated exchange broke out between two of my students. This was a community college, where most of the attendees were first-generation college students. The discussion topic touched on career goals, and a shy nursing student, I’ll call her Cam, spoke for the first time.

Cam did not really want to be in nursing. She was the eldest of several children, and her Cambodian American family came to the US as refugees in the 1970s. Nursing was a guaranteed money-earner, and she needed to help support her large extended family. But what she really wanted was to be a fashion designer. (This was the year Chloe Dao won Project Runway.)

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Passing It On by Yuri KochiyamaToday marks the eighty-seventh birthday of Yuri Kochiyama, an admirable woman who has spent the past six decades working for social justice.

When her family was interned in an Arkansas internment camp during World War II, Kochiyama saw firsthand the parallels between the treatment of African Americans and Japanese Americans. The petite Kochiyama is a towering figure in the civil rights and racial equality movements. She has worked alongside the Black Panthers and Malcolm X, and she was the woman who cradled his head after he was shot in the Audubon Ballroom in 1965. In the 1970s, she helped to bring attention to the cause for Puerto Rican independence by joining activists in a takeover of the Statue of Liberty.

Today, Kochiyama remains an advocate, participating in rallies for immigrant rights and against the war. She has started a grassroots group called Asian Americans for the San Francisco Eight, to raise awareness among fellow Asian Americans on how the “case of the San Francisco 8 is such a struggle for progressive and radical community activists to fight for basic human rights, for their chosen means of redressing injustices, and for all peoples’ rights for life, liberty, and true democracy.”

Few people have consistently represented Asian Americans or done more to bridge the social justice struggles across the racial and ethnic divide.

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