Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Violence and Punishment

            On the evening of January 16th, a video depicting the attack of an Asian high school student by seven other students was uploaded to Youtube. Posted as Facebook statuses, shared onto walls, twittered and texted about, it caught almost immediate attention and went viral in less than a few hours. Even after the original video was taken down, it was reloaded onto Youtube by people that had downloaded it. Chicagoan students were outraged at an attack that hit so close to home, many giving details about the familiar location and how close they were to it. The same night the video went up, various local news stations caught wind and reported on it, requesting help in identifying the attackers. The video captured attention across the nation, provoking a wide spectrum of malicious comments. Over the next few days, the attackers were identified and taken into police custody with only one suspect charged as an adult with robbery and aggravated battery. The other six were charged as juveniles, also with robbery and aggravated battery.

The days immediately following the video, names and accusations were rapidly posted onto the internet. Wild allegations led to the harassment of various people related to the attack, associated to the attackers and mistakenly associated. A UIC student, who shares the same name as the girlfriend of one of the attackers, had personal information posted online that was reposted on multiple other sites. She and her family received numerous threats and harassments despite their efforts to differentiate her from the real girlfriend. The attacker’s girlfriend had posted videos where she states “there are two sides to every story” and says the attack had been incited by a previous transgression. While she tried to explain that she wasn’t taking sides and attempting to convince people to stay more open minded, her videos received a barrage of negative votes. A combination of distasteful opinions, usage and emphasis of the word “F.O.B.s” and appearing insincere in her stance of neutrality spurred negative responses from viewers, including insults of derogatory, racial stereotypes. Reactions to both the girlfriend’s videos and the attack video vary from commentary on the sad state of society to more intense responses, detailing peoples’ personal ill-wishes, with the average comment pinning shame and cowardice on the offenders.

It seems that we take greater offense and are more moved to action when the strong attack the weak. Had it been a single person attacking someone seemingly weaker, people would still be outraged, but what if it was a single seemingly weaker person suddenly beating down someone appearing stronger? People generally cheer for underdogs to overcome the odds. Had it been a weaker person, would people have kept a more open mind and inquire on the back story?

In the first minute of the video, the most apparent was a single Asian teenager being assaulted by a group of people, most of which had their faces concealed with the exception of one white male. Due to this, I subconsciously assumed that all the attackers were white by automatic association. Later, it became clear that the rest of the attackers were, in fact, Asian males. This single realization made a shift in the initial shock and offense I felt watching the video. Most likely, numerous other people felt this way because it helped to negate the possibility that it was a racial hate crime. 

Had it been all white offenders, would people feel more outraged and how much more? Regardless of race, it was a large group attacking one person, how much does race factor into the level of anger we feel? If it were a white student being attacked, would it matter more how strong he looked? How much does the race of the victim or offenders matter? If we take quicker and stronger actions to protect weaker people, would a greater outrage for an Asian victim indicate that Asians, particularly immigrants, are viewed as weaker than others? What is the ideal reaction rate against what we actually feel and do we or would we want to feel the same amount of outrage and sympathy for a victim regardless of race? 

This video touched a nerve in its viewers and triggered explosive reactions. I’ve felt the animosity brought on by seeing appalling acts of violence. I understand, but to those that wanted to hurt and actually attempted to hurt or harass the attackers and people related to them, realize that violence begets violence. Often, retribution is elevated high above the original offense. Remember these kids did the wrong thing by trying to distribute punishment for an act they deemed abhorrent. If we, in turn, decide to punish them in the same way they attempted to get retribution, we are demonstrating judgment no better than theirs.

Art at AARCC

Finals Week-Nona
Enjoy the original 'Nona' whiteboard collection from the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy New Year All

Happy New Year all! I was checking out the Angry Asian Man blog (angryasianman.com) and I came across this video. Not sure where it was taken, but it shows Lion/Tiger? dancers doing a traditional dance with a modern twist. This got me thinking... Is this the new trend? Is the future melding traditional and modern practices to reflect our times? I can recall when I was learning traditional Filipino dances our teachers scoffed at the idea of us trying to add in modern dance elements. In fact, they would get quite angry. "You are shaming our ways!" or "That's not how its supposed to be done!". And, them being the adults and experts, we never dared to add hip-hop or any other element into the dance.

I think of Bhangra as well. I think a large part of the success of Bhangra is the power of the music and the energy of the dance. I've seen Bhangra performances that were purely traditional-instruments and all, and performances that went bass heavy with Lil John- and I loved them both. I've always marveled at the way two things, which can been seen has having no relation at all, be put together in a way that works beautifully and at the same time signifies the meeting and blending of cultures.

I have a deep appreciation of the traditional as well. I think centuries-old music, dance, story, etc. that have stood the test of time had done so for a reason, and its beauty and artistry can teach us a lot.

Either way, I hope you enjoyed the video!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Undocumented and Unafraid: the Chicago Six on trial

"Six undocumented youth appeared in Chicago's Circuit Court yesterday to face charges of mob action and obstruction of traffic. The charges were filed by the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago. They are the first-ever undocumented immigrants in Illinois to be put on trial for protesting immigration policy...

...Carla Navoa, 22, explained to People's World that Chicago is just as much her home as it is for Chicagoans born in the U.S. "I came here with my parents and two sisters from Manilla in the Philippines when I was five years old," she said. "I have hardly any memories of the Philippines. I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, and that is my home." She is now a student at the University of Illinois, where she pursues a graduate degree in Social Work."

Read more here: Undocumented and unafraid: the Chicago Six on trial

Racial Bullying: Asian American soldier abused and harassed

Private Danny Chen, at the young age of 19, took his own life on the morning of October 3. Reports say that he was bullied and harassed by his own platoon. Reading this article really got me riled up. On the Army website it states that their values include loyalty, respect, honor, and integrity. What happened here goes against ALL of these values. If I was fighting for my life in a foreign country, the last thing that would be on my mind is harassing a fellow soldier. In the end, regardless of race, we are all fighting for the same goal.

Read more here: Asian-American soldier was forced by comrades to crawl 100m on gravel while being pelted with rocks hours before he killed himself

What's your reaction to this article? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Welcome from Prof. Anna Guevarra at MAASU 2011 Fall Leadership Retreat

“From the Grassroots: Campus and Community Organizing
for Student Leaders,” Midwest Asian American Student Union
(MAASU) Fall 2011 Leadership Retreat

Anna Guevarra
Good Morning everyone! It is very exciting to see all of you here at this hour. Actually, it is quite amazing to see me here at this hour! On behalf of the Asian American Studies Program and the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans, I welcome all of you to UIC and thank the organizers for all of their hard work in bringing this leadership retreat here to campus. I want to especially thank Tito Catuncan for roping me into this—for inviting me to do this welcome. It is an honor to be here so thank you. When Tito asked me to do this welcome, he gave me the task of connecting my remarks with the theme of this retreat: From the Grassroots: Campus and Community Organizing for Student Leaders. And I thought, what an incredible theme for this retreat and also fitting for an issue that is near and dear to my heart—grassroots activism and most especially, those that are driven by students like you.