July 14th, 2012
If you are under age 30 and are an unauthorized immigrant, be sure to check out the following website at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center to find out whether you are eligible for deferred action:
The same website also has translation in the following Asian languages:
Thanks to the Asian Pacific American Legal Center for translating and publishing this critical information!
June 16th, 2012
Last October the US Senate unanimously passed a Senate Resolution (sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein of CA) that expressed Congressional regrets for the discriminatory laws, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, against Chinese immigrants in the 20th century. Next Monday (June 18th) at 4 PM (EST) the House expects to vote on a similar bill drafted by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA). To find out more about the bill, please visit The Hill.com or opencongress.org
I urge you to spread the word about the upcoming event. More importantly, please write your US House Representatives calling them to vote in favor of H. Res. #683.
April 23rd, 2012
Do you recall the last time when you heard a casual comment made by your friend about the stereotype of one particular racial/ethnic group? What did you do? Did you laugh with him/her? Did you just chuckle while feeling uneasy? Would you react differently if that racial joke was targeted at your own racial/ethnic group? If so, why?
These are salient and serious questions we need to ask ourselves. Too many times, many of us are unintentional accomplices in simple random acts of “passive racism” that are perceived as harmless. We laugh at racial jokes. We poke fun at others’ stereotypical traits. We even turn a blind eye when we see injustice done on others. Yet, we become real emotional when we are the target of racial ridicules or subject of discriminatory practice. Why?
What I am asking you is to have a little compassion for others. Put yourself in others’ shoes. If you don’t like it, others probably don’t either. Stop laughing at racial jokes. Stop poking fun at others. Most importantly, speak up for others. When a racial joke is made, just say, “I don’t think it’s funny to make fun of others.” When you stop making or laughing at racial jokes, those around you will also stop. Try it. It’s contagious!
March 12th, 2012
Sometime ago, I blogged about the diversity of Asian languages in the world. Here in the United States, the number of speakers of international languages continue to rise (or perhaps become more outspoken to request interpretation services). According to Language Line Services (a language access provider headquartered in California that provides interpretation services for over 170 languages), between the fourth quarter 2010 and fourth quarter 2011, the five most requested languages for over the phone interpretations nationwide are Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese, and Burmese.
If you are a manager or supervisor in your company, do you know how many languages are spoken in your office? Why should you care?
February 11th, 2012
The celebration of Lunar New Year is practically over. Yet some of its effects linger. What if…
…your department happened to have a regular staff meeting on January 23rd, the Lunar New Year’s Day. One of your staff who is a Chinese American asked you to acknowledge the special day at the beginning of the meeting. Would you ignore it, or treat it as a diversity inclusion to-do list? Let me know what you think?
January 22nd, 2012
Like the Chinese, the Vietnamese also welcome their lunar new year (tet) by cleaning the house and settling any outstanding debts. Many decorate their homes with peach blossoms if they are from the north or apricot blossoms if they are from the south. Pots of cone-shaped two to three feet tall kumquat trees are carefully selected and displayed prominently in the house. These trees symbolize the many generations in a family such that the fruits represent the grandparents, the flowers are the parents, the buds are the children, and the light green leaves are the grandchildren. To pay homage to ancestors and to demonstrate gratitude, a tray with five different candied-fruits is placed on the ancestral altar in the house.
For good luck, the Vietnamese customarily eat a square cake made of glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork (banh chung) and a concoction of pickled radishes, peppers, and other vegetables called dua mon. They also visit friends and relatives during the official three-day festivity as they wine and dine to catch up with each another. Similar to the Chinese custom, small children in Vietnam also receive lucky money in a red envelop from their elders. Although the Vietnamese Government banned firecrackers several years ago, the revelry of Lunar New Year celebration remains, typically for seven days.
Coming from a culture where ancestors and elders play an integral part in traditions, many Asians in the U.S. continue to pay respect to their ancestors and elders on New Year’s Day. As for the community, the China Towns in large cosmopolitan areas such as San Francisco or New York City historically offer various types of celebrations highlighted by parades, lion dances, or even a 112-foot long dragon dancing to the beats of drums and gongs. Smaller Asian communities throughout the country may organize entertainments that include the demonstration of one or more of the five Chinese traditional arts—music, chess, caligraphy, painting, and martial arts. If you are interested to get a taste of the lunar new year festivity, be sure to check your local Chinese cultural center. It is something that you will not want to miss!
January 15th, 2012
To the northeast of China, Lunar New Year celebrations in Korea are generally similar. Early in the morning of New Year’s Day (soellal in Korean,) each family hangs a bok-jo-ri—a strainer made of straw—on the wall, in hope of scooping up many blessings for the family. Everyone, particularly little children, dresses in traditional solbim that is made of fabrics with five festive colors—red, blue, white, green, and gold. The younger generation perform a memorial rite of bowing called charye to honor their ancestors and sebae to wish their elders good health and longevitiy.
The Koreans also consider the new year as a time to add one’s age, although they do so on the first day. Everyone customarily eats a bowl of rice cake soup (tt?kkuk) and drinks some rice punch (shikyhe.) After this ritual and throughout the next 15 days, family members and friends visit one another and reconnect over food, drinks, and games. On daeborum–the 15th of January as well as the first full moon of the year–everyone eats a certain number of peanuts, chestnuts or walnuts that is equivalent to his/her age. The belief is to celebrate one’s life as well as to stay healthy in the coming year. A commonly prepared dish eaten on the day of daeborum is glutinous rice cooked with millet, red beans, sorghum and large beans called okokhap. Believed to protect one’s health throughout the year, it is usually eaten with nine different types of vegetables dried in the previous autumn.
New Year time is game time in Korea. Unlike many U.S. Americans who would enjoy watch NFL, Koreans of all generations actually participate in both indoor and outdoor games. Men and boys fly kites while women and girls jump on see-saw like boards called neol-ttwigi. Other popular games are yut-nori (a board game), gonginolei–a fun game that uses five gonggi, and spinning paengi.
Similar to their Chinese neighbors, Koreans also travel back to their hometown for the joyous celebration as well as to pay respect to their parents and ancestors. Next week we will visit Vietnam located to the southwest of China.
January 8th, 2012
Notwithstanding the regional differences that exist in customs and traditions throughout China, the level of new year festivity there is comparable to that of Christmas in the U.S. In general, houses are decorated in the celebrative red and gold rather than the Christmas red and green. They are also adorned with peach blossoms and narcissus—symbols of longevity and prosperity respectively–instead of the Christmas tree and poinsettias. Fruits like oranges, kumquat and pomelos complement the new year décor because they signify wealth and fortune. Finally, spring couplets of black caligraphy on vertical red paper are hung on entry gates and on walls throughout the house to express well wishes for good health and boundless fortune.
New Year, or more appropriately called Spring Festival (Chun Jié), is a time for family reunions and the New Year Eve’s dinner is especially sumptuous. While a portion for every living member of the family is accounted for when preparing rice, his/her individual place setting is also kept vacant if absent. Everyone stays up late to welcome the New Year, hoping to bring health and longevity to their elders. At midnight, firecrackers are set off to chase away the evil spirits of the outgoing year. Children bow to pay respect to their parents and elders. In return, they receive “lucky money” in red envelopes (húngbao in Mandarin Chinese). Elders also receive lucky money from their grown children, symbolizing well wishes for health and longevity. In a way, this is like the Christmas gift exchange in Western culture.
For the Chinese, the new year is also a time to turn over a new leaf. To prepare for it, houses are cleaned with every corner swept, debts paid, and disputes resolved. On New Year’s Day, new clothes (including underwear) and new shoes are worn. After paying homage to ancestors and reverance to the gods, the younger members of the family also pay respect to their living parents and elders. For the first meal of the year, many Chinese eat steamed glutinous rice cake (nián gao) or steamed turnip cake (luó bo gao) while others solely consume vegetables. In Mainland China, stores and restaurants are generally closed for seven days straight. Many return to their home town to visit families and relatives, primarily to exchange well wishes like gong xi fa cái. The seventh day of the new year is traditionally everyone’s birthday (rén rí.) Hence, one would add one year to his/her age on this special day. The entire new year celebration ends on the 15th of the first month called the Laterns Festival (yuán shao) when many communities hold lantern competitions. At the end of the competition, the elders get to take home a latern. Therefore, the more lanterns one has collected over the years, the more blessings one has in terms of longevity.
Sounds like a huge festivity, isn’t it?
January 1st, 2012
January 23rd 2012 is the first day of the Year of the Dragon, according to Chinese astrology and lunar calendar. To the Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese, Lunar New Year is the most important festival of the year. Other Asian nationals may join the festivity in their neighborhoods even though they observe their owe new year days. For example, the Thais honor their Songkran (Water Festival) in April or the Gujaratis celebrate theirs the day before the Indian Diwali (the Festival of Lights) in late October or early November. As for the Japanese and Filipinos, they choose to observe the Gregorian New Year. If you are surprised that not all Asians celebrate Lunar New Year, you are not alone. Stay tuned and please return next week to find out how the Chinese celebrate their Lunar New Year. But before you leave, please share with our readers how you celebrate Lunar New Year, if you do.
December 11th, 2011
The ritual of receiving gift in the United States generally goes like this: when we receive a gift, we thank the gift-giver, ask permission to open it, open it, and thank the giver again. This is not the case in other cultures, especially for foreign-born Chinese. Read the following situation and let me know what you think?
Your friend threw a birthday party for his father’s 71st birthday. While your friend is a native-born Chinese American, his father is from Guangzhou, the People’s Republic of China. You purchased a very exquisite clock as present. Upon arrival, you congratulated your friend’s father and hand him the gift. He thanked you and put the gift aside. You were puzzled because neither did he ask to open it, nor opened it right away. The celebration was extremely festive with dragon dance and lots of singing and toasting. Yet there was no “gift-opening” in the program. As the party ended, you wondered to yourself, “well, may be the father has forgotten about the presents.”
Lots to think about…