[“Second GenerAsian Theme” by Tenny Tsang]
Sophia Lo: Hello hello, and welcome to
All: Second GenerAsian!
Sophia: I'm Sophia.
Hannah Yoon: I'm Hannah.
David Deloso: And I'm David.
Sophia: And we are back with our first episode of the quarter even though it's Week Seven.
Hannah: Hell yeah. So this topic is Asian American Studies.
Sophia: Since we've all taken classes on this topic, we wanted to go more into the history of Asian American Studies. But we brought in an expert to tell us more about the field. I talked with Ray San Diego, who's a Visiting Professor in Northwestern’s Asian American Studies Program. Before coming here, he taught Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, and he's been teaching here since last quarter.
Ray San Diego: There's been a lot of changes with Asian American Studies since it started. And I think earlier in the late 60s and 70s, because of immigration policy at the time, it was mainly focused on Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, maybe to a degree Korean Americans. You didn't have much about Southeast Asians, people of mixed race, Filipinos even. And so I'd say over the past 40 or 50 years, you've sort of seen the incorporation of different ethnic groups and different perspectives. But also I would say what makes Asian American studies a little different than some of the other groups is how heterogeneous we are. So it's not like everyone speaks Asian, right, compared to like speaking maybe Spanish or something like that, or we don't have necessarily a shared history of how we came to the United States. It was much more staggered. On the one hand, it's the experiences, the politics, the cultural production, the stories of struggle and survival of Asians in the diaspora, and people of Asian descent in the United States or North America even more broadly, but at the same time, it's also just as perspective of how we understand power relations in our society and what is equity and what is activism.
Hannah: A major thread in Asian American Studies is activism. In fact, student activists are the ones who really pushed for ethnic studies, and they're honestly the only reason why they exist altogether. I personally didn't know anything about the history of ethnic studies until I took my first Asian American studies course, last year, spring quarter. But it all started with a student-led strike at San Francisco State University, and Ray’s going to tell us more about it.
Ray: In 1968, it was the largest student strike ever in history. It was about five months. Students were upset about the way that faculty of color were not being hired in the college or the university I should say, they weren't receiving tenure. A lot of students of color weren't getting admitted to schools. And when they were they were only learning from like a white male, upper class heteronormative, Eurocentric perspective. And it was sort of like if this is our money and our education, we should be able to learn about ourselves. And so it started with the Black Student Union. And they were upset over the firing of a professor and wanted to make change. And so they had 10 demands that included things like open admissions for students of color, hiring faculty of color, having a College of Ethnic Studies, and then a lot of the other student groups joined in so PACE, the Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor, Raza students, the Native American students, pretty much everyone and even a lot of whites joined in and were like, we want ethnic studies, classes, curriculum, content, faculty because it was really a time in the 1960s about self determination about understanding who you were as a person and where you fit in the world. And you sort of saw a lot of decolonizing movements happening around the world as well. So a lot of these places that we're throwing out sort of the imperial ways of thinking and were like, “We have our own ways of producing knowledge that we need to learn and celebrate and spread.”
David: Students didn't get all their demands, but they did establish the College of Ethnic Studies and got more students of color admitted. Now we have ethnic studies at universities across the country.
Sophia: The strike was really intense. Like Ray said, it lasted five months, and many students faced police brutality and were arrested. There's a lot to unpack here. You can check out the transcript for more links.
Hannah: We've seen the history of activism and Asian American Studies. And there's also this idea of serving the people which includes providing and improving access to public services for Ray, his classes are a place to combine theory and put these concepts actually into practice.
Ray: So every project that we did, and even in most of the classes I teach in some way is about how could we take what we're learning and make it accessible to people who don't have access to college. That need to serve communities to train people to become you know, journalists, social workers, doctors, lawyers, advocates of all kind, but who understand racism and sexism and homophobia and how all of those dynamics shapes people's lives is a lot of what Asian American studies classes teach, but also allow students to practice.
I've had students make sex ed materials for people of color, or for queer and gender non-conforming people that sort of de universalize this idea of what a body is or how we relate to our bodies, other classes, you know, people have gone to protest. They've interviewed people like at city hall or if a state legislator – oh in my class right now, my history class, we are doing a public history class later, or a public history final project in which will have to for example, create videos. There's not a lot of Asian American museums, so what if it was online and other people can see them so that people who don't have access to major cities that have a large Asian American population can still again, learn about these things, even if they're far away. Certainly what this podcast is doing would be part of an activism practice.
Sophia: You heard it here. Second GenerAsian is part of activism practices, so keep listening and support us.
Hannah: So you've heard from us and you've heard from the professor, but here to talk about their own experiences. We talked to some other students in the program.
Isabell Liu: Hi, my name is Isabell Liu. I'm currently a sophomore in Weinberg majoring in Asian American Studies. Back at UCSB, which is the school I transferred from, I was originally a communication studies major and then my – I think it was winter quarter, I needed to fulfill distros. I took an Asian American history class, and my mind changed completely. This is the major I’m taking right now, and this is the major I love and will definitely graduate with.
I think the biggest misconception that a lot of people have about Asian American studies is that it's only about Asians. One of the biggest things for me is that Asian American Studies is about essentially developing an oppositional consciousness, right. It's about fighting oppression. It's about all people. It's about revolution and stuff like that. And like, for the first time, like sitting in that first Asian American history class, I was reading about myself, and I know, that sounds kind of selfish to some people, but then you realize, a lot of the history that I at least consumed as someone who went to public school in the States is it's all white male history. For the first time someone like me was on like, the podium telling me about myself, and like, what my people have been through here, you know? And so it was just a really powerful experience.
Sophia: Is there a specific moment or thing you learned in that class that really made you change? Or was it sort of the class as a whole?
Isabell: Well, there's this book called No-No Boy, I really wish I remember the name of the author (John Okada), but it's basically about Japanese internment. And how Japanese-American citizens were given this choice to either fight in the army, or essentially betray your country, and I'm saying that with quotation marks. And so if you said no to both that you weren't going to revoke your like, loyalty to the Japanese government, which is a dumb question to ask American citizens. So that was no to that first question. And then also no to fighting for the military than you were called a No-No Boy. And you were excluded from both people who were intering because they wanted to appease the American government, and then you were also obviously like, hated on by the American government. And reading that book just made me realize that like, not just for Asian American Studies, but for like minority studies in general we are constantly living in this in between that is not defined for us by anybody. No matter who we try to appease to, for example, we tried to like play into white beliefs and like appease white supremacy. At the end of the day, we are still people of color, we don't appear white, and even if we do pass as white, we're still coming from non-white backgrounds. But at the same time, I'm not from China, I speak Chinese. But ultimately, my nationality identifies as American. Reading that book, it was like reading a book written for me.
Hannah: So a lot of students also take these classes because they want to learn a little bit more about their identity.
Gene Kim: Hi, I'm Gene Kim, I'm a second year here and I have an Asian Am minor. I definitely think that they are a great place for Asian Americans to come together and talk about their identity. I think that's really important. It's like a place for Asian Americans of different backgrounds to come together and to research together and work on stuff and learn together.
David: If you're looking to register for some Asian American studies classes, here's some names to look out for.
Isabell: I really, really, really love Techno-Orientalism with Michelle Huang. She's housed both in the Asian American Studies Program and also the English department. I also really love Patricia Nguyen and I took her intro to Asian American Studies class last quarter, which is really bomb. And then I'm also taking her Refugee Aesthetics class right now. And it's just super cool because she's also a performance artist who like went back to Vietnam and performed all this oppositional work under the fist of Vietnamese censorship, which is, you know, super badass. Any classes taught by those two professors. I also really love my U.S. Asian-Black historical relations class although I will say if you have taken an African American History class, or an Asian American history class, a lot of the beginning might be more review than like critical thinking, but it gets good later.
Gene: Last quarter, I took Asian Americans and Digital Cultures with Ray San Diego, and he's super chill. I think the professors are a lot more approachable. I can't really say for other classes though because I haven't taken too many other courses outside of Asain Am. All the professors that I've taken from feel like people that I have been on a first name basis with, honestly like people that I could go to their office hours chat, talk about things outside of school.
Sophia: So for anyone who's interested in starting some Asian American Studies classes, you can check those out. Hopefully, we've made a pretty good case for why you should take an Asian American studies course. But if you're not convinced, Isabell is going to tell us why this is such an important topic.
Isabell: Because complacency is not an option. And I'm not saying that in like the super badass activist way. Ultimately, no matter what major you're in, no matter what you want to do with your life, the situation you're in doesn't have to stay the way it is. And I think that for me, that's what the heart of Asian American Studies is, besides caring about other people, of course. Racism doesn't have to be forever. Discrimination does not have to be forever. This is pretty American, but isn't progress always the goal? Asian American Studies isn't just about Asians. It's just about fighting discrimination, fighting the man, fighting white supremacy and also just demonstrating and continuing this idea that what we have now we're unhappy with can change.
Sophia: And that pretty much sums up Asian American Studies. If you're Asian American and want to learn more about the history that you're a part of, these classes or any ethnic studies classes are a great place to start, especially if you want to get a non-Eurocentric perspective of the world.
David: And even if you don't identify with an ethnic minority in America, these classes can still be good food for your brain. And speaking of food, here's Hannah with the snack of the day.
Hannah: So today’s snack of the day is jjapaguri, otherwise known as ram-don from the Korean movie “Parasite.” The dish is a mix of two instant noodles cooked together to make one dish. Because the name is a mix of two brand name instant noodles in Korea, the English translator decided to name the dish ram-don instead when they were writing the subtitles, to reflect that the dish is a mix of two different noodle dishes. While jjapaguri isn’t a mix of ramen and udon as the English name suggests, this was the closest translation that they could come up with, and I’d say it’s a pretty clever name.
Sophia: Thank you so much for listening!
David: I'm David.
Sophia: I'm Sophia
Hannah: And I'm Hannah.
David: Our theme music was composed by Tenny Tsang. This is NBN Audio.
Hannah: Signing out!
[“Second GenerAsian Theme” by Tenny Tsang]