Asian American Issues [December 2017]

National API News Briefing

Ed Lee, the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco, passed away at the age 65. After being appointed a caretaker mayor, Lee, who was of Chinese descent, won election twice in a city known for its boisterous politics.

A survey by NPR (National Public Radio) finds that “large numbers of Asian-Americans experience and perceive discrimination in many areas of their daily lives. This happens despite their having average incomes that outpace other racial, ethnic and identity groups.” According to Harvard professor Robert Blendon, who co-directed the survey, “we are seeing again and again that income is not a shield from discrimination.”


Key findings from the survey include: “More than three in five Asian Americans (61%) believe discrimination exists against Asian Americans in the U.S. today, while about a third have experienced slurs and insensitive or offensive comments about their race or ethnicity. A quarter or more of Asian Americans reported being personally discriminated against because they're Asian when applying for jobs, seeking equal pay or being considered for promotions, or obtaining housing.”

It also shows “a wide gap between immigrant and nonimmigrant Asian-Americans in reporting discrimination experiences, including violence and harassment” with immigrants less likely to speak up than native-born Asian Americans. The study was a collaboration of NPR, the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Download the full report here.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice launched an online hate tracker ( this year to defend “our democracy against rising hate, intolerance, and xenophobia.” The group has documented “close to 200 hate incidents against Asian Americans from personal accounts and media reports.” According to AAAJ, the accompanying video “shows that no matter how long we live in this country, or even if we were born here, Asian Americans are seen as the ‘perpetual foreigner.’ Our hate tracker is filled with incidents of being told to ‘go back to your country’ or ‘learn to assimilate.’”

The New York Times offers an online lesson plan on “Teaching Japanese-American Internment Using Primary Resources.” December 7, 1941 marked the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military, and soon after, 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry would be rounded up and sent to internment camps. Parts of the Trump Administration’s “Muslim ban” went into effect this month, and an ACLU lawyer warns that the anti-Muslim prejudice today is the same kind that Japanese Americans faced in the 1940s. It also echoes the xenophobia against Chinese workers in the 1880s, including an infamous, violent expulsion of all Chinese persons from Tacoma, Washington on November 3, 1885.

"Children pledging allegiance to the American flag at San Francisco’s Raphael Weill Elementary School in 1942. Those whose families were of Japanese ancestry were sent to internment camps."  Dorothea Lange  captured a set of "rarely seen photos" on the subject of Japanese internment throughout the 1940s. Text from  The New York Times

"Children pledging allegiance to the American flag at San Francisco’s Raphael Weill Elementary School in 1942. Those whose families were of Japanese ancestry were sent to internment camps." Dorothea Lange captured a set of "rarely seen photos" on the subject of Japanese internment throughout the 1940s. Text from The New York Times

The Department of Justice “has opened an investigation into the use of race in Harvard University’s admissions practices” according to the Wall Street Journal, and “has accused the university of failing to cooperate with the probe.” As reported by The Independent, “in a 17 November letter, the department wrote that Harvard was being probed under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 due to allegations that it was using race as a deciding factor in its admissions decisions…Title VI bars discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin for organizations that receive federal funding.” Facing this pressure, Harvard eventually agreed in December to “turn over years of confidential applicant and student records to the United States Justice Department, which has opened an aggressive investigation into whether the university has systematically discriminated against Asian-American applicants.”

 Stanford Activism Update (includes TO DO Action Items)

>> As Stanford plans for 2035, students and cities weigh in on equity, environment <<

Stanford University is in the midst of developing a new land and building plan—a once-every-two-decades process that will significantly influence the campus, surrounding cities and towns, and open spaces. The University is, after all, an entity with a daily population of over 35,000, which is projected to grow in coming years. After negotiations with the county conclude, a new 2018 permit is anticipated to last until 2035. Nearby municipalities, such as Palo Alto, have expressed interest and concern about Stanford’s proposals.

Stanford students are actively joining the discussion of how the University’s urban planning and development will impact communities in the Bay Area, as well as the commutes, housing, and livelihoods of future students and staff. The Stanford Coalition for Planning an Equitable 2035 (SCoPE 2035) is a coalition of students with a vision for a more equitable Stanford, beginning with the General Use Permit (GUP) process. According to SCoPE 2035, the GUP is the agreement between Stanford University and Santa Clara County that will specify the limits and requirements on Stanford’s future land use, growth, and development. During Autumn Quarter, the group engaged 75 students in a workshop on the Bay Area housing crisis and how Stanford might contributes to/alleviate it. They also connected with other stakeholders including Stanford's SEIU Local Chapter 2007 and Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition.

John Zhao '18 (Environmental Systems Engineering) and Courtney Pal '18 (Earth Systems and CSRE) speak at the Human Cities Expo.

John Zhao '18 (Environmental Systems Engineering) and Courtney Pal '18 (Earth Systems and CSRE) speak at the Human Cities Expo.

At the recent Human Cities Expo at Stanford, SCoPE 2035 organizers John Zhao ‘18 and Courtney Pal ‘18 focused attention on key challenges related to Stanford’s GUP application. They suggested the proposal could be improved by addressing transportation options for those commuting hours from East Bay cities or even further; provide more on-site housing for many of the new employees who are supposed to service the university in coming decades; and developing a more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan post-2018.

Earlier in the fall, the group reviewed the County's Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the GUP, and gained hands-on experience with local government processes. “We prepared a public comment that we submitted in-person at the County meeting on November 30,” SCoPE 2035 Member Erica Knox explained. “Among other things, we highlighted that Stanford's proposed Below Market Rate housing fee was substantially lower than what Stanford should reasonably pay, and that Stanford had yet to fulfill its promise from the 2000 GUP to determine an absolute maximum build-out boundary.” At that meeting, the County extended the public comment period for the DEIR to February 2.

According to Knox, “SCoPE 2035 will continue to engage students in this GUP process to ensure that the final agreement reflects our shared values of accessibility, community, and equity.”



>> Sexual assault at Stanford: alumni express concern over student welfare, encourage a more humane response <<

Stanford University has once again been thrust into the national spotlight over sexual assault allegations and the University’s handling of these cases. In November, yet another incident came to light, where a Korean-American graduate student was allegedly raped by a professor during her time at Stanford. At the time, the professor was investigated and put on leave, but returned to campus two years later and even had awards named after him. At this time, at least one other Stanford faculty member has been accused of sexual assault.

 The allegations stem from the 2000s or earlier, but only surfaced amid the #metoo movement, as more and more survivors have stood up and spoken out. Organizations around the country, including movie studios, Congress, and newsrooms, are reckoning with histories of harassment, sexual assault, and gender discrimination.

Current graduate students have been shaken by the latest allegations and have privately expressed outrage over what they feel is Stanford’s institutional silence in response. However, the power imbalance in academia—where faculty can make or break the careers of aspiring young scholars—has left them feeling unable to speak out publicly.

Andrea Lorei holds up a sign during the 125th Commencement ceremony at Stanford. (Image:&nbsp; Yahoo News ) Many students held aloft signs of protests to call attention to the University's handling of rape cases. ( Los Angeles Times )

Andrea Lorei holds up a sign during the 125th Commencement ceremony at Stanford. (Image: Yahoo News) Many students held aloft signs of protests to call attention to the University's handling of rape cases. (Los Angeles Times)

These incidents are only the latest to embroil the university, which has had a difficult track record in dealing with sexual assault and rape cases in recent years. A number of students have condemned the university’s responses as inadequate and founded a group, Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), to raise awareness and encourage the University leadership to respond to this challenge. Last year, the Washington Post quoted group co-founder Stephanie Pham ’18 as saying, “Stanford looks at sexual assault cases from the lens of protecting its brand … Maybe it’s this need to forge an image of a perfect university where sexual assault doesn’t happen.” Students have also protested about this issue during the Wacky Walk and graduation ceremony.

The latest incidents reported by campus and national publications this past month have once more shone light on the issue in the Stanford community.


  • As concerned alumni and representatives of the API community, a number of SAPAAC leaders and members have co-written a letter to Stanford asking the university administration to treat the issue with urgency. They express concern for victimized students and alumni, and ask for a more humane, less corporate, response to sexual assault that shows empathy and care for the survivors.
  • You are invited to read the letter and if you want to make a difference, we urge you to express your support and make clear to the Stanford administration that caring for students is a priority for alumni. You can sign the letter by adding your name here.


Many Asian American alumni from different generations gathered at Stanford in spring 2017 for the first-ever Asian American Alumni Summit.

Many Asian American alumni from different generations gathered at Stanford in spring 2017 for the first-ever Asian American Alumni Summit.

>> Voices Rising: Join the SAPAAC Issues & Advocacy Committee <<

After the first Asian American alumni summit at Stanford this spring, there was a surge of momentum in our community. During the summit and in its aftermath, we heard numerous requests for our API alumni organization, SAPAAC, to do more and take a stand on important issues affecting the API community. Alumni expressed concern about national issues, as well as those affecting the Stanford campus.

You are part of this alumni-driven movement! Members of I&A have already been active this year in forging a collective response by Asian American alumni. New upcoming issues include defending the Community Centers against budget cuts and supporting the hiring of more Asian American Studies faculty and Asian American university leaders.


You are this movement! Join in and take action to ensure that API voices are heard by joining our next Issues & Advocacy meeting at 6 PM on December 17. To get involved, visit the SAPAAC website for details and contact the Issues & Advocacy co-chairs.


Action Items Checklist:

  1. Sign a letter supporting Stanford students and urging the University to adopt a more empathetic approach to addressing sexual assault


  2. Learn more about Stanford’s new land and buildings plan and get updates from student activists about how to encourage more equitable housing, transportation and climate options in the university plan. (Santa Clara County residents can also comment on the draft Environmental Impact Report)


  3. Join the Issues & Advocacy meeting at 6 PM on December 17 California time. Visit the SAPAAC website for details.

Every Courageous Act: Reflecting on Japanese American Internment

In this issue of Asian American Issues, we look back at Order 9066, which U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signed, ordering the detention of hundreds of thousands of American citizens, based solely on their race and ancestry. Dr. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, a psychologist and teacher, at Stanford, reflects on how we can remember these difficult historical events.


We all face situations that are beyond our control. One such moment occurred 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942, when President Roosevelt signed an executive order for the mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans. This historical moment is particularly remembered this year because of the recent executive order that banned people from certain countries from entering the United States. One way to remember the lessons of history of this injustice based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,” is to reflect on how people responded at that time.

Elders used the Japanese expression, shikata ga nai, which means “there is no way to act.” But the younger generation were frustrated and angered by this response. They felt it was passive resignation and wondered how they could just give up rather than do something. For elders shikata ga nai was a way of coping with the things in life that cannot be changed; a way of accepting our vulnerability. They believed that acceptance frees us from the chains of victimization, allowing us to claim the agency to move on. Shikata ga nai was a way for them to feel new energy that they directed into creative and productive activities, living with appreciation and gratitude rather than bitterness and regret.

Recognizing and acknowledging their situation, they discovered new possibilities and freedoms within the limits of the immediate context in which they found themselves. By owning and respecting their vulnerability they could direct energy to growing and to nurturing lovely flower and vegetable gardens, writing powerful poetry, and creating exquisite works of art. They knew that every day was a gift of life.

The elders decided that they could not fight the government and the best they could do was accept the incarceration and put positive energy into making the most of the situation. Many young men responded by laying their lives on the line for their country and for their community. Others resisted and protested injustice by refusing to fight for their country. Each way of responding was courageous and based in each person’s sense on who they were and what they were called to do, for their families, for their community, and for their country. 

The challenge of shikata ga nai is to determine what cannot be changed and what can be changed. What does a person have to accept? How much ability to change a situation through one’s actions, does a person have? And how far is one willing to go, how much is one willing to sacrifice, to attempt to change things? Each person has to decide how to answer these questions. If we are mindful in these moments wisdom may emerge to guide our actions.

Responding to the hardships we face calls for courage. And every courageous act of reflection, action, resistance, and expression that springs from the question: “What does life want from me?” nourishes the power of the human spirit so that it may thrive even through the most difficult situations.

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu is a psychologist and lecturer in Health and Human Performance and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. Read more of his work at

Asian American Issues [March 2017]

Tune in to issues around the nation and get the scoop on Stanford activism! This monthly publication produced by the SAPAAC Issues & Advocacy committee highlights the latest developments in politics, current events, culture and entertainment of interest to the Asian American & Pacific Islander community. It includes specific actions you can do to be an advocate.

Articles from February 1-28 are included in this edition.


"Three Boys Behind Barbed Wire" 1942-45 by Toyo Miyatake. Source:  UC Riverside

"Three Boys Behind Barbed Wire" 1942-45 by Toyo Miyatake. Source: UC Riverside


As columnist Ryan Ko reminds us, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” He has crafted a handy guide with easy, medium, and full-contact ways of getting involved. Here are a few other examples that are happening around the Bay Area.

Indivisible action group at UCSF: Alli Wong and Christina Fitzsimmons lead a group in San Francisco focused on turning the Indivisible Guide into action in their local community. The Guide is a document produced by former Congressional staffers to train everyday citizens to effectively impact Congress, stating “We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting … resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness.”

According to Wong, “Our group is based at UCSF. We have in-person meetings to strategize and take action together, but many others follow along online and take action, such as calling their representatives, as well. Since many of us are researchers and scientists, the group is loosely centered around science policy, but it is open to all.” No UCSF-affiliation required, just a commitment to democracy.

Their next action is to join a town hall with Senator Dianne Feinstein. Join Alli, Christina and the Indivisible SF group by visiting this link. Or start up your own Indivisible group!

Save Federal Climate Data: Scientists and engineers with knowledge of computer science and/or an interest in the environment are gathering for hackathons to save climate data, and other scientific knowledge many research use, before the Trump administration erases it. Events have taken place in UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Toronto and elsewhere. Regular citizens can participate: find out more here.

Mass Demonstrations this Spring (Day Without Women, Day Without Immigrants, March for Science & More): “Organizers across the US are riding the momentum of the post-inauguration march to mobilize in solidarity with scientists, immigrants, LGBT people” among others. Find out more here.

One example is the “Day Without Immigrants” protest to peacefully demonstrate how immigrants contribute to our economy. Another is the women’s strike on March 8, “A Day Without a Woman” where “women, including trans women, and all who support them” will take part in an “international day of struggle...striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care and sex work, boycotting, calling out misogynistic politicians and companies, striking in educational institutions.” Groups in over 30 countries will participate. Find out more.

Support Racial Justice Movements: In the Bay Area, the SURJ Showing Up for Racial Justice is organizing a “Human Billboard” to aid Black Lives Matter.

Call your Representatives: “You can tweet into the void all you want” developer Nick O’Neill told Wired magazine, “but there’s something about just connecting with a human being who says, ‘Thank you for contacting us.'” O’Neill co-created an online tool called “5 Calls” that “helps people find their representatives’ phone numbers and speak out on important issues” and “provides a script designed to make the process easier for both callers and the staffers on the other side. It tells you what to mention, and in what order. It also reminds you, for example, to leave your address in a voicemail or else you won’t be counted as a constituent.”

For example, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security is counting calls before it decides whether to approve Steve Bannon's appointment to the National Security Council. The number is: 202-224-4751. If you disagree with Bannon’s appointment, you can call (no one will answer) and leave a message saying “Don't approve Steve Bannon's appointment to the NSC.” Or conversely, supporting his appointment if that is your political inclination.

Unfortunately, “millennials across the rich world are failing to vote” as The Economist reports. “Democracies are at risk if young people continue to shun the ballot box” yet “Millennials do not see voting as a duty.” Please don’t be one of them.

Befriend an International Student: Quartz reveals that “40% of foreign students in the US have no close friends on campus” calling it “the culture shock of loneliness.” A simple but meaningful gesture is to befriend one of them. Chinese students at Columbia University in New York took things a step further when “Earlier this month, a number of students with East Asian names reported having their name tags ripped off their doors in multiple residence halls on campus. In response, the students got together and produced a video talking about the stories behind their names, trying to stem the rising tide of racism, xenophobia and prejudice in the US.”

Get informed: No matter your political viewpoint, it is important to stay informed & to voice your opinion to your representatives. One SAPAAC alumni recommends two tools that make it easy to do both:

(1) Download "Countable" from the App Store to learn about proposed bills and orders from the federal government

(2) Text your zip code to 1-520-200-2223 and you'll get a return text with the names & telephone numbers of your federal and state representatives



Resigning from Trump’s Advisory Council: Ten members of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) submitted their resignation to President Donald Trump. SAPAAC member and Stanford alumnus Kathy Ko Chin was one of the commissioners who resigned.

According to NBC News: "The choice to stay on under the new administration was with the hopes that I would have a seat at the table to be able to bring up the issues that are important to our community based on the work that's happened over many years under this commission...It became very clear to me in the last month and a half that that voice at the table wasn't going to be able to be effective inside the administration the way that I hoped it would be,” said Maulik Pancholy. Read their letter here.

Chair of the Commission and UCSF professor Tung Thanh Nguyen said that the Trump administration's activities over the last month “have threatened the progress made by former President Barack Obama for AAPI communities,” which had previously “generated an unprecedented amount of connection" between AAPIs and the federal government.

The First-Ever Tracker of Hate Crimes Against Asian-Americans is Launched: As reported by NPR, “After years of declining numbers, hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are rising.”



Fighting back against the Trump Administration’s Immigration Ban: Groups are filing lawsuits against the order claiming it commits religious discrimination. “The American Civil Liberties Union, in challenging the order, described it as a ‘Muslim ban wrapped in paper-thin national security rationale.’ Dan Siciliano, a law professor at Stanford, says it was ‘clearly a nationality ban and a de facto religion ban.’" (Bloomberg)

As an example of the impact of the ban and related political rhetoric, “US-born NASA scientist Sidd Bikkannavar was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone.” In a worrisome move, Trump has also suggested conducting social media checks on Chinese visitors.

Stanford University joins amicus brief opposing travel ban: A group of 17 American universities, including Stanford, has filed a court brief outlining the harm to the academic community from the Jan. 27 executive order. Read the amicus brief here.

A Stanford student and the ACLU sue Trump over immigration ban: "Hadil Al-Mowafak, a freshman studying at Stanford with an F-1 student visa, joined a UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate and a San Diego college student in filing the lawsuit Thursday through the ACLU." They are "suing President Donald Trump for ordering what they say is an unconstitutional immigration ban against seven Muslim-majority countries ... Al-Mowafak alleges that she is unable to visit her husband in Yemen because of an executive order Trump signed Jan. 27 ... The California students’ lawsuit, and similar lawsuits filed across the country, say that Trump’s order is an 'unlawful attempt to discriminate against Muslims and to establish a preference for one religion over another.'" (San Jose Mercury News, Stanford Daily, Palo Alto Weekly)

The Stanford Faculty Senate weighs in on the issue here. Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne rejected a student-initiated Stanford “Sanctuary Campus” proposal, but affirms “shared values.” Find out more details about Stanford’s response to immigration issues in SAPAAC’s previous coverage.


Immigration Ban & Chinese Exclusion

Chinese American Exclusion: In “A Chinese American Lesson for Trump,” Al Jazeera highlights how the “Muslim ban” is actually a new iteration of an old problem. Chinese Americans faced “decades of discrimination” under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Lest we forget, “Before It Embraced Immigrants, California Championed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882” (KCET)

Find out more on Chinese immigrants and their experience coming through Angel Island with the Angel Island Photo Gallery and a new book called”Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940”  Politics of Chinese Immigration on Angel Island by Judy Yung, professor emerita of American Studies at UC Santa Cruz. The book was coauthored with the late Him Mark Lai and Genny Lim, a native San Francisco poet, playwright, performer, and educator.


IV. Japanese American Internment: 75 Years Later

As xenophobic comments and policies spread, it is crucial to look at America's history and learn from our past mistakes and human rights violations.

Day of Remembrance: February 19 marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, when President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state reminds us to remember.

George Takei, an American actor of Japanese descent, was five when this happened, and his family was put in one of the prison camps. “Almost overnight, because Pearl Harbor was bombed by people that looked like us, Japanese Americans were seen as enemies...The politicians got swept up in war hysteria and the President’s order put us into the barbed wire prison camps. We were Americans, but it didn’t matter.” Takei has been vocal in opposing the modern incarnation of these actions and produced a show called “Allegiance” that takes on the difficult, historical subject matter. also has a detailed Q&A with Takei.

On the Day of Remembrance, find out much more about the Japanese internment through historical documents from the U.S. archives. Read the text of Order 9066 itself here. If you are in Los Angeles, you can currently see the document on display at the Japanese American National Museum. Read other commentary on this act that imprisoned our fellow Americans, causing personal hardships and massive economic losses among the Japanese American community.

“75 years later, Japanese Americans recall” the “pain of internment camps,” Reuters reports. The Washington Post has produced an excellent graphical interface that explores this pivotal historic event. The out-of-print Amerasia Journal 19:1 “Commemorative Issue on Japanese American Internment Fiftieth Anniversary“ is available for free via their online journal portal, with articles by scholars such as Don T. Nakanishi, Stanford’s own Gordon Chang, and Hisaye Yamamoto DeSoto, “as well as reflections from UCLA professors on incorporating the camps into curriculum.”



Listen to the Silence conference at Stanford: Asian American Student Association hosted “Listen to the Silence,” a major conference for undergraduate Asian American activists from numerous universities. Programming included an affirmative action workshop discussing class disparity, underrepresented groups within the AAPI community, and those beyond the diaspora. An “activist tour” of Stanford campus explored the  injustices, controversies, and community victories in Stanford's past and present, inspiring participants to learn from the struggles of previous and current generations of activists.

Here is a report from two organizers, Stanford students Vy Luu and Mai Ka Vang:

On January 28, 2017, the Asian American Students’ Association hosted the 21st annual Listen to the Silence (LTS) conference. The conference was founded in 1995 to educate the Stanford community and beyond about issues affecting the Asian American community. Since then, the conference goals have expanded to include the empowerment of Asian American students to take direct action to improve their communities and work towards social justice.

This year’s conference theme was titled “Know History, Know Self, Know Solidarity," which focused on exploring the political roots of the Asian American identity in order to advance a vision of justice that emphasizes the Asian American community’s intricate ties to other communities of color. Over 400 participants—high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, community members—attended this year’s LTS. Participants came from all over California, from San Diego to Fresno. The day began with a panel of activists involved with the Asian American movement in the 1960s who spoke about the origins of the Asian American identity. Later on in the day, the keynote speaker Gregory Cendana spoke about his contemporary work in organizing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to work towards justice for their communities and beyond.

Throughout the day, participants attended workshops hosted by various Stanford student organizations and community organizations to learn about issues such as anti-blackness and gender in the Asian American community.

If you are interested in learning more about LTS or being involved in the future, please email You can also see more photos at the event Facebook page.

Editor's note: Some of the speakers included Stanford history professor Gordon Chang; Harvey Dong, a UC Berkeley lecturer in ethnic studies and owner of Eastwind Books; Estella Habal, emeritus professor of Asian American Studies at San Jose State and former organizer for the International Hotel Tenants Association; and Karen Ishizuka, film producer, museum curator, and author of the recently-published book “Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties.”

Stanford fires lawyer who advocated for sexual assault victims: In a decidedly less progressive move, Stanford has fired the lawyer who advocated for assault victims at the university and advised on Title IX issue. The ASSU Senate (student body) condemned this action.


VI. Asian Americans: Access to Equality

Asian last names lead to fewer job interviews: NPR reports on a study “that found that job applicants with Asian names were 28% less likely to get called for an interview compared to applicants with Anglo names, even when all the qualifications were the same.” Asian applicants may feel “pressure to “whiten” resume so you can double chance to receive call back.”

Exploding the myth of "Asian American Success: At the same time, “When politicians talk about race and diversity in America, Asian-Americans are noticeably absent from the conversation. Their portrait is one dimensional: wealthy, educated, successful.” But as New York magazine reports, in “The Myth of Asian American Success And How Invisibility Becomes Institutionalized,” if you look “more closely at the numbers, you see a different picture altogether.”

For example, one out of every 7 Asian immigrants is undocumented (AAPI Data) “Asian undocumented immigrants account for about 14% of the total undocumented population in the United States.”

“As a Chinese-American alumnus who interviews applicants to Yale, I’m often asked one question by Asian-American students and parents: “Will being Asian hurt my chances?” Andrew Lam writes in The New York Times  that the problem with admissions isn’t other minority students from Black and Latino communities, but “White Students’ Unfair Advantage in Admissions."

VII. Asian Americans: Culture & Representation

Constance Wu has been outspoken on issues of Asian American identity and representation in television and films. (Image source: Time)

Constance Wu has been outspoken on issues of Asian American identity and representation in television and films. (Image source: Time)

The price of “cheap” Asian food: Diep Tran, chef and owner of Good Girl Dinette, a Vietnamese comfort food restaurant, writes an op-ed in NPR about the costs of “cheap” human labor when we demand “cheap” Asian food and asks for “deep compassion for and understanding of the pressures facing immigrant restaurateurs.”

In other culinary news, MissBish features Korean American adoptee and Top Chef winner Kristen Kish.

Hollywood: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Constance Wu of “Fresh Off the Boat” fame will star in “Crazy, Rich Asians,” a new feature film. Speaking of Hollywood media, Janice Min, the top editor at The Hollywood Reporter, will soon step down. Her seven year tenure led the publication to a “stunning turnaround.” Vanessa Hudgens, who stars in NBC’s Powerless, made her character half-Filipino which reflects her real-life heritage. (AsAmNews)

Print: The Los Altos Stage Company presented “Yellow Face” by Stanford alum Henry David Hwang. Celebrated writer Bharati Mukherjee, author of "The Middleman and Other Stories" and "Jasmine" died on January 28 at the age of 76. “The Middleman and Other Stories” won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1988. According to NBC, Mukherjee’s “writing and research interests included immigration, American culture, multiculturalism, nationhood, alienation, and the struggles of Indian women.”

Outrageous editorial: Vogue magazine’s “diversity” issue featured a supermodel in a Japanese-themed spread, titled “Spirited Away” and exoticizing her as a geisha. Angry Asian Man explains (again) why “Yellow face is a really awful way to celebrate ‘diversity’”

Transgender rights: In contrast, Teen Vogue has done a far superior job than its parent magazine in covering politics in a sensitive, thoughtful and informed way, for example throwing light on the Trump administration’s withdrawal of protections for transgender people.

AAPI transgender activist Janet Mock, whose father is African American and mother is native Hawaiian, suggests in a New York Times op-ed that “Young People Get Trans Rights. It’s Adults Who Don’t.” Read her letter to transgender students in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s hostility to transgender people.

Tragedy: A 60-year old Asian grandfather was shot while playing Pokemon Go.

Legal Profession: Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) announced the selection of “nationally recognized attorney John C. Yang” as the new president and executive director of the organization. According to AAJC, Yang’s service includes terms as President, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (2003–04); Board Chair, AAJC (2005–08); and Board Member, American Bar Association Commission on Racial & Ethnic Diversity in the Legal Profession (2009–12). He was co-founder of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (1997).


Read a hilarious feature on how, “This Kiwifruit Isn't From New Zealand at All. It's Chinese, and This Is How It Got Hijacked.” The kiwi “may be New Zealand's defining agricultural product, generating $1.05 billion in exports for the country in 2015. However, the fruit (Latin name Actinidia deliciosa) was originally known as the Chinese gooseberry.” Here’s the story of how it lost its Chinese roots through Western marketing.

Asian American Issues [February 2017]

Tune in to issues around the nation and get the scoop on Stanford activism! Our monthly newsletter highlights current developments in politics, culture and entertainment of interest to the Asian American & Pacific Islander community.

Photo by Maya Diamond

Photo by Maya Diamond

CONTENT      [* = Take Action!]

  1. Letter from the Editors
  2. Lunar New Year*
  3. Ban on Immigrants & Refugees*
  4. Stanford Community’s Response*
  5. Other Updates from the Farm
  6. National Politics: Activism, the Inauguration & Resistance*
  7. Trafficking in Asian Stereotypes*
  8. Sports and Pop Culture*
  9. Literature and Art*
  10. Your Stories*

I. Letter from the Editors


Dear SAPAAC Community,

This is a challenging time for communities across America. With the administration's Executive Order to bar non-citizens from seven countries (including refugees, legal visa-holders and initially even United States permanent residents), the targeting of persons based on national origin seems to be the rule of the day. This strategy is quite possibly being used as a proxy for ethnicity, race, or religion. At the very least, it seems to be politically messaging as such.

Public demonstrations and court challenges have begun, including major stands by protestors at SFO, LAX and JFK airports. Federal judges have ordered stays on elements of the Executive Order. A multitude of citizens, companies, and lawmakers have been speaking out in defense of freedom and tolerance, and affirming that people of all backgrounds, including Muslims, are welcome in America, which is a country of immigrants. Yet this is only the beginning of a long struggle.

The fantastically diverse student body at Stanford University has already been affected. Graduate students returned early from overseas to avoid being barred from entry, and one student was handcuffed and detained for several hours upon arriving in the United States. As an organization representing the Asian American and Pacific Islander alumni of Stanford University, SAPAAC expresses its solidarity with all affected communities, within the university and the public at large. Many of us are sons, daughters, and descendants of immigrants and refugees—or newly arrived to the United States ourselves.

Throughout our country’s history, the AAPI community has been buffeted by changing tides either welcoming or excluding immigrants. Much as the Executive Order does today, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred whole classes of immigrants, even though Chinese workers had been instrumental to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad that knitted America together—and in the process, secured Leland Stanford’s fortune. American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry were uprooted from their lives in 1942 and forced into internment camps, solely based on their race. (Fred Korematsu Day on January 30 celebrates a civil rights campaigner who resisted this order.)

Yet the 1965 liberalization of immigration policy represented a break with the discrimination of the past. Subsequent waves of arrivals, including the Vietnamese impacted by war in the 1970s, have shown how new communities can integrate into American life, participate in the democratic system, and enrich our economic, linguistic and cultural lives.

In 2017, in the face of this test of our democratic resolve, staying silent indicates complacency—perhaps even complicity—about the choices our government makes. It is of utmost importance that each one of us find a way to respond with action. What does it mean to take action? We can contact our government representatives. We can directly assist those in need. We can share true facts and figures. We can run for public office to represent our community and its values. We can educate our own families, friends, and professional circles about current issues and historical wrongdoings, as a Japanese American civic leader does in this moving essay.

For SAPAAC, we hope to highlight pathways for our membership to respond, resist, and make change. In this issue of the Asian American Newsletter, we feature the usual roundup of national and Stanford news related to the AAPI community. You will also notice that in several areas, we include opportunities for you to act, labeled ACTION.

If you have any additional stories you wish to see included in future newsletters or suggestions for discrete actions that SAPAAC members might take, we welcome you to share them with us! Please write to the Issues & Advocacy Committee with your ideas.

A healthy democratic culture exists when we pay attention, actively participate, and show solidarity to communities whose rights are being targeted. In tough times, please stay encouraged and stand together.

In solidarity,

The Executive Board of the Stanford Asian Pacific American Alumni Club (SAPAAC)


II. Lunar New Year

Lantern Festival in the Yu Gardens 豫園 in Shanghai. Source: Kevin Hsu

Lantern Festival in the Yu Gardens 豫園 in Shanghai. Source: Kevin Hsu

Happy Lunar New Year! Many people in Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, China—and their many overseas diaspora communities—celebrated the holiday on January 28 and 29. Read an Asian grandmother’s instructions for how to prepare for the Year of the Rooster and if you’re in California, watch San Francisco’s famed Chinese Parade to culminate the festivities. SAPAAC members in Seattle, Washington celebrated at one of the best dim sum restaurants on the Eastside, while those in London enjoyed a Vietnamese Tet Lunar New Year lunch. Bay Area residents taste-tested teas in Berkeley.

In 2016 (according to the Gregorian calendar) or the Year of the Monkey (by the lunar calendar), Asian Americans broke new ground in the arts, culture, and politics with more Asian American legislators than ever before representing the country in the 115th Congress. However, Asian Americans are not well represented in the judicial branch of government: despite there being numerous Asian American attorneys, there are remarkably few AAPI judges: only 3% of the federal judiciary and 2% of state trial and appeals judges. The study, published by California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu and a group of students at Yale Law School, also found that only 3 out of 94 federal attorneys and 4 out of 2,5000 elected state prosecutors were of AAPI heritage.

ACTION: Justice Goodwin Liu, a Taiwanese American, will be one of the featured keynote speakers at the first-ever Stanford Asian Pacific American Alumni Summit from March 31-April 2.

Register before February 15 for this historic experience and save $75!


Another noteworthy January holiday: Korean American Day, first declared on January 13, 2003. It commemorates the arrival of Korean immigrants who settled in the United States in 1903.


III. Ban on Immigrants, Refugees and Visitors

Protestors at San Francisco Airport demonstrate against the Executive Order banning immigrants from seven countries. Source:  KQED

Protestors at San Francisco Airport demonstrate against the Executive Order banning immigrants from seven countries. Source: KQED

The Executive Order banning immigrants, refugees, and travelers from seven countries struck close to home: a Stanford student was detained at the airport, and as the Stanford Daily reports, international students—including those with Iranian, Yemeni and Sudanese citizenship—are at risk. The university’s leadership issued a letter to “reiterate our community values. As an academic institution with students and scholars from around the world, Stanford values and in fact depends upon the flow of students, educators and researchers across borders.”

Bay Area companies voiced strong disapproval because “just about everyone in Silicon Valley came from somewhere else or is a son or daughter of someone who did or is married to someone who did.” Stanford alum and Google co-founder Sergey Brin joined many Bay Area citizens in protest at SFO, mirroring protests in other airports across the country. From Chicago to Washington D.C., hundreds of attorneys showed up at airports to help immigrants and other travelers being detained. Many Asian Americans also took part in other demonstrations.

For Chinese Americans, the Muslim ban is a reminder of decades of discrimination, exemplified by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Japanese Americans have also been deeply disturbed by the parallels with their experience. The American Civil Liberties Union argues that “the incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II does not provide legal cover for a Muslim registry.”

In a related event, SAPAAC members toured a new exhibit at the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) highlighting the discriminatory laws that limited Chinese immigration and forced photographic identity cards onto the population. After the tour, Doug Chan ’76, a CHSA board member and practicing lawyer, answered questions about the Chinatown museum over pearl milk tea. Mentioning a few civil rights cases, Chan said, “Everything that’s happening now [with the Muslim ban]—it’s not new, because it also happened to us.”

Fears are rising that anti-foreigner sentiment could bleed over into other areas of public life. Public anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported in Los Angeles and on the Columbia University campus.


When we are shocked by the direction the government is steering the nation, it is important to take action to defend our core values and beliefs.

1. If you disagree with government policies, call your members of Congress, including your representative in the House and your two Senators. This is a proven strategy for expressing your views and more effective than tweets or online petitions. For even greater impact, pay a visit to a Congressional district office in person, as Christine Su ’08, MS ’15, MBA ’15 and a group of her friends and colleagues did. Learn about influencing Congress and changing government policies in the Indivisible Guide, crafted by former Congressional staffers.

2. If you are concerned about civil rights being undermined, donate to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the ban which resulted in a stay being issued for travelers with legal visas. Find more information on donating at the ACLU website.

3. If you feel inclined to promote tolerance and highlight the lessons of history, educate your community about how America wrongfully treated minority populations in the past. An essay and video from Densho, an organization whose mission is to “preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished,” provide a great resource to start.

4. If you want to help refugees integrate into your community, look up local agencies providing services and support or volunteer with them. Canada has experienced an upwelling of outreach to immigrants and many offers to host refugee families. In the United States, more info is available through Refugee Council USA, a coalition of 22 NGOs and through the State Department’s list of refugee processing affiliates. You can also learn more about global refugee issues through UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency.

5. If you want to show solidarity as a community, encourage Asian American organizations and other civic organizations you are a member of to make public statements about our shared ideals and values. The Stanford Asian American Activism Committee (SAAAC), a student group, signed on to a public statement pledging to resist undemocratic or inhumane policies emanating from the White House. Over 100 AAPI organizations nation have already signed a “letter of resistance” which states, “As Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) committed to equality, inclusion, and justice, we pledge to resist any efforts by President-Elect Trump’s administration to target and exploit communities, to strip people of their fundamental rights and access to essential services, and to use rhetoric and policies that divide the American people and endanger the world.”


IV. Stanford Community’s Response to the Ban on Immigrants, Refugees and Visitors

Stanford PhD student Nisrin Elamin was detained and handcuffed at JFK Airport due to the Executive Order. Source: Democracy Now

Stanford PhD student Nisrin Elamin was detained and handcuffed at JFK Airport due to the Executive Order. Source: Democracy Now

Stanford University has responded to the immigration ban in several ways. First, international students traveling overseas were notified by their departments to return home as soon as possible to avoid the fallout. The Bechtel International Center hosted several public events, including a session for students directly impacted by the ban and another session for the whole Stanford community.

The Stanford Daily reports that students organized a demonstration on White Plaza, while “faculty affiliated with the Jewish Studies program have also issued an open statement condemning the executive order directly, calling it a ‘scandal to our democratic culture’ and suggesting that its release on Holocaust Memorial Day made the rejection of refugees particularly egregious.”

The Asian American Graduate Student Association (AAGSA) wrote a letter to its membership and then published an op-ed in the Stanford Daily decrying the ban, proclaiming that “a threat to any immigrant is a threat to all immigrants and to their descendants.” Anthropology Ph.D. Nisrin Elamin, who was detained at JFK Airport in New York, shares her story in an interview and speaks out against the ban.

University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne later joined “47 other college and university presidents in a Feb. 2 letter to President Donald Trump regarding the executive order” and made remarks to the Faculty Senate on the issue.

ACTION: Everyone has certain rights under the Constitution, whether a citizen or non-citizen. Learn about your rights and share with friends and family members (in multiple languages), including how to respond to immigration enforcement officials. Additional resources and hotlines are available here.

Citizens demonstrate against the immigration ban at SFO airport. Source: ABC 7 News

Citizens demonstrate against the immigration ban at SFO airport. Source: ABC 7 News


V. Other Updates from the Farm

In one of his last acts before stepping down, Provost John Etchemendy relented and gave the Stanford band a reprieve, suggesting that the student-run organization is committed to reform and so will not be suspended in the coming year. On February 1, Etchemendy was succeeded as university provost by Persis Drell, the dean of the School of Engineering and former director of SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

As Stanford University pursues the update of its General Use Permit from Santa Clara County, which regulates the expansion, growth and development of the campus, a group of students called for more consideration of social equity issues related to land use. Stay tuned to this issue, as it will influence how the university expands over the coming decade.


VI. National Politics: Activism, Inauguration & Resistance

ALBUM: A sample of photos from "When Angry Asian America Showed up to March," a photo album from the Women's March, posted on the activist blog Angry Asian Man.


As President Obama’s second term came to an end, many commentators reflected on what his historic presidency meant, including a slate of Asian American civic leaders. One op-ed argues that he could be seen as “the first Asian American president” because “along with this sense of interconnected struggle was the mere fact that Obama acknowledged ‘Asian-America’ at all. In politics, the bar to engage the Asian-American community is low, because it isn’t seen as a decisive factor in electoral outcomes. And yet in Obama’s victory speech in ’08, he included Asians in a recitation of the complex American demography that had voted him into office.”

The inauguration of Donald Trump sparked concern in the Asian American community, whose concerns were borne out days later by the Executive Order deeply threatening to immigrants and refugees. California Congressman Mark Takano, who is of Japanese ancestry and whose parents and grandparents were jailed in internment camps, detailed in an open letter why he would not attend the inauguration. “The next President of the United States cannot effectively lead this country with only a legal and technical victory in the Electoral College. He needs moral and ethical assets as well. These are not purchased through the art of the deal, but earned through words and deeds that subordinate personal gain for the advancement of freedom and equality.”

On the other side of the political aisle, the Trump-Pence Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee (APAAC) and the National Committee of Asian American Republicans (Asian.GOP) decided to host an “Asian Pacific American Presidential Inaugural Gala 2017” which included among its goals, “celebration with prominent dignitaries and Presidential appointees” and “networking interactions with business elites in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.”

Overall, Asian Americans heavily favored Clinton over Trump, at rates of 65% to 75%, based on exit polls and other election surveys. Despite historical support for the GOP based on anti-communist and small business views, Asian Americans are now “identifying as Democrats at a quicker pace than any other racial group,” according to The New York Times.

The Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration, and the many parallel protests around the country, appeared to be the largest demonstration to ever take place on U.S. soil. Over 3 million people took to the streets to demonstrate against the policies and rhetoric espoused by the new Trump administration. Many AAPI citizens were part of this action, coming together with other Americans of diverse backgrounds. View an extraordinary album of photos submitted by AAPI demonstrators on the Angry Asian Man blog.

Lawmaker Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida), the first Vietnamese American woman elected to Congress (herself a refugee who had journeyed to the United States with her family), filed legislation to block Trump's top political advisor Steve Bannon from joining the National Security Council (NSC). Trump created a major uproar when he sought to elevate Bannon, who has little national security experience, while demoting the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence, from permanent to non-permanent NSC members. Stanford political scientist, Michael McFaul, also the former ambassador to Russia, explains the issue. California Senator Kamala Harris, who is Indian American and African American, co-sponsored a bill in the Senate to formalize NSC membership and prevent purely political advisors from obtaining permanent seats on one of the country’s most important bodies dealing with security issues.

An Indian-American bitcoin entrepreneur could potentially head the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Stanford alumnus Balaji Srinivasan (‘01, PhD ‘06) is on Trump’s short list for candidates, although his candidacy has proven somewhat controversial. Seema Verma, also an Indian American, was appointed Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In a commentary published in the New York Times, entitled “What Trump Taught Me About Being Asian-American,” journalist Stephanie Siu discusses her personal transformation. “Growing up in Manhattan, the American-born child of immigrants from Hong Kong, I was embarrassed by my family’s strange holidays,” she writes. But thanks to a sojourn through Asia and spurred on by the darkening political climate, Siu comes to realize that “belonging is personal, fluid and multicultural.” Though she had previously “clung to being an American as my one immutable identity,” she now feels that “being Asian [does] not make me less American.”

Washington Post journalist Doris Truong was mistakenly accused of taking photos of Rex Tillerson’s notes during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State. Truong faced Internet harassment because an individual of Asian appearance was seen taking photos from the gallery during the hearings. Internet “trolls” decided to label the photos with Truong’s name because she was a journalist who happened to also be Asian. In another confirmation hearing, Senator Jeff Sessions’ Asian American granddaughters were the target of racial insults on Twitter.

Of interest to activists, a report entitled "A Growing Voice: Asian American Voters in North Carolina” discusses the fastest-growing racial demographic in the state, which also reflect changing conditions in the country. A writer discusses the challenges of navigating Asian American Christian churches and her own views as a religious person and a liberal. 

ACTION: Asian Americans have lagged Latinos and Blacks in levels of voter registration, due to language and cultural barriers. Get involved in voter registration efforts with special outreach to the Asian American and Pacific Islander population such as APIA Vote, a “national nonpartisan organization that works with partners to mobilize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in electoral and civic participation.”


VII. Trafficking in Asian Stereotypes

A Harvard Business Review article asks: “Why Aren’t There More Asian Americans in Leadership Positions?” It explores the role of stereotypes and cultural values inhibiting the rise of Asian Americans as executives in the business world. Another example of stereotyping hurting Asian Americans’ careers is the case of a Korean-born political science professor who is suing the University of Illinois at Chicago for discrimination. The department allegedly forced him to teach statistics, which is not his specialty, because they felt that “Asians, especially Koreans are very good at mathematics and statistics.”




ACTION: A panel on breaking through thebamboo ceilingwill also feature at the Asian Pacific American Alumni Summit.

Register by February 15 for early bird pricing and save $75 at



In another example of stereotyping Asians, comedian Steve Harvey targeted Asian American males as the butt of a joke, trafficking in the false idea that they are less-than-masculine or undateable. Eddie Huang, the Taiwanese American whose biography is the basis of the popular television series “Fresh Off The Boat” (an episode in Season 3 also celebrated the Lunar New Year) wrote a scathing response in The New York Times. Harvey later apologized. Kind of.

A feature in The New York Times describes how Bruce Lee exploded stereotypes in Hollywood. At the time, “Asian men were often cast as servants, deviants or as wily and desexualized.” (If they were portrayed at all.) Lee decided to reject such typecasting and create new roles. Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang ‘79, who wrote a play about Bruce Lee’s life, is quoted in the article, describing Lee as the “first Asian man to manifest all of the conventional American movie markers of masculinity. ‘He creates a new archetype in the West...the Asian-American male hero.’”

Gay Korean American actor and comedian Peter Kim suggests in a video commentary that aired on the Newshour on PBS, a national news program, that “white supremacy” can be defined as “the commonplace cultural assumption that white is the default race in America.” He discusses the challenges faced by people of other races, including those in the queer community, and the problems with this cognitive framing. In a related vein, David Yi writes, “As an Asian American, I am Invisible in this Country.”

ACTION: Buy a calendar featuring Asian men defying stereotypes. Two options areThe New Asian Men 2017 CalendarandHaikus on Hotties,” which was featured on NBC last December.


The error of stereotyping also applies to economic issues. The Asian American bloc is extremely diverse, not monolithic, and a recent report finds that the “Asian-American Wealth Inequality Gap” is actually widening.

Professor Xiaoxing Xi of Temple University, supported by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, has “embarked on a tour of California to raise awareness of the Scientists Not Spies campaign,” which seeks justice for Chinese American scientists falsely accused of spying for China. Xi suffered from the erroneous 2015 accusation until he was exonerated eight months later, and all charges were dropped by federal prosecutors.


VIII. Sports, Entertainment & Pop Culture

Nathan Chen won the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship with a record high score and an astounding 5 quadruple jumps. ( source )

Nathan Chen won the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship with a record high score and an astounding 5 quadruple jumps. (source)

Asian Americans dominated the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, taking home gold in three of the four main events. Karen Chen, age 17, won the women’s title. Male figure skater Nathan Chen “landed a staggering five quadruple jumps on his way to claiming his first U.S. title. At age 17, he is the youngest U.S. men's champion in 51 years.” He also achieved a record high score. Another Chinese American skater, 16-year-old Vincent Zhou came in “a distant second.” Brother and sister Maia and Alex Shibutani won a second consecutive national title in ice dancing. There is plenty of talk of the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Nathan Chen was featured in an NBC story. Karen Chen is a hometown favorite from Fremont, recently profiled by the San Jose Mercury News. Zhou is also Californian, born in San Jose and living in Palo Alto.

Video of performances: (Karen Chen) (Nathan Chen) (Vincent Zhou) (Maia & Alex Shibutani)


Fusion features a story on Asian Americans in pop culture in 2016. Not only was there greater visibility for the AAPI community, it was also “the year of Americans fighting back in Hollywood” (Slate, Vulture) against whitewashing of Asian roles and the marginalization of Asian actors. One article sums up the problem as “a fascination with Asian art and culture coupled with a great reluctance to actually put any Asian or Asian-American actors in lead roles.” Examples include Dr. Strange (rewriting a Tibetan character as Celtic), The Great Wall (white male savior comes to China), the live action remake of Ghost in the Shell (replacing a formidable Japanese character with a white actress), and the troubled Netflix show “Iron Fist.” A Buzzfeed recap of the “fight for better Asian-American representation in 2016” is available here.

Comedian Aziz Ansari was the first AAPI person to host Saturday Night Live. Watch the full monologue here. Numerous works by Asian American film-makers appeared at the Sundance Film Festival. A new Netflix series “Brown Nation,” dubbed a “quirky Indian American comedy” features the work-life troubles of an Indian American in Queens, New York. Watch the trailer here.

George Takei helped create the Broadway musical “Allegiance.” A filmed version will” screen in cinemas nationwide on February 19, 2017, the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066” which ordered the internment of Japanese Americans.

ACTION: Learn more about the stories of Japanese Americans who were forced into prison camps based on their race. See the screening of Allegiance on February 19.


Also in the theatre world, a New York-based Asian American theatre troupe re-imagines Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, “The Mikado.” They attempt to alleviate some of the racial undertones of the work, which is set in Edo-era Japan. A number of floats at the nationally televised Rose Parade also featured Asian American companies and/or AAPI themes.

Asian American rock group The Slants will appear before the Supreme Court to argue a First Amendment case about the band’s moniker. The band contends it is an example of freedom of speech, because their name is an attempt to reclaim a derogatory word, but some Asian American activists are concerned that the case will put them “in league with” the Washington Redskins, who are “pushing to protect a name that's offensive to Native Americans.”

NBC Asian America solicited videos from the public for its next episode of "Jubilee Project: The Bridge.” NBC Asian America is a “digital video channel that features original content centered around themes and voices found in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.” A recent example features young Asian Americans saying “I love you” to their parents.

The Los Angeles Weekly celebrates how “boba become an integral part of Asian American culture in Los Angeles” while The New York Times profiles “Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey” about how Chinese food took hold in the United States. MIT historian Heather Lee explained to Food Beast why there are more Chinese restaurants than McDonald’s in the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned whole categories of laborers from China, including miners and restaurant owners, from immigrating to the U.S. Only non-laborers, such as merchants, teachers and diplomats were allowed. However, “a New York court case ruling in 1915 would later uphold that a Chinese restaurant could be classified as a merchant, thus immediately giving the Chinese a new way to enter the country.” Discriminatory immigration policies can alter the demographics of a country; people who defied those policies shifted the culinary culture of the entire nation.


IX. Literature & Art

The late Dr. Paul Kalanithi speaks to a nurse at Stanford Hospital. Kalanithi's book "When Breath Becomes Air" is in the running for a Wellcome Book Prize. Photo by Norbert von der Groeben, Stanford Hospital and Clinics ( source )

The late Dr. Paul Kalanithi speaks to a nurse at Stanford Hospital. Kalanithi's book "When Breath Becomes Air" is in the running for a Wellcome Book Prize. Photo by Norbert von der Groeben, Stanford Hospital and Clinics (source)

Three Asian Americans are in the running for the Wellcome Book Prize, which celebrates literature related to health and medicine. Siddhartha Mukherjee was nominated for “The Gene: An Intimate History.” Ed Yong, a science writer for The Atlantic was nominated for his non-fiction work “I Contain Multitudes” on the symbiotic relationship between human beings and the countless microbes that flourish inside of us.

The late Stanford neurosurgeon, Dr. Paul Kalanithi (‘00 English Literature, Human Biology, ‘00 MA English Literature) was honored for his memoir “When Breath Becomes Air.” While completing his medical training, Paul was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. He began writing the book, which contemplates the end of life and its meaning. The tome, published posthumously in 2016, “reached the top of's best-seller list before its release date, while the New York Times debuted it at No. 1 on its hardcover nonfiction list.” Read Paul’s writing in a Stanford Medicine article. He was also an instructor in the Department of Neurosurgery and a fellow at the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. His wife, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, wrote the epilogue and continues his story.

“Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties” by Karen Ishizuka “pays tribute to those mostly youthful Asian Americans of the 1960s and early 1970s who…coalesced into…the Asian American Movement, replete with a correlative new identity for its movers and shakers.” Al Sugiyama, one of the activists of that era, and the first Asian-American member of the Seattle School Board passed away.

Jeremy Lin teams up with the Hulk in a new comic book. “The Brooklyn Nets point guard was featured as a character in Marvel’s ‘The Totally Awesome Hulk’ #13.” Written by Greg Pak, this line of the comic series features an Asian American, Amadeus Cho, as the Hulk. Pak said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if the biggest Asian-American superhero met the biggest Asian-American sports star?”

Donnie Yen, played another Asian hero, the Force-sensitive warrior in Star Wars: Rogue One. However, his mother, Tai Chi grandmaster Bow-sim Mark, has an incredible tale that might outshine his. One of the few women in China training in martial arts (wushu) at the time, she later immigrated to Boston in 1975 and was one of the first masters to introduce wushu to the western world. Speaking of mothers, Kesaya Noda ’73 reminisces on a fond memory of Japanese baths and her mother in the Stanford Magazine.

Disney animator Tyrus Wong, inspired by Song Dynasty ink paintings, set the aesthetics for one of the most beloved Disney films of all time, Bambi. He passed away at the age of 106. An immigrant from China, he had to enter the United States as a “paper son” to circumvent the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, passing through Angel Island immigration center. He “endured poverty, discrimination and chronic lack of recognition” including being relegated to a “background” artist in the credits for Bambi. A retrospective of his art was exhibited at the Disney Family Museum and in 2001, “in formal recognition of his influence on ‘Bambi,’ Mr. Wong was named a Disney Legend.” A documentary was also completed about his life.

A sample of Tyrus Wong's work on Bambi from Observer and Cartoon Brew:

ACTION: Join SAPAAC on April 2 for a special day-trip to Angel Island, which is being preserved as a heritage site. Hear from a team of Stanford alumni who have led the two-decade long, $40 million effort to restore historic buildings, including Katherine Toy ’91, MA ’91 current president of the Board of Directors of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, as well as Buck Gee ’72 and Kathy Ko ’80, past presidents of the board. This event is part of the activities of the inaugural Stanford Asian Pacific American Summit. RSVP here.



X. Your Stories

We want to hear from you, the SAPAAC membership! Are you an advocate on a mission? Have you taken part in events or volunteered in your community? Please share with us your stories and reflections, and you could be featured in this newsletter and on the SAPAAC Facebook Page.

If you have any tips for other stories to include in future newsletters, or suggestions for discrete actions that SAPAAC members might take, we also welcome you to share them with us. Please write to the Issues & Advocacy Committee with your ideas.


Compiled by Kevin Hsu, Solina Kwan, Justin Lam, Stephen Lee and Van Anh Tran.

Stanford Community Responds to Immigration Ban

How many Stanford Students are directly impacted by the ban?

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) reports that 73 students at Stanford were affected by the executive order that banned nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, including four undergraduate students. (Stanford Daily)

Several graduate students returned to the United States earlier than planned to avoid the ban, and one PhD candidate was detained and handcuffed after landing in New York.

Read their personal stories:

Jan 28: Sudanese student at Stanford detained, handcuffed at JFK airport (San Jose Mercury) (The New York Times)

Jan 29: Facebook post from Ramin Ahmari, a junior directly affected. "America, the place I went to for opportunity, academia and tolerance, has suddenly become a golden cage, one that hates the intersectionality of my identity in more than just one way—a fact it has made painfully clear now,"

Jan 30: International students reeling from Trump's travel ban (Stanford Daily)

Jan 30: Sudanese Stanford Ph.D. Student Speaks Out After Being Detained at JFK Under Trump Muslim Ban (Democracy Now) Video interview with Nisrin Elamin

Feb 2: Stanford: Trump immigration ban 'deeply antithetical' to university values (Palo Alto Weekly) Anita Husen, director of The Markaz: Resource Center, which supports the Stanford Muslim community, said that there are students, faculty and staff who are currently out of the country and cannot return, and others who have had to cancel academic and personal plans to travel abroad.

For example, junior Ramin Ahmari's life was thrown into "a state of uncertainty." He was born and raised in Germany by Iranian parents and "holds dual citizenship in both countries, although he doesn't identify as Iranian and has never lived there." He has decided to give up two minors and study abroad in Oxford, and will not leave the country until he finishes his undergraduate degree and gets a job. 

How do I get more information on the travel ban?

Bechtel International Center: Contact for questions on urgent travel. Please include your phone number in your email.

University guidance on immigration issues:

Other Stanford resources from Stanford Global Studies

Q&A with Stanford Law School Faculty:

Statements by the Stanford community

Administration: Community Letter from University Leadership | University statement of principles on international and undocumented persons | Bechtel International Center (see e-mails below) | President Marc Tessier-Lavigne's comments to the Faculty Senate on Jan 26, before the Executive Order was issued | T-L signs on to collective letter from university presidents | Stanford helps author amicus brief (see below) | T-L's Comments to Faculty Senate on Feb 9

Faculty: Jewish Studies Faculty (Stanford Daily) | Faculty Senate unanimously denounces Trump’s travel ban (Stanford Daily) | Sanctuary campus statement: Program in Writing and Rhetoric (Stanford Daily) | Letter calling for more action from the Administration (Stanford Daily) | Statement from the Iranian Studies Program

Students: Asian American Graduate Student Association AAGSA (Stanford Daily), Stanford Asian American Activism Committee SAAAC (via APALA)

Alumni: Stanford Asian Pacific American Alumni Club (SAPAAC) Letter to Community

If you have more news or statements by members of the Stanford community, please contact

How else are Stanford students and alumni taking action?


Filing a lawsuit

Stanford student, ACLU sue Trump over immigration ban: "Hadil Al-Mowafak, a freshman studying at Stanford with an F-1 student visa, joined a UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate and a San Diego college student in filing the lawsuit Thursday through the ACLU." They are "suing President Donald Trump for ordering what they say is an unconstitutional immigration ban against seven Muslim-majority countries ... Al-Mowafak alleges that she is unable to visit her husband in Yemen because of an executive order Trump signed Jan. 27 ... The California students’ lawsuit, and similar lawsuits filed across the country, say that Trump’s order is an 'unlawful attempt to discriminate against Muslims and to establish a preference for one religion over another.'" (San Jose Mercury News, Stanford Daily, Palo Alto Weekly)


Visiting a Congressperson's office

Andrea Martinez '16, Samir Raiyani '98 and Christine Su '08, MBA '15, MS '15 visit a Congressional office to share their views with their representative. Christine writes:

Today we and other small business owners based in San Mateo, along with our employees, went over to Congresswoman Jackie Speier's office to urge opposition to the administration agenda.

This is what small business looks like—all of us are or have immigrant parents, cousins, and friends, and hire employees on OPTs, H1B visas, green cards. I was on Obamacare while starting my company. We are members and allies of the queer community. We want our local offices and services to work for us, not the federal government.

According to the director of the congresswoman's district office, "A group of constituents who care enough to show up at the office like you did is the most powerful statement you can make." We literally grabbed everyone on our office floor at lunch and walked over. This isn't hard. Go visit your elected officials! Let them know you're watching their votes.


Gathering and Sharing Resources

Van Anh Tran '13, a member of the Issues & Advocacy Committee of SAPAAC, has compiled the following resources for all people to know their rights.

Know Your Rights!

All persons have certain protections under the United States Constitution, whether you are a citizen or visitor to the country. If you are interested in finding out more about your rights, please visit:

iAmerica: "Know Your Rights" Know Your Rights material is also available in SpanishPolish,  KoreanTagalogSimplified ChineseVietnameseKhmerHindi and Haitian Creole.

National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) 24/7 immigration hotline in Korean & English: 1-844-500-3222.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ)
AAAJ's Los Angeles chapter provides many "know your rights" resources:

The resources include KYR cards (made by AAAJ-Atlanta) in the following languages: ArabicBengaliBurmeseChineseGujaratiKarenKhmerKoreanNepaliUrduVietnamese


Jan 26: Executive Order leaked describing immigration ban. Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne mentions the news in his remarks to the Faculty Senate (summary, full remarks)

Jan 27: President Donald Trump issues an Executive Order entitled "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States" (White House)

Jan 27, Jan 30: Bechtel Center sends e-mails to students (see below)

Jan 28: Community letter from Stanford leadership on immigration

“As an academic institution and as a community, Stanford welcomes and embraces students and scholars from around the world who contribute immeasurably to our mission of education and discovery. Inclusion and nondiscrimination are core values of our community, and they extend to people from around the world regardless of citizenship or nationality. We recognize that those who set national immigration policy must account for national security considerations to keep our country safe. But policies that restrict the broad flow of people and ideas across national borders, or that have the effect or appearance of excluding people based on religion or ethnicity, are deeply antithetical to both our mission and our values.”

Jan 29: Stanford’s support for our international and undocumented community, also referred to as a Statement of Principles

Jan 30: Jewish Studies faculty statement on Trump executive orders (Stanford Daily)

100 AAPI Organizations Sign Letter of Resistance vs. Trump, including the Stanford Asian American Activism Committee (Press releasePDF)

Feb 2: Stanford faculty pen an open letter to the University administration calling for bolder action in defense of immigrants and refugees (view draft letter) (Stanford Daily), including action to expand financial aid for undocumented students if the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs is terminated

Feb 2: Letter to the community from the Program in Writing and Rhetoric: Sanctuary campus statement from members of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric (Stanford Daily)

Feb 2: Open Letter to Trump from University Presidents (includes Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne) [PDF] 48 university presidents have asked the White House to “rectify or rescind” the order. “If left in place, the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country. The order specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses.”

Feb 2: EVENT for those directly impacted by the ban

Feb 2: EVENT for the broader Stanford community

Feb 9: Tessier-Lavigne makes additional remarks to Faculty Senate: "Let me be clear: We intend to do everything in our power to protect and support our students, faculty and staff, including those who are undocumented. They are equal members of our community." (transcript)

Feb 13: Stanford has joined 16 other universities in filing an amicus brief challenging the executive order on immigration. The brief argues that the travel ban it imposed on people from seven countries threatens the universities’ academic mission. (Stanford News Service, Palo Alto Weekly) [PDF of amicus brief]

Related Newspaper Op-eds

Jan 30: "On Terror" Ethan Chua (Stanford Daily)

Feb 1: American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS) Summit at Stanford (Stanford Daily), a group whose April conference has been impacted by the executive order

Feb 3: "Losing the High Ground" Nicholas Obletz ’17 (Stanford Daily)

Bechtel International Center E-mails to Stanford Students

Date: January 27, 2017
Subject: UPDATED: URGENT: Executive Order signed suspending entry into the U.S.

Dear Members of the Stanford community:

This afternoon President Trump signed the Executive Order suspending entry into the U.S. as immigrants and non-immigrants (F/J visa) for 90 days from Iraq and Syria, and from countries of particular concern to the new administration (Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Yemen). 

Our recommendation is not to travel outside the U.S. at this time. We will keep you updated as analysis of this Executive Order unfolds.

Bechtel and other campus partners have met this afternoon to discuss the current situation and have planned a gathering at the law school next week. This gathering will include experts in immigration law who can inform our effected Stanford community members about their rights. There will also be other campus offices present to describe resources and provide support.

An email will be sent to you at the beginning of next week about the time and place of this gathering. Please know that the advisors at Bechtel are here to support and advise you.


The Bechtel International Center, Stanford University

Date: January 30, 2017
Subject: What You Should Know: Information For Stanford Community Members Affected by the Muslim Ban

Dear Students, 

This event is meant for those in the community who will be affected by the ban.  
There will be another event for others who are interested to learn more about the ban and support the community. We'll keep everyone updated. [Date][Time]

Executive orders banning travelers from 7 Muslim-majority countries and suspending the refugee program have created widespread concern throughout our communities. Stanford students and visiting scholars from the listed countries, as well as those who have family members from those countries, are particularly at risk, and some have already experienced trouble returning to the United States after travel abroad.  In addition, future policy changes may expand the list of those affected to include citizens of other predominantly Muslim countries, and may include other effects on American Muslim communities.

This information session will provide information on the legal changes and how Stanford community members can protect themselves in the face of these changes.  It will also address other efforts at the university to support members of our community who are affected, including mental health support as well a broader advocacy efforts. Following the presentation, members of the audience will have a chance to ask individual questions from the immigration lawyers present. In order to keep this event a safe space for those who are affected by the new policies, this event is not open to the press.

The Bechtel International Center, Stanford University