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Must See AAS TV

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

If you didn't take an AAS class at Stanford, watch this PBS series now!


I took Gordon Chang's class on Asian American History way back when. It wasn't because of the chants, "Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture's got to go" raging on campus at the time. No, I was EE, and needed an easy "fuzzy" class to buffer all the brain-cell-killing "techie" classes. Little did I know, 30 years later, this class would be much more impactful in my life than "EE 101A: Circuits I."

As I've re-engaged with my roots and my classmates in the SAASEI effort, I've tried to bone up on my history again and started watching the excellent PBS series on Asian Americans. While reading Dave Lu's super-relatable essay Bamboo Ceiling? Build Your Own House, I saw that he captured my thoughts on the PBS series perfectly, so I will just quote him:

Recently I watched the must-see docuseries Asian-Americans on PBS. Very little of what I saw was in my history textbooks. I had no idea that Filipinos were the first Asian-Americans brought against their will and used as an exhibit in a human zoo. I was disgusted to find that Indian-Americans were stripped of their property and land when the Supreme Court declared that they were no longer “white” which drove some to suicide. I was horrified to find that Japanese families were separated during internment. I was unfamiliar with the struggles of Anna May Wong, who was forced to play roles as the villain and was passed over for an Academy Award winning role in The Good Earth that should have rightfully been hers.

If I, an Asian American, didn't know about this history, how do I expect others to know it? Kudos to Mike Keo, who founded IamnotaVirus, for pushing Asian American history to be required in K-12 education in Connecticut, where I grew up! I wouldn't have thought it possible, but Illinois did make this requirement into law.

So what will the public schools teach?

While the Illinois law does not detail exactly what the curriculum should cover, it references a five-part PBS documentary about the history of Asian Americans as a useful resource.

All around amazing. And who produced this PBS documentary?

That's right, UCLA. The leading AAS department in the nation with 15 faculty, 70 courses and 2,000 students participating.

As a proud Stanford alumni, I can only wonder, "Why isn't this us? Why isn't Stanford leading this crucial discussion at this critical juncture?"

So, to me, that's what SAASEI is about. We need to create our own endowment to fund the AAS department that has been talked about for 30 years but has never gotten much traction. Again, I will quote Dave Lu:

Get straight A’s. Score over 1500 on your SATs. Gain admission to an Ivy League school (or Stanford, CalTech or MIT). Earn a graduate degree. Land a safe high-paying job. Sound familiar? It’s the same story that was written for me and millions of other Asian-American children of immigrants for the past several decades. We were programmed to believe that happiness and fulfillment were just on the other side of every hoop we jumped through only to find disappointment waiting. Fool us once, shame on our parents for pushing too hard. Fool us twice, blame filial piety and trying to honor our parents. Fool us three times, we have no one to blame but ourselves for our unhappiness.

He's talking about the corporate tread mill, but I think his counsel applies just as well to SAASEI's efforts. No more fooling around. If this doesn't happen now, I will only have myself to blame for another 30 years of inaction.

Update: Must "Simu"-vie Shang-Chi

I couldn't resist the pun, but the recommendation is real: go watch Shang-Chi, starring Simu Liu. Our very own SAPAAC board member, Connie Chan Wang, shared a great post on LI:

When I was a kid, I thought all superheroes were Asian. I watched VHS tapes from Hong Kong, where superheroes were martial artists, spoke Chinese, ate rice and noodles.

It wasn’t until I started school that I learned these were all things to be ashamed of. I was made fun of with Karate chops, ching ching chong chongs, pinched noses.

It was a weird state of limbo growing up Asian American. Too Asian to be American, too American to be Asian (I learned the latter part the hard way when I lived in HK).

It’s taken me a long time to embrace all parts of my identity, to feel the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

When I see movies like Shang-Chi crush records at the box office, a part of me feels validated, that my lived experience is not an anomaly, that it is something to be proud of. Most importantly, I am excited my kids will grow up in a world where superheroes look, speak, eat like them. Where every part of who they are is something to be celebrated.

Join me in donating to help API youth see themselves represented on the big screen:


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