Thursday, August 27, 2015

Follow me on Twitter #MyAsianAmericanStory

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, 2015
On 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.


  1. I just joined Twitter this month as well - partly because it's become this really dynamic forum for teachers to share ideas and communicate with each other (yay teaching!) and partly because I also realized that it was a great way to learn about news/stories (esp ones affecting people of color) that weren't making it to the national media. (Case in point - the hunger strikes to save #Dyett HS in Chicago). I also thought Twitter was kind of silly when it first started, and I'm not quite adept with it yet, so I'm still just absorbing and trying to find good people to follow, but it has been a lot cooler than I thought it would be. Followed you :)

    1. That's cool! I didn't know teachers were making use of Twitter. Does your school have a social media policy for staff? A surprising number don't and I always cringe when I see stories about inappropriate things teachers have said on Facebook that have gotten them in trouble. Though you don't seem like someone who would have that problem. :)

      I hadn't heard about the hunger strike. That's intense.

  2. From my limited use, math teachers and social justice educators seem to be the most active on twitter... I teach math and ESL (w/a focus on social justice... hopefully - it's my first year with the subject) so it works out :D
    Our school doesn't have a social media policy per se - just that social media as a medium doesn't relieve us teachers of our responsibility of being "mandated reporters". In other words, if a student contacts us on facebook/twitter/etc. and says something that's worrisome (like, "I hate myself and I want life to end..."), we have to respond to that as we would if the student said it in our class.

    Okay, so I'd like to hear your thoughts with something I'm mulling over re: the #MyAsianAmericanStory stories... And I think I'm mulling over this more b/c of the MFA protests and all of the forced/*en*forced dichotomies between being Japanese American/Asian American and Japanese/Asian. I've lived in the States longer than I've lived in Japan at this point, but I still have Japanese citizenship and I self-identify as Japanese (though not completely), and not Japanese American. In a weird way, especially after I saw all the hate and arguments being tossed around during the coverage of the MFA protests, I feel weird using the #MyAsianAmericanStory to say anything, like I would be co-opting the story of "true" Asian Americans (in a similar way to how I felt that the arguments of the protesters were co-opting and then ignoring the opinions of Japanese people). I dunno - it's a weird space to occupy where I don't feel Japanese, Japanese American, Asian American or American...? I know that that hashtag started as a response to something completely different, but I just feel a bit weird using it. Thoughts?

    1. That's a really interesting question! I was really dismayed at what I saw in the conversations around the MFA protests where people on all sides were policing everyone else's race/ethnic identity. I had a Japanese American woman in the comment section of an article about the protests tell me I was *not* Japanese American because she thought my thinking was "typical Japanese." ??? I don't know who she is to define my ethnic/cultural identity. Yes, I'm more "Japanese" than many other later generation JAs because I wasn't born here and my dad is 1st gen but I've lived in the US almost my entire life so Japanese people certainly don't identify me as "typical Japanese" since I am quite American by their standards.

      I have no problem with you using the hashtag to share your story. No one owns a hashtag. Jason asked people to use it to share their immigration stories but it's taken on a life of its own as people share their stories of dealing with racism, struggling with their identity and language skills, telling stories about their childhood, etc. I guess technically it might be incorrect to label you a Japanese/Asian American but if you’ve lived here a long time then your story is part of the history of Asian America, just as the stories of some of our ancestors who couldn’t get citizenship due to racist immigration policies are also part of that history.

      Also, know that you're not alone in being a Japanese citizen who has been a long-time resident of the US and isn’t sure how to identify. I have Japanese friends in Boston, some of whom have dual citizenship and some who retain Japanese citizenship (but may be married to Americans), who also are unsure of their identities. After so many years in the US you adapt to the culture to some degree and might have a hard time living in Japan again (my dad experienced this when he worked in Japan when I was in college), but I do think that having Japanese citizenship changes the experience of living here (even for those who are dual citizens), so I can understand why you/they don’t identify as Japanese American.

      Have you ever had a chance to visit the Japanese American National Museum in LA? If not, I highly recommend it!