Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Asian talk show promises to be sleazy and raunchy

The other day I was out at lunch with a couple of my co-workers. As we ate and talked, we noticed the television playing in the background. It was showing a live broadcast of The Steve Wilkos Show. For those of you who have never seen this, Steve Wilkos was the former director of security on The Jerry Springer Show. Apparently, Steve was so good at his job that they decided to give him his own tabloid talk show.

When I was in middle school, tabloid talk shows were all the rage. The show follows a simple format. A typical show begins with the host introducing a “topic of the day” and then interviewing a guest who is experiencing the particular situation. After the interview, the host introduces a second guest whom the first guest would like to confront. A fight usually breaks out—pulled hair, thrown chair, etc—and then big Steve Wilkos comes on to break it up. And sometimes, for funsies, a third or fourth guest may even come on to the show—followed by more fighting and name-calling.

Most of the episodes for these shows are staged in a way to bring out the worst in people; they are never flattering topics.

  • “Doomed Grooms”
  • “Quadruple Dog Dare Disasters”
  • “She took my man…and my car!”
  • “You ripped my hair out!”
  • “It’s the Rooster or Me!”

My co-workers and I sat there commenting on how childish, stupid and silly these types of shows are. “Why would anyone want to degrade themselves on live tv?” I asked. “Some people just crave the attention,” replied a co-worker. Then we slurped some more pho broth and kept watching. “OMG! We should start a tabloid talk show around Asian American topics!” I finally said.

I’ve previously complained about Asians lack of representation in the media. We may as well break ground on the tabloid talk show genre too. Why not? There are literally hundreds of topics we can talk about.

We’ll call it The James Hong Show; to be hosted by the famous American actor and director, James Hong. What? Did you honestly think I’d volunteer myself to host a sleazy tabloid talk show? Ok fine, I probably would. Here are some of the episodes our show will start out with.

“First born and privileged.”
This episode explores the lifestyle of first born male in an Asian family. Viewers won’t believe the lavish privileges these boys enjoy—higher pay, peeing while standing up, first dibs on colleges, and chore free living. If you think this is crazy, you wouldn’t believe what their older sisters have to say…

“English is my second language, but America is my first love.”
After spending so many years learning English and trying to fit in, Minh is rejected by her one true love, America, who is having a love affair with Canadian pop star Justin Beiber. Our guest will share her stories of love and heartache…and also have a chance to punch Justin Beiber (our surprise guest!) in the face.

“Call me submissive and I’ll cut you.”
OkCupid. Tinder. Match.com. Welcome to the world of online dating, where Asian women are the most viewed, most liked, and most sought after thing on the Internet—second only adorable cat videos. You don’t want to miss what happens when these women confront the men who have been messaging them.

“I lived under the rock of oppression and survived to tell about.”
Everyone lumps Asians together within a broad “model minority” stereotype. Is helpful or harmful? We interview a group of Southeast Asians, a relatively recent arrival refugee group, how this stereotype has impacted for their lives. Their stories will shock you. Spoiler alert: There’s hair pulling.

“Crap! My parents tricked me into getting a phd.”
Think your parents are tough? Listen to the traumatic lives of three siblings whose parents coerced them into getting phds. One child went to a public university, another majored in art, and the third joined the Peace Corps. Several years later, these kids have a message for mom and dad. Special guest Steve Wilkos will also join us!

“I’m just not attracted to Asian men.”
Warning, this episode may contain offensive language not suitable for children. Nerd. Kung Fu Master. Introverted. Shy. Video Gamer. Casual. Small. Boring. Unromantic. Effeminate. Weak sauce. These are some a few of the words used to describe Asian men. Hear their side of the story, and what they wish they could say to their would-be bullies.

“I can’t breathe. Because you’re choking me you idiot!”
How do institutional biases impact the way our law enforcement and legal system treats Asian Americans? Does the model minority myth buffer them from such abuses? Our guest on this episode, Johnny Nguyen, recalls his recent brush with the law. We’re giving Johnny a chance to confront his aggressors. And then special musical guest Taylor Swift will perform her new hit “Shake It Off”!

“Where are you really from?”
We put a hidden camera on five Asian-Americans and followed them around for a week. You won’t believe the reactions they get from random strangers. What these five Asians don’t know is…we’ve invited the strangers on camera to come onto the show. We promise this is an episode you don’t want to miss.

***

Would you like to be a guest on The James Hong Show? Got problems with your grades? Are you biracial and proud? Are you an adopted Asian child who wants to be reunited with your birth parents? Do you secretly like chicken feet but haven’t told your partner? Email, call, or text us and we’ll schedule you onto one of our upcoming episodes.

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Why do people think Asians are arrogant and White men make great leaders?

Hi everyone. Happy Wednesday!!! And Happy Thanksgiving.

I wanted to explore the topic of arrogance today–or confidence depending on who you ask. I’ve thought about this issue for quite a while, but never really knew how to best articulate it. A recent experience finally compelled me to write about this.

I was having lunch with a friend this week, who happens to be White. At one point in our conversation, my friend provided me feedback about my leadership and communication style. “You can be overly confident sometimes, which can come off as patronizing. You should tone it down a bit.” My initial reaction was “Awww, you notice me,” followed by “NUH-UH, YOU TONE IT DOWN!”

Let’s take a step back, because the purpose of this post isn’t to analyze whether I am confident, arrogant or a combination of both. I admit that I have been all of those things at various points in my life. Instead, I’m curious about the racial dynamics involved in these perceptions.

Here’s a football example: Seahawks vs 49ths in the 2014 Western conference playoff. It was the final play of the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. The winner would go on to play the Denver Broncos in the Superbowl. In the final play of the game, Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback, threw a last ditch pass to Michael Crabtree in the end zone. If he caught it, the 49ers would have scored a touchdown and likely won. However, the pass was tipped by Richard Sherman and intercepted by the Seahawks. Many of you may remember Richard Sherman’s postgame interview with Erin Andrews. “I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get.”

Reactions were divided. Some people, most notably Seahawks fans, loved Sherman’s interview. Others derided him for being unprofessional and voiced their opinion in extremely racist ways. The criticisms of Sherman were way over the top. Here’s a snippet of some of the comments I found online.

I’ve noticed a terrible pattern of Black and other minorities being portrayed negatively when they are overly confident, while White players get much more favorable treatment.

Let’s look at Tom Brady. Not many people thought Tom Brady was going to be a great quarterback (we all know how that turned out). But Brady was once quoted saying “I’ve been playing this game my whole life…I’ve started a couple games now, and it’s the same game, man. It’s no different. I kid you not, it’s not that hard. I’m going to be a great one. I’m going to be one of the best at this game.”

Is that any different than what Richard Sherman said? I personally don’t think so; yet the reaction is so different. Sure, Tom Brady has also been called arrogant by some, but rarely have people brought up his race, or ethnicity, or gender, or sexuality.

This double standard exists for many people of color, including Asians. If you seem too confident, too assertive, or too passionate, you get called arrogant, or something worse. Similar to how athletes are single-mindedly focused on perfection, minorities also share the same drive to be the best we can be. Yet we’re told to tone it down; that we should be more humble.

This is incredibly frustrating for me as an Asian American. It feels like I have to celebrate my personal success quietly, and not be too vocal or expressive for fear of being called arrogant. This continuous self-monitoring is very exhausting. Sometimes, when I do something awesome (far and few, to be sure) I just want to “Richard Sherman” it and let the world know without being put down because of my race. It feels like Asians have to moderate our feelings and excitement, whereas most White men can boast about their successes freely and frequently. In fact, arrogance has been viewed as a positive, even advantageous trait, for some White men.

I’ve heard of similar frustrations among women too. There are many intelligent, strong women leaders who are called arrogant or abrasive when they exhibit the same confidence and leadership qualities as men: confidence, assertiveness, directness, and competitiveness. Hilary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer all come to mind.

The duality between being a minority as opposed to a White man is palpable. How come when White men exhibit these same qualities, they are perceived to be trustworthy, reliable, and great leaders? Am I judged by these same standards? Are people turned off because I don’t fit the stereotype of being a quiet, passive Asian? Does it cause resentment when I am vocal and assertive? Or when I challenge authority? Is Whiteness more positively associated with good leadership and confidence? As an Asian-American, does my overt confidence negatively impact how other people perceive me?

The answers to all of these questions are complex and multifaceted, to say the least. I don’t raise these issues and questions as a way to absolve myself of actually being arrogant. Arrogance is still a real thing; and I am totally guilty of it at different points in my life. Nor is my intention to single out or assign blame to old White men. I’m not pointing the finger at each and every single White men and saying “This is your fault. Look what you did to me!” Rather, it is important to recognize and acknowledge these biases and stereotypes exist and that some people benefit from them and others don’t.

There are so many strong, confident and vocal leaders in the Asian American community. We’re tired of being boxed into other people’s stereotypes. We’re not satisfied with the perceptions that Asians are weak and passive, but excellent at math! We don’t to be crappy leaders, but really great doctors. Our goal should be creating a more diverse and inclusive environment where everyone can put their best foot forward, showcase their amazing talents, and highlight their unique skills–without fear of being put down because of their race.

Can you be confident without being arrogant? Absolutely! But is it fair for minorities to be held to a double standard? Heck no. We need to challenge these implicit biases when we see them.

So when it comes to my work, my passion, my leadership and my career, I’ll put it out there. Just like Tom Brady and Richard Sherman: I’m going to be one of the best at this game. And when appropriate, I’m going to celebrate it–loudly!

***

How about other folks out there? Ever feel like you can’t be overtly confidence? Ever been told to tone it down? Leave a comment below, I’d like to hear about other experiences. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. And go Seahawks!

Are you a thinker or feeler? Take this quiz to find your leadership style.

Hi friends. My post last week, “Can Asian leaders think and feel?” explored the pros and cons of task-oriented and people-oriented leaders—two common types of behavioral styles. While each style has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, a successful leader is one who knows how to recognize, and utilize, each style depending on the situation they’re in, or the people they’re working with.

Are you task- or people-oriented? Take this quiz to find out.

Curious about what your leadership style is? I can help! Below is a short quiz that I put together. Run through the various scenarios and add up your score (A or B) at the end to figure out if you’re more task-oriented or people-oriented.

1. You’re out with your friends and need to decide where to go for dinner. Do you…

  • A) Take charge and pick a place? Korean BBQ, your favorite!
  • B) Or check in with everyone to see what they’d like?

2. You just got a C+ on your pharmacy exam and wanted to get feedback from your professor. How do you prefer to receive feedback?

  • A) “Give it to me straight! Don’t hold the punches.”
  • B) Use the sandwich approach–wrap the negative feedback between two positives. “You’re super hard working, but have zero aptitude for pharmacy. And your hair smells delicious, like beef broth. Yum!”

3. You’re learning how to stir-fry and need to buy a new wok for your kitchen. Do you…

  • A) Research all of the specs and ratings online before making your decision?
  • B) Ask your friends how they feel about their woks?

4. Someone just said something racist: all Asians are terrible drivers. You respond by…

  • A) Reasoning with them. Share some statistics about Asians and driving, and how it compares to other groups.
  • B) Appealing to their emotions. Explain how these stereotypes negatively impact Asians and that it actually hurts your feelings too.

5. Its family day and you’ve got a tight schedule: dim sum in Chinatown, followed by a visit to the Asian Art Museum and ending with karaoke. How do you manage the schedule?

  • A) Can’t be late! Plan out every stop and how long it takes to get everywhere, factoring in seasonal traffic and weather patterns.
  • B) Time isn’t a big deal. Just gotta make sure everyone maintains their energy level and no one has a melt down before the day is done.

6. You and your colleagues just got assigned a new project for work and the team needs to designate a lead. Are you more comfortable…

  • A) Stepping up to make sure the project gets done efficiently and on time?
  • B) Playing a support role and using your skills behind the scenes to ensure team unity and success?

7. Just graduated and you’re looking for a new job. Would you prefer an environment where you get to…

  • A) Work alone and independently?
  • B) Work collaboratively in groups?

8. Your friends would describe you as…

  • A) “Hard to read.” They’re never quite sure what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling.
  • B) “Easy to read.” Oh yeah, you’re like a book. They know exactly what’s on your mind.

9. You’re in a relationship and your partner just asked to meet your parents. How do you respond?

  • A) “Hmm, let me think about it.”
  • B) “Of course!” There’s no reason your parents shouldn’t meet someone you care about.

Your results

If you answered mostly A, then you have task-oriented leanings. You’re methodical and organized, preferring to trust logic and reason. You’re probably the rare Asian that always shows up to meetings and parties on time. Congrats!!!

On the other hand, if most of your responses were B, then you tend to be more people-oriented, like a lucky rabbit. You’re in tune with the feelings and needs of those around you, and prefer to work through challenges collaboratively. You’re also probably comfortable telling your parents you love them.

You can read my post from last week for more details on these two styles.

Keys to success

I believe most Asian Americans gravitate toward a task-oriented style because of cultural, societal or family reasons. However, it is equally important that we have strong people skills needed to make relationships work. A successful leader is able to balance both types of styles; the yin and yang of leadership.

Now that you’ve identified your own leadership style, here are some keys to success.

For task-oriented leaders…

  • Listen, don’t talk: If someone ever comes to you with a problem or challenge, you must resist the urge to solve their problems immediately. Some people just want to vent their frustrations and be heard.
  • Use active listening: Task-oriented leaders tend to be good at multitasking. But don’t multitask people! You must give people your undivided attention. Eye contact goes a long way.
  • Prioritize relationship-building: I previously wrote about the importance of effective relationship-building, this is a good skill for task-oriented leaders to practice. Show people you care about them by valuing their presence, following up with them, and staying in touch.
  • Remember that you have feelings too! We’re not robots. It’s ok to show people how you really feel. Just because your parents never said “I love you” doesn’t mean you have to be the same way. Feelings are important.

For  people-oriented leaders…

  • Organize, organize, organize: Our fast-paced, workaholic culture can feel really overwhelming at times. Relax. Take a deep breath. Start by organizing your to-do list, schedules and most importantly, your goals.
  • Ask for help: If you’ve got too much on your plate, ask a task-oriented person to help you. They will be more than happy to help you problem solve!
  • Get rid of toxic relationships: Connecting with people is great, but some relationships are toxic and drain you of energy. It’s ok to let these go. Focus on your own mental and emotional well-being.
  • Find your voice! It’s good to be humble and supportive, but recognize that you also have skills, experience and talent too. If you have a great idea, speak up and share it! Take credit where credit is due.

What do you all think? Have more keys to success to share? What’s worked (or hasn’t worked) for you and your life? I’d also love to hear how these leadership styles have intersected with people’s Asian American identity. Leave a comment below, Facebook, or email me!

The Ultimate Survival Guide for Touring Washington DC

Greetings everyone! This week I have been visiting my Peace Corps friends in Washington DC, a hotbed for politics and tourism. Despite my extensive preparation and research, nothing quite prepared me for the size, scale and grandeur that is our nation’s capitol. It has been amazing and overwhelming. Amazing because there is so much rich history and tradition here; and overwhelming because I didn’t realize how incredibly huge all of the buildings and monuments are. The place is so big that every building has its own map for visitors. I ran into a gentlemen at the National Portrait Gallery who has been lost inside for over 50 years!

Realizing how incredibly daunting a vacation to DC can be, I put together this survival guide for Asian-Americans (and other English speakers). It’s perfect for any tourist visiting this fine city.

Do your research before your trip:

Watch movies that take place in DC to familiarize yourself with the surroundings. My personal recommendations are: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Captain America 2, and White House Down. Ironically, WHD has the most accurate portrayal of DC because it includes Asians in the film. I learned that there are indeed Asians who live and work in DC (at least five). But unlike the movie we’re not trying to blow up the White House. I really hope I don’t get flagged by the CIA, NSA, or FBI for that last line.

Gear you’ll need:

  • A dSLR camera and tripod; great for taking pictures of yourself pretending to hold the Washington Monument in your hand.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses. Asians respect and fear the sun.
  • A valid license or passport. For getting into bars; also useful for proving your US citizenship since everyone thinks we’re foreigners.
  • A map of DC and the Metro System, which you can find everywhere in any hotel, shop or metro station.
  • A compass to help you navigate.
  • A pocketbook “Asian”-English translator. Strangely, a few White people have come up to me saying things like “ching chong chang.” Super confusing. I thought all White people spoke English. Guess not.

5 Must See Attractions:

Vietnam Veterans Memorial: The memorial honors US service members who fought and died in the Vietnam War. When reading the engraved names, you can also see your reflection on the wall. This is intentional and symbolically brings together past and present. A short distance away is a bronze statue called “The Three Soldiers” which includes a White, African and Latino American soldier. Though I could literally see my reflection in the memorial walls, my story wasn’t being reflected at all. Glaringly missing from the memorial are any mention of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians who also lost their lives during the war. You’ll need to decide for yourself how that makes you feel.

National Portrait Gallery: Get ready to magically stumble upon a gigantic portrait of LL Cool J, a modern-day Rockefeller. Seeing it inspired me and gave my life new purpose. Then I went on a search for Asian-American portraits and found three: Isamu Noguchi, a prominent Japanese American artist; Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American movie star; and Bruce Lee, a demigod who will break your face with a one-inch punch. We need more Asian portraits. I vote for the other James Hong–actor, director, and the voice of Po’s dad on Kung Fu Panda.

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial: One of the greatest and most recognized civic rights leaders in history. A relief of Dr. King is carved into white granite, and overlooks the Tidal Basin. Though we have come a long way since the 1960s, the memorial is a reminder that the fight for civil rights and equality will always be a work in progress.

National Japanese American Memorial: The internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans during WWII is one of the greatest tragedies in American history. This memorial acknowledges the grave injustice our country committed in the name of national security (there have been others since). The names of the ten internment camps, along with more than 800 Japanese American who died fighting in the war, are etched into memorial walls. It took a while for my friend and I to find the name of her uncle who served.

National Museum of the American Indian: The museum is dedicated to the life, language, history and culture of Native Americans. I was inspired by the strength and resiliency of the Native community, who have persevered despite over a century of oppression and discrimination. There’s a lot Asian-Americans can learn from this history. We share a similar struggle, like people who wear our clothing like it’s a costume.

A couple things you should avoid, but probably can’t:

Chinatown: For authentic Asian food and culture, look no further than as far away from Chinatown as you possibly can go. Despite the “Friendship Arch,” a large gateway found in many Chinatowns, storefronts with Chinese characters, and occasional Asian person walking down the street, there is nothing here that vaguely reflects Asian American culture and history. A great case study on gentrification and displacement. The DC Chinatown is just so extraordinary that you really need to see it with your own eyes–but you’ve been warned.

Crazy, homeless people: On the subway station, a homeless man ranted something that included the words “Asians” “chink” and “have small penises.” My initial reaction was “who told you!?” He must have had x-ray vision. Even though there were other Asians on the subway, he specifically singled me out. “The Asian in the orange shirt…blah blah blah…chink.” I’m not sure what his intentions were, but I felt pity for the man. He was very obviously a wacko. The moral of the story: don’t wear orange on the DC metros as it attracts the attention of racist, homeless people. Or maybe it was because I hadn’t washed my shirt since coming off the plane and he was attracted to its musty odor.

The Take Away:

You’ll need to accept there is not enough time to everything, and instead focus on a few things that are really meaningful to you. For me, it was learning how Asian Americans impacted the growth of our nation. The unfortunate truth is there isn’t much here to acknowledge the contributions of the Asian Americans, though the portrait of Bruce Lee is bad ass. And therein lies the greatest gift the Asian American community can give to this great country–our diverse voices and stories.

What do minorities, youth and women all have in common with the Seahawks?

Like most other fans last Wednesday, I braved the cold and traffic to welcome home our championship Seahawks. I was dangerously attracted to the idea of seeing what half a million people collectively celebrating would look like. I imagined a 21st birthday party with piñatas, confetti and tequila shots, followed by bad decision-making and morning-after regrets. Times 10,000. In reality, I saw a man and woman cursing at each other for cutting in line at the light rail station, a cellphone network that was overwhelmed with Twitter updates, and Skittles being thrown at the crowd #worthit #ThankYouMarshawnLynch #IDontKnowHowToUseHashtags.

I was proud to be associated with a team that had character, class and principle. They were able to overcome numerous obstacles on their way to becoming world champions #SorryDenver. Russell Wilson was called too small to be an NFL quarterback #AsiansRelate; Percy Harvin was injured nearly the entire season; Derrick Coleman is deaf; and Richard Sherman had to ensure a barrage of racist comments.

A Komo News article recently described how undervalued players like Doug Baldwin overcame adversity to find success with the Seahawks. “Everybody says, ‘Doug has a chip on his shoulder, that’s why he’s angry,'” said Baldwin. “I don’t have a chip on my shoulder; I have a boulder on my shoulder. Every negative comment that comes out, I just put it there.”

Baldwin’s comments made me think about the “chip” that many minorities and underrepresented communities are forced to carry (except in the case of hipsters, who simply made a series of poor life choices). I’ve written about my neighbor who didn’t want Asians to move in next door, the effects of Asian stereotypes on dating, and how people who don’t speak English natively are often marginalized. Asian-Americans and other minorities have to endure these negative comments every single day of their lives.

But where critics saw flaws and shortcomings, our Seahawks saw opportunities for greatness. Adversity has made our Seahawks team and players stronger #12thman. They took their anger and turned it into positive energy. “I go back and look at the negative stuff, because it’s not so much about what you’ve done, it’s what you haven’t done, and what opportunities you’re going to have in the future to prove yourself right,” said Baldwin.

Despite the oppression that youth, people of color and women face, we’re all just like football players. Minus about 200 pounds of raw power and athleticism, and the ability to cause earthquakes. We feel angry and frustrated when society doesn’t think we’re good enough to compete at the highest level. We’re sick of always being picked last. And we’re tired of being denied fair opportunities when we have the ability to make an impact.

Like every single Seahawks player, we have something to prove and we’re ready to work hard to achieve our dreams. “I’ve come to believe it’s the key factor in deciding success,” Carroll said. “Overcoming shortcomings, abilities, and stuff like that — the guys who have grit — they’re the ones you’re looking for.” Within my Asian-American community, there are numerous examples of strong, inspiring leaders: Sharon Maeda, State Senator Bob Hasegawa, Kip Tokuda, and more. They never quit, overcame adversity, stepped up, and became champions for social justice and equality #beastmode.

People often ask me why I choose to work in the non-profit sector. Why put up with the low pay, lack of appreciation, long hours and constant stress? It’s because I have a chip on my shoulder too. And the only way to move it is to continue empowering refugee and immigrants #12thman; helping youth overcome adversity #legionofboom; and ensuring women are heard and respected #getLOUDER. Russell Wilson describes it best when he said “I’m one of those guys that’s always in the moment, always trying to focus on what I need to do to be successful, and how I can help other people be successful.”

So thank you Seattle Seahawks, for a historic and unforgettable season. You’ve inspired me and our Seattle community to believe that we too can overcome adversity and become Superbowl Champions. #WeAre12 #neverquit #sbchamps.

Why Richard Sherman Should Not Stop Ranting

Dear Richard Sherman:

My name is James. We’ve never met, so unless you’ve read my blog there is a strong likelihood that you don’t know who I am. Your now infamous rant was passionate and terrifying—as if you had channeled the collective fury of a hundred tiger moms. It was mesmerizing.

Listen, I know you’re busy preparing for the Superbowl (go get ‘em), but I’ve made a wish list of other topics that I would love for you to rant about. For your consideration…

Please rant on behalf diversity and respect: I was frustrated by the mudslinging and racist comments hurled at you. I can relate to a life of battling stereotypes and prejudices. I’m Vietnamese-American, which is awesome but has its challenges.

For starters, everyone thinks all Asians are the same. One time, a White guy walked up to me and asked if I spoke Chinese, but before I could answer he started speaking Chinese to me! It sounded very authentic and eloquent, and made me wish I also knew Chinese so that I could understand what he was saying. I imagined he was reciting a beautiful sonnet or cursing me for not becoming an engineer.

Do you get frustrated when people think all Black people are the same, when in fact the United States is home to a diverse mix of African Americans and African immigrants? It’s the same way for Asians. We, as a society, need to acknowledge and honor diverse cultures, histories and heritages.

Please rant in support of women: Last year I was in the downtown bus tunnel with my friend Amanda, who is a woman. There was a guy standing about ten feet away from us who kept making offensive comments and catcalls. “Ay! Ay girl! You lookin’ reaallll delicious.” Although Amanda was clearly uncomfortable, she didn’t stand up for herself and instead tried to ignore him. I didn’t like the thought of my friend being harassed, so I did what most men would do. Absolutely nothing.

I wish I had your passion and intensity back then. I would have turned around and said to him “Don’t you ever talk about Amanda! Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!” Then I would have done one of those awesome dances you guys do during halftime.

As a man I’ve never had to worry about walking down the street and being whistled at, or worse. The people who bug me are hipsters and vegans—but that only happens in Capitol Hill. This is why we, as men, need to speak up and support women.

Please rant on behalf of underserved youth: I am so sick of youth being called thugs and delinquents because of the color of their skin, neighborhood they live in, communities they are born into, income levels, immigration status, languages they speak, etc. Society has somehow convinced itself that underserved youth are hopeless, rather than viewing them as sources of inspiration and progress. Youth are not the cause of our social and political problems; they inherit our problems—all the things society decided to kick down the road…like immigration reform (Justin Beiber could have been prevented).

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of working with many youth, who despite facing numerous life obstacles, ended up going to college and giving back to their community. They are heroes. We need to stop blaming youth for everything from gluten-free diets to the 2005 Seahawks losing to the Steelers (everyone knows it was the refs).

We need your help Mr. Sherman. Your rant was heard around the world. It traveled faster than the speed of light. Even though you were just raving about a football game, people listened. For those of us who work in social justice and change, we rant every.single.day. Few people notice. If we had your ranting prowess, even for a 15 second sound bite, we could change the world.

So please Mr. Sherman, rant on, rant loudly, and rant for social change. Oh, and if you have time, can you also rant about people who have Asian fetishes? Thanks!

Sincerely yours,
James

Go Seahawks!

3 Reasons Why Youth Volunteerism Doesn’t Solve Community Problems

This past weekend I had the privilege of facilitating a leadership retreat for a Vietnamese Student Association. The officers wanted to focus on team-building and effective communication (no, I was not teaching them English), and position their association to become more active with the local Vietnamese community. Their energy and passion for community service inspired me, but also made me think about how the community currently engages young people. Then I burned with the fury of a hundred tiger moms.

In recent years I have heard many adults and elders lament that young people are not more involved with the Vietnamese community. This is one of those ideas that sound good in theory, but has been historically been plagued by poor execution—like social security and the San Francisco 49ers.

The pattern generally happens like this: a group hosts a community or cultural gathering and invites young people to “get involved.”

Dear unnamed young person. I am the President/Grant Master/Supreme Overlord of the “Washington Vietnamese Helping People in the Universe and Vicinity, excluding Canada” (WVHPUVeC for short). We are hosting our annual dinner to help poor, starving children in Asia. We need volunteers to help arrange tables and clean up after the event! Come help us give back to the community by volunteering your time!”

These sorts of announcements make me cringe because they are patronizing and full of logical fallacies. It makes want fume over how angry these sorts of announcements make me feel. Very angry.

Fallacy #1, Appeal to emotion: Just because there are poor, starving children in Asia doesn’t mean setting up tables for an event will help their plight. An emotional decision is no substitute for an informed one—service demands both. When was the last time you heard a volunteer say, “Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to set up tables and pick up trash. It’s so obvious why this is the key to helping hungry children. I’d love to stay involved with this important cause, so please contact me again in one year. The trash doesn’t clean up itself after all. LOL JK 😀 ”?

We need to engage young people from the top and provide them with opportunities to address the root causes of social and community issues. Labeling them as volunteers and asking them to do the grunt work doesn’t empower them or our community. Young people have passion; let’s appeal to their intellect too.

Fallacy #2, Argument from authority: Adults and elders, despite their experience and wisdom, can’t solve every community issue alone. Sometimes their habits become a barrier to innovation and creativity. Youth experience the world differently—this should be celebrated, not ridiculed. We need to stop thinking young people are inexperienced and naive; they have an important role to play in the future of our community too. Let’s do away with fancy titles and focus on creating a shared vision instead.

If you ever find yourself a victim of this fallacy, simply replace the fancy titles with “mom.” If my mom asked me to clean the house, I would probably tell her that I was sick, made other plans to help hungry children in Asia, or simply don’t want to clean the house (and then patiently wait for her inner tiger to rip me apart).

Fallacy #3, The Bandwagon: A popular idea isn’t necessarily valid. If it were, then Asians would have started wearing chopsticks in their heads, and racism would have ended long ago, to accommodate these beliefs. Many people preach about the need of getting more young people involved with the community—to the point where it stops being meaningful. If we are sincere about engaging young people, we need to stop asking them to volunteer for us and instead ask ourselves “What can we do to support young people?”

My intention here isn’t to say that the Asian-American or other communities don’t need young people to volunteer. Volunteers are valuable part of community development and non-profit organizations (VFA’s annual benefit is coming up in March, email me to volunteer). But instead of lamenting some silly notion that young people are apathetic to community issues, we need to think of better ways to provide them with meaningful experiences where they can contribute their wisdom, skills and energy.

Why? Because I am a director at a non-profit and you will respect my authoritah!