Supreme Court rejects effort to grant American Samoans U.S. citizenship at birth

american-samoa-113759_960_720This happened a few months back, but it raises questions about sovereignty, the legacy of or existence of modern American imperialism and more.

1899 marked the year that birthright citizenship was formalized for those people born in the United States are automatically citizens. We can thank Wong Kim Ark for that!

But what about the American territories around the globe? What rights to citizenship do they receive?

“Those born in the other U.S. territories — Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Marianas — all get citizenship at birth, but that was determined by statute in Congress. No such statue exists for American Samoa.”  Technically, what the people of these territories receive is the status of “non-citizen nationals.

Yet– a statute in Congress does not exist? Has it been a question raised in Congress? Or is this the first attempt at gaining rights for American Samoa born?

 

Memory and Renewal: Tanforan Assembly Center

2017 marks 75 years since the first Japanese Americans we forced into assembly centers and then to concentration camps throughout the United States.

Here in Western Washington American citizens and their parents were held at the Puyallup Fairgrounds– renamed Camp Harmony and then most were sent to Minidoka camp in Idaho. “Except in Portland, Pinedale, Sacramento, and Mayer, large fairground or racetracks were selected to minimize the need for building extra housing. At the racetracks, stables were cleaned out for use as living quarters. At the Portland Assembly Center over 3,800 evacuees were housed under one roof in a livestock pavilion subdivided into apartments.” (Densho Project Website)

Tanforan was a racetrack.

When we consider the events and the rhetoric of today’s electoral race, the importance of memorializing this tragic era of American history is not simply a message for those whose families share the direct legacy: It is for all the country to consider whether we will be complicit in this happening again, or not.

 

El Cerrito: WWII Tanforan Assembly Center story mirrors today’s issues

Whose Voice Matters?

In the last post we watched Anh Luu talk about her life as a chef, a Vietnamese American, and her take on blending the many sides of her own cultural identity.

Compare the way this story below begins with Anh’s profile video, even though this video describes an Australian perspective, we can examine the stark differences in narrators and the sources of the narrations.

  • How might hearing her story told by someone else change the way we see Anh?
  • Who is the protagonist of Anh’s story? Who is the protagonist in the second film?
  • Why would it matter who the protagonist is when learning about a person, community or nation?

This is of course a more difficult comparison to make with our younger students but a rewarding conversation to have.

 

 

(ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION OPTION: This second film can also be used by teachers in class to make the comparison with current refugee and immigration issues facing the world and our nation.)

In particular, around the 3:40 mark, point out how many young men arrived on the boat, and why the Australian government kept the boat’s arrival a secret.
How  many non-white Australians was enough to scare the population?
Discuss the importance of fear in the immigration/asylum debate.

A Season to Vote

API Voters.Wooedbyparties.2016
API Voters Remain a Major Swing Vote in the Upcoming Election

 

 

“The Asian-American voter pool is remarkably diverse, ranging from Pakistanis and Indians to Chinese and Koreans.” That is the ethnic breakdown in the state of Virginia in an article from the Wall Street Journal. In Washington State we would add the populations from the Pacific Islands as well. This means the diversity of the Asian and Pacific American voting public is as varied as any other groups. Outreach by both major political parties will need to contend with this diversity. To the list we can confidently add: Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Japanese, Thai, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Hawaiian, Fijian, Maori, Samoan, Tongan and a dozen other ethnicities.

The reality for political campaigns is that there is an assumption that if you reach one of these groups, you’ve reached them all. I very clear terms, that simply is not the effect.

In 2012, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans were a major factor in the elections; some have argued that we collectively were the most significant swing vote in that national and state-level elections.

Yet in the subsequent years, voter turnout in these populations droppedAPIvoterturnout.2014

I pointed this out at the dinner table this past summer. I was happily surprised at how interested my kids were in the topic.

My daughter entered her fourth grade class with the expectation that she would learn everything she needed to know about voting, elections and the Constitution. We are several weeks into the school year and I am trying to manage her expectations a bit. What I am struck by, is that she is committed to this idea of voting. Participation in elections, for her, is as important as her own interests in sports, arts and music. In essence; being a voter is an important part of her identity. She was disappointed that the right to vote wouldn’t be hers until she turned 18, because as she stated, “I’m a citizen now.”

What this triggered was a series of questions of whether the American voter– in particular Asian and Pacific American voters– saw the right to vote as inherent to their identity.

  • Does the right to vote coincide with the identity of being a citizen?
  • How do our next generations see themselves within our political process?
  • What is so important about voting?

 

A Unique Culinary Blend– Only in America

In 2006, following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, New Orleans was a ghost town. In the 9th Ward, houses stood empty as the families who had lived in them for generations fled, were rescued from, or were lost in the surge of water as it breached the levees.

Following the 1975 Fall of Saigon, thousands of Vietnamese refugees settled throughout the United States. Here in the Pacific Northwest it was a tough process to find homes. In New Orleans; the story was no different. In the Parish of Versailles, the Vietnamese took to fishing, shrimping and other industries in the region. The communities they built up relied heavily on community cohesion and creating systems of support.

Following the Hurricanes, Versailles, also affected by the storm surge that hit the 9th Ward, looked considerably different. As the news reports warned of a coming catastrophe, the community stayed put and protected each other rather than evacuate.

On a torridly humid, sweaty March afternoon, a group of African American leaders sat down, most for the first time, in the backyard of their Vietnamese American neighbors and shared in the most aromatic meal that combined Vietnamese spicing with traditional and famous dishes made famous by the legends of New Orleans cuisine. On the table was:

A pot of Gumbo ‘liquor’: This is the excess liquid from the actual gumbo pot that is rich with the flavors of crawfish, shrimp, cayenne peppers and file’.

A Shrimp boil: Infused with anise, black pepper, Zatarain’s seafood seasoning, garlic, potatoes and corn and dumped onto the table atop newspaper.

Bunh: Cold rice noodles topped with crawfish, cilantro, pickled radish and peanuts.

For everyone at the table it was everything they knew, and a world of things they had never considered. The afternoon was spent sharing their experiences in trying to rebuild, sharing skills and knowledge about how to do it.

Food is often the first way to try and connect students to other cultures. How likely are they to connect food to the richness of their own culture?

Here is the story of Anh Luu, a chef who has taken this melding of flavors and created her own take on the cuisine.

Questions we can ask of our students:

  • How do we expect to see Americans of different ethnic backgrounds adopt or incorporate aspects of an “Americanized” lifestyle?
  • What styles of cuisine are combined in Anh’s cooking?
  • How does Anh describe herself; her identity; connection with family?
  • What is the importance of hearing Anh describe her own experience?

 

 

 

Who is American? A National Moment on the Question of Belonging

CaptHumayunKhanUS-Army_rev24095411925Ghazala Khan, mother to Humayun Khan, married to Khizr. Her family emigrated here from Pakistan via the United Arab Emirates.

Her words raise the question of sacrifice for, and even the responsibility to, a belief that America is a plural society. In front of the nation she and her husband recounted the painful loss of their son, Army Captain Humayun Khan who died during his military tour in Iraq. Mrs. Khan’s own legitimacy in mourning the loss of her son, and even being “allowed” to express her own opinions was challenged by a major party presidential candidate simply because she is of Muslim faith. Read her response to a major political party candidate here.

While not everyone who has sacrificed for this nation-building project called the United States of America served in the military, her words echo a larger call for the recognition of millions of contributions by everyday American people.

Students can be challenged to consider the notions of civic responsibility; of belonging to a country; citizenship; and of nationality versus ethnicity or religious beliefs.

 

What Purpose Do Ads Such as These Serve in Public/Civic Discourse?


 

“As an alumnus of University of Missouri and citizen of Missouri for the past 40+ years, I am deeply disappointed with the utilization of anti-Chinese and anti-Muslim rhetoric that portrays Asian Americans in a derisive light…”

— Asian American Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis President Al Li

Read his full statement here.

 

The article from NBC News can be found here: Article

 

[Teachers: We suggest using this lesson plan from our Honoring Our Journey curriculum set to encourage student discussion and dialogue on the issue of reinforced stereotypes in the media.

 

Lost Story of “Citizen Kahn” (from the New Yorker)

Citizen Kahn
Zarif Khan, a.k.a. Hot Tamale Louie, arrived in small-town Wyoming in 1909 and eventually became a local legend.ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY

Memory is a fickle thing.

“Hot Tamale Louie was the son of nobody knows who, the grandson of nobody knows who, and the great-great-grandson of nobody knows who. He had been selling tamales in Sheridan since Buffalo Bill rode in the town parade, sold them when President Taft came to visit, was still selling them when the Russians sent Sputnik into space and the British sent the Beatles to America.

By then, Louie was a local legend, and his murder shocked everyone.”

How quickly the town forgot that he was Muslim and a cherished neighbor.

 

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/06/06/zarif-khans-tamales-and-the-muslims-of-sheridan-wyoming