Archive for February, 2007

A friend sent emailed me an article today about Asian Week columnist Kenneth Eng’s op-ed, titled “Why I Hate Blacks”. I was sorely disappointed that Asian Week allowed this kind of content to be published, as I had considered Asian Week to be a professional publication serving an important need for the Asian American community. (Asian Week had even given great coverage to community initiatives like DAY Project.)

Now they have a lot of explaining to do. It’s one thing to allow for “freedom of speech”, but Eng’s op-ed is simply irresponsible.

In addition to the racist statements he writes about the Black community. The op-ed itself reads with a whiney and misguided voice, filled with faulty logic. I also read Eng’s earlier piece entitled “Why I Hate Asians“, and I came to the same conclusion with Power and Politics in that Eng’s work is that of a deranged writer. Now I usually give folks the benefit of the doubt, but Eng’s tone of writing doesn’t really convey any sincerity in trying to spark dialogue about racial stereotypes and discrimination. And then there is something to be said about a person who is a self-proclaimed “Asian Supremacist” and calls his column “God’s Universe”.

This link displays a petition against the article sponsored by several major Asian Pacific American civil rights and advocacy groups. It also lists other relevant links, including a downloadable PDF of the original column (which can no longer be found on Asian Week’s website).

The incident reminds me of some heated blog discussions a few months ago about the state of relations and lack of understanding between Asian and Black folks. I fear we all may remain perpetually as crabs in a barrel and continue playing Oppression Olympics. The Asian Week let-down certainly doesn’t help the situation.

Still, I feel mostly sadness, rather than anger, towards Eng because I think that using this approach is to operate from self-hate. I wonder what Eng is like in person. Does he have any children? What kind of people is her surrounded by? Who does he call his community? From where does he draw inspiration and hope?

Still staying in tune on the Michigan front:

This week the Detroit Free Press published a pretty good article about local activists in Michigan who are speaking out about global warming through workshops and presentations for community organizations, neighborhood block clubs and church groups. The individuals highlighted (including my friend and former employer) are part of a cadre of volunteers trained by Al Gore and The Climate Project and who are now raising awareness about climate change in their local communities. The Climate Project website is very interactive and includes a calendar of events for you to see what local activities are taking place in your state.

The presenters’ tasks are to be available to talk about climate change and make the technicalities behind global warming more accessible to non-scientists (i.e. regular folk). So if you want to do something tangible about combatting climate change, get in touch and tap into this resource to bring them out to your own community organization.

Top of the Rock

Last night I went to the Top of the Rock to see New York City’s skyline. The view was fantastic. It was raining, so I couldn’t get a good shot of the city, but here’s a photo from Gothamist.

Today I pack up my belongings into my car to complete my move to New York City/Brooklyn. While living in Detroit, I remember lamenting over the handful of folks who decide to leave the city each year, for whatever reason. It is not my intention to be that person who couldn’t see the beauty of what is taking place in the city.

Rather, I’m on a pursuit to become a landscape architect/designer and trying figure out how to pull together my background as a community organizer into this new path. In putting a lot of my writing energies into composing a reflective and honest personal statement for grad school applications, I realized that much of what I wrote was about Detroit and its people that impacted my life.

Sharing the text of my personal statement seemed like the perfect way to give tribute to Detroit and to the residents who are continuing to lay the seeds of social change. I will post my Love Letter to Detroit as soon as I hear back from schools, so regrettably, I must ask you to check back in April for the tribute. đŸ˜‰

Before going to see the newly opened MOCAD, my friend and I spontaneously decided to enter and explore the Michigan Central Depot. It was surprisingly easy to get in from the tunnels. We were walking in darkness for a minute, before suddenly stepping into the expansive main lobby/waiting area (represented in the photo above courtesy of Forgotten Detroit). A snow storm had come through the city two days ago, so mounds of snow sculpted by the wind were all over the floor and staircases. We only had time to look around the third (some kind of vault/archival room) and fifth (hotel rooms or offices) floors. I still can’t really believe I was inside the building — had there been more time and had I dressed warmer, I could have spent much longer inside, just sitting, soaking and reflecting.

I hope the fate of this building, like other wonderful buildings in Detroit, will not go down the path of demolition. Afterwards, my friend and I had an interesting conversation about sustainability and urban cities. Inside the rooms, we had found many light fixtures and other materials wasted and deteriorating, as though people just left everything behind and didn’t think look back. At the same time, the architecture and building materials used to construct the station seem solid and strong enough to withstand time itself. Aside from the aesthetics, there doesn’t appear to be much structural damage. I don’t think the box-like buildings we find our Wal-marts and Targets today can measure up to the Michigan Central Depot. With the right amount investment, imagine the possibilities of how we can reuse this building.

From Freire:

Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to
others.

Not much time to develop this entry, but I wanted to share an update regarding the Xiong memorial. This week’s MetroTimes published a well-balanced article on last Saturday’s Memorial and Community Assembly for Chonburi Xiong. As a side note, I wasn’t at all keen on the title, “Hmong and Restless”, that they used for the cover. “Hmong and Restless”, a play on the TV soap opera “Young and Restless”, is an inconsiderate way to refer to the 27-shot killing of an Asian teenager and the community’s outcry. If the article were about the counter-culture of youth, that would be a different a different case..

Back to the news article. There is a very eye-opening quote from the lawyer representing the city and police officers who shot Xiong:

One thing was certain: This guy pointed a loaded weapon at these police officers. The 27 times means nothing. The only thing the officers needed was the justification to shoot one time. The 27 bullets don’t matter.

It was reported that nearly 40 shots were fired and 27 hit the young man. I’m not convinced that the police needed to shoot at all, but to say that 1 bullet is the same as 27 bullets is appalling. One could shoot an animal less times than that. I am not an expert on police procedures, but I do believe that there are steps of de-escalation that police can take to disarm a potential suspect. On the note of suspect, I don’t think that the police have stated what the charge was against Xiong. Was there even a warrant to enter the house?

Here is the latest regarding the death of a Hmong youth by police in Warren, Michigan. A memorial and community assembly event is planned for Chonburi Xiong, young victim of a brutal police shooting. The ad-hoc committee that has been organizing support for the Xiong family also sent a press release that generated a lot of media attention in local papers, including two hits in the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press and the Macomb Daily. Below is a powerful statement from the father of Chonburi, from Detroit Asian Youth Project‘s website:

My name is Pang Blia Xiong. I was born in a small farming village in Laos on December 31, 1956. I did not have much of a childhood because my country was torn apart by war. When the Americans came to Laos, they asked our people, the Hmong, to help fight the Communists. I did not know much about America, but my parents told us it was our duty to help the Americans. My father was a Hmong military leader who was killed in combat in 1969. That same year, I joined the army at the age of thirteen. Although I feared for my life at every moment during the war, I managed to survive.

But after the Communists took power in 1975, everybody who sided with the Americans became an outcast in Laos. My family fled to the woods to survive. For four years, we were constantly running to avoid the gunfire from Communist soldiers. Sometimes, we went for days without food. Many people from my village died—men, women, children, and elders. My family was lucky to escape many close encounters.

In 1979, my family made it to a refugee camp in Thailand. I lived in the Ban Vinai camp for nine years. Housing conditions were poor and crowded, and we were only given small food rations once or twice a month. I met my wife in the refugee camp. We decided to come to America, when my wife was pregnant in 1988. My older brother had already settled in Wisconsin. He told me that I should leave the refugee camp because America was a better place to raise a family. Our first son, Chonburi, was born in Thailand as we were preparing to come to the US. My wife and I were overjoyed to become parents. In our culture, the first-born son is especially important because he will be the one to carry on our family name and heritage. We have four more children born in America.

We came to Detroit in 1990, and I worked as a machine operator for an auto parts supplier. For the past eight years, I have worked as an assembly worker making auto parts for automotive engines. My wife worked as a dishwasher first, then as a machine operator. It was hard adjusting to a new country where people spoke a different language, but we both worked hard and did our best to support our family. We saved our money to buy a house in northeast Detroit, and I was proud to become an American citizen in 1998.

In October 2003, we moved to a larger house in Warren. We did not know much about the city, but we liked the houses and we heard that our children could get a good education in the Warren public schools. For nearly three years, we always considered our neighborhood safe, and we trusted the Warren police. We know there are many good men and women on the force and that they have a difficult and important job. But we never imagined that our son, Chonburi, could be killed by police officers in our own home.

We want the public to be aware that previous reports have contained many inaccurate statements about my family. We hope that the media will investigate this matter further and provide a more even-handed account.

I ask everyone who is a parent, “If you lost your child in this manner, wouldn’t you be searching for answers? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to see if your child’s death could have been avoided?” My wife and I have filed our complaint because we want the court and the public to take a closer look at the facts of this case.

In closing, we wish to thank all the members of the community, who have helped us to make it through this difficult period. We appreciate your support. We hope that we can all work together and that we can all work with the police and government authorities to ensure that all people are treated fairly. We deeply miss our son, and we do not wish to see any other parents suffer as we have.

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