Amok Essays Asian American Perspective

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Shape of Things to Come? Diversity Shines at 90th Academy Awards

by Emil Guillermo | March 5, 2018 I covered the Academy Awards on the red carpet in person in 1986. It was the year of the Spielb Read more

Presidents’ Day, the News and an Anti-diversity President

by Emil Guillermo | February 18, 2018
There’s been way too much news of consequence of late. Starting with 17 lives taken at a Flor [...] Read more

UC’s Best Advice to ‘Dreamers’: Ignore Trump Show, File for DACA

by Emil Guillermo | January 22, 2018
Government shutdown? Forget the blame game. We saw the process unfold before our eyes. It was o [...] Read more

Educators Should Care About “Fire and Fury”

by Emil Guillermo | January 8, 2018
If you’re in higher ed and are trying to ignore Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the T [...] Read more

Through Mayor Ed Lee, Diversity Served a Community, a City, a Nation

by Emil Guillermo | December 17, 2017
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who died early Dec. 12 after collapsing from a heart attack, was mo [...] Read more

Higher Education Devalued Under Trump/GOP Tax Bill

by Emil Guillermo | December 10, 2017
The truth is anything connected to higher ed got the shaft in this massive legislation th [...] Read more

Dems Stopped Hillsdale College in Tax Bill, But Lost the War for Education

by Emil Guillermo | December 3, 2017
It seemed like an exercise straight out of college life. It wasn’t an all-nighter, but close [...] Read more

Listen to Students About Sexual Harassment On Campus

by Emil Guillermo | November 26, 2017
It’s the age of digital promiscuity where everyone it seems is swiping left and right, but it [...] Read more

Perversity and Diversity—Does Higher Ed Have a Role in a New Kind of Sex Education??

by Emil Guillermo | November 14, 2017
The bad stories that bring shame, we usually keep to ourselves. It’s a sign of a real change [...] Read more

Finally a Greek Ban—But Just at FSU? Why Not Permanently for All Campuses?

by Emil Guillermo | November 7, 2017
There’s way too much death lately in American society. After the terrorism incident in New Yo [...] Read more

Air Force Academy Head Shows What Real Leadership on Race Looks Like

by Emil Guillermo | October 1, 2017
The nation, especially our commander-in-chief, just got a lesson on how to talk about race and [...] Read more

Napolitano Welcomes Other Schools and Universities to Join DACA Lawsuit

by Emil Guillermo | September 11, 2017
As the head of the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, UC President Ja [...] Read more

Sex and Higher Ed? Pitino’s Light Punishment Says It All

by Emil Guillermo | June 15, 2017
The NCAA Committee on Infractions just showed how its moral compass sort of points the right wa [...] Read more

Emil Guillermo: ‘Almost Christmas’ Almost an Antidote for the Election of Trump

by Emil Guillermo | November 13, 2016
On the Friday after the most shocking election in recent history, I elected to shut off the new [...] Read more

After 20-plus AAJA Conferences, Achieving Diversity in Media No Different Now, Maybe Even Harder

by Emil Guillermo | August 14, 2016
In education, in the media, we fight the same battles. It boils down to the basics: How do we g [...] Read more


Emil Guillermo: Who is Asian American? On AMEMSA, Vincent Chin, and my Amok Monologues for Father's Day. PODCAST EXTRA: Karthick Ramakrishnan

June 16, 2017 11:57 AM

Say Asian or Asian American, and people think "Chinese."

Most people know that's not the case, but that tends to be the prevailing stereotype. And not just among whites, blacks, and Latinos. 

It's harder when even Asian Americans believe in the stereotype.

"East Asians need to recognize that Southeast Asians and South Asians are Asians too, " Karthick Ramakrishnan told me on Emil Amok's Takeout. "If you combine the Southeast Asian and South Asian categories, all these nationalities together, they're the overwhelming majority. East Asians are now a minority within the Asian American category."

Ramakrishnan is Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. He directs the National Asian American Survey, which recently revealed the jaw-dropping finding that some Asian Americans don't consider South Asians as Asian American.

Previously, I spoke with his NAAS cohort Jennifer Lee about this survey question here.

In my interview with Ramakrishnan, we discuss who has the power to define who is Asian, and how the "Asian American" umbrella is being threatened. Is an AMEMSA--Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian--category inevitable? 

"If you're brown and someone thinks you're Muslim, you get a different racial experience," Ramakrishnan told me on Emil Amok's Takeout. "That's what "AMEMSA" captures.

But what happens then to the broad Asian American category of 21 million and growing when 5 million South Asians can't identify and adopt a new category? 

Ramakrishnan also talks about how the NAAS findings may explain why there wasn't a massive mobilization from Asian Americans to protest the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla earlier this year. 

While Vincent Chin's murder inspired the activism of Asian Americans 35 years ago, the ire over the Kuchibhotla hate crime has not had a similar impact on the community. Ramakrishnan said it should have, and the fact that it didn't reveals Asian America's implicit and explicit biases.

"It's kind of a game of whack-a-mole," Ramakrishnan told me. "Unfortunately, when particular parts of our community are getting whacked, other parts of our community don't stand up nearly as much and are not nearly as vocal as we should be."

Uh-oh. We're reverting back to the other prevailing stereotype. Non-boat rockers. Just get on the boat. Don't miss it. Get off the boat. Just don't rock it. 

But maybe we should. The upcoming 35th anniversary of Vincent Chin is the time for some reflection.

In 2014, I wrote about how the entire community should use the days Chin was in a coma from June 19 to June 23 to think about what it's like to be Asian American.

We are coming up to that time.

It's a wide ranging Emil Amok's Takeout, including a special treat: I read my annual Father's Day essay, part of a story in my "Amok Monologues: A short history of the American Filipino--NPR, Harvard, Death on Mission St.," which I'm premiering at the San Diego International Fringe Festival, June 23 to 29.

If you're in San Diego, come on by! It's another part of my exploration of the solo performance form. It's funny.  It's tragic. It's amok! 

Listen to Ep. 17 of Emil Amok's Takeout here:


00: Intro, Emil comments on news, the week's gun violence and the NBA champion 

      Golden State Warriors. 

14:35 Karthick Ramakrishnan, UC Riverside, School of Public Policy


15:52 Interview begins

1:01:20  On bias against South Asians

102:49  On Vincent Chin Anniversary

1:07:10 Emil reads his Father's Day Essay

*     *     *

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.

Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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