This edition of the newsletter features several stories about the Asian American identity and experience in America. We highlight journalist, Jay Caspian Kang and his new book, The Loneliest Americans, and the experience of Asian Americans quarterbacks, perhaps the one position that holds the greatest influence on American culture in all of sports. We also applaud the elections of several Asian Americans into positions of leadership across the country, especially the emergence of Asian American women in political leadership, and USC's apology and awarding of honorary degrees to Japanese Americans, whose educations were cancelled after being forced into internment camps during WWII and not being allowed to re-enroll after the war. Finally, we congratulate May Lee, one of our past interviewers, on her new course at USC exploring Asian American history.
The Myth of Asian American Identity – We're the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S. But when it comes to the nation's racial and ethnic divisions, where do we fit in?
"During the first days of the Trump Administration, when my attention was split between the endless scroll of news on my phone and my infant daughter, who was born five days before the inauguration, I often found myself staring at her eyes, still puffy and swollen from her birth," writes Jay Caspian Kang in his new book The Loneliest Americans. "My wife is half Brooklyn Jew, half Newport WASP, and throughout her pregnancy, I assumed that our child would look more like her than like me. When our daughter was born with a full head of dark hair and almond-shaped eyes, the nurses all commented on how much she looked like her father, which, I admit, felt a bit unsettling, not because of any racial shame but because it has always been difficult for me to see myself in anyone or anything other than myself." Jay further writes about growing up as an upwardly mobile Asian immigrant, whether the term "Asian American" minimizes and trivializes the whole Asian American experience, and his anxiety about his young daughter's self-identity growing up as half white and half Asian. Read more here and here.
"I have to earn everything." – Cornell freshman QB Jameson Wang describes background, challenges as an Asian American in football.
"Being an Asian American quarterback...it's a jokingly oxymoron." – Timmy Chang, former Hawaii and NFL quarterback.
In American society, there is one position in sports that holds greater cultural importance than any other: the quarterback. The position has been a source of some of our country's largest public figures and most important role models, from Tom Brady to Joe Montana. Historically, it has been a position that has been dominated by white players, even long after the NFL had become a predominantly Black league. As of 2019, people of color made up for 70.1% of the player demographic. And as recent as 2013, 82% of the quarterbacks were white. Read more here, about Jameson Wang here and Tyler Buchner here.
The critical trend you probably missed on election night: Asian American women leadership.
After state and local polls closed on Nov. 2, the headlines focused on Democrats' vulnerabilities in Virigina and whether Trump still had a hold on the Republican Party. But this was not the only election night story last week. The story you probably missed was that Asian American women won the day, not only with Michelle Wu's triumph in Boston, but in New York too. Read more here.
USC is apologizing and awarding honorary degrees to Japanese American students whose education was disrupted after WWII.
The University of Southern California is apologizing and plans to award honorary degrees to dozens of Japanese American students, who were not able to complete their studies in the 1940s after being sent to internment camps during World War II. Read more here.
New journalism course explores Asian American history.
The Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been an enormous hit. For one group of USC Annenberg students, at least some of its appeal came down to tiny details specific to the Asian American experience. Melinda Wang, a math and economics major in May Lee's "Asian American History and Journalism" course, recalled a moment when the characters were at an underground fighting ring. "Ronny Chieng's character was like, 'I speak ABC,'" the junior said during a classroom discussion, a reference to the slang acronym for American-Born Chinese. "There are all these little things sprinkled throughout the film that only Asian American kids would get. It showed a pretty nuanced understanding." Read more here.