Asian-American Forum
Spring 2011 Issue no. 9

A New Day, A New Beginning

Editor Note: The editor has decided to include articles written for American Pacific Asians for Progress (, since we are now blogging under her pseudonym. Cross-posted articles will be identified by name and date submitted, but these will almost exclusively be those submitted by yours truly to prevent any copyright intervention concerns. Needless to say, blogging at APA for Progress gives us a new palette of concerns, beyond our everyday scope of living in the big city. One thing though is that everywhere, particularly where politics are concerned, cyber-security has become an issue. Even reporting from the perspective of a mainstream/ independent journalist, the First Amendment continues to erode, thanks to the big media's encouragement of consumer articles. Thus, the reprints here will serve the multiple function of verified editorial reviews.

  Changing Demographics of Asian-Americans in the Military

         Few realize the extent of service by Asian-Americans in the military. Often, their contributions appear to have been unobtrusive. Yet many Asians today know of at least one member in their extended family who has served. In my own family there are two veterans, my father who served in the Korean War, and my brother whose career in the Navy has taken him to the Gulf War and additional decades of service.

        There may be other reasons for a low profile in service personnel. Firstly, African-Americans have been in the United States for several centuries. Even after the end of the Civil War, segregation encouraged colored troops to fight for recognition where conditions were unequal. In contrast, anti-Asian immigration laws between 1882-1943 resulted in a predicament due to such low numbers of Asian immigrants during the first half of the twentieth century. As a result, the military seemed to have adopted a policy of segregating Asians only when their numbers were dense, such as with recruitment from the San Francisco Bay area during World War II.

         Asian-American historians have attempted to recreate the numbers, although with the passage of time it has been challenging. Often, Asian veterans may have been content just to have had returned home safely and be working in their businesses once again. Others were grateful for the opportunity to attend college with the assistance of the GI Bill. Matriculated into more mainstream jobs and professions, these Asian-American vets may have had to view service matter-of-factly; language and cultural barriers tended to keep them apart from peers once their tour had been completed.

         Some of the more notorious groups of Asian-American veterans have been recorded in history. From the perspective of early twentieth Chinese in America, serving in the Chinese Air Force bolstered the Allied Forces over the Pacific (Lai 196-200). The serves as a reunion website for the 14th Air  Service Group and 987th Signal Company. Various sources note between 12 to 20 thousand Chinese-Americans served in World War II (Wiki, Hom). Among the Veterans History Project extensive recordings, there is a special section devoted to Japanese-American veterans entitled "Asian Pacific Americans: Going For Broke." This documentary web page features audio clips with surviving members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an outfit of Japanese-Americans "who fought valiantly in Europe during World War II," even "while their families were confined to internment camps back in the States" (LOC 1).

          Useful outlets of dissemination include the "The Asian American Veteran" blog ( which provides coverage on Asian-American veteran related news events. Filmmaker Montgomery "Monty" Hom produced several documentaries, "We Served With Pride"; "A Brief Flight"; and "Men Without A Country" for PBS on the contributions of Chinese-American servicemen and women.

           Because immigration of Asian women into the United States was limited up till 1946, when the War Brides Act was passed, it would seem as if they could not have made any contributions. However according to Rudi Williams' article, "Asian Pacific American Women Served in World War II, Too," Asian American women served in various capacities, from translators to pilots, from spies to nurses; their ability to work with details was useful in jobs that involved systematizing.

           As the numbers of immigrants from Southeast Asia have increased, so have the number serving in the Armed forces. Although like Hispanics, Asians still tend to be underrepresented in the military, overall numbers have been increasing and also diversified. According to Lonny Shavelson in "More Asian-Americans Signing Up For The Army," the spike in recruits from Californian urban areas, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, stems from more recent immigrants who not only find the military education benefits attractive, but also "want to prove their loyalty to this country and [that] they're as American as anybody else" (quote by Ken Mochizuki).

Asian-Americans such as Ken Mochizuki, author of several young-adult books on military families, form part of an emerging coterie of writers (myself included) who hope to promote an understanding and appreciation for the contributions of these war-time generations. Is there such a need? The shortage of documentaries at the Veterans History Project on Asian American veterans indicates the difficulty in overcoming language and cultural barriers for preparing interviews.

Each year as the dust settles for more World War II veterans, a few more are being rewarded medals, such as Robert Masami Iso, who was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal last February. Still, this is offset by other requests which are denied, as in the case of Major General Vang Pao, the Hmong American who led the Hmong resistance against the Japanese in World War II, and against the Laotian Communists during the Vietnam War. When the freedom fighter, who was instrumental in helping negotiate for the migration of thousands of Hmong refugees into the United States, passed away this past January, Hmong leaders applied for his burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The national cemetery, which contains spots for inurnment (section f), and for foreign nationals, would not allow this valiant former Major General to be buried there.  --Submitted to in April 2011


"Asian Pacific Americans: Going for Broke." Veterans History Project. LOC, 2010.

Arlington National Cemetery. "Historical Information.", 2010.

"Chinese Americans Veteran's History.", 2009.

Joe, Don. "Asian-American Veterans." Asian-American Politics,, 2011.

Lai, Him Mark. Becoming Chinese American. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004.

MOCA. "Film Screening: 'We Served With Pride.'", 2009.

Shavelson, Lonny. "More Asian-Americans Signing Up." NPR. NPR, 21 Jun 2010.

Sung, Betty L. The Story of the Chinese in America. New York: Macmillan Co, 1971.

"Vang Pao." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2011.

Williams, Rudi. "Asian Pacific American Women Served in World War II, Too." News Article, 1999. 

 Model Health Screening Program for Asian-Americans in Montgomery County, Maryland

In Montgomery County, Maryland, the influx of Asian Americans has increased dramatically over the past ten years to approximately 123,822 persons. Typically new immigrants are middle-class working professionals who sacrifice the comforts of success, striking out for America often in hopes of bettering college enrollment opportunities for their children. However in the struggle for meeting basic needs such as learning English, adapting and establishing work connections, they sacrifice the security of former jobs,  working in less well paid jobs--for some, this even causes neglect of health. This is why in 2005, the Montgomery County of Health and Human Services developed the Asian American Health Initiative (AAHI) to help "respond to the needs of Asian Americans."

As an Asian American, one realizes how difficult it can be to ask for medical help. There is the language barrier, which can be very problematic in cases of different dialects. There is the fear of technology, the clinic run by non-Asians, and worries about the costs of treatment. Coupled with centuries old traditions, particularly in China, where surgery is viewed as cutting off the flow of qi in the body, the result is that too many elderly Asians seek help when it is almost too late. Thus, one of the first missions of the AAHI was to help develop a set of health brochures including in Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Vietnamese, and other languages.

Becoming a resident and working in the United States should not come at the cost of denial of healthcare. Most studies prove that routine and preventative healthcare help mitigate against long-term more costly procedures, but many Asians are afraid of even receiving vaccinations, and regular health check-ups. Even when the statistics indicate that Asians are at higher risk for certain cancers, many do not screen or understand the importance of receiving life-saving endoscopies to detect colorectal cancers, or mammograms to detect for breast cancers.

The efforts of AAHI and Maryland Department of Health and Human Services, have aided more Asians in reaching out to other Asians regarding the logistics on receiving routine healthcare for both children and adults. Through resources such as at the AAHI Resources webpage, eligible low-income under- and uninsured Asian American residents of Montgomery county need not let their diseases proceed untreated or feel isolated, but with the help of staff, volunteers, and professional members, understand that there is a safety net united under the cause of mitigating common Asian health issues. ---Submitted to in April 2011


AAHI. Asian American Health Initiative. Montgomery County, 2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2011.

Fight Colorectal Cancer. 2011

 Sweatshops Revisited: The Little Shops of Horrors

Gregory Elich's article "Sweatshop Manufacturing: Engine of Poverty" dated May of last year offers a sad portrayal of an ongoing state of affairs because bills supporting Decent Working Conditions had repeatedly died in Congress (eg. S. 3485 and H.R. 5635 in 2009). Apparently there are more arguments in support of corporate outsourcing and contract suppliers than ever before. Only occasionally do we hear of colorful protests by Stop Nike Sweatshops, but even these hardly make the news. Is it because the Democrats are embarrassed to admit these token bills were to woo voters for 2008?

Typical of sweatshop horrors is this description by Gregory Elich:

At Niagra Textiles in Bangladesh, workers sew garments for Disney and Walmart, earning the princely sum of 11 to 20 cents per hour... The pay is so abysmal that four workers must share a single shack, and one outhouse... Meals consist of nothing but rice, only occasionally flavored with a small amount of beans or potatoes. To manage even such a meager diet as this, workers must borrow money each week. The workweek is 14 hours a day, seven days a week. At best, employees are given one day off a month.

Solution: Have them immigrate here. Now this makes the America 2049 Facebook game worth playing. Afterall, America is home to so many of the off shoring conglomerates: Disney, Walmart, Toys R Us, Coca-Cola, Phillip Morris, Dow Chemical, and so on.

Can't abuse be justified for the sake of production? Elich continues the description:

At a factory in Thailand producing clothing for Reebok, Adidas and Levi's, amphetamines were added to the large drink containers during busy production periods, enabling employees to work up to 48 hours straight. The practice was so commonplace that many workers became addicted to the drugs and sought them on the black market.

Discipline was harsh, and anyone perceived to be working too slowly could expect to be grabbed and shouted at. The fine for a worker caught yawning was more than $11, and in one case, a worker was docked more than $46 for bringing a lemon to work to help her stay awake. The owner often hectored the workers over a loudspeaker, telling them that anyone attempting to organize a union could "say goodbye to your parents."

In books and newspapers, the defense by fervid capitalists, such as Jagdish Bhagwati in In Defense of Globalization or Cheryl Gray of Citizen Economists is that outsourcing more than benefits second- and third- world economies because of such favorable exchange rates. They seem to have blinders over their eyes when it comes to noticing slave-like work conditions. One has only to search YouTube to view a few clips such as "Child Labour" to get an idea of the deprivations.  While advocates such as Gray affirm that sweatshops are a good if horrifying reality (since at least the workers have jobs), NGOs such as Educating for Justice counter the rationale. Under FAQs, here is one answer:

But aren't these jobs better than no jobs?...This question, "Aren't these jobs better than no jobs at all?" begs another question: "Why must we talk about these jobs in the extreme - a job as is or no job at all? Where is the middle ground between these extremes?" EFJ believes that any person who is willing to work hard for a successful company, well over 40 hours per week, should be able to afford three meals per day, a comfortable and clean place to sleep, housing, drinking water and basic health care at the very least.

From the video clips and testimony of workers, even these basic necessities are shunted. 

Don't Americans owe it to the world to have a sense of true philanthropy? As the child labour videos exhibit, children who work under wretched conditions from dawn till dusk have very little energy or opportunity to receive an education. Even if they did, the slavery like conditions would preclude their being able to concentrate and compete.

To escape their live death sentence, would it not be reasonable that these children might become runaways, delinquents, or join the criminal underground? The lure of easy money in fact, does tend to lead towards worse, for as the children become older, what chance is there for them to earn better wages? In fact the United Nations groups labor and sexual exploitation under the same heading. Polaris Project ( writes:

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of "labor or services," such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will. The factors that each of these situations have in common are elements of force, fraud, or coercion that are used to control people.  Then, that control is tied to inducing someone into commercial sex acts, or labor or services. 

The contention is that even if the trafficking occurs overseas, nevertheless, it is still trafficking if it involves slavery, beatings, inadequate living conditions, especially if the goods are manufactured for U.S. corporations.  

While the "Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act" was stalled in the 109th Session, there is still hope. A new bill is proposed by the Hawaiian Legislature banning human trafficking. Amanda Kloer writes, "HB 576 would amend the current prostitution statutes in Hawaii to include a definition of sex trafficking crimes involving forced or child prostitution and ensure children under 18 involved in commercial sex are treated as trafficking victims, not criminals" ("Will Hawaii Finally Make Human Trafficking a Crime?").

Visit and help make a difference in the world by signing the petition. 


"EFJ Campaigns." Educating for Justice., 2008.

Elich, Gregory. "Sweatshop Manufacturing: Engine of Poverty." Global Research Center., 2010.

ILO. "Child Labour." IMLB Films. YouTube.

Kloer, Amanda. "Will Hawaii Finally Make Human Trafficking A Crime?" News., 15 Feb. 2011.

Polaris Project., 2011.

Rizwan and Aliboy. "Nike Sweatshops: Try Not to Cry." YouTube.

USW. "Groundbreaking Anti-Sweatshop Legislation Introduced." USW District 12.

The First Amendment and Asian Humor

There's a sensitive subject when it comes to Asians. Ever since Hollywood promoted the image of the good Asian "Charlie Chan," many have felt ambivalence about just what good this can do for our stereotype. Mr. Chan's benevolence, honesty, and acumen is invaluable; on the other hand, subservience can present significant barriers. In "American Asians Face Career Disadvantages," Deborah Woo concluded, "Survey data have indicated a strong perception among Asian American professionals that they are frequently passed over for promotion by those with less education, training, and years of experience."

Tackling the glass-ceiling myth takes on new meanings among Asian-American stand-up comedians today. The inveterate Margaret Cho's wacky humor is mandatory therapy; recommended watching to expand one's concepts of what Asians really can accomplish under pressure. When traditional cultural expectations do oneself harm, when rather than speak up, one finds himself left holding the hat, there must be better ways. Or, as Margaret Cho deals it to her ex-lover: Eat Shit and Die!

As of 2010, Cho still makes Amerasian Ms. Kate Rigg's routines seem a bit rigmarole; however mass audiences love Rigg's cracks anyway. Click this later sample of "In Your Face." Comedians seem to flourish regionally, such as Suzanne Park (Seattle). Others reach critical acclaim by reinterpreting history, such as Byron Yee does in "Paper Son." There are ways to revisit painful topics even when it is only after a generation later as a performing artist. Another upcoming Asian-American comedy troupe is Mahatma Moses, composed of "an Indian, a Jew, and an Indian Jew." At their website (, they give a humorous explanation about their genesis.

Maybe someday, decades from now perhaps, the state of affairs will evolve to the point where race will no longer be a card held or used by one party against another. Humor is vital for allowing us to forget about rigidities which keep people in their place. It helps create the context for tolerance and understanding--after all, we all err.

In the old days, the traditional view was to "eat bitterness" and suffer in silence. Today, Asian-Americans help broaden the shared horizons for many hopeful comedians.  --Submitted to in May 2011

Selected Resources:


Byron Yee,

Charlie Chan, Wikipedia

Deborah Woo, "American Asians Face Career Disadvantages,"

Don Chao,

Edwin Li,

Kate Rigg, 

Mahatma Moses Comedy Tour,

Margaret Cho,

New Strategies to Save the Planet by Practicing Energy Efficiency

In Invisible Energy, MacArthur Fellow David Goldstein discusses strategies to rescue the economy and save the planet. His down-to-earth environmental economics layman's manual convincingly argues how a public policy of energy efficiency can help reduce the national debt, dependency upon foreign oil, and promote technological innovation.

Over the last 10 years, the trade deficit of the United States has increased from $110 billion to $712 billion...America's growing dependence on energy imports is a ticking time bomb for even higher trade deficits...This is another area in which a recovery that is not based on energy efficiency will be self-extinguishing. (73)

With Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, signed on October 5, 2009, the stage has been set for new policies in energy reduction and efficiency standards. These include limits on greenhouse gases, promoting sustainable development, smart growth development, potable water, transportation, electronic product efficiency, and eco-sensitive pollution controls.

This top-down thinking is just one part of renovation measures designed to stimulate new industries and job growth. According to ASCE Smartbrief, the DOE has also just released a new guide for energy efficient buildings:

The Department of Energy has launched the first Advanced Energy Design Guide series, developed to assist engineers and architects in the design of energy-efficient buildings. The guides contain recommendations to help achieve 50% energy savings on small and medium-sized buildings. It suggests designers use various energy-saving designs for building envelope assemblies, daylighting, heating and cooling systems and more.

The full article, "DOE Building Guides 'Can Halve Energy Costs'," by Environmental Leader is cross-posted below:

[The U.S. Department of Energy has released the first in a series of design guide aiming to cut the energy consumption of commercial buildings in half.

The first of the 50% Advanced Energy Design Guides focuses on small and medium-sized office buildings, and is available for free download. The DOE says the guides provide a practical approach to help architects and engineers design buildings that achieve 50 percent energy savings compared to the commercial building energy code used in many areas of the country.

The guidance also supports President Obama's goal to reduce energy use in commercial buildings 20 percent by 2020, and will help drive demand for energy-saving products made in the United States, the department says.

The guides recommend ways that designers can choose energy efficient designs for daylighting, building envelope assemblies, and heating and cooling systems, among other technologies. They also recommend commonly available equipment.

DOE says the guides are designed to reduce the time and money that designers would otherwise spend to individually model energy use for high performance buildings. The guides will also inform the development of future commercial building energy codes, the department said.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), American Institute of Architects (AIA), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) are all helping to develop the booklets.

Three more guides, on large hospitals, medium to big-box retail buildings and K-12 schools, will be released in coming months.]

--Submitted to in May 2011

Resources Cited:

American Society of Civil Engineers Smartbrief. 12 May 2011. Smartbrief, Inc.

Environmental Leader. "DOE Building Guides." 11 May 2011

Goldstein, David. Invisible Energy. Point Richmond, CA: Bay Tree Publishing, 2009.

   U.S. Department of Energy. Federal Energy Management Program. DOE. Web.

Green Cohousing Options for Our Elders

Did you know that the month of May is also Older Americans Month? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website contains a reprint of President Obama's Proclamation on 29 April 2011. In his memorable speech he stated:

The theme for this year's Older Americans Month, "Older Americans: Connecting the Community," reminds us that seniors are continually enriching lives and contributing to our country... My Administration is committed to meeting the needs and aspirations of American seniors, both now and in the future. We are working to improve the health and well-being of older men and women with a focus on preventive care and community living...(

When a President makes these kinds of statements, every sentence indicates a policy directive. This is a good thing too. The Administration on Aging, with supporting data from the Census Bureau, describes a boom in the numbers of elderly:

By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. People 65+ represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2000 but are expected to grow to be 19% of the population by 2030.

That is a growth from approximately one in ten Americans, to one in five. How are we going to provide all these people (myself included, hopefully), a quality of life beyond the prison-like, opiate-like conditions of many of today's nursing homes (where I have worked and volunteered only to be chastened by the memory of patients who stoically chose to starve than continue alone in their sufferings)?

We, as an American people, have not adequately addressed and still continue to neglect the needs of those who gave birth to us, succored our dreams, or supported us through college. Asian Americans feel particularly conscience-stricken, because many of us know about the traditions of supporting extended families, of providing care and shelter for our aging loved ones. Our daily living conditions, including frantic work schedules and urban lifestyles, make it hard to imagine putting our loved ones into public housing projects located in Chinatown. In fact, except for the occasional banquet, most of us have never even visited a Chinatown Association, nor do we know of anyone who belongs to the Benevolent Associations anymore. If our parents didn't belong to any,  how can we possibly think of putting them there?

Thankfully, one of the concepts which have emerged over the last decade includes quality alternative adult housing, or Green House/ Cohousing Projects. Imagine investing in an oversized studio nestled among others whose grounds include common facilities, eco-sensitive architectural design and landscaping, and a shared sense of ownership in planning and maintenance. For instance, the Fresno Cohousing "LaQuerencia" provides a number of answers to FAQs. At this page, it explains:

Legally, Fresno Cohousing will function just like any other condominium development...But unlike typical condominium developments, cohousing is designed specifically to foster a sense of community...the residents have come together for the express purpose of building and living in a community together. From its inception, each cohousing development is characterized by this commitment to community...Our group makes some of our decisions using C.T. Butler's Formal Consensus Process...

With such heavy social and monetary commitment to negotiation processes, members have plenty of time to discover whether or not this will truly be the right fit. For even with privacy contracts, individuals should share some likeability, whether shared cultural traits, philosophy, and background with, of course, adaptability considerations. 

 According to, whose motto is "Building a better society, one neighborhood at a time":

The cohousing idea originated in Denmark, and was promoted in the U.S. by architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett in the early 1980s. The Danish concept of "living community" has spread quickly. Worldwide, there are now hundreds of cohousing communities, expanding from Denmark into the U.S, Canada, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and elsewhere. (

This grassroots volunteer group has been hosting community tours, speakers, and resources to whip up support and incentives to increase cohousing developments.

 Many of the design-building cohousing projects, such as Wolf Creek Lodge ( in Grass Valley, California, offer prospective residents an in-depth look at the participatory process including conceptual philosophy, community members, events, and press releases. Prospective residents can gauge the fit when the site posts policies with respect to smoking, number of pets, and other restrictions.

 The media has also begun to take an interest in cohousing. In December 2007,  Maria L. LaGanga of the Los Angeles Times wrote up a piece entitled "Communal Housing is Coming of Age," when member Suzanne Marriott was still deciding upon her plans and searching for "the elusive ideal of community: that remembered or dreamed of network of people who won't cramp your style but will make sure you're OK."  Lately, at the New York Times, Paula Span has been featuring a blog called The New Old Age, and discussing everything from nursing homes, to exotic retirement resorts, to "NORCs" or naturally-occurring-retirement-communities. For instance, suburbs whose homes are owned by parents but whose children have moved away. Span is bringing up in casual conversational style all the what-ifs and what-should-I-do dilemmas that arise in helping preserving older parents' yearning to maintain their sense of dignity and independence.

The basic premise of cohousing -- that life is better together than apart -- is an even neater fit for people as they age, because "aging is a team sport," said Dr. Bill Thomas, geriatrician and author of  What Are Old People For? But cohousing communities specifically geared for seniors are just beginning to take off. (

As the Baby-Boom Generation reaches their retirement years, they will try to pioneer new ways, just as they always have, to broaden the continuum of possibilities in quality of life--or even--end-of-life care. It is relevant to everyone because just as the country is having to retool its economy, redesign machineries for sustainability, and streamline the healthcare system, so it must begin to creatively address co-housing.

Maybe we can even start planning for retirement with time-share options. This and other ideas are sure to be touched upon at the 2011 National Cohousing Conference June 15-19 in Washington DC ( This year's workshops and presentations will address issues that can aid leaders and engineers in connecting cohousing developments with high quality sustainable living and efficiency standards.

--Submitted to in May 2011

Works Cited and Resources: Cohousing Association of the United States, 2011. Web. 20 May 2011.

Delanus, Doris. "Portrait of a Green House Elder." The Green House Project, 2011. Web. 20 May 2011.

"Developers/Sponsors/Development Consultants." Gallery of High Quality Affordable Housing, 2011. Web.

"FAQ." Fresno Cohousing, 2011. Web. 20 May 2011.

Obama, Barack. "President Obama's Proclamation on Older Americans Month." Administration on Aging. Dept.of HHS. 02 May 2011.

Span, Paula. "Moving Murray." The New Old Age. The New York Times, 20 May 2011. Web. 20 May 2011. Wolf Creek Lodge, 2011. Web. 20 May 2011.


How to Cite Any of the Above Articles in MLA Resource Bibliographies:
 Wong, Christine H. "Name of Article." Name of Website., 2011. Web. Date of Access.

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