Democrats ignore Asian American and Pacific Islander voters at their peril

Posted on September 10th, 2019 by imprentacomm

Democrats ignore Asian American and Pacific Islander voters at their peril

Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have struggled to achieve national visibility as a political population for many decades. Now the AAPI population stands at around 5 percent and is achieving increasing visibility. Will the 2020 election finally be the moment when presidential candidates and other national political figures put AAPIs into the foreground? 

In the past, AAPIs have appeared on the national political landscape usually only in moments of crisis, like the campaign finance scandal involving Chinese or Chinese-American donors to the Democratic Party during the Clinton administration; the concern over Chinese or Chinese American scientists and China’s attempts to steal American technology; or the Asian American role in affirmative action debates.

In many of these cases, Asian Americans do not control the political narrative. The last national AAPI political movement that did control the narrative was the successful Japanese American effort for national recognition of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. That led to an apology from President Reagan and symbolic financial reparations from Congress.

AAPIs, who have often felt overlooked by both Democrats and Republicans, have struggled to make themselves heard in both parties. But while Asian Americans have in the past been drawn to both parties, their numbers have begun moving towards the Democratic Party, even as the Democratic Party has not always been responsive to Asian American concerns. Nevertheless, in 2016, AAPIs helped Hillary Clinton to win in swing states with large AAPI populations, such as Nevada and Virginia. Democratic wins in these states were accomplished despite minimal investment from the Clinton campaign and were due to the tremendous groundwork done by grassroots AAPI organizations to get out the AAPI vote. 

The mid-term elections of 2018 further emphasized the increasing political power of AAPIs. AAPI voters helped to flip four seats in Orange County’s (California) congressional delegation from Republican to Democratic. AAPI candidates added to their gain from 2016, when Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) were elected to the U.S. Senate and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) to the U.S. House, leading to a record high 20 AAPI members of Congress, with three senators and 17 representatives. 

The 2020 election cycle has already seen a continuation of the momentous growth of AAPI political power. Previously, the only Asian American candidates for president were both Republicans, Hawaii Senator Hiram Fong in 1964 and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in 2016. As of now, there are still three Democratic presidential hopefuls of AAPI descent in the 2020 race — Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Harris and New York entrepreneur Andrew Yang. The presence of these AAPI candidates has energized the AAPI grassroots, donors and other influencers.

The Democratic Party has historically taken the AAPI vote for granted. This is a mistake. Of all the major racial and ethnic groups, AAPIs are least likely to be adherent to one party or the other. Almost 40 percent of AAPIs do not identify as Democrat or Republican. The Republican Party has recognized that this population is crucial to its hopes in current and future elections as the demographic shifts in this country lead to fewer white voters and more African American and Latino voters, who tend to vote for Democrats.

In 2016, it could be argued that if Hillary Clinton had paid more attention to the AAPI population, she would have won the Electoral College vote. Wisconsin, for example, contains approximately 70,000 AAPI voters. But the Clinton campaign didn’t reach out to them, and she ended up losing the state by 22,748 votes. Clinton did not even show up to the only national AAPI presidential forum in 2016 in Nevada.

But it appears that Democratic candidates still do not grasp that in a divided country, AAPIs can be the margin of victory. For example, only Gabbard, Yang and Marianne Williamson have committed to the only AAPI national forum for Democratic presidential candidates, the AAPI Progressive Democratic Presidential Forum, being held in Costa Mesa, California, on September 8.

This despite the fact that California is an early voting state with a large number of votes that may determine who wins the Democratic nomination. This despite the fact that AAPIs constitute 15 percent of California’s population

The Democratic candidates have clearly recognized the importance of appealing to minority voters. Ten were present at the Native American Presidential Forum in Iowa in August; eight candidates were present at a Latino-focused forum in Miami in June.

Why do they neglect the AAPI population? Ignoring AAPIs as a valued minority group plays directly into the conservative strategy of using AAPIs as the counterweight to America’s demographic shifts, first exemplified in the creation of the model minority myth in the 1960s.

AAPIs have made progress in the fight for their voices to be heard across fields such as art, film and television, and literature. Political power and representation are where they fight for their rights to exist, to contribute and to thrive. While many AAPIs will line up to fight against President Trump and his administration’s attacks on the AAPI population through anti-immigration policies such as the new public charge mandate, many more will stay at home if their issues are not addressed and their votes are not courted.

As the 2016 election showed, national elections can turn on thousands of voters. Asian American and Pacific Islander voters can make a difference, and they certainly will in the near future. Whether Democrats or reasonable, moderate Republicans will win their votes remains to be seen.

Tung Nguyen is formerly chair of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and is currently chair of AAPI Progressive Action, an organization dedicated to empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for a strong and diverse America.

Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer and the short story collection The Refugees. He is a professor at the University of Southern California.


Posted on August 6th, 2019 by imprentacomm

The five-part documentary series will air in time for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Character Media reports that PBS is releasing a five-part documentary series titled Asian Americans next year.

In time for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May 2020, the series is produced by Renee Tajima-Peñ (Who Killed Vincent Chin?) with a team of Asian American filmmakers.

The series will feature how Asian American culture has formed from Chinese immigration dating back to the 1850s.

WETA and the Center for Asian American Media will also produce the series.

“As America’s home for documentaries, PBS is committed to telling stories that illuminate and celebrate the rich diversity of our country,” Paula Kerger, PBS president and CEO, said. “We are proud to share this important series with our audiences, and to deepen understanding about the extraordinary impact of Asian Americans on our national identity.”

“‘Asian Americans’ is a comprehensive multiplatform initiative that will embrace the question of what it means to be an American,” Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA, said. “Following our previous series, ‘The Jewish Americans,’ ‘The Italian Americans’ and ‘Latino Americans’, WETA remains committed to revealing the significant stories of the entire American people.”

“We are proud to support the Center for Asian American Media for the important work they do bringing programs about the Asian American experience to public media and audiences across the country,” Pat Harrison, CPB president and CEO, said. “CPB is committed to supporting diverse content for and about people of all backgrounds, and ‘Asian Americans’ is a powerful example of our mission.”

Asian women fought the West’s slave trade. And then they were written out of history

Posted on August 6th, 2019 by imprentacomm

Tien Fuh Wu with Mission Home residents

Tien Fuh Wu, far left, was a former slave and key member of the Mission Home staff in San Francisco, which disrupted sex trafficking in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She is posing with residents of the home in the 1920s.(Presbyterian Historical Society)

It was nearly dusk on Dec. 14, 1933, when a Chinese teen named Jeung Gwai Ying fled from a hairdresser’s shop to a “safe house” in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Trafficked from China and forced into prostitution, Jeung sought freedom for herself and her unborn child. She was greeted by Tien Fuh Wu, a former slave who’d become a key staffer at the home. In Cantonese, Wu asked the teen to tell her story. Later, Wu would provide support for Jeung as she testified in court against her traffickers, who were convicted.

In the early decades of the 20th century, Wu was a key player in the fight against sex trafficking, a pervasive form of slavery in the West. But like many other Asian activists and anti-slavery pioneers, her name and story have been all but erased from most contemporary histories, in favor of stories that cast her white colleagues — women and men — in heroic, larger-than-life roles.

Most accounts of the rescue home at 920 Sacramento St. focus on the work of its longtime superintendent, Donaldina Cameron, a white Presbyterian missionary. As the youngest daughter of a Scottish sheep rancher, she had lived on a 19,000-acre sheep ranch in the San Gabriel Valley in the 1880s before moving to San Francisco to work at the rescue home in 1895. Cameron was a tall, auburn-haired woman with a Scottish lilt who fascinated headline writers and the public alike. She regularly staged dramatic rescues of so-called slave girls from their owners, in her Victorian era’s parlance.

Cameron’s courageous contributions were impressive without doubt, but she was only one character in this tale of sex, violence and resilience. For decades, Wu was in many ways her “right-hand woman” — helping Cameron run the home, communicating with the trafficked women in Cantonese, and campaigning and advocating for them in court and elsewhere. Wu and other Asian staffers made Cameron’s work possible.

While researching my book about the San Francisco rescue home, I came to realize just how pervasive this “white savior” narrative is in the retelling of this horrifying chapter of Asian American history. In the archival material, press accounts and biographies I came across, the stories of white Christian women were invariably placed front and center, with barely a mention of their Asian colleagues who often did much of the work behind the scenes.

This is a pervasive problem in many historical narratives — making the white experience the central theme in accounts of people of color. The problem is compounded by widespread racist cultural stereotypes from the era that persist today that paint Asian women as either passive helpers or tragic victims, rather than as radicals or crucial central figures. I tried to take particular care to correct this imbalance — not just to tell the stories of Chinese activists who have been largely erased from mainstream history — but also give them the prominence they deserve.

These women were pioneers in what is now called the anti-human trafficking movement. Through their efforts, they touched an enormous number of lives throughout California and the nation. An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 residents passed through San Francisco’s Presbyterian Mission Home between the time it opened in 1874 and the mid-1930s. Cameron, Wu and other staffers from the home crisscrossed the state and the country for decades, aiding vulnerable women and speaking out against the slave trade.

This extraordinary and often cash-strapped band of activists managed to disrupt the lucrative business of human trafficking between China and America for more than half a century.

Wu’s story is particularly fascinating. She arrived at the rescue home in San Francisco about 15 months before Cameron. By Wu’s own account, she had been sold by her father in China to pay off his gambling debts. When she was about 8 years old, she traveled by steamer to San Francisco, where she worked as a mui tsai, or child servant. After her owner abused her, authorities became aware of her plight and brought her to the rescue home.

Regarded as a bright and precocious child, Wu learned to read and write English at the home and eventually attended an elite boarding school in Philadelphia and a Bible college in Toronto. Upon graduating, she returned to China with the hope of locating her family. Having no luck, she returned to the mission home, where she worked for decades as a translator and managed the large group home that had as many as 60 girls and women — mainly of Asian descent — living there at any one time.

When the home would receive a message that a child or young woman was in danger or distress, Wu or another Chinese rescue worker would go with Cameron to the apartment or brothel often accompanied by a police officer or private guard. The Chinese staffer would often make the first approach, asking to be let in. If the doorkeeper refused, the officer or guard would try to push their way in, even if it meant breaking down the door.

The work undertaken by the Mission Home staff often included repeated court appearances, since traffickers often fought to reclaim what they regarded as their human property. Wu served as a translator many times over the years, in court and in dealings with immigration officials.

My research also uncovered the relatively unknown stories of what happened to many of the girls and women who escaped sex slavery and other forms of subjugation to find their freedom. They were far from passive victims. Many chose to continue the fight against slavery by working as translators and running the home on a day-to-day basis. One former resident, Yamada Waka, set up a refuge in Japan modeled on 920 Sacramento St. for Japanese women forced into prostitution.

One of the more poignant moments during my research occurred at Evergreen Cemetery on the Eastside of Los Angeles. There, in the Cameron family plot, was a modest marker for Wu. Her burial place speaks to her importance in Cameron’s life — and to the pivotal role she played in their decades-long battle against sex trafficking.

Rui Hachimura Is Ready to Make History for Japan in the N.B.A.

Posted on July 17th, 2019 by imprentacomm

Hachimura was drafted in the first round on Thursday, making him the first Japanese player to be selected that soon.

CreditJeff Swinger/Associated Press

By the time Rui Hachimura came to Gonzaga University for an official visit in October 2015, he had already been on the cover of Slam Magazine — the basketball and hip-hop culture bible — back home in Japan.

The son of a Japanese mother and a father from the West African nation of Benin, Hachimura became the first Japanese player ever selected in the first round of the N.B.A. draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center, where he went No. 9 overall to the Washington Wizards.

The moment is not lost on the 6-foot-8 Hachimura, who spent three seasons in relative anonymity at Gonzaga, in the West Coast Conference. Though he held his own media day for Japanese reporters when he was at Gonzaga, the draft is, in effect, his American debut. He said a junior high school coach in Japan once told him this moment would come.

“It’s been crazy,” Hachimura told reporters in New York on Wednesday. “I can’t even believe when I started playing basketball, the coach pointed at me and he said, ‘You’re going N.B.A.’ And somehow, I was stupid, and I believed him.”

But, he continued: “And I’m really here now. It’s crazy, actually.”

This past season, Hachimura averaged 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Zags, who breezed to another regular-season conference title and then lost to Texas Tech in the round of eight in the N.C.A.A. tournament. Hachimura had 22 points and 6 rebounds in that game.

Hachimura now looks up to N.B.A. stars like Kawhi Leonard, who led the Toronto Raptors to their first championship last week, and the Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. “I like to watch them a lot — how they play, how they use their bodies,” Hachimura said.

Jay Bilas, a college basketball analyst for ESPN, recently described Hachimura as “really strong and very, very skilled.”

“He’s a terrific pull-up jump shooter,” Bilas said Wednesday on the ESPN morning show “Get Up!” He added: “I think Hachimura has got a very high ceiling. I rank him 11th over all in this draft among prospects. He’s a very, very talented player.”

Tommy Lloyd, an assistant at Gonzaga, said he sensed that kind of ceiling was possible the first time he saw Hachimura play, for Japan at the 2014 FIBA Under-17 World Championships in the United Arab Emirates. His team was a nonfactor, but Hachimura led the tournament in scoring, averaging 22.1 points a game.

“At the time, he was like 6-6 and he looked like he still hadn’t physically developed yet,” Lloyd said. “He was strong, but it still looked like there was a lot of upside. And you just thought, ‘Man, if we could take this package and he physically matures a little bit, we could really have something.’ ”

Now that Hachimura is about to make N.B.A. history for Japan, he expressed pride at being a role model for biracial children — he describes himself as “black-anese” — who he said often experience discrimination in Japan.

“There a lot of black and half-Japanese, and they play sports, and they are actually good at it,” Hachimura said. “So I think it’s going to be great for them to see this moment.”

Asian Americans Call Out Pence’s Chief Of Staff For ‘Tokenizing’ Elaine Chao

Posted on July 17th, 2019 by imprentacomm

Marc Short, chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence, claimed that Elaine Chao’s role as secretary of transportation in the Trump administration is “evidence” that the president isn’t racist, prompting many Asian Americans to speak out to set the record straight.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted that four Democratic congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”  

After Trump received widespread backlash for the tweet, Short attempted to claim that Chao’s position in Trump’s cabinet was somehow indicative of his morals. 

“When people write that the president has racist motives here, it’s just, look at the reality at who’s actually serving in Donald Trump’s cabinet,” he told Fox News’ Dagen McDowell

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff. (Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images)
Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff. (Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images)

In an effort to clarify Short’s statement, Pence’s deputy press secretary Darin Miller made a separate racist point about the type of immigrant the Trump administration deems worthy. 

“Secretary Chao’s story is an example of what the President supports: She came legally to the U.S., worked hard and assimilated,” Miller wrote in an email to HuffPost. 

Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the social services nonprofit Asian American Federation, told HuffPost that she initially “cringed and laughed” at Short’s rationale.  

“To tokenize the one Asian woman in the President’s cabinet is further evidence of the racism perpetuated in the Trump White House,” Yoo said. 

She added: “Short thinks that you can absolve yourself from racism by knowing/hiring one Asian. He is dead wrong! There is diversity in communities of color and to say one person can represent all the communities of color is ignorant and insulting.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, echoed many of Yoo’s thoughts. In a statement to HuffPost, Chu wrote that the president’s relationship with Chao doesn’t excuse his racist tweets. 

″‘Go back to your home’ is an unambiguously hateful statement that Trump made simply because of the race of the four Members of Congress he was attacking,” she wrote. “I have had that attack hurled against me, as have many other Americans. And never once has the pain been lessened by knowing that the racist insult was said by somebody who may also know another minority.”

Trump’s tweets are not only racist but are also an attempt “to paint U.S. citizens with immigrant roots as less American than anyone else,” Chu told HuffPost in a separate statement

She noted that many in Asian American communities have been told to “go back to where they came from” regardless of how long their families have lived in the United States.

Chao’s seat in the administration can hardly be considered a win for diversity, added John C. Yang, the president and executive director of the civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice. 

Since Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation in April, there are only three women in Trump’s cabinet. A New York Times piece in 2017 pointed out that the president’s cabinet was, at the time, already the most white and most male since the 1980s.

“Elaine Chao’s position in the administration is a pebble in an ocean of diverse talent that could be serving in this administration,” Yang said. “The virtual absence of any African American or Latino American judicial nominees, and the exceedingly few diverse faces in any public gathering involving this president shows that the president is not interested in unifying Americans but rather is only interested in dividing us into different factions.” 

Ultimately, Yang said, Short is using an Asian American “to justify the treatment and marginalization of other communities of color like African Americans and Latinx Americans.” 

“Short’s comment was deeply offensive on many levels.”

This story has been updated to include a comment from the vice president’s office.

Yes, Kim Kardashian’s ‘Kimono’ is cultural appropriation. And she’s not alone

Posted on July 10th, 2019 by imprentacomm

Yes, Kim Kardashian’s ‘Kimono’ is cultural appropriation. And she’s not alone
Kim Kardashian West in 2015. (Lionel Cironneau / Associated Press)

A Japanese word that means “a thing to wear,” “kimono” commonly refers to traditional Japanese garments that have been around for hundreds of years. Furisode, iromuji, mofuku and yukata are just a few of the different types of kimonos that are still worn for different occasions.

It’s not at all a word associated with undergarments, but Kim Kardashian West is trying to change that. On Tuesday — less than a month after the last day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month — the reality star and beauty mogul launched Kimono Solutionwear, her shapewear line meant to be inclusive of a range of body shapes, sizes and skin tones.

And she’s filed paperwork to trademark “Kimono” (as well as “Kimono Body,” “Kimono Intimates” and “Kimono World”). Because what’s a new entrepreneurial venture without protecting your brand?

But Kardashian West’s appropriation of the word “kimono” for a line of products that have nothing to do with kimonos is problematic because it completely removes the word from any cultural or historical contexts. Her marketing decision ignores and erases both Japanese tradition and very specific Japanese American experiences.Kim Kardashian just trademarked ‘Kimono.’ Let the backlash begin »

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

Kim Kardashian West@KimKardashian

Finally I can share with you guys this project that I have been developing for the last year.
I’ve been passionate about this for 15 years.

Kimono is my take on shapewear and solutions for women that actually work.

Photos by Vanessa Beecroft87K6:05 AM – Jun 25, 201918.3K people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Many were quick to point out that this is just the latest in Kardashian West’s history of being culturally insensitive. She has previously been called out for wearing Fulani braids (more than once) and maang tikka (an Indian headpiece). She also has been accused of blackfacein ads for her beauty line.

Members of Kardashian’s high-profile family — including Kendall and Kylie Jenner — have been accused of profiting off of black culture, too, so it appears Kim is just switching it up a bit by looking to Asian culture for inspiration.

Kardashian West’s attempt to have “kimono” associated with her and her brand is just a new low in ways people of Japanese descent have their culture and identity taken from them.

In Japan, although some people still wear everyday kimonos, the traditional attire is more often something worn for special occasions. Different types of kimonos are appropriate for different events, including various ceremonies, celebrations, festivals and other milestones in life.

Many Japanese Americans also associate kimono with special occasions. Often, kimonos are more than just ceremonial attire; they’re pieces of a family’s history and a connection to their heritage. Some kimonos are family heirlooms, passed down from mother to daughter, and are a part of their identity.

It’s important to remember that many Japanese Americans were robbed of this connection to their heritage and culture when 120,000 people of Japanese descent — most of them U.S. citizens — were taken from their homes to be locked up in internment camps during World War II.

These families were seen as “the enemy” just for being of Japanese descent: For owning kimonos and other cultural items, for speaking Japanese within their community and for being successful despite laws that prohibited Japanese immigration and barred Japanese immigrants from American citizenship and owning land.

These Japanese Americans were forced to choose between everyday essentials and items that were significant to their family when packing up the possessions they could carry to these camps for indefinite incarceration. Some took their kimonos, but others who left them behind lost them to looting and vandalism while they were locked away.

In addition to actual property loss, these Japanese Americans were subjected to racist attitudes and programs meant to strip them of their cultural identity to encourage “Americanization” (though some traditions endured). Internment was a collective traumathat continues to have repercussions, with many vocal critics who argue it should never be repeated.

Japanese women dressed in kimono for their Coming of Age Day ceremony.
Japanese women dressed in kimono for their Coming of Age Day ceremony. (Kiyoshi Ota / EPA)

So, yes, it is problematic that someone has decided to overlook the complicated American history around people of Japanese descent and Japanese culture in order to create a brand around a word that is already loaded with meaning.

Of course, Kardashian West is not the first person to misuse the word “kimono” or misfire when it comes to Asian culture.

The fashion world has long struggled with the line between cultural appropriation and appreciation. For Asians and Asian Americans, this has meant everything from the use of “yellowface” to items with cultural significance being turned into the must-have accessories for music festival season.

Plenty of brands use the word “kimono” to sell flowy, robelike apparel that doesn’t particularly resemble any traditional kimono. The word often is used as shorthand to indicate an item is supposedly inspired by Japanese clothing but it is more like a caricature than any authentic representation.

(Hollywood is similarly guilty of its own offenses regarding Asian and Asian American representation.)

But Kardashian West’s “Kimono” line goes one step further by completely dissociating the word from anything approximating its Japanese roots. And that’s a problem.

Politicians often overlook Asian American voters. They shouldn’t, especially in 2020.

Posted on July 10th, 2019 by imprentacomm

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) attends an immigration roundtable at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in June. (John Locher/AP)

Every analyst, strategist, reporter and armchair pundit has a preferred group Democrats should woo to win the White House in 2020: blue-collar white Democrats who voted for Trump, the women who fueled the suburban revolt of 2018, the black voters whose high turnout rates helped President Barack Obama win the presidency twice, or the long-awaited Latino surge.

These strategies might be reasonable, but they typically fail to mention a significant and growing population: Asian American voters. Asian Americans are the fourth-largest racial group in the United States, and the Asian American population has been growing faster than any other ethnic group. They’re strongly Democratic, too: 65 percent of Asian Americans are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, while only 27 percent identify as a Republican or lean toward the GOP. Yet they’re often relegated to, at best, a footnote in conversations about national politics. Thanks to changes to the 2020 Democratic primary calendar that give Asian American voters more influence, this could change. Smart politicians would be wise to figure out how to win them over.

There are some legitimate reasons for the omission of Asian American voters from horse-race narratives. In recent elections, Asian American voters have been disadvantaged by the facts of political geography: Many were packed into states that vote late in the primary calendar and were safely blue in the general election. Asian American voters have historically turned out to vote at low rates, though they also report having less contact with politicians, a dynamic that might turn into a self-fulfilling cycle. And Asian American community and political organizations have not developed events that have become a critical part of the national political calendar in the same way that Rep. James E. Clyburn’s fish fry or the Essence Festival have for Democratic politicians.

(Census Bureau)

If geography is destiny, Asian Americans have been dealt a politically disadvantageous hand based on where they live. According to the Center for American Progress, 5.5 percent of the national electorate in 2016 fell into the somewhat overbroad “Asian or other race” category in 2016, not much smaller than the 8.9 percent of the electorate that was Latino. But many of these Asian American voters live in uncompetitive states such as Hawaii, California, New Jersey, New York, Washington state, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland and Alaska. The only two vaguely swing-y states that have solid Asian American blocs are Virginia and Nevada, so national politicians often feel free to ignore California, New Jersey, New York and other big, uncompetitive states with substantial Asian American populations.

The story is a bit brighter for Asian American voters in presidential primaries and House elections, though not much. In the 2018 House elections, Asian American voters likely helped Democrats flip a number of traditionally Republican seats in Southern California, but they didn’t play as prominent a role in other regions and competitive districts. In the 2016 presidential primary, most states with a solid Asian American population voted well after Super Tuesday, when Hillary Clinton had already built a big delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. In 2008, the calendar gave Asian American-heavy states more influence in the Democratic primary, but these voters were less numerous and less lopsidedly Democratic at that time, which blunted the impact of their votes.

The 2020 Democratic primary might finally be a different story.

The Asian American population has grown larger and increasingly Democratic, which gives it more power within the 2020 primary. Pew calculated that in 2016, Asian Americans made up about 3 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters — a significant increase from 1992, when 99 percent of Democrats were white, African American or Hispanic. And thanks to the primary calendar, they will probably have a louder voice than they had in 2008, the last genuinely competitive Democratic primary.

Nevada, a state where a modest 10 percent of the overall electorate is Asian American or Pacific Islander (AAPI) , is one of the four early voting states. California, where 15 percent of the electorate is AAPI, will also vote on Super Tuesday. Asian American voters obviously aren’t numerous enough to carry their preferred candidate to the nomination. But especially in a primary field this crowded, they could end up giving a substantial, and maybe decisive, boost to a contender in one of these contests.

If Asian American voters will have more influence in this primary, it’s not entirely clear how they intend to use it. The results of the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a gigantic survey conducted by academics, turns up few issues where Asian Americans differ substantially from other Democratic groups. Asian American Democrats seemed to be on the left on social issues, mostly similar to Hispanic Democrats on national security questions and generally believe that white people have advantages because of the color of their skin and that racial problems are not rare, isolated incidents. Other surveys have shown that Asian American voters prioritize “kitchen table issues” such as health care, the economy and education and are generally in favor of government intervention into the economy.

Reform-minded Republicans have also pointed out that many Asian American voters value free enterprise and the family and have some culturally conservative inclinations. So we might expect Asian Democrats to be somewhat pragmatic: to look for a candidate who can help their family’s bottom line rather than the cause of pure left ideology.

Part of the reason it’s challenging for politicians to draft a platform aimed at Asian Americans is that, like Latinos, that label is actually a big tent. The largest country-of-origin group is Chinese Americans, and they make up only a quarter of Asian AmericansAbout 20 percent of Asian Americans came from India, another fifth came from the Philippines, and many others came from Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other countries. These subgroups vary widely in their political leaningsreligionincome levels and more, so it’s vital to be careful about over-generalizing and suggesting that all voters who are labeled “Asian” have the same preferences and goals.

And politics is about more than just policy positions. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who is of Indian and Jamaican descent, arguably has a higher chance of winning the presidency than any other Asian American in U.S. history. She could get the votes of some Asian Americans who feel underrepresented in politics and government — or that part of her identity could get lost in the conversation as she argues with Joe Biden on busing. Andrew Yang, known mostly as a high-profile advocate for a universal basic income, could also become a focal point for Taiwanese American voters.

Trying to win over Asian Americans community by community and vote by vote might sound like a specific and time-consuming process. But in this Democratic primary, and in a tough general-election fight against a controversial incumbent candidate, Democrats need every ballot they can get.

Asian Americans face credit and language barriers to economic growth, says report at San Gabriel AREAA gathering

Posted on July 2nd, 2019 by imprentacomm

Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) speaks on her experiences in Congress and her work representing Asian Americans on Friday, June 29. (Staff photo by Stephanie Lai, San Gabriel Valley Tribune/SCNG)

Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) speaks on her experiences in Congress and her work representing Asian Americans on Friday, June 29.

The path to home ownership isn’t necessarily easy for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in San Gabriel Valley, Realtors learned at the 2019 State of Asian America.

Dozens gathered at the Asian Youth Center in San Gabriel on Friday to hear the findings of a report from Asian American Real Estate Association about their community’s economic impact and current demographics.

Making up 7% of the U.S. population and 28% of San Gabriel Valley, the Asian American community is the fastest growing demographic in the nation, according to the report.

These families’ median household income is $20,000 more the national average, AREAA National President Tom Truong said at the conference.

The Asian American/Pacific Islander buying power nationwide is nearly $1 trillion as of 2018, and anticipated to reach $1.3 trillion by 2022, according to the report.

In addition, more than 87% of all Asian Americans high schoolers enroll in college and 21% go on to pursue advanced degrees, Truong said.

But not all outcomes are ideal. Panelist Hope Atuel, AAREA national executive director, said the report also found that 17% of Asian Americans are living below the poverty line, which is 5% higher than the national average.

“This breaks the model-minority model,” Atuel said in an interview. “There’s a myth that we’re all successful and buy in cash, but this gives the message that we don’t need any help.”

According to her organization’s report, the Asian American/Pacific Islander community applies for fewer loans compared to white Americans because they are debt-averse, Atuel said.

The result, Truong said, is that they often have thin credit files — much like his own mother who feared banks after losing access to their savings in 1974’s fall of Saigon.

“The banks wouldn’t let her get her take her money out because they were shut down, so this culture teaches us not to trust the bank system,” Truong said. “But we need to change that,. We need to teach our AAPI community here that banks are safe and that there is insurance.”

Language also deters Asian American/Pacific Islander from home ownership because a significant number of immigrants are not proficient in English, Congresswoman Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, said.

“It’s hard enough for mainstream Americans to really understand what are in the mortgage documents, but to have a language barrier as well is quite an obstacle to overcome,” Chu said.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency is currently working to expand its website to accommodate Asian languages, Atuel said. This year, the agency included a Chinese

San Diego-based AAREA has released its “state of” report annually since 2016 to educate Realtors about their clientele and help big companies and banks better serve the Asian American/Pacific Islander community, Atuel said.

This year’s report included additional research on regional distributions, notably migration shifts to regions with more affordable housing, such as Texas and other parts of the South. The report also takes note of Asian American consumer habits, global markets and loan data.

With these findings in mind, the AREAA emphasized offering alternative credit forms and using technology to reduce language barriers to help Asian American/Pacific Islander communities understand the home buying process.

Busloads of Chinese tourists used to visit L.A. luxury stores. Not anymore

Posted on July 2nd, 2019 by imprentacomm

Busloads of Chinese tourists used to visit L.A. luxury stores. Not anymore
A staff member at House of Italy Jewelry in the San Gabriel Square shopping center occupies herself with bookkeeping as she watches over the vacant shop floor. (James B. Cutchin / Los Angeles Times)

Chong Hing Jewelers is conspicuously empty. Mandarin-speaking staff stand idly behind the San Gabriel store’s glittering display cases, waiting for busloads of luxury shoppers from China who may never come.

It’s the same story several doors down at House of Italy Jewelry — a vacant store and listless workers, both of whom say that they have only recently arrived from China themselves.

David Lee, chairman and chief executive of Hing Wa Lee Group, which has another jewelry store not far away, said that Chinese tourists now make up about a fifth of sales at his jewelry businesses, down from roughly half in years past.

“I had days with literally hundreds [of Chinese tourists] coming through my stores,” Lee said. “That changed maybe one to two years ago, and now everyone is experiencing fewer.”

The reason: Xi Jinping. Though China’s president is no fashion guru, his policies are defining a new eastward-looking luxury goods industry worldwide.

In the past, Chinese luxury shoppers made a majority of their purchases abroad, keen to avoid domestic prices inflated by steep tariffs placed on high-end foreign goods.

According to an analysis from investment firm Exane BNP Paribas, as recently as early 2017, luxury goods bought in China cost 21% more than their global average. This historical price gulf had led to a booming global high-end retail business, as tens of thousands of Chinese would travel abroad with the intent of snapping up Gucci, Chanel and Coach handbags on their way through shopping hubs such as Paris, New York and Los Angeles. Chinese luxury spending abroad reached about $70 billion in 2018, according to Bain & Co., representing nearly a quarter of the global luxury goods market.

Now these shoppers are shifting their spending east. Luxury goods prices in China fell last year after the government slashed tariffs by more than half, to 6.9% from an average of 15.7%. The cuts are, in part, an indirect effect of the U.S.-China trade war and President Trump’s demands that China lower barriers to its markets, but they are also part of a broader push by China to strengthen domestic consumption. As the savings from buying abroad shrink, Chinese shoppers are increasingly choosing to make their luxury purchases at home. By 2025, Bain predicts, half of Chinese luxury spending will take place inside China, up from less than one-fourth in 2015.

These changes are already hitting the industry. Tiffany & Co., often considered a benchmark for luxury goods, cited falling purchases by Chinese tourists as a key reason behind the brand’s sluggish growth in 2018. In a November earnings call, CEO Alessandro Bogliolo said slowdowns in some markets were the result of “lower sales attributed to foreign tourists, particularly to Chinese.”

Chong Hing Jewelers in the San Gabriel Square shopping center stands empty despite a brisk flow of shoppers through the mall outside.
Chong Hing Jewelers in the San Gabriel Square shopping center stands empty despite a brisk flow of shoppers through the mall outside. (James B. Cutchin / Los Angeles Times)

Many retailers had grown to rely on the seemingly endless flows of Chinese luxury shoppers to maintain their bottom lines. Jewelry and luxury watch shops, such as those dotting shopping malls across the San Gabriel Valley, sprang up around hot spots for Chinese tourists.

“You had droves of people coming from second- and third-tier cities [in China] and going on these massive spending sprees,” said Lynn Liou, founder and publisher of L’Inspired, a Chinese and English dual-language luxury lifestyle publication. “For many of these people, it was their first exposure to the Western world and their first time having access to these brands.”

One 2016 tour itinerary from Chinese travel site Usitour, titled Los Angeles Luxury Shopper’s Paradise, included no fewer than 15 shopping destinations in a single day. They included Rodeo Drive, Melrose Avenue, downtown Los Angeles’ Fashion District, the Grove shopping center, Citadel Outlets and South Coast Plaza mall.

Chinese visitors on tours such as these have brought billions of dollars to Los Angeles, spending nearly $1.5 billion in 2016 alone, according to the L.A. Tourism & Convention Board. It prompted the city to launch the Nihao China program in 2014, a sweeping plandesigned to help L.A.’s businesses better cater to Chinese shoppers. Initiatives included cultural training and certification courses for workers, Chinese-language websites and marketing materials, tour guide certification programs and a marketing campaign in China.

Chinese visitation to L.A. County jumped more than 20% in 2016, according to the tourism board, marking seven consecutive years of double-digit growth. But then the gains began to slow. Chinese visitation increased about 12% in 2017 and then less than 7% last year.

“You cannot sustain double-digit growth forever,” said Julie Wagner, CEO of the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau. “When the retailers are looking at year-over-year numbers, it’s hard for them to get their head around that because it looks like it’s falling, but really it’s just a return to normal after those crazy times.”

A cocktail waiter serves white wine and two flavors of artisanal water at the Tory Burch store in South Coast Plaza.
A cocktail waiter serves white wine and two flavors of artisanal water at the Tory Burch store in South Coast Plaza. (James B. Cutchin / Los Angeles Times)

In addition to China’s domestic policies, the shifting luxury landscape is also being shaped by changing consumer preferences. Although luxury brands don’t face the same homegrown Chinese competition that has plagued high-end U.S. electronics such as Apple’s iPhone — which has seen sales decline substantially in China — they are being forced to adapt their offerings to an increasingly sophisticated and globally aware audience. According to luxury consultant Nancy Hsieh, who advises brands on how to engage with Chinese clients, Chinese abroad have become taste-makers for their friends back home and often make purchases on their behalf.

“You might have a student who is shopping not only for themselves but for 10 to 12 friends and family members back in China,” Hsieh said.

Heather Zhu is a USC graduate student who was born and raised in China. In years past, she did a brisk business reselling bags, shoes and other luxury products to Chinese students across America using WeChat, China’s most popular social platform. Her supply came via contacts at leading brands such as Saint Laurent, who would tip her off to discounted products that she could resell. Zhu rarely needed large-scale shopping excursions to satisfy her customers, but she regularly indulged in personal shopping sprees to build her own collection of luxury goods.

During her undergraduate years, from 2014 to 2017, “my friends and I would go [luxury] shopping every one or two weeks,” Zhu said. “I think we were probably spoiled because our parents would give us a lot of money.”

Zhu said that demand in her reselling business has dropped off in recent years, as a relative lack of style innovation among top labels, as well as changing Chinese tastes, has left her clients less keen to amass collections of time-honored brands.

“A lot of smaller brands are coming out and sponsoring influencers on places like Weibo,” said Zhu, referring to a Chinese social media network similar to Twitter. “That’s what I’m interested in now. Those brands are more unique. I already have one Chanel bag; I don’t need any more.”

Kathy Smits, the L.A. tourism board’s vice president of international tourism, said that these shifting tastes are changing the way Chinese visitors engage with Southern California’s luxury businesses. “It’s no longer ‘hop on the bus and visit as many shops as possible,’ ” Smits said. “Now they want to ‘live like a local,’ try the local cuisine and have more unique experiences.”

At South Coast Plaza, one of the largest and highest-grossing shopping centers in the United States, the Tory Burch store recently invited wealthy clients to an event complete with mimosas, cocktail waiters and an artist to paint miniature portraits of guests with their new purchases. Mandarin-speaking shoppers spent the afternoon snapping photos of one another to share on WeChat, champagne flutes raised above tastefully subtle new purses.

A Chinese shopper poses for a photo with her miniature portrait created by Tory Burch's artist at the store's VIP cocktail event.
A Chinese shopper poses for a photo with her miniature portrait created by Tory Burch’s artist at the store’s VIP cocktail event. (James B. Cutchin / Los Angeles Times)

Liou, of L’Inspired, calls these shoppers “global Chinese.”

“They aren’t immigrants in the traditional sense,” Liou said. “They’ve established themselves [abroad] in some way, such as education at Western institutions or investments in Western countries.”

Many own property in the United States, which serves as a second home for them and their families.

This new group, which many see as a pillar for the future of the international luxury retail market, has become a quasi-local customer base in Southern California.

Many retailers have switched their focus to more localized groups of Chinese, said Hsieh, citing one of her clients — the manager of a prestige watch company on Rodeo Drive — as an example.

“Now that China is trying to level the playing field, it doesn’t pay to purchase those watches here. The price is often more or less the same,” the luxury consultant said. “Now they are shifting to focus on the local market.”

Hing Wa Lee Group has also turned its attention to the local Chinese market. Lee, the company’s owner, said that increasing sales to Los Angeles County’s Chinese residents have enabled his jewelry shops to maintain growth, despite the drop in Chinese tourist business.

“More and more wealthy Chinese are choosing to have residences outside of China,” Lee said. “Being in L.A. is a good place. It’s a very popular destination for them.”

Asian American and Pacific Islander youth face bullying, lack visibility, report finds

Posted on June 26th, 2019 by imprentacomm

“We need these narratives to be uplifted so that policymakers understand that there are Asian communities in need of support.”

California youth from smaller Asian American and Pacific Islander ethnic groups experience high rates of bullying and feelings of cultural invisibility in school, a new report has found.

The report, produced by the nonprofit Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) and scheduled for release Thursday, is based on a 2016-17 survey of 813 Asian American and Pacific Islander youth and young adults, as well as five focus groups across California.

The survey found that 50 percent of Cambodian, Laotian and Iu Mien (a Southeast Asian ethnic minority) respondents said they have not taken classes about their culture, ethnic history and identity; 85 percent of Samoan respondents said they felt invisible and unrecognized because they haven’t seen their cultural identities represented in classes; and 50 percent of youth reported being bullied in school with stereotypes of their racial or ethnic identity.

Gabriel Garcia, a coordinator at SEARAC, said the Asian American and Pacific Islander Coalition Helping Achieve Racial and Gender Equity (AAPI CHARGE) and its partners conducted the survey because, while they anecdotally understood the challenges youth face, they did not have figures to reference.

“These smaller Asian American and Pacific Islander communities just do not have the visibility when it comes to their educational challenges,” Garcia said. “So every step that we can take to bring visibility to these communities to their experiences in school will bring us closer to educational equity that we would be advocating for.”

Two additional issues survey participants reported were a lack of culturally relevant support at school and intergenerational educational challenges, with many reporting that their parents did not complete high school or college.

Lailan Huen, program manager for Asian Pacific Islander Student Achievement at the Oakland Unified School District, said in an email that the findings reflect what’s being seen generally in public school districts and that the data is critical for shifting policy and programming to better support targeted groups of students.

“It shines a light on and lifts up voices from communities who are not reflected in the ‘Asian’ categories on data dashboards, communities who have for too long been largely invisible in the eyes of schools and educators,” she said. “We cannot continue with only universal programs and expect to reach our goals for equity, without giving students who need more access and support those resources to achieve standards and thrive.”

Survey finds some Asian American youth face bullying, economic insecurity

Stanley Pun — program manager at Oakland-based nonprofit AYPAL, which helped design the survey — said in an email that the findings are significant because, while the model minority myth may apply to certain groups of Asian Americans who have had generations to adjust to the United States, other communities struggle with trauma from events such as the Vietnam War, the Cambodian genocide and the legacy of colonialism in the Pacific Islands.

The report offered several recommendations to address the findings, including developing ethnic studies curricula that reflect the diversity of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, requiring faculty and staff to undergo training on diversity and inclusion, and implementing restorative and transformative justice models in schools to address bullying.

“We need these narratives to be uplifted so that policymakers understand that there are Asian communities in need of support in the areas of education, employment, restorative justice, language access, mental health, etc.,” Pun said.