Asian Representation in Popular Culture

I recently wrote a post about the dominance of White people and culture in every facet of society here in America (you can read the post HERE.), and I have been thinking a lot lately about Asian representation in popular culture. Surely there are more than just classic martial art films? (Cue the sound of crickets endlessly chirping away.)

I look over at the African-American community. They have come such a long way. Last year, the film Moonlight won best picture. They have won Oscars in all of the major acting categories. They have formidable pop stars. (Beyonce and Rihanna anyone?) Rap, R&B, and Hip hop have become mainstream mainstays. They have brought us jazz, blues, and Michael Jackson. A man by the name of Barrack Obama showed us all how its done, and recently, they have given us Black Panther–the first real African American super hero franchise. They are AMAZING.

Then, I look over at the rest of us–the Asians, Latinos, and everyone from the Middle East. We have yet to fully stake our claim at the table.  You can argue that many opportunities are being denied us, but what we must ultimately do is stand up and show up.

Unless we actively share our art with the world, no one will hear our voices. As a person of color, I need to rise above the limitations, the whitewashing, the gentrification, and the marginalizing. I need to stand up and be heard.

The cultural landscape is not completely devoid of empowered Asians. I wanted to highlight a small handful of them here who are officially kicking some serious ass. They are forging a path for the rest of us. We will all stand up and follow .  .  .

Nathan Chen

He is, arguably, the Michael Jordan of figure skating. It was refreshing to see a Chinese-American be the face of the US Olympic team in the media and in commercials leading up to the winter games in Pyeongchang, Korea. Even though we’ve already had titans like Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan before him, it felt as if this time someone of Asian descent was legitimately embraced as marketable and worthy of  hype and attention.

By the end of the competition, he made history by being the first of any Olympian to land five quad jumps in a single program in competition. He’s bad ass, and I’m so proud of how the whole country rooted for him.

Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen

Asian women have been dominant forces in American figure skating over the past few decades.  Again, Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan come to mind. Carrying on in this tradition are Mirai Nagasu who was the first American woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition and her teammate Karen Chen. Both of them have been US Champions and Olympians.  Gritty athleticism, hard work, and pure talent have taken them this far. I hope many more will follow.

Francis Lam

The show “The Splendid Table” on NPR has been a longstanding favorite among food enthusiasts in America and all over the world.  When its founder and host Lynn Rossetto Kasper announced that she was retiring, there was much trepidation surrounding the show’s future. It was not long before it was announced that Francis Lam would take over as host of the show. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of food and cooking, as well as an easygoing and comforting over-the-air presence, he has taken the show into new directions toward international flavors and delicacies. He is the son of Chinese immigrants and is so good at his job!  Listen to the Splendid Table on NPR! He’s totally worth it.

Vienna Teng

In the indie music scene, she is well-known, revered, and beloved. Vienna Teng is a singer/songwriter and pianist whose music is rich with poetic lyricism and gorgeous melodies. I’ve been to her shows, and she is the real deal. Her piano work is first-rate. There is a gentle shrewdness behind each of her songs. She gives us narrative arcs that force us to cram our minds into tight and uncomfortable spaces, only to set us free by the final chords. Currently, she splits her time between a successful  indie music career and work as a climate change consultant for international corporations. Isn’t that amazing? If you haven’t heard her music yet, check her out.

I will be featuring more Asian artists and content creators in the future, and I too, will stand up to be heard.

You’ll see.


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How To Live In the Era of President Trump

This has not been easy, but over the last year, I have given President Trump the benefit of the doubt. There is often a learning curve in any occupation, and being President of the United States is right up there with parenting and sewage/sanitation worker as one of the toughest jobs in the world. During his first year in office, I have watched, I have listened, and I have learned.  I’ve taken the time to observe his behavior and to build my own mindset and protective shield.

First of all, in the interest of transparency, I was not and, at this point, do not plan to be a Trump supporter. I would have preferred that Hillary Clinton had won. Her platform simply aligned more closely to my beliefs and outlook. Her defeat was a bone-crushing loss for me as it was for millions of others.

Nonetheless, I wanted to see how Trump would traverse through the steep learning curve of his ascendance. Maybe he would surprise me and be a leader that I did not know he was. At this point, here are the impressions I have gathered:

  • He is often reactionary and defensive. Just read his twitter posts.
  • He likes to elicit strong reactions from people and incite controversy. Again, look at his twitter posts, his engagement with North Korea being a prime example. Divisiveness is his M.O.
  • He is often at odds with members of his own White House staff that he selected. The high turnover rate over the past year speaks for itself.
  • Russia. In spite of his denial of any collusion, there are numerous reports from various valid sources that something has transpired or is ongoing. Whether it was a whole lot of a connection or very little, this is the monkey that cannot seem to get off his back.
  • He thinks poorly of women. The recording of him talking to a friend about grabbing a woman’s genitalia just floored me. Women are more than just their genitalia, Mr. President. It is a sad commentary about the world we live in that a man such as this defeated a woman to obtain this job.
  • He has no objection to using people’s lives as a bargaining chip for political gain. I am referring to his desire to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) if he does not get his border wall. Clearly, this is his way of playing hardball, and it may get him the result he wants. This behavior is unconscionable, and it leaves thousands of DACA recipients, many of whom are children, at the mercy of deportation and separation from their families and livelihood.

I could go on and on, but I have expressed all I want to say about my observations of this man.

The question I have left is this:

How do we live in the era of President Trump?

Well, I have a few simple suggestions.

  • Become as informed as possible. Watch news and read articles from multiple sources. This will allow you to obtain a broader view of what is happening.
  • Do not get your news from social media. Algorithms and, apparently, foreign countries like Russia can manipulate what you see on Facebook, for example. This feels like a form of mind control, and we owe it to ourselves to think independently both for ourselves and our children.
  • Do not follow Trump’s example. Instead of being reactionary, be thoughtful and considerate. Respect women and all people (as well as everyone’s genitalia for that matter). If you disagree with someone at your job, don’t just fire them. Do the hard work that creates actionable solutions.
  • Register to VOTE and then VOTE. If you do not use your voice, you have no power.
  • Seek out leaders in your community who lead with compassion. These are leaders who prioritize people and their struggles over political gain and personal ambition. Lift them up in their campaigns and as they do their work. Think about President Trump and find the opposite of that. Pursue the opposite of that.
  • Focus on coalition and community-building. As individuals, we can only do so much. If we build collaborative partnerships with groups of people who share your compassion and willingness to effect change, your power grows exponentially.
  • Let compassion be your guide. DACA recipients are not a bargaining chip. They are innocent people and children who deserve kindness and the best of what humanity can give them.

Ultimately, we live in a time when we must step up to be better than and greater than we were before. We must seek out and lead with compassion. We must be more discerning than ever. We cannot be complacent.

There is a leader within each of us, whether we are guiding other people, our own friends and families, or ourselves.

If we collectively lift up and support the least of us—the downtrodden, the poor, the disabled, refugees, our immigrant neighbors and friends—our sum total is elevated. This simple math should guide us in these trying times.

Let’s go this way. Let’s live this way.


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