Asians at Harvard, and in America: Yes, we’re discriminated against; No, the Ivy League school isn’t the right target


I’ve experienced anti-Asian prejudice since I was a kid. The first time I ever rode a school bus, my white neighbors leaned across the aisle, stretching their eyes and pantomiming buck teeth amid stifled laughter.

When I was 15, a New York City policeman caught me jaywalking and asked me frankly if I spoke English, expressing surprise when I responded in perfect Newyorkese.

And yes, when I applied to Harvard in 2012, I was told that I might as well subtract 200 points from my SAT score — or just give up entirely. Top universities already had more Asians than they could handle, and I wasn’t different enough to make the cut.

Already then, the anti-Asian bias in elite schools’ admissions was an open secret. One Chinese-American acquaintance confided to me that she was advised not to be “another Asian girl who plays the violin”; Harvard rejected her.

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Looking for award-winning Asian American films to show in your class for free?


Through your school’s library, you can stream all these great films and more, via their Kanopy streaming service. Just contact your school librarian for more information.
A Suitable Girl (2017), dir. Sarita Khurana & Smriti Mundra
A SUITABLE GIRL world premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, and won the Best New Documentary Director Award. The film follows three young women in India struggling to maintain their identities and follow their dreams amid intense pressure to get married. Documenting the arranged marriage and matchmaking process in vérité over four years, the film examines the women’s complex relationship with marriage, family, and society.
Beijing Taxi (2010), dir. Miao Wang
BEIJING TAXI is a timely, uncensored and richly cinematic portrait of China’s ancient capital as it undergoes a profound transformation. The film takes an intimate and compelling look at the lives of three cab drivers as they confront modern issues and changing values against the backdrop of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Through their daily struggles infused with humor and quiet determination, BEIJING TAXI reveals the complexity and contradictions of China’s shifting paradigm.
Bolinao 52 (2009), dir. Duc Nguyen
On a moonless summer night, a lone wooden boat cruised slowly on the Mekong River toward the ocean. Its mission was to quietly crept away from the shore of Vietnam in search of a new asylum. At the same time, the USS Dubuque of the US Navy, departed Sasebo, Japan. Its operation was to head a minesweeping force in the Persian Gulf. Their courses collided and the meeting exploded into a horrifying headline- “Cannibalism at Sea.”
Carved in Silence (1988), dir. Felicia Lowe
Angel Island Immigration Station comes to life with dramatic re-creations, interviews with former detainees, and recitations of poetry carved on the walls to reveal the human cost of the Chinese Exclusion Acts and the complexity of America’s immigration policies in what has become a classic teaching tool. Winner of a CINE Golden Eagle, Chris Plaque, National Educational Film and Video Association Honorable Mention.
China: Land of My Father (1979), dir. Felicia Lowe
One of the first Chinese “roots” trips filmed in the People’s Republic of China in 1979, Lowe meets her paternal grandmother for the first time, learns about the country her father left behind, and looks at the impact on families separated by war and emigration. EMMY nominee, CINE Golden Eagle, American Film Festival Red Ribbon Award.
Chinese Couplets (2015), dir. Felicia Lowe
Part memoir, part history, part investigation, the filmmaker’s search for answers about her mother’s emigration to America during the Chinese Exclusion era reveals the often painful price paid by immigrants who abandoned their personal identity, the burden of silence they passed on to their offspring and the intergenerational strife between immigrants and their American born children.
The Chinese Gardens (2012), dir. Valerie Soe
THE CHINESE GARDENS looks at the lost Chinese community in Port Townsend, Washington, examining anti-Chinese violence—lynchings, beatings, and murders—in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s and drawing connections between past and present race relations in the U.S.
My Life in China (2016), dir. Kenneth Eng
My father fled the Cultural Revolution in 1966. After risking his life to get to America, he started our family in Boston. But when his restaurant went bankrupt and my mom got sick, he began to feel like he’d failed at the American Dream. A story of migration is passed down from father to son, as we retrace the precarious steps he took in search of a better life. Ultimately asking the question, what does it mean to be both Chinese and American?
Seeking Asian Female (2012). dir. Debbie Lum
SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE follows Steven and Sandy — an aging white man with self-proclaimed “yellow fever” obsessed with marrying an Asian woman, and the young Chinese bride he finds online. Filmmaker Debbie Lum sets out to document the outcome of this unlikely match, and finds herself playing translator and marriage counselor through the couple’s precarious first year of marriage. Gender, race, and class collide in this intimate documentary that explores and challenges Asian fetishization.
Stateless (2015), dir. Duc Nguyen
In 2005, a spark of hope came when the U.S. immigration officials returned to Manila to review the cases of over 2000 Vietnamese refugees who spent over 17 years in the Philippines waiting for resettlement.
Take me to the River (2004), dir. Kenneth Eng
“Take Me to the River” immerses viewers in the Maha Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage that takes place every 12 years and is arguably the largest gathering in human history. Bear witness to the chaos of preparation and the ecstasy of the celebration on a roller coaster ride from obscurity to clarity along the dusty flood plains of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers. Through misty dawns, peaceful moments, crowded streets and a chaotic sprint to the river, you’ll journey into the Sangam, the physical and spiritual heart of the Mela (festival). Sins are cleansed, infinite karmic cycles are washed away, all people are equal and world peace is possible.
Tested (2016), dir. Curtis Chin
“Tested” looks at the important issue of racial diversity and public schools by following a dozen families in New York City from different racial, socio-economic and religious backgrounds as they prepare to pass the grueling standardized test to get into one of the city’s best high schools.
Vincent Who? (2009), dir. Tony Lam; prod. Curtis Chin
In 1982, Vincent Chin was beaten to death in Detroit by two white autoworkers at the height of anti-Japanese sentiments. The culprits received a $3,000 fine and 3 years probation, but no jail time. Outraged by this injustice, Asian Americans around the country galvanized to form a pan-Asian identity and civil rights movement….VINCENT WHO? explores this important legacy through interviews with the key players at the time as well as a new generation of activists impacted by Vincent Chin. It also looks at the case in relation to the larger Asian American narrative, in such events as Chinese Exclusion, Japanese American Internment, the 1992 L.A. Riots, anti-Asian hate crimes, and post-9/11 racism….Ultimately, the film asks how far Asian Americans have come since the Chin case, and how far they have yet to go.
Who is Arthur Chu (2017), dir. Yu Gu & Scott Drucker
Arthur Chu hacks the American institution that is Jeopardy! and wins big, garnering the attention of everyone from Diane Sawyer to TMZ. He leverages his newfound online celebrity to battle dark forces on the internet as a blogger and cultural pundit, tackling issues from misogyny online to racism in America. Arthur stands up to a society that has sought to erase him and marginalize him as an Asian American, while attempting to balance married life with work. He also begins the painful process of purging himself of his own demons, bred from the traumas of immigration and familial expectations. WHO IS ARTHUR CHU? is the story of a tragic hero who realizes he can only create positive change in the world if he first heals his own wounds. This feature documentary has been a festival hit at Slamdance and Hot Docs, and won accolades at Austin Asian American Film Festival, CAAMfest and DisOrient Film Festival.

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The Early Chinese Canadians, 1858-1947

The Early Chinese Canadians, 1858-1947  
This presentation invites readers to “explore the social and political history of Canada’s early Chinese communities.” Features essays, photos, government documents, letters, head tax records (Chinese immigrants were required to pay tax starting in 1885), a 1918 film clip of a funeral procession, a 1905 recording of a Cantonese folk song, suggested readings and links, and other material on early Chinese Canadian history. In English and French. From Library and Archives Canada.
LII Item:

UCLA Releases First High School Textbook on Asian Americans:”Untold Civil Rights Stories”

UCLA Releases First High School Textbook on Asian Americans:
“Untold Civil Rights Stories”

JUNE 16, 2009

Russell Leong: (310) 206-2892 or
UCLA Releases First High School Textbook on Asian Americans:
‘Untold Civil Rights Stories’
Online Bookstore:
Price: $20 with educational discounts of 25-100 copies

Praise for Untold Civil Rights Stories:
“Untold Civil Rights Stories is a social milestone and is a must-have
for educators and students alike.” – Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R.

“Untold Civil Rights Stories is an important contribution to a broader
understanding of the contemporary struggle for democratic rights.” –
County of Los Angeles Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas
LOS ANGELES – Representing more than 15 million Asian Americans in the
United States, “Untold Civil Rights Stories” is the first book created
for high school and freshmen college students to learn and discuss the
social struggles Asian Americans have faced both before and after
Sept. 11, 2001. “Untold Civil Rights Stories” is co-edited by UCLA
Asian American Studies adjunct professor Russell C. Leong, and Asian
Pacific American Legal Center President & Executive Director Stewart
According to editors Leong and Kwoh: “Asian Americans are part of the
untold story of America’s continuing civil rights, labor and human
rights struggles.  For decades, Asian Americans, together with African
Americans and others, have fought discriminatory laws around
segregation, citizenship and marriage; have helped organize farm
workers with Cesar Chavez; and spoken out for the rights of American
veterans and other groups.

“Their stories are powerful and we have gathered them here in one
book. We created ‘Civil Rights Stories’ for all Americans because this
is part of America’s untold story.”

Ten fully illustrated chapters of “Untold Civil Rights Stories” each
come with an extensive lesson plan and historical timeline, together
with rare newspaper and personal photos.  Long-time multicultural
curriculum consultant for Los Angeles Unified Schools Esther R. Taira
provided lesson plans and a timeline for the book.

The chapters include:
o oral history accounts by Thai and Latino sweatshop garment workers
o Philip Vera Cruz and the United Farm Workers Movement
o American families  (Joseph Ileto family, and Lily Chin) organizing
against hate crimes
o breaking the color line in the movies and in the media (actor BeUlah
Ong Kwoh, and journalist K.W. Lee);
o fighting for constitutional rights (Fred Korematsu, and Faustino
Peping Baclig)
o Americans after 9/11: unpopular immigrants; citizen rights and Amric
Singh Rathour
o Student viewpoints, lesson plans, and timeline

Among the surprising stories and photos you’ll find within the book
are:  Korean American journalist K.W. Lee living and reporting on poor
whites in Appalachia, Filipino American Philip Vera Cruz working
hand-in-hand with Cesar Chavez to organize farmworkers, a born-in-New
York Sikh policeman organizing for his rights, and the late veteran
actress Beulah Kwoh organizing actors across racial lines.

“Untold Civil Rights Stories” gathered nationally known writers, civil
rights attorneys, and distinguished journalists to write each chapter
and they include: May Lee Heye, Bill Ong Hing, Irene Lee, Dale Minami,
Karen Narasaki, Angela Oh, Mary Ellen Kwoh Shu, Julie Su, Stewart
Kwoh, Casimiro Tolentino, Kent Wong, Eric Yamamoto BS Helen Zia. UCLA
student Irene Lee provides a student’s perspective on the issues.

“Untold Civil Rights Stories” can be ordered from the UCLA online
bookstore at or by phone from
UCLA Asian American Studies at (310) 825-2968 from Tu Ying Ming, book
manager.  Price: $20, educational discounts 25-100 copies

Book Publishers and Editorial:
Russell Leong, UCLA Asian American Studies Center:
Stewart Kwoh, Asian Pacific American Legal Center:
Press copies:
Russell Leong at