You know who grows your pot?

E-mailed on June 9, 2017.

Because it might be the Hmong of Trinity County, California.

Ever since California legalized marijuana, there’s been a “green rush” of farmers looking to turn a profit. And it just so happens that the Hmong are really, really good at it.

As the New York Times reports, the Hmong were noted for their opium-growing skills in Laos. Now, Hmong immigrants who find it difficult to assimilate are turning to the now-legal marijuana farming industry.

Puts a whole new meaning to “melting pot”

Trinity County is still 85 percent white. So Hmong Americans still kind of stand out.

But Debbie Miller, superintendent of the local school district, welcomes more Hmong Americans to schools, where enrollment has declined.

And Hmong Americans have won the local barbecue contest and put on their fashion pageants at school.

But it’s not all about weed

Since so many Hmong are flocking to Trinity County, it’s also been the site of surprising reunions.


Classmates have found each other at stores. Old army buddies bump into each other at gas stations. Even distant cousins have found each other in the farms.


Things aren’t exactly easy for the farmers, especially with large-scale competition and a labyrinth of English-language regulations.

But for now, Hmong make up 1,500 of Trinity County’s 13,000 people. Says one Hmong resident, “If they allow us to grow, the Hmong will stay.”




Hold onto your wallets

E-mailed on June 9, 2017.

Because AAPI are making their way back to screens big and small.

Here's the roundup.

Starring neither Johansson nor Stone

Crazy Rich Asians, the upcoming film based on the 2013 Kevin Kwan novel, is looking * chef's kiss *.

In fact, it's set to be the first major studio-backed live-action Asian American film since Joy Luck Club.

You got actress and mega-activist Constance Wu. Awkwafina, straight off the playlist of your coolest friend. And, oh, Michelle. Yeoh. Herself.

So yeah, I'll be at Walgreens, replacing all the Entertainment Weeklys with Crazy Rich Asians zines.

Best quality heart

Speaking of Joy Luck Club, you might know Amy Tan and Ellen DeGeneres are developing a TV series on the real F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

Which makes this oral history of the film adaptation from Susan Cheng at Buzzfeed News extra timely.

These days, Joy Luck Club provokes a range of reactions, from "sobbing in fetal position" to "spontaneous projectile vomiting." Tan's from an older generation, so the resonance can be hit or miss.

But the oral history's worth a read. Cheng managed to track down almost the entire creative team behind the film, all with nothing but positive memories.

It's a bit long, so if you're busy, the pictures alone are worth a look. Especially, of course, Russell Wong with his watermelon.

And they're coming to any screen near you

A Nielsen study shows that AAPI households adopt newer viewing technology faster. So, yeah, we're dirty hipsters.

Way up from the general population, 98% of AAPI homes have HDTVs. 51% have Apple TVs, Rokus, Chromecasts, or TV-connected smartphones. And 73% have tablets.

So movies and TV aren't the end-all be-all anymore. And with media like YouTube or Instagram, AAPI creators have a chance to distinguish themselves … and find a built-in audience.




Okay Google, navigate to the nearest pancit

E-mailed on June 2, 2017

Vogue discovered Filipino food this Thursday, and by “discovered,” we mean it in the Christopher Columbus sense.

But the article brings up some fun stats you might be interested in, courtesy of Bloomberg and a little Google Trends sleuthing:

  • Google searches for “Filipino food” have doubled since 2012
  • Searches for “lumpia near me” have increased 3,350 percent
  • Hawaii searches for Filipino food the most, followed by Nevada and California

Hawaii knows their Filipino food

Still, Filipino restaurateurs are cautious about entering higher rent markets, because they just don’t have confidence that their cuisine will stick.

“[Filipinos] came here for the American dream and it’s not, ‘This is our food, and it’s in your face’; it’s very much ‘Oh, did you like that?’” says Filipino American chef Carl Foronda.

If these trends are any indication, though, we can only hope more Filipino chefs will put their food in our faces. Because that’s where our food-holes are. You know, to eat it.

Asian Americans run the country

E-mailed on June 2, 2017

Okay, that might be a little optimistic, but AAPI are definitely getting a little closer than before.

Congress has 12 Asian American representatives and 3 senators, and 1 Pacific Islander representative and 2 non-voting representatives.

And from Robert Lee Ahn running in California to a rising Asian American electorate in Georgia, it’s time to pay attention.

Don’t Asians only make up 5.6% of the U.S. population?

Yeah, but when that 5.6% is getting more and more Democratic (capital D), that’s pretty troublesome for the other side(s).

In fact, according to a recent poll, 47 percent of Asian Americans now identify as Democrat, up from 35 percent in 2012.

And when you look at just 18- to 34-year-olds, a whopping 77 percent identify as Democrat, versus 12 percent identifying as Republican.

Now the Democrats just want them to vote

As promising as this sounds to the Democratic Party, Asian American voters are also the least likely to vote.

As NPR reported in February 2016, Asian Americans speak a whole bunch of languages, which makes it difficult to leverage them at the voting booth.

So sure, in theory, the Democrats could get a good 4 percent of Americans on lock next election. But in practice? They better brush up on their Rosetta Stone.




Hey, you’re good at math, right?

E-mailed on May 26, 2017

If you’re heard that one this month, you might be Indian American.

Numbers don’t lie

That lovely statistic comes from the National Asian American Survey, which this week released its post-election survey.

Most of this stuff is about how Asian Americans vote, but there are some interesting tidbits in here from this survey of 4,000+ Asian Americans.

Like how most Asian Americans support legislation that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Or how they consider college tuition, medical costs and elderly care their top family priorities.

But let’s go beyond broad strokes

Obviously, the “Asian American” demographic makes up a whole bunch of different groups. Fortunately, the survey’s very granular, giving us insights such as how:

  • Cambodian, Hmong and Chinese Americans were most likely to say they have some to a lot in common with White Americans. Vietnamese, Indian and Bangladeshi were most likely to say the opposite.
  • 15% of Hmong Americans and 14% of Filipino Americans say people act as though they think they are dishonest.
  • 16% of Bangladeshi Americans and 15% of Pakistani Americans say people act as though they are afraid of them.

Yikes.

There’s even more sobering stuff in there, like how South Asian groups find it difficult to be viewed as Asian American. And how some groups have seen more job discrimination since 2008.

Frankly, it’s hard to spin it at all, so let’s just say we’ll look out for one another. Probably always a good idea.




🥠🥡❌🇨🇳

E-mailed on May 26, 2017.

If you've browsed your local Panda Express lately, you probably know fortune cookies aren't really Chinese.

So their emojis are kind of confusing Chinese people

On Monday, this great piece came out on The Atlantic, which, given another article The Atlantic recently published, might not have gotten the attention it deserves.

In the article, Adrienne LaFrance talks about the new dumpling, chopstick, takeout container and fortune cookie emojis.

You know, great Chinese emojis with thousands of years of Chinese culture.

You see where we're going with this

Okay, okay, so takeout boxes were invented in the West, and fortune cookies were invented by Japanese people.

In fact, Yiying Lu, who designed the new "Chinese" emojis, had never seen a fortune cookie until she emigrated from China to Australia.

If that weren't enough, emoji were originally invented by Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese man.

But because Apple's been doing, oh, just a little popularizing of emoji over the past few years, emoji's focus has shifted from Japanese tastes to something a little more 🇺🇸🦅🎆.

But we still need to illustrate our dinner

LaFrance says the Unicode Consortium, the shadow cabal who decides what becomes emoji and what gets relegated to the ASCII pile, prioritizes diversity in its emoji.

In fact, LaFrance says, it racked its collective brains about whether zombie and vampire emoji should have skin color options. (They do, but genies are always blue. Obviously, genies are raceless.)

The thing is, emoji may "just" be emoji, but they're representations of culture. Says Lee, "it's almost like fighting for a word that [shows] you exist."

If it's serious about it, the Unicode Consortium might just come back with something that represents cultures more genuinely. Until then, at least we've got 🥟.