Following up on my earlier post entitled “White Backlash: Yes, It’s Real,” I will use this post to maintain a continually updated list of news stories that highlight and exemplify various examples of this kind of direct and indirect anti-minority, anti-’foreigner,’ and pro-’traditional American’ mentality and behavior that is increasingly on display throughout American society. The list in in reverse chronological order (most recent stories first). Also, feel free to mention any other examples I missed in the comments section at the bottom.

  • Islamophobia Reaches a Fever Pitch (August 2010)
    Racist and xenophobic opposition to a mosque near Ground Zero and calls by some Christian leaders to burn the Koran on 9/11 illustrates America’s rising hatred of Islam.
  • “Yup, I’m A Racist” T-Shirts for Sale (July 2010)
    Celebrate Independence Day 2010 by proudly proclaiming your racism and do your part to make racism cool.
  • U.S Hospital Fires 4 Filipina Nurses for Speaking Tagalog on Their Lunch Break (June 2010)
    Four Filipina ex-staffers of a Baltimore City hospital haven’t gotten over the shock of being summarily fired from their jobs, allegedly because they spoke Pilipino during their lunch break. . . “They claimed they heard us speaking in Pilipino and that is the only basis of the termination. It wasn’t because of my functions as a nurse. There were no negative write-ups, no warning before the termination,” [Nurse Hachelle Hatano] added.
  • South Carolina State Senator Calls President Obama a “Raghead” (June 2010)
    Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts refers to President Obama and Nikki Haley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate of Indian descent: “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.”
  • Arizona Passes Law Censoring Ethnic Studies Programs (May 2010)
    On the heels of the law that critics argue would legalize racial profiling against Latinos, Arizona’s new anti-ethnic studies bill “prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.”
  • Alabama Governor Candidate Declares “We Speak English” (April 2010)
    Tim James, Republican candidate for Governor of Alabama, releases a TV ad in which he declares, “This is Alabama; we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it” (you can watch the actual ad at the link above).
  • Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration (April 2010)
    Arizona’s new legislation would allow police to question anyone suspected of being an unauthorized immigrant. Critics charge that it basically amounts to legally-sanctioned racial profiling and plan demonstrations, boycotts, and lawsuits to protest and block its implementation.
  • Asian American Legislator Receives Racist Threats After Questioning Palin Visit (April 2010)
    California State Legislator Leland Yee summarizes the racist threats he received from Sarah Palin supporters after questioning her planned visit to a Cal State University campus.
  • John Jay College Accused of Bias Against Noncitizens (April 2010)
    The Justice Department files a lawsuit against John Jay College of Criminal Justice, accusing it of violating provisions of immigration law by demanding extra work authorization from at least 103 individuals since 2007.
  • McDonnell’s Confederate History Month Proclamation Irks Civil Rights Leaders (April 2010)
    The Governor of Virginia revives a dormant proclamation that April is “Confederate History Month,” with the initial version of his proclamation omitting any mention of slavery.
  • Male Studies vs. Men’s Studies (April 2010)
    A group of White male academics are trying to create a new academic discipline that highlights the ways in which males (by implication, White males) are apparently an underrepresented and oppressed group in contemporary American society.
  • Racist Fliers Distributed at UW-Oshkosh, St. Norbert College (March 2010)
    An example of how White supremacist hate groups are increasingly capitalizing on this White backlash.
  • UC Regents Sorry for Acts of Hate on Campuses (March 2010)
    Summarizing numerous racist incidents at numerous University of CA (UC) campuses, students and faculty try to get the UC Regents to see that racial ignorance and intolerance is a serious and endemic problem.
  • Meeting Space for Muslim Students at Brandeis is Vandalized (March 2010)
    On the heals of the racist incidents at the University of CA campuses, a newly renovated meeting space for Muslim students at Brandeis University is vandalized.
  • The Year in Nativism (March 2010)
    The Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes notable recent hate crimes against immigrants in 2008 and notes that nativist extremist groups have more than tripled in number, from 144 in 2007 to 309 in 2009.
  • Justice Department Fights Bias in Lending (January 2010)
    Under a new initiative from the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department begins targeting the rising predatory practice of “reverse redlining” aimed predominantly at minorities in which “. . . a mortgage brokerage or bank systematically singles out minority neighborhoods for loans with inferior terms like high up-front fees, high interest rates and lax underwriting practices. Because the original lender would typically resell such a loan after collecting its fees, it did not care about the risk of foreclosure.”
  • New Basketball League for Whites Only (January 2010)
    The “All-American Basketball Alliance” announces plans to create a minor league basketball league in which “only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.”

As many Asian American bloggers have been reporting around the internet and as the University of California, Berkeley has just confirmed, Professor Ronald Takaki has passed away at the age of 70:

Professor Ronald Takaki

Ronald Takaki, a professor emeritus of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and prolific scholar of U.S. race relations who taught UC’s first black history course, died at his home in Berkeley on Tuesday (May 26). He was 70.

During his more than four decades at UC Berkeley, Takaki joined the Free Speech Movement, established the nation’s first ethnic studies Ph.D. program as well as Berkeley’s American Cultures requirement for graduation, and advised President Clinton in 1997 on his major speech on race.

A descendent of Japanese plantation workers in Hawaii, Takaki left the islands in the late 1950s to study at Ohio’s College of Wooster, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in American history from UC Berkeley in 1967 and was hired at UCLA, where he taught the campus’s first black history course. He joined Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies department in 1971 and served as chair from 1975-77.

Among his numerous accolades for scholarship and activism, Takaki received a Pulitzer nomination for his book, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (Little Brown and Company, 1993); a Distinguished Teaching Award from UC Berkeley and the 2003 Fred Cody Award for lifetime achievement from the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association.

As the Berkeley blurb above points out, Professor Takaki had a long and very distinguished career — he was an active member of the free speech movement in the 1960s, taught the University of California’s first Black History course, and was one of the early pioneers and leaders of UC Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies Department. In short, he was a giant in the field of Ethnic Studies.

He was also one of the early icons and most influential scholars of Asian American Studies as well and it was within this context that I first learned about him, read his work, and eventually met him in person.

In my junior year of college at UC Irvine, I had just begun my minor in Sociology and one of my first courses was “Race & Ethnicity” in which his book Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America was one of the assigned readings. Through his book and the course, I rediscovered my identity as an Asian American and as a person of color, after consciously and unconsciously trying to repress that identity ever since I was a young boy growing up in a predominantly White society.

Through his book and his other seminal book in Asian American Studies Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans, I finally saw that being a person of color and an Asian American was not a source of shame or embarrassment but rather, a source of pride, strength, and inspiration — a lesson upon which I have built this website, along with my entire life and professional career.

I finally had the opportunity to meet Professor Takaki in person in 1993, my final year of college, when he came to to UC Irvine to give a talk and promote the release of his book A Different Mirror. Before the lecture, he sat outside at a table signing books for people. I brought along my copy of Iron Cages for him to sign and as he wrote, “Celebrating our different shores” inside the front cover, he asked me my name, what I was studying (Political Science and Sociology), and my plans for the future now that I was graduating.

I told him that after studying Sociology and reading texts like his, I had decided to pursue my Ph.D. in Sociology. A big smile came to his face and he replied, “That’s great, that means that one day we’ll be colleagues!” It took a while, but about ten years later, I finally completed my Ph.D. and he and I finally did become colleagues.

A couple of years ago, Professor Takaki visited this area and gave a talk at Amherst College, sponsored by a colleague in the area (herself one of dozens, if not hundreds, of young scholars that Professor directly mentored through the years) and she invited me to have dinner with her and Professor Takaki before his talk. He didn’t remember me from that day in 1993, but when I told him the story and what he said to me, he again smiled and said, “I’m glad to see that it came true.”

Professor Takaki, thank you for your life of service to American society, to the fields of Ethnic Studies, Sociology, and Asian American Studies, and for inspiring this humble person to be proud to be an Asian American.

Update: The Los Angeles Times has an article that discusses Professor Takaki’s life and career in more detail and also reveals that as a result of his 20-year battle with multiple sclerosis, Professor Takaki took his own life. While some will focus on the way Professor Takaki died, I nonetheless prefer to focus on the way he lived.

Among academics like me, this month is very significant not just because of the presidential election, but also because it marks the 40th anniversary of the multiracial mass student strikes at San Francisco State University (SFSU) which lasted for several months and eventually resulted in the creation of the country’s first Ethnic Studies (including Asian American Studies) program in the U.S. To commemorate this anniversary and to provide a detailed chronology of the strike’s significant moments, the San Francisco Chronicle has a story that reflects on the strike’s legacy 40 years later:

Critics of the strike said some of its goals did not justify the violence. But ethnic studies experts and historians say it brought positive change to the university, particularly the creation of its College of Ethnic Studies, which includes Asian American Studies, Black Studies, La Raza Studies and Native American Studies. . . .

“Did their 15 demands justify the bombings? Hell no,” he said. “They placed a bomb in the administrative offices while school was in session. They were setting fires in the library. They were putting people’s lives in serious danger.”

But Laureen Chew, now associate dean of the College of Ethnic Studies and one of nearly 700 students jailed during the strike, said the battle was necessary. As an Asian American, she had faced racism in high school and from customers of her parents’ laundry shop who called her father a “stupid Chinaman.”

As a scholar whose work and life centers largely on Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies, I feel a lot of complicated and perhaps even contradictory feelings over these events that took place 40 years ago, long before I was even born.

On the one hand, I generally do not subscribe to a “the ends justify the means” approach when it comes to protests or demonstrations. While I was not there 40 years ago and can’t confirm the tactics that the student protesters may have used that put people’s lives in danger, I will say that committing violence to make a point and purposely putting innocent people’s lives in harm’s way is not the answer.

At the same time, I am pretty sure that the violence that the student protesters endured at the hands of the police was far worse than the violence that the students perpetrated against innocent bystanders. With that in mind and paraphrasing Malcolm X, protecting yourself against brutality is not being extremist — it’s basic common sense.

And ultimately, I do agree with Professor Chew’s sentiments that there comes a time when enough is enough — when you or your community endure so much systematic discrimination, inequality, and injustice that everything reaches a boiling point, at which time you must stand up and assert your basic human rights as an American.

Suffice it to say that I probably would not have the job I have now if it weren’t for this strike at SFSU 40 years ago and other student-led movements that paved the way for the creation of Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies programs around the country.

But even beyond that, the SFSU strike stands as an inspiring example and reminder to all who are marginalized that learning about justice and equality is just the first step — the point is to turn that knowledge into action.

I would like to pass along an enthusiastic congratulations to Professor Evenlyn Nakano Glenn (Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley), who has just been elected as President-Elect of the American Sociological Association.

Prof. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies and new President of the American Sociological Assn.

Professor Nakano Glenn has been a true pioneer in the fields of Sociology, Ethnic Studies, and Asian American Studies. She has written numerous articles and well-respected and often-referenced books, such as Issei, Nisei, Warbride: Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service and Unequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor.

Professor Nakano Glenn becomes the first Asian American to be elected President of the American Sociological Association. This is a very big deal and a well-earned achievement on her part. Even though I do not know Professor Nakano Glenn well personally, I certainly have used and referenced her work in my research and respect her immensely for her distinguished career and long list of accomplishments.

While it’s nice to have Asian Americans serving as role models in very public and high-profile occupations as entertainers, politicians, and professional athletes, on an everyday basis, it’s people like Professor Nakano Glenn who do the same kind of work that I do that have the most direct influence and inspiration for me as an Asian American sociologist.

Congratulations, Professor Nakano Glenn!