Tag Archives: Asian American

February: the Pinnacle of Intersectionality

For being the shortest month of the year February certainly packs a lot into its 28 days. I apologize in advance if some of this is discombobulated. Of course February is Black History Month, and it’s also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and a time for LBGTQAI+ visibility. So how do all of these factors interact? I’m glad you asked! Unfortunately the data on dating abuse amongst black queer youth is practically non-existent, so that’s something to get on before next February rolls around. Here’s a quick primer on why feminists need to talk about race (as if Black Feminists haven’t been), and a good list of books covering race, gender, sexuality, class and culture. Don’t tell me you’re colorblind either.

health relationshipsFebruary started off with 68 survivors of human trafficking being rescued before the Super Bowl, including sixteen teens between ages 13-17, with epic timing the nation’s first home for sex trafficked boys also broke ground this month. Of young Queer people who have sex for survival a startling 89% identify as people of color, with homelessness amongst Queer youth being a leading cause of needing to trade sex for food or shelter. Transwomen are especially likely to be targeted in prostitution stings, even if they are not actually sex workers. Even though transgender folks can safely use long-term hormones and can no longer be discriminated against in receiving help from federally funded shelters, the Ali Forney Center in NYC for homeless LGBT youth remains a rare safe haven.

Additionally rates of abuse and domestic violence in Queer relationships have increased, but help for Queer folks seeking shelter hasn’t. Here you can check out some things that make abuse and domestic violence invisible in the Queer community. And while reporting of sexual assault and domestic violence is low in most communities the fear of reporting is confounded by systems of racial and class bias, making Asian-Americans are very unlikely to report either. Luckily the newest (and second in history) Asian-American TV comedy Fresh Off the Boat has already tackled how to teach consent, and it was funny! In other domestic violence news NASCAR has suspended Kurt Busch indefinitely for violence he allegedly committed against his girlfriend in September. Abusers who strangle their partners are twice as likely to kill them, so to see NASCAR react in such a responsible way is refreshing.

#BlackLivesMatter, a movement that started more than three years ago with the murder of Trayvon Martin and was fueled by Ferguson, churns forward with San Francisco’s Queer #BlackLivesMatter Action today in the Castro, and Americans across the nation waking up to realize the Prison-Industrial Complex is a terrible idea. While the police in this country are killing more people than ever–unidentified womenveterans, Queer Latina girls, black boys, Native Americans, black women–Trayvon Martin’s murderer (like so many other killers who start with violence against the women in their lives) seems invincible.

Zimmerman Always Arrested AliveWhile trans visibility is becoming more of a reality and some women’s colleges are adjusting their admitting policies, the sickening rate of murder of trans women this year has been overwhelming. You can donate here to Sumaya Dalmar’s legacy. And while young people are more likely to see gender as a spectrum rather than a binary, trans kids are apparently ruining the bathroom situation for everyone else *massive eye roll* and high schoolsuniversities, and Indiana are still discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Kids throughout the Queer community are also committing suicide at alarming rates, which is one reason visibility matters. Hopefully something from the 2015 Rainbow List of books for Queer young people will help, and efforts like Transforming Gender and these photo essays on transgender elders can show young people that life after 25 is possible, for some.

leelah-alcorn-suicide noteNative American children have also been committing suicide at terrifying rates, and were showered in racial slurs and beer at a hockey game this month too. But Native American Queers are reclaiming history in pushing for marriage equality, and Native American women are reclaiming history in A Thousand VoicesDiane Humetewa made history this month as the first Native American woman appointed as a federal judge and other Native Americans are fighting back against assimilation in their own ways, quietly, everyday.

Black women in both the anti-racism movement and the unfortunately often separate white feminist movement are doing amazing things this year, like creating #WeAreBlackHistory, running companies in corporate America, sharing thoughts on being black women writers, launching the “Because of Them We Can” photo essay, examining the state of black girls in education and juvenile justice systems, spearheading the Manhood Development Program for black boys, defending their hair and their culture with nothing but class, dropping the mic on rape culture, and superimposing bell hooks quotes over 90s pictures. Check out a discussion on wage equality, glass ceilings and interracial dating here.

Here are some of the black feminist authors and Queer Black Women you should know, and here is an A-Z children’s book of Radical American Women, and a short history of four Queer African BAMFs. Here is an amazing Black woman scientist. Black girls are making history too, in sports, and in education. And an African-American military history museum in Mississippi is honoring women veterans through March in honor of both Black History and Women’s History months. Here you can take a look at what has and hasn’t changed for African Americans since segregation was law.

Catwoman-bi.0

Catwoman, like these badasses, is a bisexual woman of color now! And everyone is talking about her. High school girls are also talking about the subject of slut-shaming, and even though ridiculous violations of girls’ privacy are apparently legal and politicians don’t seem to understand sexual assault girls understand #TheresNoPerfectVictim. Twitter admits that they “suck at dealing with abuse” but the social media giant can do good, with #50ShadesOfAbuse spurring a movement to give to local domestic violence agencies.

President Obama’s immigration reform actions, expansion of FMLA, and creation of a Special Envoy for LGBT Human Rights have been good, but not enough. Freeing transwomen–hell, all women–from immigration detention centers, and granting amnesty to the women and girls fleeing violence, child marriage and abuse around the world is the right thing to do. New York is also finally doing the right thing by putting a stop to asking about students’ immigration status in admittance paperwork.

Although science has made massive leaps in reproductive technologies which benefit everyone, including the Queer community, Latinas are still dying from breast cancer at an alarming rate. Some thoughts on being Afro-latin@ address intersectionality in race and class that can compound discrimination in healthcare. Here are a few Latinas making history today.

10616064_812322468823418_3635888886299626207_nOne hand washes the other as some politicians are pushing for college campuses to take action against sexual violence while students are lobbying for a bill which would educate young people about sexual violence. Indiana is also in the news this month for punishing a(nother!) Asian-American woman for having a miscarriage. Want to hear black voices in the Reproductive Justice Movement? They’ve always been here, it’s time we stop silencing them.

Reproductive Justice is the term created by black women in 1994 to bridge the gap between reproductive rights and other social justice movements. Reproductive Justice, the human right to not have children, to have children, to parent the children one has in healthy environments and the human right to bodily autonomy and to express one’s sexuality freely, insists that we see abortion and reproductive health in the larger context of the overall health and wellness of women, our families and our communities. – Monica Raye Simpson, SisterSong

Female Genital Mutilation, a clear violation of human rights and good medicine, is a problem that’s not usually discussed in an American context, unfortunately that’s probably because it’s more likely to happen to immigrant women of color. This new law book on reproductive justice is the first of its kind and shockingly a Texan politician is pushing for medically accurate sexual health education in the Lone Star State, because as we learned in Colorado, it works. And we’ve talked about them before, but we really don’t need a reason to push the Native Youth Sexual Health Network‘s awesomeness on you, but Teen DV Awareness Month is a good excuse. Here’s a coming of age film centered on black girls for you and a short film history on Arab feminism, because after reading through all that’s happened this month, you deserve it.

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Day 25- SisterSong

To the readers who know me personally, the lack of discussions surrounding sex and reproductive rights and health has probably been puzzling. Sex, sexual rights, and sexual health are some of the areas about which I am most passionate. As Jean Kilbourne states in Killing Us Softly, sex is both more important and less important, than the advertising industry shows. I have not delved into sex/sexuality yet because it is such an intense topic and I have to be mentally prepared for it. Sunday’s blog will go in depth into the fight for sexual/reproductive rights in the US.

Today I want to introduce you to SisterSong, an amazing organization that is “building a movement for reproductive justice.” Reproductive justice is one of my favorite phrases in the English language. Put simplyRJ is “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.” In other words, reproductive justice explores women’s sexuality and reproductive health while fighting for individuals’ rights to make fully-informed decisions regarding every aspect of life from education to employment to the environment.

SisterSong is a Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. I know that all sounds really hippy feminist, and it is, but hear me out.  Let’s break it down: women of color includes any and all women who are marginalized by the imposed, socially-constructed racial heirarchy in the US, usually anyone who is not or does not appear to be white and does not benefit from the privileges of whiteness; reproductive justice, again, is a social movement that seeks to teach an understanding of sexual and reproductive health and rights issues as it relates to the framework of oppression women face in the US, including poverty, racism, ableism, ageism, and homophobia, in addition to sexism; finally, collective underscores the need for solidarity amongst women to not fall prey to the imperialist tactic of divide and conquer, as SisterSong explains: doing collectively what we cannot do individually.

The Goose Story explains members’ clear committment to the work they are doing and how vital a community of support can be. The SisterSong community includes Southern RJ Activists, the Latina Encuentro, Trust Black Women and these member organizations. SisterSong also produces Collective Voices, “the only national newspaper addressing reproductive health created and distributed by and for women of color….” They also recommend these publications and articles.

July 14-17 this year SisterSong will host its 2011 Let’s Talk About Sex Conference in Miami Beach. The theme this year is Love, Legislation and Leadership. Sistersong also offers three different levels of RJ training which are aimed at audiences of 10-20 people.

If you would like to support the work SisterSong does to end racial oppression and sexism you have a few options: you can register for their training sessions so that you will be more prepared and able to discuss RJ with anyone who will listen; you can donate to Trust Black Women to help continue the fight against racist billboards aimed at shaming black women into not asserting their right to choose; you can donate to help preserve Mother House, the historic home offices of SisterSong in Atlanta, Georgia; or you can donate to SisterSong’s Women of Color Scholarship Program to ensure that “women of color, working class communities, immigrant communities, and young women and students” have access to information and services surrounding SisterSong’s work.


Day 6- Mixed Women’s Activism in the US

All Children.  One Love.

Image by Keo 101 via Flickr

“Identity, loyalty and belonging are issues which reside at the very heart of our existence and it is up to us to define who we are and identify our needs.”[1]

Most Americans who are not recent immigrants have some Native American ancestry, whether they know it or not. If this heritage is not visible it is often overlooked or even concealed.

Self-definition can be problematic and difficult for women who identify as mixed-race in the United States because the dichotomous and superficial nature of American society assumes that whatever a person looks like is all she is.

All minorities are marginalized in the media and mainstream U.S. pop culture but mixed-race people may be the most invisible of all. Even when a mixed-race person does achieve notoriety they are usually referred to as the most visibly apparent aspect of themselves–like Barack Obama is the first black President: Obama is half Kenyan and half white (English and German).

Because light skin, hair, and eyes tend to be recessive and darker features tend to be dominant, this most likely accounts for the assumption that someone who “looks black” is only black in American culture. Many mixed-race celebrities have risen to fame in the U.S. but often their mixed racial or ethnic heritage is unknown.

A victory for mixed-race Americans came in 2000, when, for the first time, people were allowed to “check more than one box” to describe their race on the national census. Chairman of the Census Advisory Committee of Professional Associations, David Swanson states, “There is no set definition as to what race and ethnicity is. There’s social categories, social constructs, self-identification, maybe some voting-rights acts, but there’s no hard and set definition as to race and ethnicity.”[2] This is clearest for people of mixed heritage.

Often if a woman is mixed white and “colored,” the non-white ethnicities in her background are seen to taint the “purity” of her white blood, and commonly her white heritage is denied her. Denying women their white European heritage harkens back to the racism of the “one drop rule,” but because of their appearance many women with mixed white and “colored” heritage are not afforded the privileges of whiteness. “Though there exist stereotypes of people of all races and cultures, negative stereotypes are often attributed to people of colour.”[3] For this reason, and others, passing is a difficult and emotionally charged idea for many mixed-race people, especially if others in one’s family, such as siblings, are not able to “pass” for white.

Mixed-race women’s identities occur “in the context of a racist, classist, sexist society which places greater value on people who are fully able-bodied and young. Our personal experiences often parallel the experiences of women with whom we identify. Yet, because of the way in which skin colour and physical characteristics are socially graded, despite these parallel experiences, the mixed race experience is seen as different. However, this perceived difference does not place it outside the experience of racism. When we foster discussion as to who is the most racially oppressed, we encourage the colonialist tactic of divide and conquer.”[4]

Because of their similar experiences with racism, many mixed-race women who participate in social movements and strategic nonviolence do so within the context of groups aimed at women of color in general. Few organizations exist to specifically address mixed-race women, which may be another explanation for their likely participation in women of color groups.

Some of the organizations for mixed-race people were started by interracial couples who have mixed-race children, and later organizations were founded by mixed-race adults. Few movements are so forward thinking and proactive, and because they also address transracial adoption, there seems to be little homophobia in the burgeoning mixed-race movement.

Many organizations for mixed people that exist cross national in addition to racial boundaries. Since 2004, June 12 has marked Loving Day around the world, the celebration of multiracial people and couples, commemorating the end to anti-miscegenation laws in the United States.

The first organization to address the needs of mixed-race people in America began in 1978, iPride, or Interracial Intercultural Pride. In 1988 the Association of MultiEthnic Americans (AMEA) was established and remains the most visible and active mixed-race advocacy organization in the U.S. today. Project Race was founded in 1991, Mavin began in 1998, Blended People America (BPA) was founded in 2007 and My Gene Mix (MGmix)[5] and Swirl, Inc. started in 2008. MixedChildMixed Folksthe Mixed Heritage Center, and the Mixed Network are all collaborative sites of resources for mixed-race people.

One group specifically for mixed women is Mixed Chicks Chat, a live weekly radio show that addresses what it is like to be a woman with mixed racial and ethnic heritage in the U.S. This group hosts the annual Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival, “an inclusive event targeting the growing population of multiracial and multicultural individuals and families.”[6]

The Topaz Club, established in 2004, is another organization specifically dedicated to mixed women, more specifically women with African heritage.

Despite the relative lack of organizations dedicated to mixed-race women, there is no shortage of heroines for mixed women to identify with. Unfortunately many mixed-race celebrities, politicians, and athletes are only identified as mixed within the blogosphere and not in mainstream media.

In addition to the mixed Native American and white women named yesterday, some notable mixed-race women include Linda Chavez, a mixed Hispanic/white politician and labor organizer; Marie Laveau and her daughter Marie Laveau II, both black and white creole Voodoo priestesses; anarchist and socialist activist Lucy Parsons of African, Native American, and Mexican heritage who married a white former Confederate soldier; Frida Kahlo, renowned Mexican and Hungarian artist; Japanese and white television journalist Ann Curry; painter Pashyanti Carole Hand, of African-American, Native American and white heritage; Miss America 2003, Erika Harold of Greek, German, Welsh, Russian, Native American and African-American ancestry; model, actress and AIDS awareness supporter Karin Taylor of Brazilian, Jamaican and Chinese heritage; black and Japanese model and businesswoman Kimora Lee Simmons; Dr. Maria P.P. Root, a clinical psychologist who specializes in mixed-race issues and created the Bill of Rights for People of Mixed HeritageMildred Loving, the black and Native American plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court ruling that allowed interracial marriages; Queen Noor of Jordan who is Arab and white; Alice Walker’s daughter, bisexual black and Jewish feminist author Rebecca Walker, founder of the Third Wave Foundation; and María de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien, a television journalist of Afro-Cuban and white heritage who uses her position to showcase stories that would otherwise go untold in the mainstream media due to bigotry.

In 2010 California elected the first female, first African-American, and first Asian-American Attorney General in it’s history, and the first Indian-American Attorney General in the United States, when marriage equality supporter Kamala Harris won by more than 55,000 votes.

There are also many famous mixed-race actresses, singers, and athletes in the U.S. including Cameron Diaz, Halle Berry, Jennifer Tilly, Jessica Alba, Raquel Welch, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Hudgens, Alicia Keys, Foxy Brown, Mariah Carey, Martha Redbone, Norah Jones, Alexandra Stevenson, Jamila Wideman and Tasha Schwikert.

These women, in embracing and naming their own racial and ethnic heritages, are making a political statement and becoming activists for equality. As non-famous mixed-race women stand up too, they will pave the way for more acceptance in America, and less racism. Women and men are always more than one portion of their identity, and race is no different.

“Rather than criticize barriers imposed externally, women must be vigilant about ones over which we have control and include our surmount of them as integral to our political work.”[7] This politicizing of the personal is important–as one woman explains, “I am tired of being afraid to speak who I am: American and Palestinian, not merely half of one thing and half of another, but both at once–and in that inexplicable melding which occurs when two cultures come together, not quite either, so that neither American nor Arab find themselves fully reflected in me, nor I in them.”

For women who have mixed heritage each of their racial and ethnic identities is as different and as integrated into their whole being as their sexual orientation, religion, age, class, and ability.


[1] Camper, 1994.

[2] Cordova, Randy. 23 March 2010. “Some Hispanics puzzle over race question on census form.” The Arizona Republic. 6 July 2001. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/03/23/20100323census-form-hispanic-question.html

[3] Camper, 1994.

[4] Camper, 1994.

[7] Camper, 1994.


Day 2- Asian American Women’s Activism in the US

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Image by karmacamilleeon via Flickr

At some point in American history every racial minority group has faced discrimination similar to what Middle Eastern women are now being subjected to and Asian women are no exception. In fact, “Japanese Americans spoke out against the proposal to intern Arab Americans during the Persian Gulf War.”[1]

This is not to say that racism against other minorities in the U.S. has ended, rather, it has evolved into a subtle systematic oppression where it was once a glaringly obvious hatred.

The United States has a long, varied and unpleasant history of blatantly racist legislation restricting not only immigration from the Asian continent, but also the freedoms granted to Asians already in the country. The forced internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II is one of the biggest blemishes on American history, and America’s sordid actions in the Philippines and Vietnam have created tense and complex relationships with immigrants from both nations.

 

Yet white Americans seem to think Asian Americans have not been affected by their racism. Author Emily Woo Yamasaki explains, “Asians in the U.S. are portrayed as especially adept at ‘making it.’ Vilified as cunning and dangerous on one hand, they are gushed over as the ‘model minority’ on the other.”[2]

Now “Asian immigration laws have changed such that the new Asian immigrant is not educated and professional but working-class or poor. Trade agreements such as NAFTA and GATT have broken down protections for workers and the environment in order to secure a free-wheeling capitalist global economy, and Asian workers, especially women, are suffering the worst of it — laboring under worse working conditions and being forced to compete for the most degraded, worst-paying jobs.”[3]

Much like how the laborious toil of individual Chinese immigrant men built the railroads, today the work of Asian immigrant women singlehandedly keeps the U.S. garment industry afloat.

“Activists have responded to these new changes with a renewed labor movement that cross borders and industries. Asian women organizers have been at the forefront of these campaigns.”[4]

Springing out of Asian American movement of the 1960s that was inspired by the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, the “first wave of Asian women’s organizing” formed because “Leftist Asian women in Yellow Power and other Asian American groups often found themselves left out of the decision-making process and their ideas and concerns relegated to ‘women’s auxiliary’ groups that were marginal to the larger projects at hand.”[5]

Asian American women remain active in the fight against patriarchy and domestic violence with groups like Korean American Women in Need (KAN-WIN)[6] and by participating in all facets of American feminism from writing to conferences to protests.

In the past, interned Japanese American citizens protested their treatment and fought for their rights even from within the walls of American concentration camps. Later, Asian Americans were instrumental working alongside Chicanos to organize the United Farm Workers Union and labor strikes demanding fair pay. They were also vital to the fight for Affirmative Action and Ethnic Studies programs.[7]

Today groups like the Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA),[8] the National Asian Women’s Health Organization (NAWHO),[9] the National Association of Professional Asian American Women (NAPAW),[10] the South Asian Women’s Network (SAWNET)[11] and the Asian American Women Artist Association (AAWAA)[12] all serve the diversity of women who make up Asian American communities across the country.

Asian American women of all sexualities marched alongside their sisters of all colors to protest the grotesque treatment of Rodney King in the early 1990s[13] and continue their nonviolent activism today within organizations like the Women of Color Network (WOCN)[14] that works to stop violence against women. Asian American women are also prominent in ACT UP, an organization committed to solving the AIDS epidemic by utilizing civil disobedience,[15] and various LGBTQAI organizations as well.

Like their Arab American sisters, Asian American women are often invisible to the public eye–left out of all forms of media and racialized when they are seen.

Even though the Asian continent spans from Japan and Malaysia in the East all the way to Turkey in the West and includes nations full of Caucasians like Russia, Azerbaijan and Latvia, Asians in the United States are generally assumed to be Chinese or Japanese. Recognition of people as Filipina, Indonesian, Korean, Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Burmese, Hmong, Indian, Tibetan, or any other national or ethnic distinction, is not something most white or black Americans could do.

That most Americans cannot differentiate between the various Asian nationalities has long been true. In King of the Hill, white Texan and main character Hank Hill asks his new neighbor about his ethnicity:

“So are you Chinese or Japanese?”

To which Kahn Souphanousinphone replies,

“I live in California for last twenty years but first come from Laos.”

Seeing Hank and his other white Texan friends’ confusion he explains where Laos is geographically and gives some facts about it such as the population.

Still not understanding, Hank again asks, “So are you Chinese or Japanese?”[16]

White Americans are so ignorant of Asian cultures that they assume, as stated yesterday, that all Muslims are Arab; Southeast Asian immigrants, and black American converts to Islam, form the largest portion of the Muslim population in the United States and all of the nations with Muslim populations exceeding 100,000,000–Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh–are in Asia.

Bisexual Korean American actress and comedian Margaret Cho fights for Asian American women’s visibility in the media as an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQAI and Asian communities throughout the U.S. She was also the first Asian American actress to star in a television sitcom.

Far from the stereotypes of Asian women as docile and submissive (geisha girl) or evil and plotting (dragon lady), Cho allows her audiences to see the humor in everything from politics to fat. Some of her jokes revolve around people confusing her for Lucy Liu, the Chinese American actress famous for Charlie’s Angels, or Sandra Oh, the Korean Canadian star of Grey’s Anatomy, and in this way combat typical American ignorance of the differences within the Asian American community.

While anthologies of black, Hispanic and Native American women can easily be found in the public library it is difficult, if not impossible, to find the same kind of documentation of the lives of individual Asian or Arab American women. Literature compilations by Asian and Arab women are available but biographies of women important to those groups’ fights for equality are not yet in America’s public libraries.

Compilations of feminist essays by women of color are careful to include Middle Eastern and Asian women but their voices are still too far and few between. Women must have access to their own histories and be able to draw upon the strengths of others in their communities to be able to learn and grow from past actions; Asian American women are no exception.


[1] Alaniz, Yolanda and Nellie Wong, eds. 1999. Voices of Color. Red Letter Press: Seattle, Washington.

[2] Alaniz, Yolanda and Nellie Wong, eds. 1999. Voices of Color. Red Letter Press: Seattle, Washington.

[3] Shah, Sonia. 1997. “Women and Gender Issues” Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. June 15, 2010 http://www.asian-nation.org/gender.shtml

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. 2006. Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology. South End Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

[7] Alaniz and Wong, 1999.

[13] Alaniz and Wong, 1999.

[16] “Westie Side Story.” King of the Hill. Fox. 2 May 2006.


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