Watching “Model Minority: Do the Math”

 

On Monday, I attended a movie showing, hosted by the MA Governor’s Asian American Commission, entitled “Model Minority: Do the Math”. The movie was created and produced by Teja Arboleda and Darby Li Po Price. The documentary closely examines the lives of Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) students in University of Illinois, Chicago and dealing with the popular myth that all Asian Americans are hard workers and high overachievers and don’t complain about anything. Therefore, they do not need any form of outside help or service.

However, the documentary emphasize that this belief has become a barrier for Asian Americans preventing them from seeking opportunities and services such as academic assistance and counseling and other social services that are available to other students of color especially within a school setting (with the exception of universities like USC and Harvard). This disparity has become a significant social issue among AAPI and serious mental health problems and risks. According to the 2001-2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 18% of Pacific Islander high school students attempted suicide, the highest in any group. Moreover, most AAPI students often feel alone and isolated because they don’t have people to talk to about their problems or seek help.  In addition, because the AAPI demographic is diverse of various ethnicities and nationalities, schools lack the resources to help distinct and individual types of groups. Instead they just lump all of the AAPI students into one box.

Moreover, this myth narrows the career paths for AAPI individuals specifically within the science and engineering fields, leaving them with an idea that they should all grow up to be doctors, engineers, and scientists. The movie emphasized when Asian Americans try to break out of those fields, they are greeted with criticism and judgment by their peers, parents and teachers and Non-Asians. I found this segment especially disheartening. There was one particular Indian student, interviewed by the film makers, stated rather solemnly she will be pursuing a medical career. But then, you later see her hiding in the library and secretly sketching elaborate clothing designs, clearly illustrating her desire to become a fashion designer (knowing that would be looked down upon). There were definitely a large number of AAPI students who stated that they wished they had taken more art and music classes to pursue their creativity and expression along with their math and science and other “practical” courses.

Towards the end of the documentary, there was some sort of a happy ending. The “closeted-artsy” students actually “rebelled” and changed their course work from science to the arts! (Yay!) Furthermore,  students at the University of Illinois, Chicago and AAPI faculty collaborate and work together to educate non-AAPI faculty and University staff about AAPI students and how to work with them and the need to provide them, the same sources, they provide to other students.

After finishing watching this documentary, I realized how lucky I was growing up to have parents and a supported community to not push me into a specific career path. My parents let me pursue my inner passions for the arts by participating in show choir and high school women’s choir and being in musicals and playing the violin and taking dance classes. They supported the college/career path I wanted to pursue. Moreover, when I had trouble in school either academically or socially, my school would offer counseling services and academic help services to make sure I am caught up. Overall, I hope more and more people watch this documentary and dispel their notions of the model minority and realize this demographic group need as many opportunities and resources to succeed as all students.

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Happy Birthday to Stir-Fried But Sweet!

Happy Birthday to Stir-Fried But Sweet!

It’s Been a great first year!

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

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Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Kickoff

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On the first day of May, I attended the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Kickoff at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston. The event was hosted by Governor Deval Patrick’s Asian American Commission with a wonderful performance by the Boston Chinese Folk Dance Group (a troop of cute and sweet and talented little girls in pretty outfits!). Prominent guests included State Representative Keiko Orral, Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, and Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong (she is the first minority mayor in Fitchburg and the first female Asian American mayor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) with Governor Patrick delivering the keynote speech.

However, I thought the most inspiring and moving speeches were given by ordinary individuals of immigrant backgrounds including a high school senior at Boston Latin Academy, Chup Chiu and Simon, principal of the Josiah Quincy Elementary School.  Chup talked about being a first generation immigrant from Hong Kong and experiencing difficulties and frustration in elementary school in America because of the language barrier. He was able to overcome that challenge by being part of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center and joining and eventually becoming captain of his high school volleyball team.  Chup is now planning to attend UMASS Lowell and major in Architecture.  Simon talked about coming to this country and originally studying Economics. After he graduated, Simon was approached to be a substitute teacher and he has been in the Education field ever since. He proudly talked about the notable accomplishments of his school such has having art and music curriculum being 80 percent of the school day (a big rarity in this “teaching to the test” environment). Furthermore, Leland Cheung specifically discussed his experience being the first Asian American member of the Cambridge city councilor (as well as the youngest), coming from a Physics and Aerospace Engineering background. He also talked about living in a country like the United States and having the opportunity as an immigrant to become a city councilor and understanding his parents’ sacrifice after going back to their home country for vacation and seeing how his cousins lived.

Moreover, having studied public policy, it was definitely an encouragement to see a number of Asian Americans in the public service sector (like those mentioned previously) from court judges to mayors and state senators. And thanks to the Governor, the number of Asian Americans serving in the Executive cabinet rose significantly.

Pride and Prejudice to a whole new level: Why I Love the Lizzie Bennet Diaries!

I have been obsessed with the Lizzie Bennet Video Diaries (as you have noticed from previous blogs). Having read Pride and Prejudice, watched the movie adaptation with Kiera Knighley, and read the reinterpretations (Mr. Darcy’s Diary) of Jane Austen’s most famous novel, I was primarily quite intrigued by this video diary series. I heard of the Lizzie Bennett video blogs through the rave reviews from Ms.Magazine for its mentions of important subjects such as the Violence Against Women Act. So I was curious and decided to take a little work break, and watch the videos. But when I started with the first video of the diary series, I was immediately hooked!

Besides portraying Lizzie Bennet (played by Ashley Clemens) as an amazing 21st century out-spoken badass chick and Mr. Darcy (Daniel Vincent Gordh) as a totally handsome, misunderstood, yet good-hearted successful CEO of a multimedia company, Pemberley Digital, the video diaries incorporates incredible supporting yet outgoing characters portrayed by Asian Americans, specifically Bing Lee  (played by Christopher Sean), Jane’s love interest, and Charlotte Lu (portrayed by Julia Cho), Lizzie’s best friend…and Caroline Lee, Bing’s sister (even though she is a total backstabber!).

This video diary series smartly depicted Jane Austen’s characters to be extremely relatable to today’s audience. Like many of us millenials, Lizzie Bennet and  Charlotte Lu are struggling grad students with an uncertain future in a bad economy, whose families are facing financial difficulties, strongly emphasizing today’s dwindling middle class in America. In particular, Charlotte’s family used to live in a house, but now they live in a 2-bedroom apartment in order to pay for Charlotte and her sister’s higher education fees.

When Lizzie initially turns down Mr.Collins’s offer to work for his venture capitalist company appropriately entitled Collins & Collins, Charlotte immediately jumps to take the opportunity instead. Lizzie and she have an argument over this where Charlotte then reveals her family’s economic struggles where her sister is about to go college and Charlotte has to drop out of graduate school and take the job at Collins & Collins. Once she starts work at Collins & Collins, Charlotte is put in charge of many projects in the background (this aspect is seen too with Lizzie’s diaries where Charlotte is the video editor) while Mr. Collins constantly goes up to Winnipeg to visit his fiancée even though he is the CEO causing Charlotte to almost miss Thanksgiving. Hence, reviving the idea that Asian American women work hard and just do what they’re told (But thanks to Lizzie Bennet’s genius and sneaky tactics…Charlotte was not only get home but get a huge promotion and be recognized for her amazing hard work).

Simultaneously, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries illustrate the variation of Asian Americans in showing families at different income levels. Whereas Charlotte and her family are at the middle-low income level struggling in debt,  Bing Lee’s family are at the upper high class (maybe close to the 1 percent) where as emphasized by Lizzie, live in a huge mansion with multiple shower heads in one bathroom.

Bing Lee, at first, does represent the Asian American stereotype in that his family expects him to succeed academically and become a medical doctor. However, as the video diaries progress, Bing ends up going against the popular stereotype (and his family) by dropping out of medical school and moves to New York with Jane Bennett (yay for happy inter-racial relationships!) and pursues a career that supposedly puts smiles on children’s faces. What I do LOVE about Bing’s character, though, is this is one of the few times in a romantic comedy/young adult video, an Asian American is the hot-shot jock that girls swoon over and aspire to be with (the other time where this happened to my memory is when Paolo Montalban plays Prince Charming in the Whitney Houston 1997 remake of Cinderella). Often times, Asian American guys play the nerd or the creepy/emo guy in these mediums whereas the hot shot jock is often played by a White guy (sometimes African American). In Lizzie Bennett, he’s not only smart/successful….he’s dashing and devastatingly good looking! It is truly awesome to visualize Jane Austen ‘s handsome charismatic character being portrayed by an Asian American. (Not to say the Charles Bingley portrayed by Simon Woods in the Kiera Knightley version was not as handsome and charming). He’s not only handsome, but he is caring, warm, and doting as we see when Jane gets sick when she stays over at Bing’s house and he goes and finds her favorite movie.

Overall, I loved how this diary series brings Pride and Prejudice to a more modern perspective filled with young women pursuing professional careers and aiming to the top of their fields instead of seeking prospective husbands no matter how hard Mrs. Bennet tries (they do get the guy in the end…but they decide to start slow in their relationships not get married right away!). And more importantly, strong female friendships/relationships where Charlotte and Lizzie actively experience ups and downs and be each other’s support person through thick and thin despite the odds and defend each other (whereas the Charlotte in the original Pride and Prejudice has a more subtle role). In other words, hats off to the Lizzie Bennett Diaries!

Quote of the Day

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.

Bruce Lee

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Time Magazine’s World’s 100 Most Influential People

Here are some of the big names identified on such a prestigious list! We definitely agree!

Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California

Andrew Ng, founder of Coursera

Perry Chen, CEO of Kickstarter

Erica Kochi, Co-Lead for Tech Innovation at UNICEF

and…..

Mindy Kaling, creator and star of the Mindy Project!

for full list click here:

http://time100.time.com/2013/04/18/time-100/slide/all/

 

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