I'm of the pre-Twitter generation that remembers life before Twitter. When Twitter was launched I didn't understand why anyone would want to use it. I have much more to say than will fit in 140 characters. I heard about how useful Twitter was during 3.11 and during the Arab Spring but I didn't really understand Twitter until last August during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown. Before the national and international media started paying attention, Twitter and local St. Louis news outlets were pretty much the only sites on which you could read and watch what was going on there. Even after the story went international Twitter was still the fastest way to find out what was happening and there were many stories I learned about on Twitter the media failed to tell or told a different version of.
While I don't expect any of my tweets to change the world, I've been thinking about setting up an account to share things that aren't really worth doing a whole blog post about. Sometimes I hear about events at the last minute and don't have time to write it up for the blog or I see articles that would be worth sharing but don't want to spend the time writing commentary. I'll probably share pictures of tasty food I eat. :)
The thing that finally pushed me over the edge to finish setting up my account and go public was #MyAsianAmericanStory. The hashtag was created on Monday by 15-year-old Jason Fong in response to presidential candidate Jeb Bush's appalling remarks accusing "Asian people" of "coming into our country -- having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship". @#$%! Pitting minorities against each other is the oldest trick in the book. He threw us under the bus so he could make nice to the Latinos so they wouldn't think he was referring to them in a previous comment on so-called anchor babies. Bush has since suggested that we "chill out a little bit."
When I looked through Jason's tweets I noticed that a couple of hours before he created #MyAsianAmericanStory he tweeted California Rep. Ted Lieu, asking where the AAPI response to Bush's remarks was. No reply. So he took matters into his own hands.
Jason Fong on Twitter
That's what's great about Twitter. Anyone of any age or class can make their voice heard and start a national conversation. AAPIs are always complaining about our lack of representation in the media, in politics, in national conversations on race. I've certainly done it. Something I figured out a few years ago is that if you're not out there making your voice heard, then you're part of the problem. I think it's awesome that Jason didn't wait for the adults in the Asian American community to come up with a carefully crafted response. There was no guarantee that his hashtag would go viral but he made an effort, which is more than I can say for a lot of AAPIs. Thanks to Jason, a couple of big media outlets have started sharing these stories. Once upon a time Asian American reaction would not have been covered by the media. Now, a 15-year-old with an Internet connection can make a difference.
I've written before about how there comes a time when all your teachers cease to be older than you and you start learning from people younger than you. We can all learn a lot from Jason.
"[Jason] said he did not create the #MyAsianAmericanStory hashtag to exclude anyone. Instead, the hashtag is an opportunity to share stories that are not often seen in the media. “I hope that people can look at this tag, and know that Asians and Asian Americans are part of the American narrative,” he said." – "Student starts #MyAsianAmericanStory in response to Bush remarks," Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2015On the blog I try to keep my focus pretty narrow and write primarily about Japanese and Japanese American stuff rather than Asian American stuff. I do this because there are a lot of other Asian American bloggers who are writing more broadly about Asian American experience but very few Japanese Americans who are writing about our experiences. As other Asian American populations are growing, we're shrinking. Where we used to be a majority among Asian Americans, at around 1.3 million we're now the smallest among the six largest Asian American populations. I'll probably have more Asian American content on Twitter but I'm planning to keep the blog focused on Japanese and Japanese American stuff.
I don't think Twitter is for everyone. I'm not even sure it's for me. There's a lot about the site that I find annoying and problematic. I don't promise to stick with it. But I'm giving it a try and we'll see how it goes. You can follow me @keikoinboston.
Update 9:25pm: The JACL has issued a statement on Jeb Bush's remarks and Donald Trump disparaging Japanese and Chinese businessmen he's negotiated with.