Asian American Students Got a Boost

In her research, Dr. Jennifer Lee, a sociology professor at Columbia University, found that “K-12 teachers and schools may actually give Asian Americans a boost based on assumptions about race.” She opines in The New York Times:

A Vietnamese American student I’ll call Ophelia (all names have been changed to protect participants’ privacy under ethical research guidelines) described herself as “not very intelligent” and recalled nearly being held back in second grade because of her poor academic performance. Ophelia had a C average throughout elementary and junior high school, and when she took an exam to be put in Advanced Placement classes for high school English and science, she failed. Ophelia’s teachers placed her, with her mother’s support, on the AP track anyway. Once there, she said that something “just clicked,” and she began to excel in her classes.

“I wanted to work hard and prove I was a good student,” Ophelia explained. “I think the competition kind of increases your want to do better.” She graduated from high school with a grade-point average of 4.2 (exceeding a perfect 4.0) and was admitted into a highly competitive pharmacy program. Ophelia’s performance was precisely what her teachers expected, so they did not have to confront the role they may have played in reproducing the stereotype of Asian American exceptionalism.

Rummana Hussain also has an interesting take on affirmative action.

A Vietnamese Hacker Turned Humanitarian

Koh Ewe, writing for Vice:

Hieu grew up in Cam Ranh, a city in south Vietnam, where his parents owned a small electronics store. He got his first computer when he was 13, and by age 14, the curious teen was already dipping his toe into the world of hacking, inspired by a man he had befriended at a local internet cafe.

Bánh Mì Entered American Dictionary

Merriam-Webster defines bánh mì:

a usually spicy sandwich in Vietnamese cuisine consisting of a split baguette filled typically with meat (such as pork or chicken) and pickled vegetables (such as carrot and daikon) and garnished with cilantro and often cucumbers

Vietnamese Names

Thảo Võ, writing for Salon:

The Vietnamese language is written with marks — diacritics — that represent different tones. To me, the diacritics represent childhood. They represent confusion. They represent something I cannot reach. It’s a change in the pitch of my voice that I have not perfected. It’s my entire family history. And so the saying of my name and the writing of it becomes complicated. I’m not here to teach my colleagues Vietnamese. I can’t. I can barely pronounce the language correctly myself. It’s a gift to be given or earned. My heart warms when I hear Vietnamese spoken with a southern accent. It’s something for me to work toward.

It’s a beautiful personal essay that reassures me that it’s OK to give my kids Vietnamese names. Xuân and Vương are difficult for Americans to pronounce, but I love to see them try.

The King of Misinformation Had Been Shut Down

I was late to the party, but I was filled with joy when I found out last night that The King Radio account on YouTube got shut down. Ngụy Vũ, the self-proclaimed the King Radio, is more like the Vietnamese Alex Jones who spread misinformation including wearing a mask can kill you.

Ngụy Vũ’s studio is located right inside Eden Center. It used to be a Kobe Phở restaurant. I knew then that this guy was a scam because his phở was plain. He just beefed up the Kobe steak. There were not many customers and the rent in Eden Center was not cheap. He shut down the restaurant and converted it into a radio station. His YouTube account was pulling in over 90K subscribers.

I tried to listen to one of his episodes, but I could not get past 10 minutes. He was rambling on and on about right-wing conspiracy theories. I did not understand how YouTube allowed his misinformation to spread freely and dangerously on its platform. It took John Oliver who pointed Ngụy Vũ out in his Last Week Tonight episode on digital misinformation for YouTube to take action.

When I found out last night through one of the Cub Scout parents, I checked YouTube immediately. Ngụy Vũ already set up a new account with less than 5K subscribers. Although John Oliver brought the attention to YouTube, users who reported his account got him banned. We need to stop him from poisoning our Vietnamese-American community. I reported his new account as well.

Which Asian Are You?

When I meet other Asian Americans, I always wondered which Asia they are, but I could not ask. I am not sure what would be the right question to ask. “What type of Asian are you?” That sounds horrible. “Where are you from?” I know many Asian Americans have an issue with that question, especially those who were born in America. “What is your ethnicity?” They are obviously Asian. It often felt awkward when I tried to ask their Asian origin.

I would only bring up the question if I think they are Vietnamese American. I just speak in Vietnamese, “Chị là người Việt hả?” (Are you Vietnamese). If they answer in Vietnamese then yes. If not, they would tell me that they have no idea what I just said and they would tell me what type of Asian they are.

If you have any suggestion on how to ask Asian Americans what type of Asian they are, please share. I would love to know. On the contrary, I wouldn’t mind if anyone asked me any of the questions above. I would not not be offended. In fact, I would be glad that they are interested in my exact background.

Forgetting My First Language

Jenny Liao shares her personal history in the New Yorker:

The struggle to retain my first language feels isolating but isn’t unique; it’s a shared pain common among first- and second-generation immigrants. This phenomenon is known as first-language attrition, the process of forgetting a first or native language.

Unlike Jenny who was born in New York City, I came to the U.S. when I was 11. At that age, I have learned a good deal of Vietnamese. I spoke Vietnamese with my mom at home, but I had to put the first language aside to learn English. As a result, my Vietnamese was slipping away from me. I misspelled almost every other word when I write. With Vietnamese books from the Fairfax public libraries and my blog, I read and practice writing Vietnamese again. It is such a joy to be reconnected with my first language.

Stop the Asian Mockery Already

In the past few weeks, my nine-year-old Đán started talking with an Asian-mocking accent. He stressed out the syllables, especially the last word in his sentences. It irritated the fuck out of me. I asked him to stop, but it was already stuck in his head. I explained to him how Americans use that racist accent to mock Asian-Americans and I had to endure it throughout my life living in America. Hearing it from my own son brings back those painful moments.

Last night, I asked him how he picked up that accent and he pulled up YouTube videos made by a Vietnamese-American named Nathan Doan. I could barely watch one of his clips without cringing. He played a character named Ging Ging who adorned a conical hat, spoke with a fake Asian accent, and closed his eyes the entire time. I don’t know his purpose for creating this character. I don’t give a fuck if it is a satire. I don’t want to find out.

He needs to stop selling out his culture for cheap laughs. They are laughing at him, not with him. When kids picked this up without knowing the reference or the history and started to emulate it, that’s not a laughing matter.

White Silence

R.O. Kwon writes for Vanity Fair:

For now, until and unless more changes, the attacks will keep happening: I hear about new attacks on Asian people almost every day. And as long as our gun laws are as lax as they are, there will be more mass shootings; most likely, there will be more hate-based atrocities targeting marginalized groups. In other words, we need one another.

The entire essay is worth reading.

Ill-Informed in Vietnamese-American Community

I went to the Vietnamese temple to burn a few incense sticks for my mom on Mother’s Day. After praying and chanting, the monk took a few minutes to talk about COVID-19. He gave logical reasons for masking and vaccination. Masking protects ourselves and others from getting infected. Vaccination prevents the virus and stops the spread.

From what we had been through in the past year, I thought he was preaching to the choir. I estimated that of the twenty plus people attending the service, most, if not all, had at least one dose of vaccine. Then a guy (probably in his early 50s) interjected. He asked if the monk had been vaccinated even though the monk just said he had. He advised the monk that he should not have been vaccinated. The monk asked if anyone else didn’t believe in vaccination. No one raised his or her hand. The monk should have asked how many had vaccinated already.

The guy then explained that he had done thorough research on this topic. He claimed that the media had created this virus in China and they had taken over the White House. If we continued to listen to the media and get vaccinated, we would be influenced by the Chinese and the Democrats. The monk responded to the guy’s conspiracy theory that he didn’t take vaccination as political. If he got sick, he would take medication. He trusted doctors and scientists. He was vaccinated to protect himself and the people around him.

The monk then pointed to the older monk who is 83 years old. He said that the senior monk didn’t want to be vaccinated at first due to his age, but he decided to do it because he wanted people to attend the temple. I cheered, “Thank you, thầy” and clapped my hands. Some people joined in.

As folks gathered around the altar to pray for their loved ones, I took off because the anti-vaxxer didn’t wear his mask. Even though I was fully vaccinated, I didn’t want to catch his stupidity.