On February 10th, Generasian had the opportunity and the privilege to host Phil Yu, founder of the famous Angry Asian Man blog, to speak to interested students about the representation of Asian Americans in the media. Los Angeles-based Yu has gained recognition from media outlets such as CNN and The New York Times for his commentary on racial, cultural, social, and political issues relevant to the Asian American community.
Yu decided to highlight different portions of his blog in reaction to recent events at first, beginning with the Olympics. He examined the selection of blonde-haired blue-eyed Ashley Wagner to the U.S. figure-skating Olympic team, despite having scored lower than Asian American Mirai Nagasu in the national championships. Not limiting himself to East Asia, Yu also pointed out the potential for Dr. Vivek Murthy to be named the next Surgeon General, but how he had to put up with the insensitive remarks from a congressman. Yu really made it clear that although Asian Americans have come a long way, there are still stereotypes and other hurdles to overcome. Interestingly enough, we are considered a privileged minority by some because of our higher levels of education, but rarely are our obstacles to success recognized; by the end of the evening, Yu highlighted those hurdles and explained how they were crossed.
Yu went through major moments in the history of Asian American references in the media, highlighting ones such as the protest against Abercrombie and Fitch for their line of racist t-shirts, Rosie O’Donnell’s mean imitation of Chinese people speaking Chinese and Beau Sia’s eloquent response, Alexandra Wallace’s “Asians in the Library” and response videos that followed. He especially highlighted how his blog, before the advent of social media, allowed likeminded social justice activists to connect to each other and remain aware of these instances of ignorance. I really appreciate this segment, because it was both engaging and informative. While I had heard about some of these phenomena (“Asians in the Library” gained notoriety in my Asian dominated high school), I was not aware of others, especially Rosie O’Donnells “ching chong” commentary, which quickly became fodder for bullying against Asian students.
Yu also emphasized the importance of Jeremy Lin’s emergence in the sports world. Not only did this greatly change people’s perception of Asians, but it also made Asians seem more accessible to other people. However, once not-so-high scores started to come in, Lin was subject to headline articles like “Chink in the Armor,” etc. Yu made an exceedingly insightful remark when talking about how the Asian American Journalist Association had to develop a list of guidelines for media outlets when referring to Jeremy Lin, saying “you’d think they’d know what’s racist and what’s not, but they still needed that guideline.” It speaks volumes to how invisibilized and silenced the Asian American community is in the United States, and perhaps other Western states, resonating with my thoughts on the subject perfectly.
One of the things I wish Yu had done was focus on the growth of the Asian American blogosphere, and whether he had engaged in collaboration, dialogue, and debate with other Internet personalities. He did a great job of explaining his own blog, but it would have been great to understand how his work tied into that of other people’s in the blogosphere.
While I do appreciate Yu’s inclusion of some South Asian issues, I felt he could have discussed a little bit more about the way that other Asian communities are facing problems of racism, stereotyping, and image and how blogging can provide a platform and safe space to talk about those issues. To be fair, Yu did point out that his blog is not all-inclusive; it only contains his views as a second generation, straight Korean American man from the West Coast. It would have been interesting to put those different factors into conversation with each other.
It would also have been great if there had been a bit more focus on tips and advice for up-and-coming bloggers interested in Asian American issues. That way, not only would we have learned about the impact of his blog, but that it could also inspire us to write passionately about issues that we care about.
Overall, Yu gave a great presentation about how blogging made a difference and told the audience his unique insight into different events that rocked the Asian American community. He continues to be praised for his witty commentary and writes beautifully. I can only hope that he’ll come back to NYU another time and share more of his opinions and stories with us.