Happy Holi!

This year, Holi began on the evening of March 1st, and ends on the evening of March 2nd. And if you’re unfamiliar with Holi … maybe the Color Run will ring a bell.

(More specifically, we’re talking about the Color Run that bastardized this Hindu holiday in favor of Insta-worthy pics and good ol’ fashioned gentrified fun, capitalizing on the tradition of throwing colored powders and eliminating the religious and historical background.)

But let’s get back to that later

Holi is celebrated throughout the world and is colloquially known as the “festival of colors.” While there are a number of communities that celebrate in various ways, the core of the holiday revolves around celebrating the coming of spring, and features the immensely popular throwing of colored powders.

The Indian diaspora brought Holi around the globe — to Africa, South America, Europe, and North America. Cities across the US are hosting Holi celebrations, introducing an opportunity for people of Indian origin to honor and share their culture.

Colonizers be colonizing

This fascination with Holi and the beautiful visuals of throwing colored powder can turn into straight-up appropriation. Take the Color Run. As Kainat Akmal states, events like the Color Run yank out the “fun” parts of an important religious holiday, without actually mentioning the original context.

Amal delineates appreciation and appropriation as simply as one possibly could.  “Cultural appreciation requires an invitation into the culture, while cultural appropriation is a colonial move that takes an aspect of culture for yourself”.

So if you do want to get that Insta-worthy shot (and we’ll admit, the colors are beautiful), we encourage you to find events in your area that are celebrating and appreciating Holi, not appropriating it.

Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who admittedly participated in the Color Run back in 2012 (sorry)

It’s National Women’s History Month!

And we’re celebrating by featuring a badass Asian American woman from history each week.

Unfortunately, thanks to decades of racist immigration policies that kept people of Asian descent, and particularly women, from settling in the United States, the history of Asian American women is largely limited to the last 80 years.

That means our brainstorming session sounded something like, “Kristi Yamaguchi? 46 ain’t exactly historical” and “why can I only think of Amy Tan—like how far back in history?” But our history’s wide and rich in some deeply inspiring ways. So let’s get to it.

The interracial love behind Brown v. Board of Education

NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall argued Brown v. Board of Education, and later became the court’s first African American justice. But working with him on that case was Cecilia “Sissy” Suyat, a Filipino American secretary who later became his wife.

Born in Hawaii to Filipino immigrants, Suyat fell in love with a Filipino boy from a family that spoke a different dialect, and her dad balked.

So he sent her off to New York City to learn job skills and she promptly forgot about the boy and fell in love with the city instead.

And then in love with someone else

Suyat says when she looked for a job, the clerk saw her dark skin and promptly sent her to the NAACP. That early exposure to America’s racial issues stuck with her, and she stuck with the NAACP, becoming secretary to Gloster B. Current, head of the NAACP’s 1,500 branches nationwide.

When Thurgood Marshall took up the Brown case, Suyat typed up legal briefs for the team for four years. After, Marshall and Suyat started dating, despite opposition from friends and family, eventually marrying and raising two sons who would also dedicate their lives to public service.

Jessica Yi, editor, would choose the city over a boy any day

This Weekend: February 23, 2018

  • VACATION IN A SAFE SPACE. While Airbnb says it doesn’t tolerate discrimination, you can’t exactly filter for “non-racist host” like you can price or location. Unsurprisingly, sometimes Airbnb hosts turn out to beprejudiced. That’s why Muslim entrepreneurs are now creating new services that specifically cater to Muslim travelers and ensure that everyone feels welcomed in someone else’s home.
  • CALL YOUR SIBLINGS. Hannah and Marissa Brandt haven’t let a little thing like competing on opposing Olympic teams break their sisterly bond. While Hannah helped the US women’s hockey team take home the gold, Marissa, a Korean adoptee, opted to play on the combined Korean women’s team under her birth name Park Yoon-jung. The sisters have always wanted to travel to South Korea together to learn more about Marissa’s heritage, and what a way to do it.
  • AND THANK YOUR PARENTS WHILE YOU’RE AT IT. If you’ve been watching the Olympics (or just reading Chery’s commentary) you’ve probably noticed Asian Americans make up nearly half of the USA’s figure skating team. But it’s not surprising when you consider that the drive and determination needed to become a world-class athlete is also something immigrants have in spades – and pass on to their children.
  • SHOW OFF YOUR SUNDAY BEST. From an Asian American designer, while you’re at it. The fashion industry, while supposedly progressive and cutting edge, is also notoriously status and name-obsessed. But thanks to designers like Alexander Wang, Thakoon Panichgul, and Jason Wu (with an assist from Michelle Obama 🙌), many of the hottest labels now carry Asian last names (but the industry still has to open a lot more doors for black designers).
  • EAT ALL THE “EXOTIC” THINGS. South Korea’s food game is on point, but Olympic tourists traveling to watch the world’s best are apparently missing out on some of the world’s best food. Check out what they’re missing and let it inspire your weekend meal plans.

This week’s stories are curated by Jessica Yi, editor, who is going to spend the weekend fantasizing about everything she ate during her trip to Seoul last year. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at news@slant.email.

Another day, another … 85 cents

February 22nd marks AAPI Equal Pay Day, where we observe how 2017 pay for Asian American women has finally caught up to that of white men.

Here’s how it works. For every dollar white, non-Hispanic men are paid, Latinas are paid 54¢; black women 63¢; white women 79¢. Data shows that Asian women in the U.S make 85¢ to the dollar, but that’s just the monolithic data stat—the number is actually much wider.

In fact, #NotYourModelMinority was trending Wednesday on Twitter to show that despite the myths that Asians are successful and wealthy, many Asian Americans still face huge pay gaps and high poverty levels.

Disaggregating data matters

Sure, AAUW notes that some Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women are among the highest paid workers. But on the other side of the spectrum, we see that most AAPI communities experience much larger wage gaps in comparison to white women. Vietnamese women earn 62¢ to the dollar, Hmong women 59¢, and Burmese women only 51¢.

Breaking up Asian American data helps us see just how severe this pay gap is. And the data is even more unfavorable for trans individuals.

But it’s more than just about wage

AAPI Equal Pay Day is important, but for it to really make an impact, we have to remember the communities within the larger Asian American “monolith,” lest we make the hardships and inequality our community faces invisible.

Equal pay is not a single issue, but rather speaks to how power is held and valued. And that includes power within certain Asian American communities.

Happy Lunar New Year!

For some Asian cultures, today is the first day of the Lunar New Year, which also means that it’s time for lots of food and lots of family.

And for readers who are celebrating, hey! Happy year of the dog! Here’s a video of one doing a lion dance. Awwwwwww.

If you’re in San Francisco, New York or any other area with a significant Asian diaspora, you might see a couple celebrations around. Maybe a parade or two. And if you do, you can drop this knowledge on your unsuspecting tagalongs.

Time for your classic Slant history lesson

Parades are a super American thing, and during the 1860s Gold Rush, Chinese immigrants totally paid attention.

In fact, that’s why they started parades like San Francisco Chinatown’s: because immigrants were terrified of discrimination and wanted to make their culture palatable to a wider audience.

As later parade organizers looked on the Chinese Exclusionary Act and Japanese American internment, Chinese New Year parades became just as much PR ploys as they were cultural displays.

But they’re not the only game in town

That PR could be spread to other celebrations, too. Mongolians celebrate White Moon on February 27. Cambodians observe their own new year’s celebration in April. Thai folks observe Songkran then, too, and …

… well, there’s a whole list of celebrations that aren’t just based on the Chinese calendar.

And if that’s you, we see ya, and we’re committing to cover your history and culture, too. And you’re still invited over to eat because, um, someone’s gotta help us eat all this food.

You’ve heard it, seen it …

And well, according to the Washington Post, President Trump does it. We’re talking about how he mocked an Indian accent, which is 1) obviously, not OK and 2) unfortunately, not totally unprecedented.

In fact, The Atlantic discusses how younger South Asian immigrants are increasingly ditching their accents, because of a familiar reason for any immigrant: it shows just how “othered” they are.

No thanks to Apu

Hari Kondabolu‘s documentary, “The Problem with Apu,” seems especially relevant now. As Professor Shilpa Davé, author of Indian Accents, notes, mocking an accent is the perfect way to other someone: even if that someone is, in Apu’s case, a rather successful businessman.

And yet, the ABCD (American-Born Confused Desi) community has mixed feelings about this. ABCDs often playfully use the accent—even if they don’t have one—and sometimes create fictional character voices that may not even resemble their family’s.

Tonight’s commute listen

On one episode of Code Switch, Indians across the board, with accents and without, speak candidly about how offended they get from “Apu” accents, but also how harmless they can be in some situations.

In other words, context beats all. And 45’s context is a long history of othering non-White Americans.

Kids Asian parents would brag about

First off, a quick correction: last week, we featured 11 Asian Americans at the Olympics. But we forgot two more:

1. Madison Chock, an ice dancer and Sochi Olympian who’s also a four-time medalist at the U.S. National Championships. She skates with her partner (and also partner) Evan Bates, who she’s been skating with since 2011.

2. And Jerica Tandiman, long track speed skater who qualified for the Olympics last month by placing 4th in the 1000m. She was inspired to skate after watching the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, which were right by her house.

Sorry about that. Go Madison and Jerica!

Trying really hard not to make ice puns here

Some Asian American competitors have already made their marks, which is another way of saying “did incredibly well and we’re proud of them like my mom watching me finally move out of the house.“

First the figure skaters: Mirai Nagasu, Nathan Chen, and Alex and Maia Shibutani helped Team USA win bronze in the figure skating team event.

The #ShibSibs became the first Asian Americans to medal in ice skating in any Olympics, and Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman and only the third woman ever to land a triple axel at the Olympics …

… which is something we haven’t stopped watching since.

As always, it pays to be Chloe Kim

And of course, fan-favorite snowboarder Chloe Kim won the gold medal in the women’s halfpipe by a whopping 9 points, after tweeting about churros and ice cream.

Side effect: Momofuku’s David Chang made her churro ice cream sandwiches. Which is just another reason we’ll have to highly recommend becoming an Olympic gold medalist.

Reunited and it feels… confusing

(Yes, we’re still talking about the Olympics, because #WhatWouldLeslieDo?)

North and South Korea will walk together in the Olympics opening ceremony under one flag for the first time since 2004 and will play together (in women’s hockey) for the first time ever. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong will even meet with South Korea President Moon Jae-in.

This kind of coming-together-in-the-name-of-sportsmanship-and-international-cooperation moment sums up the idealism of the Olympics, but “Peace Olympics” is quite a name to live up to.

But it’s a big difference

The last time South Korea hosted the Olympics, North Korea demanded a joint Pyongyang-Seoul Olympics and the opportunity to host the opening ceremonies. South Korea said no and North Korea didn’t participate at all.

This year, Kim Jong-un gets positive press and a chance for a diplomatic victory. Plus, Moon favors diplomacy towards North Korea, in contrast to the dick-measuring contests that President Trump engages in.

Combined with a shrinking US State Department with no diplomat to South Korea, the US-South Korea relationship is weakening. Dangling peace is a chance for North Korea to drive a deeper wedge.

Still, optics are powerful

Current polls show a weakening South Korean appetite for reunification. Each successive generation wants it less, and hardly anyone would try closing the gap between the two countries.

But let’s be clear. Korea was one country for centuries, split by outside actors disregarding the people’s wishes. And it was arbitrary; if you were on the southern side when the border went up, then you got lucky.

My grandfather did, his brother didn’t, and families like mine have been separated ever since. The demilitarized zone between the two countries is a physical embodiment of the psychic scar that Koreans carry, made worse knowing the human rights abuse to the north.

This is a photo op in North Korea’s favor, which gives me pause. But despite all my skepticism, a part of me still feels hopeful for the sight of a unified flag.

Jessica Yi, editor, who will cry if Kim Yuna lights the Olympic torch

We liked it so we put five rings on it

Here at The Slant, we embrace the Olympics with Leslie Jones-level enthusiasm. So we’re eager to see a few things unfold, including Korean culture at the opening ceremony, North and South Korea marching together, and whether or not all those Russian athletes will be allowed to compete.

This year, Team USA is sending their most diverse delegation yet—which admittedly isn’t that diverse, with Black and Asian American athletes making up only ~8% of the total 243.

Hoping for a Mirai-cle

That said, international relations are cool and all, but let’s focus on what this is all about—the athletes.

First the figure skaters, due to heavy personal bias:

  • Mirai Nagasu. Nagasu is the second American woman to land her triple Axel in competition (after Tonya Harding). So how hard is it, you ask? HARD AF. It’s the only jump that you enter going forward and requires three and a half rotations (all other triple jumps require three).

  • Nathan Chen. AKA the king of quads (four rotations, also hard AF). He’s the first male skater to land four quad jumps in competition, so the medal podium seems likely. If he wins gold he’ll set the record for youngest male skater to win that award. He also has a secret weapon—a costume designed by Vera Wang.

  • Karen Chen (they’re not related, you racists). Chen trains under Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, won the 2017 National Championships, gets mad air during her jumps, and also wrote a book (not really related).

  • Vincent Zhou. Don’t sleep on this San Jose native. Zhou made silver behind Nathan Chen at at the 2017 U.S. Nationals, and is the youngest Olympian at age 17. He’s also a part-time poet on his Instagram account, @artworkofthemind.

  • Alex and Maia Shibutani (AKA the “ShibSibs”) represent the US in ice dancing. The sibling duo are Olympic veterans who placed ninth at Sochi in 2014.

Additional Team USA’ers to watch

  • Chloe Kim is America’s snowboarding sweetheart and the only athlete to win three gold medals in the X Games before the age of 16. She’s also wildly charming and the Super Bowl commercial commemorating the sacrifices her father made WILL make you cry.

  • Filipino American speed skater JR Celski is a Olympic veteran. In fact, he's already won two bronzes in Vancouver and one silver in Sochi: a showing his idol Apolo Ohno would be proud of.

  • Aaron Tran saw short track speedskating on TV when he was 10, and the rest is history. He’ll be representing Team USA on short track speedskating… when he’s not busy gulping down donuts and oreos.

  • Thomas Insuk Hong also represents the U.S. in short track speedskating, and has trained in both the U.S. and Seoul, where he was born. He’s placed in multiple world championships and will make his Olympic debut this year.

  • And finally, Filipino American snowboarder Hailey Langland, who will rep the US in a new event: snowboarding big air. Langland's the first US woman in X Games history to land a "cab 1080 double cork": spinning 3 times and inverting twice.

For additional coverage and wine-fueled jokes, read my commentary on the first figure skating event below. Other than that, enjoy the opening ceremonies and go Team USA!

Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who may injure herself in the coming weeks from trying out her old tricks

What’s the story behind Fred Korematsu?

This story was originally published in the February 2, 2018 edition of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every Friday? Subscribe here.

Tuesday, January 30th, was the birthday of Fred Korematsu—the Japanese American civil rights leader who refused to be interned during World War II. He was the one that fought relentlessly against racism for Japanese Americans, right? Right.

And for many, that’s where their knowledge about Fred Korematsu stops.

It gets more interesting… and current.

When he chose to defy the internment order, Korematsu changed his name to Clyde Sarah and had plastic eye surgery to look less Japanese. But he was still caught and imprisoned. Then the ACLU got involved and helped him challenge the constitutionality of Japanese internment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

They argued that the incarceration wasn’t racist, but the Army claimed that Japanese Americans signaled enemy ships from ashore and were predisposed to disloyalty. The case was ruled against him 6 -3.

But the tables turned

Lawyers dug into the case further and found suppressed reports of the FBI and FCC denying that Japanese Americans had committed any wrongdoing. In 1983, the U.S. District Court finally overturned Korematsu’s case, but he continued to fight for an official apology and reparations from the government.

So we’re honoring his legacy today, when his work feels more relevant than ever. As we stare down Muslim bans and further attacks on immigration, Korematsu reminds us to continue to seek justice for those where being an American citizen was never enough.

Natalie Bui, editor