How the Asian-American Lawsuit against Harvard is slapping a Band-Aid on the broken American education system

This blog post is in response to a New York Times article regarding the lawsuit against Harvard’s admissions process and discrimination towards Asian-Americans in the larger college application process. If you haven’t read the article, here is the link: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/30/us/politics/asian-students-affirmative-action-harvard.html

 

This lawsuit hits pretty close to home for me. I’m an Asian-American female who was waitlisted by Harvard during this exact college application cycle. I remember being told by people in my community that it was because I was Asian and that had I been of a different ethnicity, I would’ve been a shoo-in. Maybe that’s true and maybe it’s not – we’ll never know. What’s important is the larger discussion behind this statement and why so many people believe it’s an accurate explanation.

 

For most Asian-Americans, getting into college is incredibly important, as it is glorified and perpetuated by parents, relatives, peers, and teachers in a culture that is arguably toxic and damaging. Because so much pressure is put on Asian-Americans to prepare for college admissions during their formative years, the controversy of the aforementioned lawsuit is particularly heavy.

 

I remember my own college application process and am beyond well-versed with many of the arguments presented by the people spearheading the lawsuit against Harvard. Growing up, I was always told that my scores needed to be higher than “other candidates” because “you’re Asian and the standard is higher for Asians and that’s just how it is.” I was told that winning piano competitions wasn’t going to look that impressive on a college application because “every Asian kid plays piano.” The same was said about Ju-Jitsu because apparently “martial arts is pretty typical for Asian kids.” I was told to list German ahead of Cantonese and Mandarin on my college apps in the language section because the latter were learned at home and thus, didn’t really count in the eyes of admissions officers. I was told to instead highlight my leadership activities, community service, and creative and artsier side in my application essays because that was comparably more “unique for an Asian.”

 

Of course, that didn’t mean I could skip out on the stereotypical Asian activities. I was told I still had to do equally as well in STEM subjects (particularly math) even though I applied to college as a Politics and English major. And that keeping up with music was necessary because not playing an instrument would look incredibly lacking on my college apps…since I was Asian. No one ever believed me when I told them that I was the one who begged my parents to let me learn piano at age four. Everyone complimented my mom for forcing me to stick with piano throughout high school and assumed that I, supposedly like every other Asian kid, actually hated playing piano and would drop it immediately after its sole purpose of getting me into college was cashed out.

 

There is no denying that in the United States, there is an implicit bias that people of Asian descent are inherently more intelligent, study harder, have stricter parents, and consequently, yield higher grades. This stereotype of Asian-Americans is incredibly dangerous, as it sweeps all individuals of Asian descent under one definition and perpetuates the model minority myth. It ignores the fact that there are 48 different Asian countries and numerous subcultures within those. It allows for Southeast Asian refugees to be lumped into the same category as new-money Chinese and Korean applicants and for a third-generation Japanese kid to be considered as coming from the same background as Indian student who just immigrated two years prior. It promotes the idea that certain achievements or characteristics are simply not as impressive because the individuals behind them are of Asian descent and that the lack of other achievements/characteristics are noticeably more worrying because the individuals are of Asian descent.

 

This is a societal problem and needs to be addressed from the root. Not all Asians are the same. We don’t all come from the same backgrounds, privileges (or lack thereof), and values. “Asian” is not a race. Of course institutions like Harvard are biased against Asian-Americans – the people who these institutions are comprised of have been socially conditioned to hold a certain (very narrow) image of Asians. And I won’t deny that affirmative action is an imperfect system whose flaws should be addressed. But it is just as important to acknowledge that this is but one issue of the larger situation – the warped American education system.

 

Those who argue that Asian-Americans are being hurt by college app process, which supposedly favors Latinx and African-Americans (mentioned in the NYT article) must also consider the advantages afforded to legacy students. We must all acknowledge the spectrum of various privileges bestowed onto different groups in this country (and abroad) and how patterns of such are seen across various demographics. Many people (mostly white people who believe in the model minority myth) like to argue that Asian-Americans make the most money out of all ethnic groups in the USA. While that is true, it is also true that Asian-Americans have the largest wage gap of all ethnic groups in the USA. This is because, as I’ve said before, we’re not all the same. We’re actually incredibly diverse. The global diaspora of Asians is extremely wide and we come from different walks of life, socioeconomic backgrounds, and thus, advantages and disadvantages.

 

I concede that the affirmative action process should be altered so that institutions of higher education consider issues of financial status, familial stability, and personal stories and struggles above those of race. The former factors can be a lot more telling about a candidate than the label of “Asian.”

 

But this is not to say that affirmative action should be thrown away nor that reforming affirmative action will fix the higher education system. There are still so many inequalities suffered by students across the United States that remain untouched, i.e the underfunding of public schools in lower-income areas and the lack of resources allotted to low-income and first-generation students that students who are wealthier and/or whose parents are familiar with the American education system benefit from.

 

As an Asian-American, I demand that the unhealthy and incorrect Asian stereotype is dissolved. But I also refuse to be used as a weapon against other minority groups. I will not allow those who support the flaws of our educational system to pit Asian-Americans against their Latinx and African-American counterparts. If the affirmative action process is undergoing amendment, so should the legacy acceptance process. If we’re going to talk about providing justice to Asian-American students, we must also discuss providing justice to students of other minority groups. We must acknowledge the reality of East Asian privilege over South/Southeast Asians in that even within Asian populations on campuses, individuals of certain ethnic Asian groups outnumber those of others due to socioeconomic factors. We must recognize that there are Asian-Americans who are also low-income, first-generation, and undocumented. Their struggles cannot continue to be ignored and swept under the false construction that is the Asian-American stereotype.

 

This lawsuit does call attention to a problem, but alone, it is not a solution. It doesn’t guarantee justice for Asian-American students. The problem is larger. It is systemic. It is deeply rooted in the biases and racism that Americans, some of whom are Asian-Americans, have been socialized to believe. And it needs to end now. We cannot be satisfied by the outcome of this lawsuit. We must continue to call for reform. There is still so much that needs to be done.

 

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Crazy Rich Asians: The Significance of Representation and for Whom?

As you all likely already know, the movie Crazy Rich Asians premiered a little over a week ago and the craze has been nonstop ever since. After almost 5 years of waiting for this movie (I read the novel in the HKG International Airport in January 2014), I finally took the plunge and saw the movie yesterday. Believe me, I wanted to see it earlier, but I was in Quebec when it was first released.

I loved the film. To me, it was exactly what I had expected: a romantic comedy comprised of equal parts of romance and comedy with good screenwriting, producing, starring the first all-Asian cast since the 1993 film The Joy Luck Club. In fact, many people seemed to have enjoy this movie as I did. In fact, the film has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed over $50 million within just nine days of opening. But there have also been many criticisms made about the movie, the most prominent of which (at least within my circle) is that the movie excludes most non-East Asian minorities within Singapore and therefore is not as inclusive as the revolutionary Asian-American film that many have heralded it to be. In fact, before its premiere, there was talk online about how Crazy Rich Asians was to be the “Asian Black Panther” of movies and film-viewers have complained about the lack of concrete social-justice themes, unlike those of their African-American movie counterparts such as Black Panther or Get Out.

These are all legitimate arguments and to them I respond with this: I think a lot of pressure has been out on this film to be the pinnacle of Asian-American representation in Hollywood, which is where the problems arise. I liken this movie to “Gossip Girl”, which centers around very affluent (mainly white) residents of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It doesn’t claim to represent all New Yorkers, much less all Americans. Similarly, CRA focuses on very affluent Chinese-Singaporeans. It doesn’t claim to represent all Singaporeans, much less all Asians worldwide. As my friend Amy noted, some films tout themselves as a sort of “love letter to a city,” making their lack of diversity worrying and problematic (i.e LaLaLand). Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t make these claims, depicting the characters as Chinese, rather than Singaporean. In fact, the film begins with a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte reading “Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.”

The point of representation in mainstream entertainment media is not that every film or show about Asian people has to be all-inclusive and represent every single kind of Asian person possible. The point of representation is to allow for an eclectic plethora of films to be created, which shed light on a whole array of topics. The point of representation is that there can be movies about rich Chinese people in Singapore and others about Southeast Asian minorities and others about toxic East Asian masculinity and others about sci-fi and the list goes on. The point of representation is that there can be brash comedic characters like Peik Li, elegant style icons like Astrid Leong, and annoying playboys like Bernard Tai.

Crazy Rich Asians is not an Asian Black Panther or Get Out and that’s ok because it wasn’t written to be one. It wasn’t written to be relatable to everybody – fantasy romance movies rarely are. Rather, it’s one in a (hopefully) copious number of Asian-led Hollywood movies that contributes to the larger goal of representation.

After I first read the novel, I immediately thought “what if this became a movie?” and begun scouring my memory for Asian-American actors and actresses I knew of who would be fit for the roles of the characters. Frankly, I couldn’t really think of anyone. Jamie Chung would’ve made a decent Astrid, but the only movie I’d seen her in was a 2009 Disney Channel film and she didn’t even play the protagonist. She’d never starred in any high-profile Hollywood romantic comedies. Nick Young? I can’t remember the last time I saw a Hollywood movie with a young sexy Asian male lead. In fact, I couldn’t think of an Asian male character in Hollywood who wasn’t a nerd, a kung fu master, a violin prodigy, or a math tutor. There’s a reason why so many of the actors and actresses starring in Crazy Rich Asians are “new” faces with little to no experience with acting on the big screen. There hasn’t been much of a place for them in the American mainstream entertainment field thus far.

Crazy Rich Asians is good for Asian-American representation, not because it, alone, represents all Asian people, but because it adds to the list. We now have a modern Asian chick flick in Hollywood. Searching comes out in a couple of days, which will bring an Asian-American-led mystery movie to the public. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before recently made its debut on Netflix, adding a checkmark next to an Asian-American female starring in an American teenage coming-of-age film. Bao, the ten-minute sketch before Incredibles 2, paid homage to the unspoken struggle that many Chinese-American immigrant women face on a daily basis. Kelly Marie Tran recently went down in Hollywood history as the first Asian-American female actress in a sci-fi/fantasy film. One day, there will be an Asian-American equivalent of Black Panther and it, too, will contribute to representation.

But until that happens, we can appreciate how Crazy Rich Asians counters many stereotypes about Asians. The film portrays strong female empowerment of Chinese women: a demographic that has historically struggled and continues to struggle with issues of toxic masculinity and patriarchy both in their home countries and abroad. East Asian women are viewed as submissive not only in East Asian societies, but in Western countries as well – worsened by “sexy oriental” yellow fever fantasies. The characters of Eleanor, Rachel, Astrid and Peik Ling are brave, outspoken, and powerful. They are iconic characters and role models for young girls.

The film also portrays attractive Asian men, like Henry  Golding, Pierre Png,and Chris Pang. This is a stark contrast to the historically negative narrative and image of Asian men in Western societies as smaller, shorter, and overall physically undesirable and less “masculine” to non-Asian women.

In fact, the movie centers around Asian wealth – a concept unknown to most Westerners (primarily Americans), who have grown accustomed to royalty, affluence, and class hierarchy as structures reserved for only white people. In the film, Nick is likened to an Asian Prince Henry and in one scene, Peik Ling’s father scolds his children to eat more, saying “There are kids starving in America!” This comedic take and overall demographic of the characters is educational for many. Because many Westerners learn about Asians from the media and because they have never seen Asian wealth in the media before, it becomes easy for them to believe the stereotype that the only professions Asians participate in are medicine, martial arts, music, and catering. This is not to say that Crazy Rich Asians implies that all Asians are extremely wealthy. Rather, it simply sheds light on the fact that like in white societies, there also exist class distinctions of old-money vs. new money vs. middle class vs. lower class in Asian societies as well, providing a bit of dimension to the western image of Asian people that has been perpetuated in the media for so long. Plot twist: we’re not all the same!

Representation is important. Some might argue that hey, if Asians want to see other Asians on screen, we should watch films from Asia. But that argument blindly ignores the fact that Asian-Americans are a very distinct demographic. Many second and third-generation kids don’t know how to read, write, or even speak their ancestral languages and even those who do are primarily fluent in English. Most don’t identify with their ancestral culture, and more with that of American culture, but also not completely because as the smallest minority in the USA, their narrative is different to that of their non-Asian-American counterparts. They are brought up with different values and perspectives than those in their homelands who share their bloodlines, experiencing different struggles and issues that demand a different kind of representation.

Most importantly, telling Asian-Americans that to get media representation, they must look to the films of their homelands is very reminiscent of statements like “If you don’t like it here, go back to China!” and questions like “No but where are you really from?” And if we can say these things regarding entertainment, what’s to stop us when Asian-Americans demand representation in areas like public office, corporate tables, and fine artistry?

Representation is important.  It can challenge stereotypes, educate people, and inspire masses. It allows us to take a good look at what our world looks like now and gives us room to manifest on screen what we envision for the future.

World Refugee Day – some thoughts by ag

(originally a facebook post, but sharing here too. a day late, but better than not at all)

On #WorldRefugeeDay, I’m taking a moment to reflect. My own mother was a refugee. When she was most vulnerable, this country welcomed her with open arms and allowed her access to opportunities, which coupled with her hard work, gave way to her achievement of her dreams. For that, she (and I) are forever grateful.

However, in years since, the same country has all but turned its backs on refugees facing similar peril. The current administration (different leaders but of the same party) has criminalized and dehumanized such individuals and other bodies seeking the same support and security my mother was granted. It chills me to even consider that had these sentiments and policies been in place just 3 decades ago, I would likely never have been born.

Asylum-seekers are victims, not criminals. Those of us lucky enough to be born in this country will never understand the fear and danger they have faced and how much courage it takes to seek refuge in an entirely foreign country. We cannot even begin to fathom how difficult and frightening it is to start all over and how much work it takes to do so. That is a privilege.

People only seek refuge out of necessity. It is not a choice, it is not fun, and it is not belligerent.

We claim to be a country of freedom and opportunity. We cannot claim those things without recognizing and seizing our social responsibility to provide relief to refugees and other asylum-seeking individuals.

Call your representatives. Donate to relief funds. Vote for fair policies. Challenge those who spread negative misconceptions and sentiments regarding refugees. Recognize your position of privilege and use it as a platform to incite change.

Mirai Nagasu, Chloe Kim, and What the #Olympics2018 Mean for Asian-American Girls

I pulled out my phone to check my notifications during the break of my three-hour evening class to see the TIME’s headline: Mirai Nagasu Lands Historic Triple Axel at 2018 Olympics.

The first ever female U.S figure skater to land a triple axel on an Olympic rink is a second-generation Asian-American from Arcadia, California. We are only 6 years apart. She grew up in my neighboring city, where her parents own a sushi restaurant that I’ve frequented.

My immediate thought? Michelle Kwan. Growing up, I adored Michelle Kwan. She was the spokesperson for the bank my mother worked at so I often attended her performances and occasionally saw her at events. I remember meeting her for the first time when I was seven or so and the wave of admiration and awe that struck me when I shook her hand and posed for a photo. Now don’t get me wrong, I have never been and likely will never be a figure skater for a plethora of reasons (the top one being I lack the necessary physical trait of balance almost altogether), so why is it that I admired Michelle Kwan so much?

Simply put, she was an Asian-American woman who, through her incredible skill and hard work, gained international recognition and respect. My 7-year old self didn’t understand the mechanisms of a triple axel or the politics behind competitions like the Olympics. All I knew was that someone who looked like me was successful and I was inspired by her.

Looking at my socioeconomic background and the environment in which I grew up, I feel incredibly lucky to have had role models who look like me. My congresswoman, Judy Chu, is a third-generation Asian-American female whose ancestors were working-class immigrants. My mayor, for a while at least, was Judy Wong, another Asian-American female, and although she did serve in state prison for a corruption scandal, the point is that I was able to grow up and witness people I resemble and relate to in positions of power and authority. My own mother is one of my greatest role models. A political refugee, she came to this country with nothing but her determination to work hard and create a better life for her and her family, which she did.

Having people you look up to who share the same cultural and physical qualities as you is a privilege. Being told consistently throughout your life by those you admire that the world is your oyster and you are capable of anything you wish is a privilege (thanks Mom and Dad). I am fortunate enough to have had that privilege and I know that being able to turn the TV on and see Michelle Kwan take the stage and Judy Chu push bills in Congress, or even watch my mother rise in rank for her hard work, has empowered me to be the confident and ambitious person I am.

This is why representation matters. To look at someone renowned and inspirational and being able to see yourself is important. I am fortunate enough to have had that experience, but sadly, there are many more in this country who do not. Women make up a 50.8% majority of the U.S population and 60% of all undergraduate degrees, yet only a meager 19.4% in Congress. Of our 45 presidents, none have been female. The statistics get even worse when regarding intersectionality. And please don’t think that this post only regards the issues of race and gender. Aspects like sexuality and religion are just as important and I know that the empowerment Michelle Kwan and Mirai Nagasu provide me is very similar to that which Tom Daly and Adam Rippon may radiate to members of the LGBTQ population. The point is that systemic inequalities are still very much prevalent and serve as barriers to the individual and collective successes in this country. As we saw in the Olympics, a win for Mirai Nagasu is a win for Team USA. In limiting some of us (especially a majority), we hurt all of us.

So when I see people like Mirai Nagasu and Chloe Kim take home monumental sweepstakes on an international stage, I am happy, knowing that so many other girls are at home watching, just as I was, and that they too, will feel inspired and empowered. And I know that this feeling – this privilege – is what fuels so many of our successes, which is why we must continue to fight for representation across the spectrum of identities that exist in our country. In doing so, we continue to make history.

Women’s March LA

January 20th, 2018. 1 year of Trump. 1 day of the first government shutdown since 2013. $0.77 paid to women for the $1.00 a man makes for the same work. Over 600,000 reSISTERs and allies took the streets of Los Angeles in protest.

 

I woke up to a blaring alarm clock at 7:00 am this morning and scrambled to put on my bright pink “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” t-shirt. Unfortunately, I arrived at the Claremont train depot just as my Metrolink train took off. Luckily, the LA public transportation system had added to their schedule this Saturday and I only had to wait 20 minutes for the next train to come. Upon arriving at Union Station and taking the Red line to Pershing Square, I was overwhelmed by the number of pink beanies, creative cardboard signs, and graphic slogan t-shirts that filled Hill Street.

 

We listened excitedly as Mayor Eric Garcetti said “Mr. President, you may know how to shut things down, but we know how to light them up. You’ve got your tweets, but we own these streets!”

 

We chanted heartfelt slogans of protest like “Donald Trump is a crook! And he’s never read a book!” and “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”

 

We cheered to the voices of Kamala Harris, Idina Menzel, Natalie Portman, and Viola Davis onstage.

 

We flooded Pershing Square with energy unparalleled to what I’d ever witnessed before.

 

It was a day of celebration, love, acceptance, and resistance.

 

Above all, I was touched most by the diversity of people present. I saw men and women, young and old, of all different ethnicities, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and walks of life all gathered in solidarity to demand gender equality.

 

Multiple men, young and old, carried signs reading “Men of Quality Do Not Fear Equality.” One little boy hoisted a poster reading “Girls Rule Trump Drools.” One senior citizen on my Metro pointed to a girl’s shirt that read “Still Nasty” and gave her a thumbs-up, saying “I love that. You go.”

 

On the streets, the females chanted “My body, My choice!”, while the men responded “Their body, Their choice!”

 

At one point, Hispanic men and women began chanting “Sí, se puede!”

 

Older women carried posters that read “I march so that my daughter won’t have to.”

 

Younger girls wore shirts that read “I fight like a girl.”

 

A teenage girl raised a hand-made sign that displayed “This one’s for my immigrant mom.”

 

In the midst of a divided world, seeing the spirit of alliance and harmony allowed a glimmer of hope to reenter my heart. It’s easy to get caught up in the walls that disconnect us and the destruction we cause and suffer from, but moments like these – participating in a global movement – reminds us that what we’re fighting for is worth all the disappointment and hatred we encounter along the way.

 

This isn’t just a celebrity award show that pundits like Tomi Lahren and Sean Hannity can discredit as empty back-patting and sycophant words that don’t actually impact change. This was a statement from hundreds of thousands of men and women worldwide, making it clear that we will no longer stand for gender inequality. We no longer stand for misogyny. We no longer stand for sexism. We no longer stand for sexual harassment and abuse of power. We no longer stand for an unequal wage gap. We refuse to fight one another for the limited number of female seats at the table. We demand a larger and proportional table. And together, we have the numbers. We will show up to the voting booths, just as we showed up in the streets, and we will vote our statements into law.

 

Time is Up. We have made our voices heard and we will continue to do so until gender equality is achieved. The fight has just begun.

 

Watch my Women’s March vlog!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0ap9TgtsvY

 

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Liu XiaoBo – Unerasable

While Chinese censors are anxiously scrubbing away at social media content, the world continues to mourn for Liu Xiabo. At 61, Xiabo died due to late-stage cancer in his liver. The Chinese government that had imprisoned him for two decades released news of his sickness only days before his death. During the G20 summit, world leaders such as Chancellor Merkel offered repeatedly to hospitalize and attempt to treat Liu. Their offers were coldly turned down. Professor Liu passed away on Thursday, July 13th, 2017.

An emphatic dissident, political prisoner, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Liu died a martyr’s death: an ending most governments would hope to abate for its enemies. After all, allowing your opponents to die for what they believe in not only makes them appear stronger and justified, but makes the leadership appear cruel and unjust. History has shown this to be true, through the cases of William Wallace, Joan of Arc, Socrates, and others alike. If anything, these examples have proved that martyrdom does not silence a cause, but instead, propels it forward. It strikes a match within those who have not been moved to take a stand and burns even heavier in the hearts of those who have. Leaders from all around the world, from as early as King Henry of France and Queen Mary of Scotland, have learned to prevent their enemies from becoming martyrs. So why did the Chinese government allow Professor Liu to die a hero – a martyr? To answer this question, we must trace back centuries into the roots of Chinese history.

The “People’s Republic Of” China, as we know it, was not always a Communist regime. For dynasties, (Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing) it was a tyrannical one, ruled by emperors and kings who would pass their titles down to their progeny until leadership grew weak and rulers were overthrown or conquered. Strong, vicious rulers like Shi Huangdi maintained order and obedience in their realms by imposing fear in the hearts of their subjects. Shi burned thousands of earlier books he deemed politically dangerous. By the way, ‘politically dangerous’ usually meant the texts featured benevolent and gracious rulers, who the emperor didn’t want citizens to compare him to. It is also known that he buried hundreds of Confucian scholars alive because he viewed their “rulers have a responsibility towards citizens” philosophy as a threat as well. The damage ensued by this destruction of intellect and knowledge is inestimable. It may as well have erased thousands of years of culture and academia.

What does Shi Huangdi have to do with Liu Xiabo? Not much, some might think. But as the first true Chinese emperor (as many consider him to be), Shi Huangdi set a precedent that many following him would emulate, for centuries to come.

Many Westerners find it hard to understand just how powerful ancient Chinese rulers were. That is because they compare such reigns to those of Western figures. For example, in European courts, kings (and unmarried queens) were heads of their states, however, they did not possess true ultimate power. Many looked to Rome for religious influence and aid, especially before the Protestantism spread. Others were often limited by the beliefs and stances of their nobles, as seen in French courts. Nearly if not all of them were required to follow some sort of legal process of the justice system before condemning enemies to any type of punishment. One way or another, these leaders were beholden to their citizenry. Even in a court so corrupt as King Henry VIII of England’s, trials were held against political prisoners, even if evidence and testimony had to be falsified to condemn them. This was not at all the case in ancient China. Whereas western rulers were accepted to be appointed and blessed by God himself, Chinese rulers were thought to be God in human form. They did not have to provide reason for killing their subjects, much less providing lesser punishment. They were not beholden to the same rules, regulations, and laws of their realms.

And thus, a political culture of utmost obedience of the people to the government was born. Those in charge felt they could subject the commons to whatever they saw fit, without question. And so, when the communist party took control of China in 1949, its leadership assumed total control. Chairman Mao Zedong famously said something along the lines of “Shi Huangdi only killed 460 scholars. We killed 4,600.” Yeah, fun. The Communist Party also proceeded to rid its realm of ‘rightists’ and right-wing content of any sort. Such political philosophies were considered treasonous. Even after Mao’s death and the slight opening-up of China to the rest of the world, human rights are still out of the question. False propaganda imbue the daily lives of the Chinese citizenry. Those who marched in the 1989 Tiananmen Square Demonstration were massacred, mowed down by government tanks. Peaceful proponents of a a fair judicial system, free market, and uncensored media, such as Liu Xiaobo were attacked and imprisoned, labeled traitors. The firewall went up and continues to erase and block content from the lives of almost 1.4 billion people every day, just as Shi and Mao destroyed texts in their respective eras.

So with all this in mind, it’s understandable why a Communist China does not fear Liu Xiabo’s martyrdom. With the tools in hand to essentially blind their citizenry to any potential threat and the unwavering support of the supposedly greatest proponent of democracy in the world, China has little to fear. The United States government, while lamenting the undeserving death of Professor Liu, has not severed any ties with the realm. In fact, in the wake of Liu’s death, President Trump has proudly announced that the ban on American beef has been lifted in China, furthering US-China trade. Many have also spoken out against former President Obama for his promise to veto Senator Ted Cruz’s measure, which proposed naming the street in front of the Chinese Embassy after Professor Liu, in an effort to take a stance against Communist China’s denial of human rights to its citizenry. In other words, the USA has given China it’s A-OK to proceed.

That’s why the Chinese government allowed Liu Xiaobo to become a martyr. That’s why they ignore the #FreeLiuXia protestors, keeping Liu Xiaobo’s wife under house arrest for no other crime than being his loving wife. They think they have no reason to be afraid. They think they can hide the dissent and opposition and are likely erasing this article from millions of servers in this moment. They think they can silence us.

Are they correct?

You decide.

5 Books You Need to Read Before You Graduate High School

As you might have gathered, I’m a sucker for good writing. An avid reader, I think good literature is key to understanding the world and the people in it. I’ve read a fair number of books throughout high school, some of which have resonated with me more than others have. With just under 2 months left of high school, I’ve decided to compile a list of 5 books that I would recommend every highschooler read before they graduate.

Oh and as for any book, I would definitely recommend reading from a tangible text, but in case that is not an option, I’ve included links to pdfs for all of the books.

5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This book was probably one of the first I had read about Afghanistan, so it definitely enlightened me about the culture, especially the religious and political turmoil there. The book is fiction, but many aspects of the book are derived from Hosseini’s actual experiences, as someone who fled Soviet-imbued Afghanistan. The stark imagery and chilling details contribute to a reverberating story. The symbolism in this novel is also heavy, which is always a penchant for me. Personally, I love symbolism and when it is utilized well in literature, I automatically am more captivated by the text. The book does break hearts, but leaves readers emotional yet inspired, as it ends on an extremely hopeful note. Please read.

4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Although the book is as dismal as its title insinuates, I was compelled by the Capote’s take on the plot. Instead of simply reporting on the murder and its repercussions, Capote takes a controversial stance. He digs into the pasts of the murderer, analyzing what led him to kill, ultimately revealing a soft side of him. Influencing an audience to understand and even sympathize with a murderer is neither easy nor universally condoned but Capote accomplishes it. This unconventional approach to such a story was fascinating and it inspired me to also stray from the orthodox in my own writing in the hopes of shedding light on important yet often ignored ideas. Most importantly it showed me that sometimes, the most interesting and worthwhile stories are hidden in the obscurity of the atypical. Oh and by the way, In Cold Blood is a true story. Happy reading!

3. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

I read this book during the summer before my sophomore year, a period during which I was quite aware of my insecurities and lack of confidence. A book about a young 2nd generation immigrant boy’s struggle to discover and make peace with his identity, The Namesake really struck a chord with me. I could completely relate to Gogol – feeling lost, unbelonging, and ashamed. Seeing his journey of self-acceptance over the span of decades really inspired and guided me to forge my own similar path. Overall, this novel is beautiful, intricate, and highly symbolic (again, I’m a sucker for that stuff). Jhumpa Lahiri is my favorite author of all time and I would actually recommend all of her works to anyone in search of a good read.

2. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

I’m pretty sure everyone knows who Malala Yousafzai is but just in case you don’t, she is a young girl from the Swat Valley who was shot by the Taliban because she wanted to go to school. Her autobiography details her culture, upbringing, and heroism. It not only tells her story, but that of her country and the injustice and violence that has swept the Middle East. Inspiring and eye-opening, I am Malala will make you feel guilty for everything you have ever taken for granted, especially the right to education.

1.  Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Throughout the novel, Gladwell discusses the concept of success and some of the arbitrary and often unrecognized factors which allow some people to rise to high success, becoming outliers in their fields. The depth reached in this book is achieved through examining the roots and elements of different scenarios and the research and analysis presented in this book is unlike that of anything I’d ever read. In searching beneath the surfaces of facts that most people just accept, Gladwell analyzes the unsuspecting components and criteria that can determine and explain success.

Tomi Silenced – MY final thoughts

If you’re on the Internet, you probably know Tomi Lahren, outspoken conservative talk show host of “Tomi” on The Blaze. She is best known for the Final Thoughts segment on her show, which can be viewed on TheBlaze.com or her public Facebook page.

Tomi has grown to become an Internet sensation, branding herself as someone who is not afraid to speak her truth, despite how unpopular it may be. She has continually dissented against Colin Kaepernick, Hollywood, Black Lives Matter, liberals in general, and #NeverTrump Republicans. She has proudly declared herself a conservative (although she also has said she’s a millenial who doesn’t like labels but that is beside the point for this article) and many see her as the face of young Republicans.

Basically, Tomi and her opinions were strongly embraced by the right end of the political spectrum for a long time…until this week. During a  guest session on The View, Tomi explained her reasoning for being pro-choice, saying that as a constitutionalist and a supporter of limited government, she felt it wasn’t appropriate for the government to tell women what they could or could not do to their bodies. According to Tomi, taking any other stance would make her a hypocrite.

Apparently, The Blaze’s executives didn’t appreciate Tomi’s honest opinion because they silenced her from the show and according to Internet discussion (which can be less than reliable) are considering cutting her segment altogether.

To be honest, I laughed. Because for a network whose executives, hosts, guests, and viewers so ferociously launch tirades against liberal ‘snowflakes’ who apparently antagonize and exclude those who do not share their beliefs, that’s a pretty hypocritical move. When your speakers are preaching day and night about the 1st Amendment and how we might not agree with what someone has to say but we should respect their right to say it and then you move to silence someone who expressed a belief unpopular among conservatives, that is hypocrisy at its finest. Ironically, it’s why Tomi said she was pro-choice at all – because she didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

So yes, I never thought I’d say this but I stand with Tomi Lahren. I might not agree with her political philosophy and beliefs (in fact, I strongly disagree on those premises), but I agree with her right to express them, using whatever platform she wants. I support and respect her choosing to speak and defend her truth as well as maintain her consistency. The best part is, I’m not the only one who feels this way. People from all over the political spectrum (especially the left!) have been supporting Tomi Lahren during her forced TV silence. The Daily Show host Trevor Noah defended her in one of his broadcasts this week and Twitter users have been expressing their support in her replies.

Tomi recognized this in a recent tweet.

2017-03-22

Yes, Tomi. It does feel good to know that women, like I, who may disagree with you on almost everything, can put those differences aside to support you when we know you are right. It’s almost like we can be understanding. Tolerant. Reasonable. Respectful.

Liberals.

 

Where I’m From

A poem about identity

I am from voices chanting in the street

Songs of revolution, cries of despair.

I am from political protest and peril

Footsteps in sync, signs thrusting in the air

I’m from an unlikely couple

Who discovered true love in a period of unrest

Fleeing a communist China, seeking refuge in the West

I am from they who started at the bottom, yet have climbed to the top

Through whose sweat, blood, and tears gave me all they never got

I’m from a three bedroom home in suburban LA

From a never-ending drought and cars zooming by all day

I’m from a school of two thousand

Most of whom look like me

Whose parents also ventured from afar

To the land of the free

I am joined with others in Him, through Sundays in the pews

My quadralingual story known only by few

I am from the Goddess of Democracy who instilled in me

An innermost passion for justice and liberty

I am from books whose fiction triggered creativity

Inspiring me to jot down my whimsical stories

I’m from notebook paper stamped with Hello Kitty detailing

Which morphed into Word documents saved on my desktop PC

I am from picture books and chapter books

From Aesop’s Fables to Fitzgerald

And later, scribbling away on my own

I am from preschool piano, bubbling with excitement at age four.

Feet dangling from the bench, barely reaching the pedal

I am from local studio recitals at my nearby church

To concerts in Prague’s castles, before an international crowd.

I am from years of sore fingers tapping both sorts of keyboards

Separate mediums for catharsis of all sorts.

I am from a salad bowl of culture

Of roots stemming back centuries.

I’m from historical tragedies larger than anything I’ve ever seen.

From an immigrant couple achieving the American Dream

Who waited until they prospered to then beget me.

But I’m also from choices I’ve made for myself.

From mistakes that I’ve made and the cards that I’ve dealt.

I’m from hobbies and interests unique to just me.

I’m from the place I was born, but also all the other places I’ve been.

From Europe and Asia, the sky and the sea

Where I go and what I see inspires whom I want to be.

Hamilton the Musical: My thoughts

Warning: this article includes heavy use of Hamilton references. 

How does a bastard, orphan, son of whore and a Scotsman dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by Providence impoverished in squalor turn out to be the best musical to have been ever brought to Broadway?

If you know me, you know that I am completely obsessed with Hamilton the Musical. It’s a Broadway musical that tells the life story of Alexander Hamilton and the American experiment. Hamilton is not a traditional musical, as it incorporates contemporary styles of music, such as rap, British punk, and hip hop. Basically, it fuses together the three things I love most: history, music, and beautiful writing, so it’s no surprise that I have been swept into the Hamilton craze. Oh and also, it’s race-blind. The cast consists of people of all ethnicities so yes, GW is African American. So is Angelica Schuyler. And Aaron Burr. Lin-Manuel Miranda (the composer and star) explains that Hamilton is a story about “America then told by America today”. Pretty freaking brilliant, if you ask me.

Favorite songs include:

You’ll be Back, Yorktown, Schuyler Sisters, Satisfied, Wait for It, Election of 1800, Cabinet Battle #1, and Cabinet Battle #2.

No particular order.

Perhaps one of the best characteristics of Hamilton, though, is that it is very inspiring. It shows the rise of a man who was born into poverty and low social standing, but managed to become a hero and a scholar. It shows the difficulties our country faced in its early stages and the people who fought to work through them. It is the story of someone obsessed with his legacy, who made mistakes, who suffered through his character flaws, and who helped set the groundwork for our nation.

Alexander Hamilton embodies courage, confidence, ambition, justice, intelligence, as well as arrogance and worry. Hamilton knew that above all, he wanted to be remembered. He wanted the world to know his name. He wanted to leave a legacy and he was willing to do anything to make that happen. And for that, I am inspired by him. I want the same things he does and I think that inherently, all people do. Perhaps that is why the musical is so well-received. Alexander Hamilton is the epitome of the American dream: an immigrant who made his way to the top and continued to fight for those at the bottom. And if the ten-dollar founding father without a father can achieve the American Dream by working a lot harder, being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter then so can you. At least that’s what Lin-Manuel Miranda is trying to convince you of.

I think that many of Hamilton’s ideals are still relevant today  (@DonaldTrump please listen to the soundtrack and rethink your campaign. Actually, you live in NY so you should really go see the musical. You, of all people, can afford it.) Immigrants are not lice upon society. Our nation was built by immigrants, quite literally. Hamilton, a founding father, was born out of wedlock in the Caribbean. Marquis de Lafayette was a French general who America could not have won the war without. In fact, every person in the musical is a immigrant because it doesn’t feature Native Americans. So all the despicability about immigrants as social and financial parasites needs to end. Also! Women’s rights! I’m perplexed as to why it is 2016 and women still make 77 cents to the dollar a man makes, even when they have the same positions and qualifications.It’s crazy that the ERA, started by Alice Paul DECADES AGO still hasn’t been passed. ??????????? no.

Alexander Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler, and George Washington would not be proud. So @AMERICA please… let’s do something about it. Do not throw away your shot because after all, History has its eyes on you.  I’m not sorry for the puns and references. Please go listen to the soundtrack. Also, the show is coming to Pantages this August-December so if you want to buy me a ticket, please do it. Please.

Soundtrack links:

Spotify:

Youtube: