When Silicon Valley talks about diversity, about boosting underrepresented groups, they’re not talking about Asians.
A group of Asian-American and Pacific Islander-serving organizations announced the creation of a mental health program for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and their families Thursday, a month after the White House announced that it was ending the program.
Ten mental health service providers from the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON) — a Los Angeles-based consortium of Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) groups — said they will provide free counseling, case management, and other mental health services through the DACA Mental Health Project.
The groups said they are providing the services in 12 languages: Bangla, Cantonese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese, and English.
Connie Chung Joe, co-chair of A3PCON, said it was important for the groups to say they would continue to provide services during a time of uncertainty that has seen some clients shy away from seeking help.
“We wanted to make it particularly clear that we would find a way to serve DACA recipients regardless of whatever Medi-Cal qualifications or status, without having to [worry] about getting the government involved,” she said.
The scheduled termination of DACA, which shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation if they meet certain requirements, and anti-immigrant rhetoric have made much of the groups’ clientele wary of receiving services while increasing stress, Joe explained.
She added that some clients might be hesitant about enrolling in government-funded programs because of the fear attached to sharing information.
Shikha Bhatnagar — executive director of the South Asian Network, one of the collaborating organizations — has also noticed clients dropping out of services, especially when it comes to the renewal of health insurance.
“They are too afraid to come in,” Bhatnagar said. “They feel their information might be in jeopardy, and they might be deported.”
Manjusha Kulkarni, A3PCON’s executive director, said that DACA has enabled thousands of young people to “come out of the shadows” and be integrated into society since its creation in 2012, though there has been a stigma in the AAPI community regarding coming forward and applying for protections.
Asians made up 10 percent of the population potentially eligible for DACA, according to a September 2014 report from the nonprofit Migration Policy Institute. But in a 2016 analysis, the institute found that application rates for youth born in Asia were “generally very low.”
According to 2016 federal immigration statistics, four of the 24 top countries of origin for DACA recipients are in Asia — South Korea, the Philippines, India, and Pakistan.
Kulkarni attributes the low application rates in part due to the model minority myth.
“I do think that this is one other place we see the model minority myth hurting the community because a lot of people unfortunately buy into it … and it makes it harder for people who don’t have status to come out of the shadows and to say, ‘hey, you know what, I had to come here [because] there was political strife in my homeland,” she said.
The deadline to apply for a two-year renewal of DACA was Oct. 5 for those with permits set to expire before March 5, 2018.
A United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services spokesperson told NBC News that as of Oct. 6, approximately 122,000 out of 154,000 DACA recipients who were eligible for renewals had applied.
Joe said A3PCON’s DACA Mental Health Project is also designed to provide more flexible services and help those who might not have a diagnosed medical health condition but want to speak to a professional due to stress and anxiety.
Kulkarni said that families are facing a lot of fear and uncertainty, noting that they can see that the Trump administration has been “hostile to immigrants.”
That hostility can increase levels of anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, she added.
“They know they’re getting the message loud and clear that they are unwelcome here, so I think this is a very difficult time, and that’s why we launched our [mental health] project,” Kulkarni said.
When Silicon Valley talks about diversity, about boosting underrepresented groups, they’re not talking about Asians.
Although significant progress has been made in the past few years in opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on prime-time television, they remain underrepresented, marginalized and relegated to token appearances on comedies and dramas, the summation of a new study released Tuesday.
“Tokens on the Small Screen,” conducted by professors and scholars from six California universities, is a 10-year follow-up to and expansion of an earlier examination of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on prime-time series.
“With successful shows like ‘Master of None’ and “Fresh Off the Boat’ on the air, it may seem that Asian Americans are making greater strides on television,” Christina B. Chin, an assistant professor at California State University, Fullerton, and one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.
“Yet, when we take a deeper look at the larger TV landscape, we start to see that these shows are the exception rather than the rule,” Chin said. “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders actors and their stories are still tokenized or missing.”
The release of the study comes a few months after a furor was sparked when CBS declined to offer salary parity to two Asian cast members of “Hawaii Five-0,” Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, who subsequently left the show. The stars of the drama are white males – Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan.
“Tokens on the Small Screen” evaluated scripted shows on broadcast and cable television, as well as streaming services, that aired between Sept. 1, 2015, and Aug. 31, 2016.
Leaders of the study said the lack of minority inclusion on TV closely parallels the situation that ignited the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.
Among the major findings:
–White performers are dominant in the prime-time landscape, comprising nearly 70% of all TV series regulars compared to 4% of Asian Americans, according to the study. Pacific Islanders make up just 0.2% of series regulars.
–More than 64% of all series do not feature an Asian American or Pacific Islander as a series regular. In contrast, 96% of series have at least one white series regular. Also, the majority of shows set in cities heavily populated by Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders have no Asian American or Pacific Islanders regulars.
–If they are cast, Asian American and Pacific Islander regulars are mostly eclipsed by their white counterparts, who are on screen more than three times longer.
–More than two-thirds of shows with Asian American or Pacific Islander regulars have just one. The study quoted Aziz Ansari’s character, Dev Shah, in a line from his Netflix series “Master of None”: “There can be one, but there can’t be two.”
–Asian American and Pacific Islander regulars are segregated onto just a few shows. Ten percent of Asian American and Pacific Islander regulars appeared on Netflix’s “Marco Polo,” which has just been canceled. More than half of the other shows have been canceled or not renewed, slashing the representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by 21%
While many shows perpetuate racial stereotypes, the study praised “The Walking Dead,” “Master of None,” “Fresh Off the Boat” and HBO’s miniseries, “The Night Of” for featuring multidimensional portrayals of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
In another diversity-related study, the Ruderman Family Foundation, a Boston-based philanthropic organization advocating for more inclusion of people with disabilities in society, issued the preliminary results of its challenge to the TV industry to audition and cast more actors with disabilities.
Seven months into the initiative, representatives of the challenge said that CBS, with shows such as “NCIS: New Orleans,” is leading the effort in employing performers with disabilities, while 20th Century Fox was leading in auditioning performers with disabilities.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, respectively, were open to the ideas of a U.S. Muslim database and surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods. As President, Trump signed executive orders that effectively banned travel into the U.S. by people from a selected list of predominantly Muslim countries. Multiple Trump supporters have openly suggested the need to segregate Muslims into prison camps, pointing to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as precedent for such actions to “protect America.”
This year also marks the 75th Anniversary of the beginning of the World War II mass incarceration of West Coast Japanese Americans. Japanese Americans, like me, who have a personal connection to the World War II incarceration experience are speaking out. By providing a “living history” of these events, we can point out the current parallels and warn others to take a stand against any similar encroachment of civil liberties.
My Family’s “All-American” Story
My family’s history in America began in 1907, when my grandfather Kunitomo Mayeda emigrated from Japan. He was only 16 years old but had aspirations to study English and become a diplomat to promote better relations between Japan and the United States. As is often the case for new immigrants, his dreams were never realized. Instead, Kunitomo worked as a houseboy and a cook before getting into farming near San Diego.
My father Ray was born in 1922. In the mid-1930s, Ray’s mother passed away. Kunitomo was unable to work and also raise five kids, so the family (except for eldest son Al) moved back to Japan. Kunitomo remarried but eventually returned to America in 1937 to work as a gardener while his second wife remained in Japan to raise the children. A few years later, Ray also re-joined his father and brother Al, and enrolled in school. At Coronado High School, there were only about 10 Japanese American students out of around 400 in the student body. But my uncle Al was a star running back on the football team and a “big man on campus.” My father Ray was student body treasurer, on the staff of the school newspaper, and ran hurdles on the track team. It was basically an “All-American” existence. But then, the Imperial Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor and everything crumbled around the Mayeda family.
About three months after the Pearl Harbor attack, my father, an American teenager, was left “home alone.” His sisters Yoko and Moriko, and a younger brother Frank, were still living with their stepmother in Japan. His older brother Al had enlisted in the U.S. Army within weeks of Pearl Harbor. So it was just my father Ray and his father Kunitomo in the uncertain days on the West Coast after the Pearl Harbor attack.
Kunitomo was a leader in the local Japanese Association, a group that tried to help newly arrived immigrants and to maintain cultural ties among the Japanese Americans in San Diego. Within a few weeks after Pearl Harbor, however, the FBI came to question Kunitomo and ransacked the house. Kunitomo was a gardener in his 50s, hardly a rabble rouser or other threat to America. But he knew he looked like the enemy and, unlike his sons, was an Issei, a Japanese immigrant who was forbidden by law from becoming a U.S. citizen. Kunitomo had the foresight to realize that he might be picked up for further questioning or held by the government, so he prepared my father. “Ray, I have money, American dollars, and I’m going to sew it inside the linings of coats that are hanging in the closet. If you come home from school and I’m not here, rip open the seams and you can live off that money until I come home or you can get a job.”
Sure enough, one day in March 1942, Ray came home from high school to find the house empty, his father Kunitomo nowhere to be found. Then, within three weeks, Ray himself was forced to leave San Diego and join 120,000 other Americans of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast, to eventually live in so-called “relocation camps” in compliance with Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In reality, these were American-style concentration camps imprisoning both citizens (American-born “Nisei,” second generation like my father) and aliens (foreign-born, first generation “Issei” like my grandfather) without due process for nearly the duration of World War II.
A fortuitous discovery
I know my father Ray was initially taken from San Diego to a temporary facility on the grounds of the Santa Anita racehorse tracks. He told me of living in a converted horse stable that reeked of manure while the larger camps were being built inland. Eventually, Ray was shipped off to live in one of the three Poston, Arizona camps. Since he had no family with him, he had to live in a barracks with middle-aged bachelors. I never learned from my father (who passed away in 2014) where his father was taken after he was arrested in San Diego—other than that Kunitomo ultimately ended up in a Department of Justice prison camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I did recently learn more about Kunitomo through a series of fortuitous coincidences. In April, I saw an exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum about the Tuna Canyon Detention Station. Tuna Canyon was located in the Tujunga area of Los Angeles and was a temporary facility used in World War II to house mostly Japanese immigrants but also some Italian and German immigrants who the government believed were immediate threats to public safety. It suddenly dawned on me that perhaps my grandfather had been detained at Tuna Canyon and this was confirmed when I saw Kunitomo’s name on an “Honor Roll” listing each Tuna Canyon detainee.
My post about this discovery was seen by my Facebook friend June Aochi Berk, who then gave Kunitomo’s name to Russell Endo, a retired University of Colorado professor who was conducting research in Washington, D.C. (June and Russell are both leaders of a coalition to keep alive the history of Tuna Canyon.) A few weeks later, Professor Endo began to email me documents about my grandfather that he had found in the National Archives.
The FBI is after my grandfather
The very first document took my breath away: a memo dated February 20, 1942 recommending the issuance of a Presidential Warrant for the arrest of my grandfather, hand-signed by none other than FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Subsequent documents revealed that Kunitomo was arrested on March 19 and detained for a time at Tuna Canyon, before eventually being transferred to Santa Fe. During this process, no charges were ever filed against him. Instead, a hearing was held in Santa Fe, an apparent attempt to comply with the 1929 Geneva Convention, thereby revealing that the government viewed the arrested Japanese aliens as essentially “prisoners of war.” There was no due process and no defense counsel allowed.
The FBI Report used at the hearing detailed the “evidence” against Kunitomo. On the one side was Kunitomo’s speech urging the merger of two Japanese associations in San Diego; that a “Confidential Informant” advised the FBI that a week after Pearl Harbor, “a reliable informant” had reported to the first informant that “someone turned a powerful spotlight onto a high-water tank” during recent blackouts; and that Kunitomo had once given thirty dollars to the “long-term military relief fund” that was sent to Japanese relief ministries in Tokyo. Despite a thorough search of Kunitomo’s home, and translating letters written in Japanese, the FBI turned up nothing that could be used against him. Another section of the report indicates that the caretaker of the aforementioned water tank advised that “the light was not a powerful spotlight but was apparently from an ordinary flashlight” and that it was not on long enough to trace back to the original source, other than to note that Kunitomo’s house was a block away from the water tower.
The remainder of the FBI Report contains numerous pieces of exculpatory evidence including that a few days after Pearl Harbor, Kunitomo signed a Loyalty Pledge stating that Japanese aliens residing in Coronado “do hereby pledge our resources, our children and our lives toward a victorious conclusion of the war upon the Axis nations.”
The report also noted that Kunitomo’s oldest son, my uncle Al, had enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Pearl Harbor. It also contained excerpts of interviews from the gardening clients of Kunitomo, including a retired Brigadier General who stated that Kunitomo “is a much better American than most American citizens,” and the wife of a current Army commander advised that Kunitomo “has always seemed loyal to the United States.”
Because these hearings were conducted with the reversal of the usual presumption of innocence—the detained “enemy aliens” were presumed to be guilty of complicity with the Japanese enemy unless they could prove their innocence—Kunitomo was held for the duration of the war. My grandfather eventually asked to be repatriated to Japan where he could be with his wife and three of his kids. He knew that this meant separation from and possible estrangement with his two eldest sons but Kunitomo felt he had little choice since he had been imprisoned by the government for years without charges due solely to his race.
Could it happen again?
In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, officially proclaiming the wartime confinement of Japanese Americans under Executive Order 9066 was a “grave injustice…motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” No Japanese American, citizen or alien, was ever convicted of espionage, sabotage, collaboration with the enemy, or similar charge during the war. Conversely, thousands of Japanese American Nisei (including my uncle Al Mayeda) served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, or the Military Intelligence Service, proving their loyalty to the United States and suffering tremendous casualties, even as their parents were kept behind barbed wire on American soil.
Could it happen again? Recall that days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush cautioned against targeting American Muslims: “In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.” Can anyone have confidence that President Trump’s reaction to a major terrorist attack in the United States by Muslims would elicit a similar measured response? It seems far likelier that his response would veer closer toward World War II-era curfew and internment orders to “keep America safe” than toward restraint and adherence to the Bill of Rights. After all, President Trump recently pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt related to racially profiling Latinxs in violation of their civil rights.
If an effort were made to register, imprison and/or conduct surveillance of Muslim Americans, our WWII experience teaches that even mundane activities such as studying Arabic, exchanging letters with Middle East relatives, being a mosque leader, or maintaining cultural traditions could be deemed suspicious and trigger reporting from anonymous “informants.” In such event, our political leaders should listen to Americans of Japanese ancestry who have personal experience with the dangers of racial prejudice and wartime hysteria. Our family stories contain profound lessons that must be retold to safeguard the constitutional liberties of all Americans.
EXCLUSIVE: PBS Distribution has picked up the North American rights to Toronto film fest doc Abacus: Small Enough To Jail, from director Steve James. The company is planning a spring theatrical release, beginning May 19 at New York City’s IFC Center.
It centers on the dramatic saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of New York’s Chinatown. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves—and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community—over the course of a five-year legal battle.
The doc, which also screened at New York Film Festival and Chicago International Film Festival, will serve as the opening night film at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman produced the film while Gordon Quinn, Betsy Steinberg, Christopher Clements, Raney Aronson-Rath, Justine Nagan, and Sally Jo Fifer exec produced.
The deal was negotiated by Amy Letourneau and Emily Rothschild of PBS Distribution and Cinetic Media on behalf of the filmmakers.
An organization promoting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in politics and public affairs has released its second list celebrating rising professionals.
The National Association of Asian Pacifics in Politics and Public Affairs (NAAPPPA) published its second “40 Under 40” list of AAPIs excelling in American politics Friday.
The bipartisan list highlights workers who are increasingly filling professional unelected positions in the political sphere.
“We also leaned towards AAPIs in ‘unconventional’ roles like communications, since many people appear to seem surprised that AAPIs speak English well or at all,” Bill Wong, a founder of NAAPPPA, told NBC News.
Wong also noted that there is a growing number of AAPI chiefs of staff and AAPIs who serve in unique roles in the White House or the Hill.
NAAPPPA honorees this year include Ninio Fetalvo, White House assistant press secretary; May Davis, White House assistant staff secretary; Krystal Ka’ai, executive director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Congressional Caucus; and Steven Cheung, White House special assistant to the president and assistant communications director.
In an email to NBC News, Cheung spoke highly of his experience working under President Donald Trump.
“President Trump has created an environment where diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance are celebrated, and equal opportunity is afforded to everybody, Cheung said. “Serving President Trump since the campaign and working in a White House where those values are championed has been the honor of a lifetime.”
NAAPPPA is a national non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and developing AAPI professionals in fields related to politics, including public affairs and legislative advocacy. The organization was established in 2016, when it also released its first “40 Under 40” list.
“Inwardly, we joke that NAAPPPA started as the support group for children of AAPI tiger parents who are disappointed that their kids did not become doctors, lawyers, or engineers,” Wong said. “We want young AAPIs and their parents to know that a career in politics and public affairs is exciting, impactful, and rewarding.”
Today marks the start of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which commemorates the history, contributions, and achievements of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community throughout the month of May. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), released the following statement:
“Every year in May, we come together to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and the invaluable contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to our great nation. Today, AAPIs are the fastest growing racial group in the United States, and more immigrants come to the U.S. from the Asia-Pacific region than anywhere else in the world. The incredible growth and vitality of this community can be found in so many different sectors – from small business owners to medical professionals to military service members and public servants. And we have also seen this growth in our very own Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, where we now have a historic high of 18 AAPI Members of Congress!
“Together, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has the power to make our voices heard on a wide range of issues – from keeping immigrant families together and denouncing hate violence to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans. As we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, let us recommit ourselves to advancing the needs of our communities and ensure that America continues to be land of opportunity for all.”
hen Taiwanese menswear brand SST&C opened its first U.S. store last year, the company bypassed glitzy shopping hubs such as Beverly Hills or South Coast Plaza in favor of a mall tucked into the San Gabriel Valley.
What Westfield Santa Anita lacks in name recognition, it makes up for with one huge edge: a growing stable of Asian retailers catering to its well-heeled Asian community.
“We thought it would be easier to introduce our brand to Asians than non-Asians,” said Claire Wang, general manager of SST&C, which stands for “Simple, Style, Trend & Casual Life.”
Since October 2015, Westfield Santa Anita has brought in 26 new retailers and restaurants, about two-thirds of which — 16 stores — originated in Asia or are Asian-flavored. The new lineup includes an outpost of Muji, the popular Japanese design store, and Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese chain best known for its soup dumplings.
Westfield’s evolution comes as malls around the country are struggling with declining traffic and the rise of online shopping. Although that’s not a new trend, now it’s not just big department stores that are dying off; many once-popular brands such as BCBG and Wet Seal are also closing stores.
In January, only 21% of U.S. consumers shopped at an enclosed mall, a 30% plunge from five years ago, according to Britt Beemer, founder of America’s Research Group.
To survive, shopping centers are scrambling to bring in unique stores and restaurants. That’s a big shift from the days when they relied on the same arsenal of retailers selling to longtime consumers who came back season after season.
Some centers are welcoming pop-up shops in an effort to cater to millennials. Others are looking to specialize around a theme — such as home improvement, by bringing in paint and furniture stores.
“The malls of the future will be much more diverse than the malls of the past, when every mall had a J.C. Penney or Sears,” Beemer said. “The only way to win in the long term is to become different, and one way is appeal to an ethnic group.”
The population of Arcadia, the city where Westfield is located, is nearly 59% Asian, and predominantly Chinese, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Whites, the next biggest group, are a distant second, at 30.3%.)
Arcadia’s average household income is $110,070, compared with $87,877 for California as a whole.
The mall has changed dramatically in recent years, including a $20-million face-lift that wrapped up in 2014. That makeover included a outdoor play space for kids, new seating and fresh flooring.
William Hecht, chief operating officer at Westfield, said the updates are part of a concerted effort to evolve along with the local neighborhood. He said foot traffic and sales rose after the mall freshened up and brought in new retailers, though he declined to give details.
“There is definitely a large Asian community there that in the past we didn’t cater to as well as we liked,” Hecht said. “The plan was to bring in unique retailers and retailers that appeal to those that reside and work in that demographic area.”
SST&C’s Wang said malls in Asia have to be adaptable because they often have high turnover as brands swiftly open and close. That keeps the shopping experience exciting for consumers. On the other hand, American malls, Wang said, are used to keeping the same anchor stores for decades.
“It’s the environment — shoppers like to come here to find new things,” Wang said. “We thought only Asians would buy our clothes, but it’s not the case.” Up to half of its customers are Asian, she said, but around 40% are white.
Since its October launch, monthly sales at the SST&C store in Arcadia have climbed to about $50,000, Wang said. There is still lots of room to grow, she said. The chain’s stores in Taiwan — which at about 700 square feet are much smaller than Arcadia’s 2,000 square feet — rake in similar amounts per month.
“We’re just getting started in the U.S.,” Wang said. “We haven’t done any advertising or marketing yet, like we do in Taiwan. We want to be the place where guys shop for their prom suits.”
SST&C has opened up a second store in Los Cerritos Center in January and is eyeing other locations, some in areas with a heavy Asian demographic.
Westfield Santa Anita has also focused on bringing in restaurants — mostly of the Asian variety — to draw in shoppers who want to eat and shop in one place. Last year, the mall built a second-floor hall that customers have nicknamed “Food Alley.”
Alley eateries are sandwiched close together, resembling traditional food complexes known as hawker centers that are popular in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. The decor includes a bike piled sky-high with boxes, which is reminiscent of bike couriers in Asia who haul around jaw-dropping loads.
Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake chose the alley to locate its first continental U.S. spot.
“It’s in the same theme as Din Tai Fung and other brands that are well-established in Asia, but emerging in the United States,” said Glenn Inanaga, senior vice president of Panda Restaurant Group. The company behind fast-food chain Panda Express is Uncle Tetsu’s American franchisee.
“We were trying to find places where people might be familiar with the brand,” he said.
Business so far has “exceeded our expectations,” Inanaga said. Panda is currently mulling offering additional cheesecake flavors and new products such as a Japanese cheese tart (which resembles an egg tart).
Shopper Christine Chen, 32, said she likes introducing non-Asian friends to the mall’s cuisines, which includes Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian. It helps that the alley — which Chen jokingly refers to as “the Asian hipster section” — isn’t as overwhelming as many Chinatowns can be.
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An Airbnb host in California has been banned after an Asian American guest claimed her reservation was canceled at the last minute because of her race.
Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas told The Washington Post in an email that the host’s behavior was “abhorrent and unacceptable.” The company has in recent years faced growing complaints of racial discrimination by its hosts.
Dyne Suh, a 25-year-old law student in Riverside, said she and her fiance had been looking forward to a short vacation over Presidents’ Day weekend in Big Bear Lake, a popular ski getaway about two hours by car east of Los Angeles.
About a month before their trip, Suh booked a mountain cabin on Airbnb listed as a “Tree House Loft and Private Bathroom” in Running Springs, Calif. Suh told The Post in a phone interview Friday that she later messaged the host to ask if she could add two friends and two puppies to the reservation and was told it would be fine.
“We were looking forward to it, especially with law school and working and being really busy,” Suh told NBC Los Angeles on Wednesday. “It was a welcome break.”
On Feb. 17, the group of four set out up the mountain. An intense winter storm was then hitting the area, making road conditions hazardous and prompting flash-flood warnings.
When they were minutes away from the cabin, Suh sent a message to the host through the Airbnb app to let her know they were close and asked how they might pay for adding the two friends to the reservation.
That’s when their trip took a turn.
“If you think 4 people and 2 dogs ate getting a room fir $50 a night on big bear mountain during the busiest weekend of the year ..… You are insanely high,” the host texted her, according to Suh’s screenshots of the exchange. The host, identified as “Tami” in the images, also called Suh “a con artist” and canceled the reservation.
Suh said she was shocked, then protested, telling the host that she had screenshots of their earlier messages showing she had agreed to the reservation changes.
“Go ahead. I wouldn’t rent to u if you were the last person on earth,” the host wrote back to Suh. “One word says it all. Asian”
When Suh replied that she would report the host to Airbnb for being racist, the host told her to “Go ahead” and “It’s why we have trump.”
“And I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners,” the host added.
Suh took pictures of the exchange and posted them to her Facebook page. “Just had an airbnb cancel on me spewing racism,” she wrote.
To compound the problem, the continued snow was making it increasingly dangerous to get down the mountain, according to Suh. “By the grace of God,” Suh said in a Facebook comment, there was a crew from KTLA 5 News that happened to be parked near them on the mountain while covering the winter storm. One of the station’s reporters, Steve Kuzj, interviewed Suh using his smartphone.
Still reeling from what had just happened, Suh sobbed as she recounted what she said were the host’s messages. Video from that KTLA 5 interview was uploaded to YouTube this week.
[Read more here]
Ernst & Young (EY) announced that Ronald W. Wong, President and CEO of public affairs, ethnic marketing and campaign firm Imprenta Communications Group, has been selected as a semifinalist for the EY Entrepreneur of The Year 2017 Greater Los Angeles Region Award. Now celebrating its 31st year, the awards program recognizes entrepreneurs in over 145 cities and 60 countries who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.
Wong was selected as a semifinalist by a panel of independent judges. Finalists will be announced Monday, May 8, and winners will be announced at a black-tie Awards Gala on Thursday, June 15.
“I am extremely proud to receive this recognition,” said Wong. “I am grateful to be able to work with a wonderful and committed team of professionals, and also to contribute to the success of our clients. Furthermore, this recognition is a testament to Imprenta’s unique business model, which proves you can have a successful and thriving company by embracing and celebrating the diversity that makes our country great.”
Regional award winners are eligible for consideration for the EY Entrepreneur of The Year National Awards. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the overall national award winner, will be announced at the EY Entrepreneur of The Year National Awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 18, 2017.