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

What do we mean when we talk about “Asian Americans”?

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.

The Massachusetts Asian American community turned out in strong numbers Tuesday to comment on a bill that would require the state to use more specific ethnic designations than “Asian American.”

Rep. Tackey Chan, who authored the bill, says it would allow for more meaningful data collection on a diverse population. We’ve written before about how precise data is the first step towards addressing the needs of a population.

But most of the Asian Americans at the hearing on Tuesday weren’t there to express support. The state’s Chinese American community has come out against it since its introduction last year, saying it opens the door for racial profiling.

Divide and conquer?

Privacy concerns are understandable from minority groups that have developed a mistrust of government. But national census data is already disaggregated, and this bill allows local governments to understand their own data better.

Different Asian American ethnic groups experience wildly different economic, education, and health outcomes. And as this letter from over 50 AAPI groups supporting the bill points out, we do a disservice to our own community when we fail to recognize the different barriers we face.

Some examples

After Boston began collecting disaggregated data, it allowed the city to disperse enough Chinese and Vietnamese ballots to the polling locations that needed them. And the poverty rate in Massachusetts among Vietnamese and Cambodian communities nearly double that of the general Asian American population.

Inequalities exist within our own community and disaggregated data allows us to identify them and advocate for policies to address it.

Jessica Yi, editor, who’s waiting for the super spooky fallout from the super blue blood moon

It’s Black History Month!

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.

It’s BHM, and we are here for it. But as the man who inspired Black History Month, Dr. Carter Woodson, argued, this month doesn’t compensate for the rest of the year … but rather shows what should have been discussed all year.

Which is why we’re gonna discuss some less than-appealing things Asian Americans have been doing when it comes to the Black community.

‘cos, uh, it’s not their fault

Far from the 1970s Asian American activists who stood in solidarity with Black Power, tweets hashtagged with the derivative #OscarsSoBlackAndWhite have emerged, accusing Black actors and actresses of stealing the spotlight from other minorities.

Which is funny, because that kind of hashtag paints the Black community with the exact same brush we hate seeing: the idea of minority privilege, similar to Asians and the “model minority.”

As Mark Tseng-Putterman writes on The Root, it’s “wildly ahistorical” to think Black people have some kind of privilege over other people of color, for a couple hundred years’ worth of very obvious reasons. And it’s pretty silly to think that “justice is a limited resource.”

Gotta do our own work

Real talk: Asian American media visibility is in dire straits. But saying that’s the fault of Black people is like saying it’s your roommate’s fault that the ceiling’s dripping.

So, hey. We all live together in this drippy house with peeling wallpaper, and we shouldn’t wait for other folks to do our chores for us. Like Tseng-Putterman says, our work’s cut out for us … but it’s our work.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who’s re-reading some of these Letters for Black Lives

Refugees past and present

This story was originally published in the January 26, 2018 issue of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every Friday? Subscribe today.

In 1939, President of the Philippines Manuel L. Quezon enabled a policy approving 10,000 visas for Jewish refugees to travel to the islands, then a commonwealth of the United States.

Now, this story of how refugees found safe harbor in the Philippines is part of a three-part documentary entitled An Open Door: Holocaust Haven in the Philippines.

The brainchild of filmmaker Noel IzonAn Open Door explores the relationship between the Philippines and Jewish refugees during World War II, inspired by the relationship between Izon’s father and his father’s friend: Dr. Otto Zelezny, one of those Jewish refugees.

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Izon’s research brings to light important conversations about the current refugee crisis. Seventy years ago, the Philippine government worked diligently to admit as many Jewish refugees as possible, but in the present climate the refugee crises remain a huge point of contention.

While his work serves to commemorate Dr. Otto Zelezny and the many Filipino and Jewish families who supported one another during the war, it also serves as a lens with which to examine the current landscape. “The issues of refugees and immigration are about how we treat people, and the film asks the question, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’”, Izon says.

Izon’s documentary, which was released in November 2017, is also slated to premiere at the Holocaust Museum sometime in 2018.

Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who’s now wondering about other Filipino-Jewish crossovers

How (not) to talk about gentrification

This story was originally published in the January 26, 2018 issue of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every Friday? Subscribe today.

Los Angeles’ Chinatown has historically been an area of disinvestment. But recently, it’s been flagged as a prime location for wealthy developers due to its proximity to Downtown LA.

It’s a familiar story: new real estate properties increase rent prices, and increased rent prices push out poor, immigrant, and elderly people of color.

But it’s not inevitable

As Frances Huynh explores in an in-depth Medium article, there’s danger in describing gentrification as a natural process. Instead, it’s the result of “inequitable decision making”—and talking about Chinatown as though it’s some community in need of urgent revitalization only contributes to its “perpetual foreign[ess].”

After all, how often have you heard people talking about Chinatown and other ethnic enclaves as “fading, dying or aging” … only to be reborn by some hipster coffee shop?

So how should we be talking?

First off, it’s best to call what’s happening to Chinatown as what it is: gentrification. But at the same time, it’s good to recognize if we’re 4th-wave gentrifiers complaining about 5th wave gentrification, and recognizing our own contributions.

But it’s most important to center stories around the narratives of existing communities, not the flashy, expensive pho restaurant that’s moving in. And not just because those narratives are pleasantly exotic.

—Natalie Bui, editor, who wants to acknowledge that Los Angeles rests on the land of the Tongva, displaced by colonists

Again with the model minority stuff

This story was originally published in the January 19, 2018 issue of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every week? Subscribe here.

When Trump made that horrifically racist comment about immigrants from Haiti and Africa, he also mentioned he would “welcome immigrants from Asia.”

Supporters defended him, saying it doesn’t make him racist—apparently because it was about economics, not race.

In other words, Trump and his supporters believe Asians (and Norwegians, apparently) are superior in skills and merit.

And once again, that upholds the outdated model minority myth.

A quick refresher

In Ellen D. Wu’s Color of Success, Wu argues that Asian Americans strategically crafted the “model minority” image of themselves as a survival strategy, assimilating when they were facing systematic discrimination.

Americans leveraged those narratives to increase diplomacy and dispel communism with Asia during the Cold War. But they also used Asian Americans as an “example” to dismiss African American protests, building a wedge between minorities.

And hell no, Trump—we’re not letting that happen again.

— Natalie Bui, editor

Is it too late now to An-sari?

This story was originally published in the January 19, 2018 issue of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every week? Subscribe here.

Confused? Disappointed? Angry? Does it all sound a little too familiar?

Us too. The Slant‘s staff alone has been through probably 72 different emotions since the story broke Saturday.

Since it gets to the heart of heterosexual romantic interactions and sexual agency, there’s a thinkpiece to match every possible emotion.

Here are some that have given us perspective.

(CW: These pieces reference the original story, or include other accounts that may be upsetting to read.)

If you’re…

CONFUSED because it sounds like a normal interaction, or you’ve been in Ansari’s shoes and don’t understand what he should have done differently:

… read about why the normality makes it that much more important to examine, and how we need to start talking about enthusiastic consent, replacing “will she have sex with me?” with “does she want to have sex with me?”

FRUSTRATED with Grace for not asserting herself more, or confused as to why she didn’t just say “fuck you” and leave:

… read one woman’s understanding of why her initial reaction was “it’s not that bad,” an explanation of why women tend to give “soft no’s” or give in to something they don’t want, or this discussion of how we’re just starting to understand—but not fully practice—a healthier model of consent.

STRUGGLING to get past the writing and reporting of it:

… here’s an examination of the ways the reporting failed, but how the essence of the story still matters.

WORRIED this will hurt the #metoo movement:

… read this discussion of the generational divide between feminist movements, why we need to embrace nuanced conversations around consent and re-examine sexual norms, and why we shouldn’t underestimate our ability to do so.

ANGRY at the resistance for having this conversation…

… so are Lindy West and Samantha Bee. Let their anger soothe yours.

Jessica Yi, Natalie Bui, and Chery Sutjahjo, editors, who think making sure your partner is into it is the lowest bar for good sex—and don’t we all want to be good at sex? (Also thanks to Dalena Nguyen and everyone who shared articles with us and listened!)

Let’s take it one week at a time

This story was originally published in the January 19, 2018 issue of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every week? Subscribe here.

Last week, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials raided 7-Eleven stores across the the U.S., asking employees for papers.

Those employees included several Indian American and other South Asian nationals in northern California—something inevitable when two-thirds of American convenience stores are owned by South Asians, according to the American Petroleum and Convenience Store Association.

And this week, that’s continuing, with the feds preparing to prove that sanctuary states like California won’t actually be sanctuaries … although experts like Pratheepan Gulasekaram, professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, say it won’t be sustained.

Enter … Chamillionaire?

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 39-year-old Detroit resident Jorge Garcia was deported after living in the United States for 30 years, leaving his wife and two teenage children.

And since the Garcias have spent $125,000 in legal costs and fees, Garcia’s wife Cindy Garcia is worried about supporting the rest of their family.

Which is where Chamillionaire came in to help, offering financial support to the Garcias—the latest in a respectable history of philanthropy.

They see me readin / I donatin

It’s not the magic bullet that’s going to solve the immigration crisis, and definitely not something that may even help Garcia’s case. And maybe it’s a little too light a story for a difficult topic like this.

But when Chaillionaire cares more about American families than the White House does, it’s food for thought—and at least one bright light in this series of unfortunate events.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who’s writin’ dirty


This story was originally published in the January 12, 2018 issue of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every week? Subscribe here.

Let’s make like The Cure and talk about this frickin’ week.

MONDAY: Trump says H1-B visa holders don’t have to leave once their visa expires, although the visa might be reduced from 3 years to 1. (82% of H1-B visas in 2016 went to China and India.) But he’s also ending the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, which shelters refugees, like 200,000 El Salvadorans and 45,000 Haitians now forced to leave. More on Haiti later.

TUESDAY: Trump meets with congressional leaders and seems to suggest he’ll sign any bipartisan plan, forgetting his own stance on undocumented immigrants. Judge Alsup orders the administration to uphold DACA in the short term.

WEDNESDAY: The high point of the emotional rollercoaster was short-lived, as ICE conducted early morning raids on nearly 100 7-Elevens across the country, the biggest Trump-era raid so far. I want to get off Mr. Bones’ Wild Ride.

THURSDAY: *cracks knuckles* At a meeting with lawmakers to continue the discussions from Tuesday, Trump surprises no one when he interrupts a conversation on protecting Haitian immigrants by asking why we would want people from “shithole countries”. Takes one to know one.


Immigration will be an issue for the rest of this administration. And while there may be some small victories (and maybe even a big one!), factions abound within the immigrant community, with too many legal channels that can kick them out.

We need to stay vigilant if we want to look out for our community. Watch this space.

Jessica Yi and Andrew Hsieh, editors, who probably shouldn’t be quoted as implying the president’s a shithole

Someone’s on thin ice

This story was originally published in the January 12, 2018 issue of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every week? Subscribe here.

Heralded by angel trumpets and songs from on high, U.S. Olympian Ashley Wagner will once again grace the Winter Olympics with her presence, skating to La La Land songs while— * holds finger to earpiece *  

Sorry folks—it sounds like Ashley Wagner’s not going to be at Pyeongchang. It’s not like 2014 at all!

Some would say it’s the reverse

Yep, Japanese American Mirai Nagasu, who was passed over for the 2014 Olympics in favor of Ashley Wagner, despite Nagasu finishing third at the U.S. Nationals over Wagner’s fourth place, is back on the ice.

Except she never left. Since 2014, Nagasu’s become one of only three American women to complete the triple axel in international competition, which asks the skater to jump, complete 3.5 rotations in the air, and land backwards—seen performed here by Japanese skater Mao Asada.

And instead of sipping tea while gleefully reading the news, Nagasu reflected on what’s kept her going.

“I took on the full responsibility of becoming a stronger competitor and person,” she told Bleacher Report. “I wasn’t going to let a decision that wasn’t mine keep me from my dreams.”

The full roster

Mirai Nagasu joins a strong Asian American lineup on the U.S. skaters, including, as Phil Yu notes, Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, Madison Chock, and Maia and Alex Shibutani.

And so far, Asian Americans also round out Team U.S.A. in short track speedskating (J.R. Celski, Thomas Hong, and Aaron Tran) and, of course, snowboarding, with X Games champ Chloe Kim.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who’s still bitter over Newsweek’s interesting profile of Kristi Yamaguchi