A weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.
[00:00:00] Opening: Asian Pacific expression. Unity and cultural coverage, music and calendar revisions influences Asian Pacific Islander. It’s time to get on board. The Apex Express. Good evening. You’re tuned in to Apex Express.
[00:00:18] Jalena Keane-Lee: We’re bringing you an Asian American Pacific Islander view from the Bay and around the world.
[00:00:22] Miko Lee: This is Miko Lee. And in August, I had the wonderful opportunity of hosting a live event. One of the first live events. That KPFA was offering at the back room in Berkeley. And it was an interview with Catherine Cinzia Choi on her new book Asian-American histories of the United States. So take a listen to the interview. You’re going to hear some clapping and some noise because it was a live audience. we hope you enjoy it and find out more information at our website kpfa.org. take a listen
welcome to KPFAS live virtual event. I’m Miko Lee from apex expressed in your host for tonight. A big round of applause to our producers of K PFA events that are here. Kevin Hunt, Sanger, and Brandy Howell in the back of the room.
Wow, it’s so great to be in front of a live audience. Thank you to Sam Rudin and the back room. This amazing glorious space for hosting us this live evening.
Okay. Y’all we’re coming back. We’re coming out. We’re still pandemic land. People are in their beautiful masks, but we’re coming back and KPFA has a few more upcoming events. I wanna do a land acknowledgement, and I want to acknowledge that K P F a is located on unseated, Cho Chino speaking, Lonni land known as the Huk, as journalists and community members. We have the responsibility to engage critically with the legacy of colonists.
Colonialist violence and to uplift the active and ongoing indigenous struggles connected to the land that we are gathered on tonight. If you wanna check out more, go to native land dot California, and if you live in the east bay, I’m asking, do you pay the Shmi land tax, which is led by indigenous women, find out more about Ante’s work of reation and returning in indigenous lands to the people establishing a cemetery to reinter stolen alone, ancestral remains and building urban gardens, community centers and ceremonial spaces.
So current and future generations of indigenous people can thrive in the bay area. Thank you so much for joining us. We are honored tonight to welcome author Cathy Cenzia Choy.
Cathy is currently a professor of ethnic studies at our own UC Berkeley, and she has published multiple books around Asian American identity. And is here tonight to chat with us about her latest book, Asian American histories of the United States. Welcome Cathy. Yes. Thank you. Okay. I’m gonna do anode to the great poet Chinaka Hodges, and ask, who are your people and where do you come from?
[00:03:19] Cathy Cenzia Choy: I am the daughter of Filipino immigrants born and raised in New York city. I’ve been in Berkeley since 2004, and UC Berkeley has been a very important institution and community for me. And it’s just such an honor to be. Your presence today and tonight I wanna thank you Miko for taking the time to, to host this.
I wanna acknowledge my family and friends who are in the audience, my husband and my daughter are here. And I’m so pleased about that. And I feel like I’m with my people right now.
[00:04:03] Miko Lee: what are the legacies that you carry with you from your ancestors?
[00:04:11] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Wow. These are really Deep questions. I know. I feel like I care, even though sometimes I’m not aware. All the details. I feel like I carry the histories of my ancestors, even though, as I write in the book. So many of us in including myself didn’t grow up knowing much about Asian American history because it wasn’t taught to us in our schools.
And even with that I feel my ancestors’ presence with me. And I especially thank my mother Petri, za and other family members for also making that presence alive in so many ways while I was growing
[00:04:57] Miko Lee: up in New York city. And are there certain elements that you carry with you on the daily?
[00:05:05] Cathy Cenzia Choy: I don’t know. In terms of the daily, because now I’m at this point in my life where I’ve had many experiences and I. Learned more to own my voice. And I feel owning that voice like through speaking and through writing is something I’ve learned and carried from them. But it took me also some time to, to get to this point.
And even though I’ve talked to so many people in public spaces I always feel still some, some. nerves every time.
[00:05:50] Miko Lee: So maybe it’s self-expression and passing on the torch to the next generation around storytelling, around
[00:05:56] Cathy Cenzia Choy: teaching. Absolutely. I think one of the things that I try to impart in, in my teaching at UC Berkeley at university of Minnesota twin cities, where I had taught for six years prior to coming to Berkeley, I try to impart that, that lesson of learning to, to cultivate your confidence and to own your voice.
[00:06:19] Miko Lee: Your book is such an interesting collection because you’re talking about some deep Asian American history stories, and then you’re intertwining it with your own personal stories. And I wonder if you could speak a little bit more about your personal family story and your her story and how that intertwines with Asian American, her story.
[00:06:39] Cathy Cenzia Choy: One of the things that is different from in terms of this book compared to my previous two books, is that it was intended for a very broad audience. And given what Asian Americans have been going through in this country since 2020 in many ways it was also born out of some very difficult, challenging circumstances.
And I’ve experienced like many Asian Americans have experienced since 2020, a level of fear and anxiety and grief, at what has been happening with the surgeon anti-Asian violence, its relation to coronavirus related anti-Asian racism and. all of this has infused a different approach to writing in this book.
And I write in the first person, the second person in one chapter on, on world war II. And I write in the more traditional third person which is typical and scholarly history books. So when I write in the first person, I share personal experiences that are intertwined to these histories.
And this includes some of the fear and anxiety I was already mentioning. And that concern about the surge in anti-Asian violence and that when I see those stories on the media I see my family members, I see my elders and. in the book. I talk about how I’ve talked to my children and I realize that they see me.
And so that’s one personal experience, but my husband is. And his family’s history is also on the, in the book. There’s one chapter titled 19, 19 declaration of independence and 1919, that declaration of independence is referring to the declaration of. Korean independence, both in Korea against Japanese imperialism but also a Korean Congress that came to Philadelphia in April 19, 19.
And my husband’s parents on his father’s side were among those Korean independence activists in the early 20th century. And I share experiences also how we’ve tried to pass on Asian American history to our children. And I talk about a moment where we brought our son to the Japanese American Memorial garden in tan Farran, which is now a shopping mall, but used to be a horse racing track and then was converted into an assembly center or what they would call a relocation center which forcibly relocated Japanese Americans here in, in the bay area there before.
Forcibly incarcerating them in internment camps during world Wari. So there’s quite a bit of my history, my family’s history in this, even though the, of, it’s not the, all of the histories that I talked about, you’re
[00:09:50] Miko Lee: telling part of your family stories, but then you’re also telling a bunch of personal stories, small stories of people to help really illuminate a moment in history.
And I’m wondering how you went about the process of selecting those individual stories to help shed light on a bigger
[00:10:03] Cathy Cenzia Choy: issue. Yeah that’s a great question. I think that’s one of the challenges with history, which has story in it history and is about communicating stories and the choices we make matter.
So I chose stories that I felt reflected key moments events, groups in Asian American histories over the past almost 200 years. And the idea also was that in selecting these stories, many of which came from research, I had done in the past and also my teaching. But I also wanted to create this feeling in the book of engaging and inviting readers to think about what stories would they want to include and not to cut it off and say, these are the stories we need to know, but rather these are the stories of.
People’s families and communities. And what are the stories of your families and communities?
[00:11:09] Miko Lee: So in a way, it’s an invitation for the readers and the audience members to look at your personal stories and how they intertwine with Asian American
[00:11:17] Cathy Cenzia Choy: history. Yes. I hope that one of my hopes is that the book is as accessible as possible and that it is shared across an incredibly diverse audience.
Also multi-generational and it would mean a great deal to me, for people to share the histories in this book with their elders and people of their generation and younger generations.
[00:11:44] Miko Lee: And speaking of stories and connections, one of the biggest connections of a API community is around our food.
people. It doesn’t matter where you are, people know about Asian food and Asian Pacific Islander food. And you have a whole section in your book that is an interlude around food. And I’m wondering if you can just read the bolded sections of the interlude to the audience as a teaser, and then we’ll talk about it some
[00:12:08] Cathy Cenzia Choy: more. Okay. Yes. I’d love that. Okay. We,
[00:12:13] Miko Lee: so for those of you that haven’t read the book, , here’s a little bit of a teaser of what the book has to offer Yes. And just the fact there, there’s an interlude in the book. Which is also do you wanna talk about that now or after you pretty different?
[00:12:19] Cathy Cenzia Choy: It’s just it was, getting at a point that I had made earlier about how I wanted to write differently. I also felt compelled to write differently. And there’s an interlude in the book and it’s entitled 1965 reprise the faces behind the food. And I’m going to read an abridged version because this way of reading, it makes it like a shout out poem.yeah. So 1965 reprise the faces behind the food. This is for the Asian American faces behind the food that nourishes Americans and enriches American cuisine. The general public knows. So little about Asian American people, but our food is everywhere at one’s exotic and mainstream. This is for Larry. I Italy on the Filipino American farm workers who started the grape strike in Delano, California in 1965.
This is for Dawn Baan and those who champion labor history. This is for the over 300,000 Asian migrants, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino, whose labor made sugar production, Hawaii top industry. This is for the Chinese workers who transformed tens of thousands of acres of California, swamp land into airable land, and who applied their ingenuity to orchards from Oregon to Florida.
This is for the Chinese, Japanese and Filipino workers in the canned salmon industry of the Pacific Northwest. This is for the Japanese fruit and vegetable farmers. This is for the Asian, Indian, agricultural workers. Many of whom found work in California’s fields in the early century. This is for the restaurant workers like chinch wing, who started working at an Americanized Chinese restaurant in 1936 in New York city.
This is for the food service workers in cafeteria. This is for the writer and migrant worker, Carlos bloon. This is for de leaping sound who in 1956 became the first person of Asian descent elected to serve as a us representative and champion the farmers of his Southern California district. This is for Thai American.
Who have a complicated relationship with Thai food because they are often conflated with it. This is for the monos. Mono is a term that conveys respect for Filipino elders in the 1920s and 1930s, they followed the crops from California to the Pacific Northwest. The Mons demonstrated their militancy. The 1965 grape strike was not an exception, but rather a singular point on a continuum.
In the age of COVID 19 Asian Americans continued to be the many faces behind the food, using their creativity and leadership to promote communal care during a critical time. This is for Hannah DRA, a self-identified Pakistani American Muslim, and the co-founder of transformation. A technology platform that redistributes leftover, prepared food from restaurants and companies to places that need them like homeless shelters.
This is for heart of dinner, whose mission is to nourish New York, city’s Asian elders with love and food every week, the irony of Asian Americans producing America’s food and enlivening, the overall food experience and the context of hate and violence has not been lost on them historically. And in the present day in March, 2021, people gathered at North Dakota state university in Fargo to protest against anti-Asian hatred.
One poster red love us. Like you love our food.
[00:16:51] Miko Lee: Thank you so much. Yes. Can make some noise. That’s good. And if I may add, this is for. Adding all of your stories so that our Asian American history and tapestry can become richer and deeper. Thank you so much, Kathy, for sharing that. Now talk about why you wanted a kind of musical interlude in the middle of the book.
[00:17:15] Cathy Cenzia Choy: It had to do with the histories the multiplicity that I emphasize in the book that there are multiple origins of Asian American history. And we should refer to these as Asian American histories, because my approach in the book is less about a linear, a traditional linear approach which can sometimes suggest causality or.
Progress all the time and rather than take a linear approach. One of the things that’s distinctive about the book is that the first substantive chapter begins with the year 2020. And the book concludes with 1869 and then each of the chapters. So it goes back in time and each of the chapters moves forward and back in time.
So one of the chapters is titled 1965. And it’s about the faces of post 1965 Asian America. And it’s referring to the immigration and nationality act of 1965, which dramatically changed the democratic the demographics of our country. And. Yet, it was difficult to weave in seamlessly the story of Larry Italy and the Filipino farm workers and how important that grape strike was in, in Delano, California.
And I thought to myself I don’t ne I, I don’t wanna put a, another chapter entitled 1965. So I’m gonna do, I’m gonna do this interlude and then, and write in a different way to give people a break from the style and then encourage you to give shout outs of your own.
[00:18:57] Miko Lee: Thank you. Speaking of Larry Iley who in a bunch of your book, you talk about erasure or as Helen Z talks about missing in history.
What are those moments that are MIH? And Larry I. Long is one of those many stories we always hear about Cezar Chavez and the great boycott when it was actually a Filipino man, Larry Ile that you write about. And I’m wondering after doing this exhaustive research for your book and as a professor, what are some kind of key missing in history moments?
Do you think stand out in Asian American Pacific Islander history?
[00:19:30] Cathy Cenzia Choy: There are key moments in every chapter in this book. In the first chapter on, on 2020 I talk about the disproportionate toll of COVID 19 on Filipino nurses in this country. And so one of the things that’s MIH, which I’ve tried to address in my own research and was the topic of my first book was why and how the Philippines became the world’s leading sending country of professional nurses and a specifically to, to the United States.
And so in, in every chapter, the chapter after 2020 is one on 1975, and it’s about Southeast Asian Americans and the refugee experience, but also the descendants of refugees in Southeast Asian immigrants. And so much of their stories are MIH because we are familiar with the Vietnam war, but often from the American perspective.
And we, the. Participation of and Laosian Americans were part of a secret army and a secret war. So there’s so many instances of that in every single chapter where this I, ideas of erasure secrecy being overlooked like Larry Ile who worked closely with Suor Chavez for years, they were director and assistant director of the U F w but many of us yes, know that story.
[00:20:58] Miko Lee: I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the great former photojournalist quirky Lee and his impact, because I think one of those things about missing a history are those that have stood up to try and tell that story again, and you profile quirky. Can you tell a little bit the audience about Corky Lee and what he did.
[00:21:14] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Yeah, well, thanks for giving me the opportunity Corky Lee was one of the most important, I think photo journalists of the late 20th and early 21st century and is such a pioneer in Asian American journalism. And he is just one of the over 1 million people we have lost in the United States as a result of COVID 19. And I wanted to honor his memory in the book. He was well known for taking a photograph of a sick American after nine 11 and so many sick Americans in our country after nine 11 were targeted for anti-Asian violence, they were conflated with the stereotypical image of what a terrorist might, might look like in our country.
And so we took this photograph of a sick man wearing a red turban with the United States flag draped around his shoulders. And the other thing he’s also very well known for is something that is a major theme in this book, which is the theme of erasure of Asian American history and experience in the overall us experience and that era.
one of the key moments is in 1869 with the completion of the building of the first transcontinental railroad, which took place at a Ary summit in Utah. And this is a very important moment in, in the history of our nation as a symbol of our modern progress that, enabled us expansionism across the continent. And eventually also into the Hawaiian islands and Asia and Chinese workers at were. About 90% of the labor force of the central Pacific here in the Western region of building
[00:23:17] Miko Lee: my family that railroad. Yes. Yeah. My ancestors built that railroad.
[00:23:21] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Yes. I re we talked about that briefly and there might be other descendants here too of the railroad workers. And when they finally met at Promentory summit, there was a celebratory photo it’s quite known and there was not a single Chinese worker in this photo. Not a single Chinese worker and quirky Lee. When he was in grade school, he remembered, learning about Chinese participation in the building of this railroad.
And so he looked at that photo and he noticed that absence and erasure. And so I believe it was the hundred and 45th anniversary of the building of. that railroad. And he rest staged that iconic photograph. And this time he included the descendants of the Chinese railroad workers and other Asian Americans. And it was a joyous moment. And he referred to these moments, photographic justice.
[00:24:24] Miko Lee: I love that whole even ethos of photographic justice. And you wrote in your book that was a 2014, that’s so recent that this has happened. It’s just this and also one person. And it also shows the power. Hello, ethnic studies, professors in the house, the power that he, this one, man heard this story and said, why isn’t this being told, right?
[00:24:46] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Yes. And that’s the, one of my hopes for the book is you’ll notice that in, throughout the book in the various chapters, I oppose these questions. No questions for us to think about. It’s not solely about here’s the experience and here are the dates and the years and the events, but it’s the way we all participate in history, but by what we choose to remember to reflect upon and how we use that historical knowledge to, to move forward,
[00:25:20] Miko Lee: next up listen to girl gang by Rubia barra
That was girl gang by the amazing Ruby Abara.
[00:27:26] Miko Lee: You are tuned into apex express on 94.1 K PFA and 89.3 K P F B. Now let’s get back to my interview with author Kathleen. Cinzia joy.
[00:27:41] Miko Lee: Keeping on with this conversation about erasure and representation, you quote this study by Nancy Angwin, who is amazing. That is it really recent last year, 2021 study that says 40% of films have no zero Asian American Pacific Islander representation and of the films that do have representation over 25% of the characters die, violent. talk to us a little bit more about what does that say? How is that connected to erasure? What does that mean to the broader multicultural universe? What does it say about Asian Americans?
[00:28:19] Cathy Cenzia Choy: In that chapter I’m gonna paraphrase since I’m not directly reading from it, but in that chapter, I reflect on that study and those statistics. And one of the things that if you wanna look directly at that study because in the notes, there’s the URL to it.
You, you will read that those statistics are juxtaposed with statistics about anti-Asian violence in 20, 20 and 2021. And I posed the question in that chapter. Are you, are we human? If we’re not portrayed in a dignified and humane way. in popular culture. And if the only representations or the major representations of you are as, one dimensional flat stereotypes.
And if it gets to the point where you’re so used to the narrative on screen, that you can expect that Asian or Asian American character to die and not make it, what does that do to our psyche and how we view real world Asian Americans. So I didn’t share this in the book, but when my children were younger, I actually had this experience.
We, we brought them to this action film and this Asian American character was on screen. and I remember putting my head down thinking, oh I really hope this character doesn’t die. and I turned to my son who was quite young at the time, and I tried to like, prepare him for that. And then the character did die in, in, in the film.
So it’s that feeling of why are we seeing such similar stories over and over again? And how can we begin to change that narrative?
[00:30:14] Miko Lee: Connected to that and connected to your earlier book about Filipino nurses. One of my pet peeves, I love watching doctor shows as just totally fluff. And one of my pet peeve is that there are never enough Asian doctors and I am in the bay area.
Every single one of my doctors is Asian. So I’ve always been like, this is such I don’t understand. And especially with how many Filipinos are in the medical profession. So can you expand a little bit more of that and bringing in your last book, which is empire of care, nursing and migration and Filipino American history?
[00:30:50] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Yes, I oh the present the past present and future of American nursing is inextricably linked to the presence of Filipino American nurses in this country. And Filipino American nurses have been in the United States for six. Decades. Many of them are immigrants, so they were born and raised in the Philippines, but the United States has been their home and they have made this incredible contribution to us healthcare delivery.
And California we are one of the beneficiaries of their labor they’re in hospitals, they’re in elder care. And in the book I mentioned the Emmys, I forgot what year that was, but one of the co-host Michael Shay actually, said can you believe, Hollywood is a diversity problem and can you believe they did 15 seasons of ER without one single Filipino nurse?
And have you been to a hospital in this country? And I feel also that frustration and that irony and it’s, I have to say it’s. It was especially painful since 2020 because Filipino nurses and other Asian American healthcare workers were also among the targets of anti-Asian violence.
And hate in this country, even while they were wearing medical scrubs. For example, there was testimony given and there’s one hospitalist in, in New York who I I quote in, in the book who, who talked about this paradox that here they are contributing to the health of our nation and putting their lives on the line yes.
Through exposure and dealing with this hate and violence. And he said, it’s really challenging being. celebrated and villainized at the same time. And that’s the problem when so much of our common understanding or what we think is an understanding of Asian Americans is based on stereotypes.
Because stereotypes are flat. They’re one dimensional. They dehumanize even the most seemingly positive ones.
[00:33:13] Miko Lee: Okay. I wanna talk about a different topic, which is in 1997, time magazine released this cover and on the cover where all these cute Asians, and it said the model minority. And I remember being in school and my teacher bringing that in and showing that magazine cover the class and pointing to me and I just had this like visceral gut reaction to it.
Can you talk about how the model minority, the whole ethos of model minority has been used as a tool for white SuPM.
[00:33:49] Cathy Cenzia Choy: I, I appreciate you phrasing the question that way. The model minority stereotype, which is a myth is such a complex stereotype. And some people might say, the model minority is about Asian Americans being smart and economically successful. And what’s wrong with that?
Isn’t that positive? Isn’t that the best kind of branding any group or could ask for. And it is a tool of divide and conquer. It is a tool of white supremacy which is, I think the way I understand. You’re phrasing of the question because it too has a history. And part of that history is emerging in the late 1960s during civil rights and other, social movement protests, and having media stories quoting academics as experts contrasting Asian Americans as successful model minorities who don’t complain.
Don’t ask for government help pull themselves up by their bootstraps in contrast to black Americans. And it was really direct like that now in, in contrast to African Americans who are protesting and demanding justice and change from the government this is a. Strategy of divide and conquer and prevent us from seeing.
So in some ways it’s another form of erasure that I talk about in the book that there’s this longer history of Asian American and black solidarity and friendship living in neighborhoods together, working together in organizing
[00:35:39] Miko Lee: together,
[00:35:39] Cathy Cenzia Choy: organizing together work, interracial relationships and families.
[00:35:45] Miko Lee: talking about you, Grace Lee
[00:35:46] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Boggs yes, I right. Grace Gracely BOS is certainly, part of that, one of many right. One, one of many who was married to James Boggs, a a black auto worker and author and activist. And they were married for a long time and together created.
Summer which was this community, youth based organization and out of that love and marriage and mutual activism created something which is relating to another main theme in the book of resistance. It’s like that creative spark like Detroit summer to create community gardens and to paint murals and to have intergenerational dialogues and to move forward in, in the most hopeful and an inclusive.
Possible. And that’s just one example.
[00:36:42] Miko Lee: Yeah. I appreciate how in the book you’re talking about erasure, you’re having resistance stories, and then you did bring up talking about mixed race and global adoption. And I know your former book was around global families. So I am you share some really lovely tidbits in there, like about Punjabi Mexican communities that I think maybe folks don’t know about, or maybe folks in the bay area went to go see the amazing Bonura ballet folk, Loco production that told that whole story in dance that Joti sing and Zenon Beon did.
But you also talk about Kip full books’ book about Hopper’s mixed race folks. So do you feel that and your own kids are mixed race? My own kids are also mixed race different Asian ethnicities together. I’m wondering. Okay, sorry, this is a long question, but I’m thinking back to years ago, the amazing performer David photo Moto did a production where he came out, dressed in Scottish.
It came out, dressed in entire Kabuki outfit with a kimono and a face, and he did a whole entire Kabuki dance and then picked up his bagpipe and played a Scottish bagpipe. And it was such a great combo of his two cultures that he meshed together and that he was sharing about himself with the audience.
So with that being said, and with your both personal family story, and you’re having written this book, what is your take on cross racial adoption and mixed race folks being a bridge to the future?
[00:38:17] Cathy Cenzia Choy: well, so it’s an interesting way of saying that because I think in that chapter, which is titled 1953 mixed race lives I don’t necess, I do say they’re about our future because our future is multiracial.
And we know that since the 2000 census and in the most recent 20, 20 census we know that an exponential number. The largest growing group are of people who I identify as more than one racial category. But one of the key things I key points that I make in that chapter is that being a mixed race and multiracial is not solely about our future, but it’s also about our past and our present.
and we have a multiracial past. And that includes some key examples in the, in that chapter are early 19th century Chinese and Irish marriages and in New York city and east Bengali Puerto Rican, African American, west Indian families and communities in Harlem and Filipino and Irish multiple generational families in new Orleans.
And you had mentioned, P Punjabi Mexican Americans from Texas to California and MES Filipino, Mexican family is especially in Southern California. That is just as much about our past and our present as, as well as our future and the adoptees also figure in, in, in that chapter and 1953 each year serves as a touchstone for going back and forth in time.
1953 is referring to the end of the Korean war and how foundational the international adoption, especially by American families of mixed race Korean and American children, born of us servicemen and Korean women. How important that group was in terms of transforming the United States into an international adoption nation to.
Which, which leads the world in terms of internationally adopting children. And even though Russia, Guatemala Romania, Ukraine are also major sending countries of adoptive children to the United States. Most of those adoptive children are from Asian countries and Korea plays an important role in that history, but so does Japan and Vietnam as, as well.
And they’re an important part of Asian American history that I also think tends to be marginalized in our understanding of the Asian American experience.
[00:41:09] Miko Lee: Okay. My last questions before we open it up to our lovely audiences, juicy questions is what would you like readers to walk away with after reading your book?
[00:41:20] Cathy Cenzia Choy: I would love for readers to walk away with a more. nuanced and deeper understanding of Asian American histories and to reflect upon how relevant that is for this moment. This is a moment when so many of us are confronting so many different existential crises from climate to economic insecurity, but since 2020 for Asian Americans, this this dual crises of the pandemic and the surge in anti-Asian hate has really made an impact on so many of us and our communities.
And I believe that understanding Asian American histories, understanding them as multidimensional human beings, who are part of the American experience Is one important step to, to reduce and end this violence. Thank
[00:42:24] Miko Lee: you. Okay. We’re passing out cards. Do we have, oh, we have some collected.
Rolling. Does anybody have any questions? Does anybody have any questions? Oh, wow.
[00:42:34] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Yeah, jump in the
[00:42:35] Miko Lee: card. Okay. I read this. Can you talk a little bit about medical scapegoating, which you mentioned in your book?
[00:42:44] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Yes. One of the things that we are observing since 2020, and since COVID 19 has become a pandemic, is that medical scapegoating of Asian Americans.
And in the book, I talk about how there’s a long history of anti-Asian medical scapegoating that is as old as the oldest migration. Oldest mass migration of Asians to, to the United States. And in the second half of the 19th century Chinese and by extension Chinese American bodies were blamed for smallpox outbreaks.
Japanese immigrants were blamed for typhoid. South migrants were associated with hookworm. And what this does is that it scapegoats people, it dehumanizes them and makes them targets for egregious forms of violence. And that what we are experiencing today is not new. And this relates to that point about kind of one of my hopes for the book is that learning and engaging about these histories is really important.
To end this medical scapegoating and the violence that accompanies it.
[00:44:02] Miko Lee: I think people don’t even realize that China towns were burned down during those times, too.
[00:44:07] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Yes, I in addition to erasure and resistance violence is a third major theme, of the book and violence means many different things.
We, in the media, it often focuses on the most egregious forms of violence like mass shooting. But the anti-Asian hate incidents and violence have ranged from bullying and harassment in schools, spitting on Asian Americans name calling I’m telling Asian Americans to go back to where they, they came from and you were referring to arson and burning down of Chinatowns and , this was something here in California and in, in the Pacific Northwest the method of anti-Asian violence was all often in the form of expulsion of Chinese from their communities through arson shooting stoning threats,
[00:45:04] Miko Lee: right.
You talked a little bit in the beginning, and this is an audience question. You talked a little bit in the beginning about the order of the book and we had you read the interlude and you said that it was done in a different order, starting with, 20, 20. Can you talk a little bit more about your thought process in creating the book in this kind of non-linear time structure?
[00:45:24] Cathy Cenzia Choy: In the preface I write and also in the acknowledgements I give thanks to my students over so many years at university of Minnesota UC Berkeley especially but also other institutions that earlier in, in my career, I’ve learned so much from my students, from listening to them from engaging in dialogue about what we’re reading.
And in spring of 2021, I taught this class on Asian American history in the age of COVID 19. And some of the students were telling me that they really appreciated having taken previous courses in Asian American history, but how sometimes the courses they would go in that linear approach and then primarily end.
Maybe in like the 1980s or maybe the, the glass class would be here, are these contemporary issues now related to all the things that we’ve talked about. And they were just voicing, some concern about how is history relevant today. And so I played with the chronology using a non-linear approach to make this point that Asian American history is relevant.
Now, it’s relevant in 2020, it’s relevant in 1975. It’s relevant in 1953. It’s relevant in 1869. And it’s relevant right now. And we’re all we’re all a part
[00:46:59] Miko Lee: of it. So I’m gonna combine a few questions here. And this one is really about the different waves of Asian American immigration and how those impacted the storytelling.
And I think. The different, there’s different immigrant communities have gone into really specific fields for instance, Chinese laundries and, Vietnamese nail salons, Cambodian donut shops. Can you talk a little bit about how the storytelling is connected to the different waves of immigration first generation second, third generation?
[00:47:35] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Yes that’s a great question. And the book is not organized that way in the sense, like this year represents a particular wave and so does the next year. But there are particular chapters in the book that refer to immigration waves. And one of the chapters not the 1965 reprise, but there is a chapter 1965 about the faces of post 1965 Asian America and 1965 referring to the immigration act.
Of 1965 is often considered this a major wave and a new kind of immigration that was different from late 19th and then early 20th century waves of immigration. Because by that point, immigration policy had created preferences for highly educated persons with needed skills.
And one of the reasons why we are seeing so many Asian immigrant professionals in the United States is not an outcome of our innate ability in stem. But is also an outcome of but is an outcome of immigration policy. It’s not in any ability there’s quite a bit of training, that, that goes into it. And I actually didn’t have much talent in the stem fields, even though I write sometimes about them like, like nursing but in the chapter, 1975 trauma and transformation, I talk about waves theory and how there’s often the conceptualization of three different kinds of waves to describe Southeast Asian refugees to the United States with.
the first wave beginning immediately after the fall of psych on in 1975 tended to be this wave of people who Southeast Asians who had connections to the us military there, I had worked with them and were more highly educated. And that was part of the first wave. And then the second wave, which is sometimes referred to as the boat people, even though a number of Asian American studies scholars have criticized the use of that term because it obscures their heroic will to live, but more, more, much more di diverse, ethnically a lot of Chinese Vietnamese people of farming backgrounds from rural areas in contrast to the first and then like this third wave that, that came later that involved groups like ations and even later than that also immigrants through immigration policy as opposed to, to refugee policy.
And what I also point out is that these kinds of conceptualizations are important. They help us, understand historically some major changes in terms of Southeast Asian American demographics in this country. But I wanted to emphasize, so I write in the book, waves are constantly moving and taking different shapes.
And in 2000 there was a new group of refugees who were resettled in Minnesota. And this is a living history and that newer waves of refugees are coming from Myanmar and Butan and who are working in places like. The state of Iowa and working in our meat packing plants and who also have been exposed disproportionately to COVID 19 because then president Donald Trump had invoked the defense production act to keep meat, packing plants open.
So waves are important, but they’re not set and they’re always moving and flowing like our histories
[00:51:16] Miko Lee: as a follow up to that. One of our audience members has a question about how many immigrants have when they first arrive have been exploited in their labor positions. And they’re wondering if you could share some positive stories and I M I wonder if you could share with the audience about uncle Ted and what he did with donuts
[00:51:35] Cathy Cenzia Choy: well, I think.
it isn’t it isn’t as though there are positive and negative stories, oftentimes when you are really deeply engaging with these histories and these stories, there’s often these moments that might be negative and then others that are more positive. And I think that adds to the humanity of people.
And so just to give an, the example of the Filipino healthcare workers, some of ’em are nurses, but are also working in elder care. And some of those conditions that they’re working in are very challenging. It’s very challenging to be a caregiver. And at the same time, so many of them also take pride in their.
I don’t wanna portray them as just solely being, having a negative experience. They’re proud of their caregiving and we need to care for our caregivers a bit more in this country. In terms of positive stories, so one thing I’ll share is there’s this and this is an example.
I, I feel of resistance and that creative spark there’s something called the south Asian American digital archive SAA D and they have this project called the first day’s project. And it’s a project where immigrants, regardless of immigrants from around the world can share their story on this digital platform to describe their first days in, in the United States.
And. Even though these first days have a mix of like positive and negative aspects. I have to say while reading these stories it brought just smile and joy. For me and reading these stories that are so unique and universal at the first time, same time. And so one of the stories was of this young girl who was nine years old back in, in the early 2000 tens and she was from Nepal.
And so she came from Nepal and she was. I imagine they were, they landed at SFO and then they had to go to San Pablo and she wrote she said I was disappointed that what I saw wasn’t like, TV shows of New York city with all those tall buildings and all that fun stuff, but she took her first Bart ride.
And she said that was just so amazing. She had never been on this kind of faster public transportation that brought them from San Francisco to San Pablo and something like 40 minutes. And then she said, she was working really hard. She was like nine years old. And then she became, because her, both her parents were working, I believe in the fast food industry.
And she had a younger sister, so she had to learn how to cook for her parents and her. Her sister and even some extended family. And so she said I learned English from like watching, watching the joy of painting with Bob Ross. Wow. Yes. And then she said she watched shows with Rachel Ray and em, Emerald Lagosi like on food network and, and she said like she wanted to become, she learned from those shows.
She wanted to become really famous. And so she would do the cooking in like she was on her own food network show in front of the audience. Her younger sister,
[00:55:00] Miko Lee: so cute. So cute and shout out to VIN G and bar go, who founded that and also run the Berkeley south Asian radical history walking tour.
If you haven’t been on that, you should because it’s amazing. I am sad to say that this brings our evening to a close. Thank you so much for joining us. I wanna just say that back in the corner, we have the most amazing east wind books, our local bookstore, yay. East wind books. And we didn’t touch on one of the questions that I wanted to ask, but about Asian American, the terminology, Asian American Pacific Islander actually.
Expressed a whole episode on that interviewing Harvey, Don, who is the founder of east wind books and is a fellow professor of ethnic studies at UC Berkeley.
[00:55:49] Cathy Cenzia Choy: And one of the veterans of the strike is also here from the late 1960s both that took place in San Francisco state college as it was then as, as well as UC Berkeley.
And that’s part of the reason why I have my livelihood and is it part of the legacy? This book is part of that legacy.
[00:56:09] Miko Lee: So check out our legacy Asian American history is of the United States by our amazing guest, Kathy Cena Cho, you can get the books and get autographed back in the corner.
We thank you for supporting independent bookstores.
[00:56:24] Cathy Cenzia Choy: Thank.
[00:56:31] Miko Lee: Thank you so much for joining us, please check out our website, kpfa.org backslash program. Backslash apex express. To find out more about our show tonight and to find out how you can take direct action. We thank all of you listeners out there. Keep resisting, keep organizing, keep creating and sharing your visions with the world. Because your voices are important. Apex express is a proud member of the acre network, Asian Americans for civil rights and equality apex express is produced by Miko Lee, Jalena Keane-Lee, Paige Chung, Hien Nguyen and Nate Tan and with special editing by Swati Rayasaman. Thank you so much to the KPFA staff for their support. Have a great