Asian-Americans and the ‘model minority’ myth

Source: The Korean Herald –

Previews of Amy Chua’s forthcoming book, “The Triple Package” (co-written with husband Jed Rubenfeld), detonated a social media uproar among Asian-Americans. Many were infuriated by the New York Post’s report that Chua, the self-styled Tiger Mom, was identifying eight superior “cultural” groups in the United States: Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese, Nigerian, Cuban and Mormon. For Asian-Americans, the problem is about another Chua production that seems to perpetuate the “model minority” myth and, in particular, the notion that Asians are culturally ? even genetically ? endowed with the characteristics that enable them to succeed in American society.

Before the mid-20th century, the Tiger Mom did not exist in the national imagination. Instead, Americans believed that Chinese culture was disgusting and vile, viewing U.S. Chinatowns as depraved colonies of prostitutes, gamblers and opium addicts bereft of decency. Lawmakers and citizens deployed these arguments to justify and maintain the segregation, marginalization and exclusion of Chinese from mainline society between the 1870s and World War II. Those efforts were more than effective: to have a “Chinaman’s chance” at that time meant that one had zero prospects.

There is danger in offering culture as a formula for success, because our ideas of culture are hardly fixed. The history of Americans’ views about Chinese immigrant behaviors shows that “culture” often serves as a blank screen onto which individuals project various political agendas, depending on the exigencies of the moment.

During World War II, white liberals agonized that racism was damaging the United States’ ability to fight a war for democracy against the Axis powers. Many felt that the Chinese exclusion laws, which had barred migrants from China from entering the country or becoming naturalized citizens since the 1870s, risked America’s trans-Pacific alliance with China against Japan. A coast-to-coast campaign emerged to overturn the laws. The Citizens Committee to Repeal Chinese Exclusion recognized that it would have to neutralize deep-seated fear of “yellow peril” coolie hordes. So it strategically recast Chinese in its promotional materials as “law-abiding, peace-loving, courteous people living quietly among us.” Congress repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943.

In the 1950s, journalists, social scientists and policymakers recycled this fledgling idea, circulating it further and wider as they groped for a solution to what they perceived as a national juvenile delinquency crisis. The New York Times Magazine emphasized that Chinese youths displayed “unquestioned obedience” toward their elders, while Look magazine celebrated their “high moral sense.” U.S. Rep. Arthur Klein of New York praised his Manhattan Chinatown constituents for their “respect for parents and teachers,” “stable and loving home life” and thirst for education.


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Break Point: The Challenges of Teaching Multicultural Education Courses

A great article to read on multicultural education courses.

Break Point: The Challenges of Teaching
Multicultural Education Courses
Arlette Ingram Willis and Shuaib J. Meacham

In work on multiculturalism and teacher education, much has been made of the
ironic growth in the heterogeneity of America’s public school students and the
homogeneity of America’s public school teachers (Fuller, 1 992). Educators have
thus been alerted to the dire consequences to follow, should they continue to
engage the complexity of culturally diverse student populations in their present
state of “multicultural illiteracy” (Ladson-Billings, 1 991). Along with this alert,
lip service seems to be paid to what preservice teachers don’t know, and what
they should know and do in order to meet the educational needs of children of
color and of linguistic difference (Gore, 1 993; hooks, 1 992). Like our colleagues,
we believe that the most effective way to reform education begins in our colleges
and universities in teacher education. A review of the related research suggests
that many multicultural education courses are taught with the intent of changing
the attitudes and beliefs of white pre service teachers. We suggest that all preservice
teachers need to improve their understanding of the role of linguistic and cul­
tural diversity in children’s lives, to improve their understanding of its history,
and change their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors so that a more just multicultural
school climate is realized. It is imperative therefore that teacher education courses
not merely teach about multicultural education, but that they become multicultural
environments. In this article we describe accounts of our experience as two
African American instructors teaching multicultural education courses and the
experiences of students who have taken them.
Among a p lethora of publications on multicultural education, little has
been written on the constraints facing teacher educators who attempt to convey
attitudinal change. Consequently, there is a tacit, yet prevalent tension between
ideas about the learning that must take place and the practical limitations under
which many multicultural education courses are conducted (Gore, 1 993). In fact,
theoretical admonitions tend to underestimate the subtle dynamics within the
practical setting and altogether fail to account for the ways in which multi­
cultural learning takes place. We believe it is important to articulate clearly and
explicitly the emotional nature of these discussions. Students have expressed
responses that range from self-pity to racial hatred. We’ ve i ncluded their
words for, as Nieto ( 1 992) has pointed out, their voices must become part of our
examination of the teaching process.

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AAJA Launches Retrospective on Vincent Chin, Pivotal Struggles in Asian American History

AAJA Launches Retrospective on Vincent Chin, Pivotal Struggles in Asian American History

AAJA Launches Retrospective on Vincent Chin, Pivotal Struggles in Asian American History

Online Resources Are Part of AAJA’s MediaWatch Program, Which Aims to Hold News Media to Standards of Accuracy and Fairness in Coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwired – Jun 3, 2013) – The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) launched today an online retrospective on Vincent Chin, a Chinese American whose tragic fatal beating approximately 31 years ago spurred a pan-Asian civil rights movement.

The new online content, which can be accessed via AAJA’s website, features a timeline of discriminatory actions against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), including Chin’s death on June 19, 1982, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Japanese American internment from 1942 to 1944.

The webpages also highlight additional resources (e.g. books, videos and articles) on the Vincent Chin case, as well as AAJA resources to improve fair and accurate coverage of AAPIs including AAJA’s MediaAccess Guide and the AAJA Handbook to Covering Asia America.

To access the online retrospective, visit:

Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese American man, was killed in Detroit days before his wedding by two autoworkers who thought Chin was Japanese. At the time, many Americans blamed Japan for crippling the U.S. auto industry.

“The brutal attack of Vincent Chin marked a pivotal civil rights moment in the history of Asian Americans. Unfortunately, 30-plus years since, hatred and negative stereotypes toward many minorities are still prevalent, reminding us that our struggle for equality isn’t over,” said AAJA National President Paul Cheung.

“AAJA’s MediaWatch was established to make sure our community is being covered fairly and accurately. Although as Asian Americans we often have a cultural upbringing different from that of other Americans, we share many of the same struggles and successes. As journalists, we must inform the public of the truth and share the stories of our nation,” Cheung added.

The online content was made possible with funding from the Ford Foundation. University of California Hastings College of Law Dean Frank H. Wu, a renowned expert in AAPI civil rights issues, also contributed to this project.

AAJA’s MediaWatch program also encourages the public to report questionable coverage of AAPIs by news organizations. For more information, visit the AAJA MediaWatch page.

The Asian American Journalists Association is a nonprofit professional and educational organization with more than 1,500 members across the United States and in Asia. Founded in 1981, AAJA has been at the forefront of change in the journalism industry. AAJA’s mission is to encourage Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) to enter the ranks of journalism, to increase the number of AAPI journalists and news managers in the industry and to work for fair and accurate coverage of AAPIs and their issues. AAJA is an alliance partner in UNITY Journalists for Diversity, along with the Native American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. For more information about AAJA, visit


AAJA Executive Director

Kathy Chow

(415) 346-2051


Chinese Soldiers Fought in U.S. Civil War


Those were the days of sailing ships augmented by steam power and China was as remote from the Eastern United States as it was possible to be. Still, Chinese Americans found their way to the East Coast, and researchers claim that as many as 50 Chinese fought as soldiers during the American Civil War. The number does not include the Chinese who served in the U.S. Navy. The soldiers fought on both sides. Chinese soldier of the Union participated in the most famous battle of the Civil War: the three-day Battle of Gettysburg. Pvt. Joseph L. Pierce enlisted in the 14th Connecticut Infantry in August 1862.



Union soldiers of Chinese heritage definitely fought in Gettysburg.

Private Joseph L. Pierce, age 21 when enlisted, height 5 feet 5 inches, with dark hair and black eyes, was born in the city of Canton, Kwangtung Province, China. His occupation was a farmer. He enlisted for 3 years of military service, in the 14th Connecticut regiment (infantry) in New Britain, Connecticut on July 26, 1861. He was promoted to Corporal in November 1, 1863. The regimental historian Stewart stated that during Pickett’s charge, Pierce appeared “pig-tail and all, the only Chinese in the Army of the Potomac.” (Page 56) The statement was a little exaggerated, for certainly there were more than one Chinese in the Army of the Potomac.

All male Chinese wore this kind of pigtail hairstyle, in the Manchu Dynasty, in the 19th century. The muster roll record showed that Pierce stayed in the Convalescent Camp in Virginia in January 1863. Record showed he received payment from the Army on March 1, 1864. Pierce apparently served as a cook in the Army and survived the war. I am not successful in finding out under what circumstances he came to America.


Corporal John Tommy served in Company D, 70th New York regiment (New York at Gettysburg, vol. I, p. 219), was a native of China. John Tommy lost both arms and both legs on July 2, 1863, at the battle of Gettsburg and died of his wounds in October 19, 1863. He suffered 3 months and 17 days in agony. Report showed that he was a good and brave soldier.


Antonio Dardell was taken at a very early age from China and raised by a sea captain. His pension record showed that he enlisted as a private in October 22, 1862 and joined Company A, 27th Connecticut Infantry, fighting in the Civil War, and was honorably discharged at New Haven, Connecticut on August 25, 1863. Dardell was 5 feet 9 inches tall, with dark complexion, black hair and black eyes. His occupation was a tinner (tinsmith). He lived in Clinton and later moved to New Haven in 1869. He got his pension at age 68, on May 23, 1912.

BURIED: West Cemetery
New Haven County
Connecticut, USA


John Lee from the 14th Connecticut regiment fought in Gettsburg and was killed there. He came from China.  In the Confederate army, there was one Henry William Kwan of Co. B, 15th Virginia Battalion. Another one was Andrew S. Murdock, Co. G, 33rd North Carolina Infantry, who was born in the East Indies, and he could be an Asian.


Edward Day Cohota was orphaned at an early age. One story of his life has him as a four-year-old stowaway on an American ship sailing away from China, while another version says he was living on the dock, near Shanghai, and was picked up as a stray. In both versions, his benefactor was Captain Sargent S. Day, of the ship Cohota. The year was 1852. The young man seems to have been both cabin boy and adopted son, and kept in close touch with the other Day children for the next seventy years.

Young Cohota seems to have been eighteen years old when he enlisted in the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry in February 1864. In his sixteen months of service with Company I, he saw combat at Drury’s Bluff, Petersburg and Cold Harbor. At the latter place, a Minie ball grazed his scalp, leaving a permanent part in his hair. In that same battle, he saved the life of William E. Low, who had been struck in the jaw and rendered helpless by shock and blood loss. After the shooting stopped, Cohota carried the wounded man to a field hospital. In 1928, friends arranged for them to meet again. Low, now nearly deaf and blind, was at first unable to understand the purpose of the meeting, but, “suddenly his face flamed with recognition and his whole being was electrified, as he leaped to his feet with a cry of ‘Cohota!’ The two embraced with tears.”

In the months after the war, Cohota was unable to find work, encountered a few old comrades in a Boston saloon and while drunk, enlisted in the 15th Infantry, where he served thirty years. His regular army enlistment papers catalog his life on the frontier.

In 1866, his first papers describe him as five-foot, seven-inches in height, with black hair, black eyes and dark complexion, born in China, by the occupation of a seaman. He signed with an “X.” Three years later, he re-enlisted at Fort Garland, Colorado Territory and in 1874 signed up again at Santa Fe, New Mexico, again signing with an “X.” The year 1879 found him signing at Fort Stanton, high in the Capitan Mountains of central New Mexico. On his 1884 papers, completed at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory, he signed his own name, the first time in these records. Three years later, he was still in Fort Randall and his records note, for the first time, “Dancing girl tattooed on inner surface right forearm,” and “Married with two children.” He retired in August 1894. While at Fort Randall he said he stood guard over Indian chief Sitting Bull and spoke of him as a friendly chief.
At Fort Randall, he met Anna Halstensen, a Norwegian girl, and their marriage produced six children. They lived many years at Fort Niobrara, very near Valentine, Nebraska; there, after his 1894 retirement, he opened a restaurant, became a master Mason, and voted in every election.

Cohota passed his last days at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium for Veterans, at Hot Springs, South Dakota. He seemed to bear no ill will toward the country, which had denied him citizenship, and stood with his hat off “at attention, with reverence and respect,” as the flag came down each evening in the gathering Dakota dusk.

The dark wings of Death, which had passed so close at Cold Harbor, finally touched him in 1935. His granddaughter recalls him dying on the front porch of the family home at Parmelee, South Dakota. He had always considered Valentine, Nebraska, to be his true home, and there his family took him; the last Masonic rites were performed by Minnechadusa Lodge No. 192.

BURIED: Mount Hope Cemetery
Cherry County

(Written by Thomas P. Lowry. Co-author Edward S. Milligan wrote about Chinese in the Navy.)


John AhSoo; age 22; 133rd New York and later consolidated into 90th Battalion New York Veteran Infantry. he joined the regiment as a substitute, at Cedar Creek in Feb 1864.

John AWoo; age 24; 133rd New York and later consolidated into 90th Battalion New York Veteran Infantry. He enlisted as a substitute, in Jamaica, New York.

John BubSon; age 28; 133rd New York and later consolidated into 90th Battalion New York Veteran Infantry. He also enlisted as a substitute, in Jamaica, New York.

Christopher Wren Bunker; son of the famous Siamese Twin; Co. I, 37th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry; captured at Moorefield, West Virginia on Aug 1864; imprisoned in Camp Chase, Ohio and then, to City Point, Virginia.

Antonio Dardelle; Co. A, 27th Connecticut Infantry; enlisted on Aug 1862; wounded at Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg; became a U.S. citizen.

John Fouenty; joined the Confederate army in Savannah, Georgia for a year.

John Kim; Co. G, 61st Pennsylvania Infantry; enlisted on Oct 1864; mustered out on June 1865.

William H. Kwan; Co. B, 12th Virginia Battalion of Light Artillery.

John Lee; 14th Connecticut regiment; born in China; fought in Gettsburg and was killed there.

John Tommy (variation:Tomney,Tommey,Tourney,Tonney and Taminy); Co. D, 70th New York Infantry; captured in March 1862 in Prince William Counties; paroled in May 1862 at Newport News; captured again at Manassas in Aug 1862; re-joined his regiment on Dec 1862; promoted to corporal on Feb 1863; received fatal wounds in Gettysburg and bled to death.

Hong Neok Woo; Co. I, 50th Pennsylvania Infantry; served three months in Harrisburg and Chambersburg and got discharged. A missionary arranged the 16 years old boy from Shanghai, China to go on board the American frigate Susquehanna, as a servant to the ship’s doctor, to Pennsylvania. His friend dissuaded him to fight for his adopted country,where he became an US citizen. His loyalty preveiled. After the war, he returned home and served as an Episcopalian priest.

The following Chinese served the Union Navy (name / duty / his age at enlistment / month & year when enlisted / name of Navy ship served):

Tannror Acoan; officer’s cook; age 23; Aug 1862; Pinola

John Afoo; Landsman; age 44; March 1862; Harvest Moon.

John Afoo; ship’s cook; age 44; March 1863; Wyandott

John Afoo; ship’s cook; age 44; March 1863; Wyandank

Ahoo; Landsman; age 21; Wyoming

John Ahoy; Landsman; age 28; March 1862; Harvest Moon.

John Ahoy; officer’s cook; age 28; March 1862; Pinola

John Aie; officer’s cook; age 22; May 1864; Tallapoosa

John Akomb; steward; Red River expedition; in the gunboat Massachusetts.

John Akee; Landsman; age 20; May 1864; Tallapoosa

John Arnung; Landsman; age 22; Aug 1864; Grand Gulf

John Ase; Landsman; age 21; July 1864; Wyandank

John Asian; First class boy; age 20; May 1865; Relief

John Aslan; enlisted in Macao (Macau), a Portuguese colony in China; Relief.

Ah Chee; wardroom steward; age 21; March 1865; Comanche

John Ching Ching; born in Hong Kong; age 25; enlisted at New Orleans in July 1862; Resolute.

John Ching Chong; age 27; 1863 muster roll; Itasca.

John Comfort; Landsman; age 19; Sep 1861; Seneca

Joseph Dailey; cook; age 24; Aug 1864; Mohican

John Dixey; First class boy; age 14; July 1865; Relief

John Ah Hang; Landsman; served on North Carolina; age 22; enlisted 1863 in New York; USS Albatross.

George Hitchings; officer’s cook; age 24; Jan 1862; Kenebec

Ah Hong; Landsman; age 17; March 1865; Comanche

Charlie Irwin; age 24; 1863 muster roll; Itasca.

John King; Landsman; age 20; Feb 1865; Hartford

Peter Mullen; seaman; age 28; Apr 1864; Onondaga

John Owens; cook; age 35; May 1864; Norwich

Ah Poa; waiter; age 40; March 1865; Comanche

William Robinson; Landsman; age 18; Feb 1862; St. Marys

William Robinson; age 19; Landsman; enlisted in Macao (Macau), a Portuguese colony in China, in Aug 1865; Relief.

Dexter Russell; seaman; age 21; May 1863; Montgomery

John Shun; officer’s cook; age 25; Dec 1861; Pursuit

Ah Sin; Landsman; age 22; Dec 1863; Narragansett

Ah Sin; Landsman; age 18; Oct 1863; Saginaw

Thomas Smith; 1863 muster roll; Itasca.

Ah Soo; Landsman; age 22; Sep 1863; Monongahela

John Wing; steward; age 25; Dec 1861; Pursuit

Ah Wo; Landsman; age 21; July 1863; Monongahela

John Wyhie; Landsman; age 28; enlisted in March 1862; Harvest Moon.




Remembering Howard Zinn

Editor’s note: Today, January 27, is the second anniversary of the death of Howard Zinn. An active participant in the Civil Rights movement, he was dismissed in 1963 from his position as a tenured professor at Spelman College in Atlanta after siding with black women students in the struggle against segregation. In 1967, he wrote one of the first, and most influential, books calling for an end to the war in Vietnam. A veteran of the US Army Air Force, he edited The Pentagon Papers, leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and was later designated a “high security risk” by the FBI.

His best-selling A People’s History of the United States spawned a new field of historical study: People’s Histories. This approach countered the traditional triumphalist examination of “history as written by the victors”, instead concentrating on the poor and seemingly powerless; those who resisted imperial, cultural and corporate hegemony. Zinn was an award-winning social activist, writer and historian – and so who better to share his memory than his close friend and fellow intellectual giant, Noam Chomsky?

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