How NOT To Deal With Racism: Bobby Jindal Talks ‘Hyphenated Americans’

Bobby Jindal, the current Governor of Louisiana and the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, recently wrote a story on race for Politico, an American political journalism organization.

“Scan the news on any given day in America, and you will invariably find multiple stories about race, racism, ethnicity, and race relations,” Jindal writes,  ”We can’t seem to get enough of this topic, and correspondingly, the media appetite for all things race-related is unquenchable.” I nodded my head to this. After all, when you write for  an Asian-American Women’s Magazine Publication, how can you not pay attention to race?

He then continued to point out that we ought to be judged by our character instead of the color of our skin. He notes that humans are shallow to think of others in terms of their skin color. Again, I found myself nodding in agreement. I can’t even count the number of times we’ve found ourselves angry at being associated with stereotypes simply because we’re Asian.

But then his opinion piece starts taking an abrupt turn. “Yet we still place far too much emphasis on our “separateness,” our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc.” Jindal writes, “We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few. Here’s an idea: How about just “Americans?” That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our “separateness” is a step backward.”

Wait, what?

He ends his piece by stating, “We are all created in the image of God — skinny, fat, tall, short, dark, light, whatever. Who cares? What does it matter? It’s time to get over it. It’s time for the end of race in America. Now that would be progress.”

This is the point where we shake our heads in a very frustrated no. Our culture is a very very big part of our identity and its most definitely something we can’t ignore. Yes, I consider myself an Asian-American, or according to Jindal a “hyphenated American”, because I choose not to lose any more of my already blurry cultural identity. I choose to be a “hyphenated American” because even if we wanted to go along with the unrealistic belief that all Americans are treated equally, how can we possibly ignore all the racial slurs and all the racial stereotyping? How is ignoring a problem the solution to solving it?

While I agree that in an ideal world, judgement would be based on character as oppose to the color of one’s skin, the idea of being completely “color-blind” is not the solution. Is it not better to keep our eyes open, and accept all the colors none-the-less? We can’t pretend to be colorblind because ultimately many people are indeed treated a certain way because of the color of their skin. It is only by looking at the issue full-on and realizing that inequality is present that we can hope to address the problem.

 

Audrey’s Women of Influence | Madhulika Sikka, Executive Editor for NPR News (with Web Exclusives!)

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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PHOTO COURTESY OF NPR/DOBY PHOTOGRAPHY.

MADHULIKA SIKKA
Executive Editor for NPR News

Every week, 26 million people tune in to National Public Radio programs and NPR Newscasts — more than the total circulation of the top national newspapers — and since January 2013, Madhulika Sikka, an Indian American woman born in England, has been responsible for setting the agenda for the entire news division.

On any given morning, her team could be placing equal importance on the Detroit bankruptcy, President Obama’s economic tour, the golden age of television, new methods to engage their audience in an honest discussion about race, and Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, a.k.a. the royal baby.

“I’m a big believer in satisfying your wonk and your whimsy,” says Sikka, who previously executive produced NPR’s newsmagazine Morning Edition. “It might have something to do with my own personal news ADD, but I just think that we’re curious people, and we’re curious about lots of things. It is no accident that we have a program called All Things Considered.”

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Sikka is extremely pleased with NPR’s global health and science coverage that other broadcasters don’t cover as thoroughly — exploring tuberculosis outbreaks around the world and incidents of polio coming back — but she also wants to make sure her listeners are prepared for lighter water-cooler conversations around the office.

“We have two extraordinary female correspondents that covered Syria as well as anybody, and I’m proud of that coverage because it’s vital to our mission,” says Sikka. “But I’m also proud of the enormously great coverage we’ve done on cultural issues, like this summer’s series on the different kinds of media that kids are exposed to.”

But being multifaceted in content is not enough: it’s also very important to Sikka that NPR News continually evolves with technology and that there’s a fluid relationship between all platforms, whether it’s radio, digital tech, multimedia or social media. “None of us could have imagined the incredible range of ways we get to tell our stories now,” she says. “It’s really incredible the things we can do, the tools that we accrue, and how technology allows us to be in places that might have been completely out of reach before.”

Next year, Sikka will be publishing her first book, The Breast Cancer Alphabet, a collection of personal essays she wrote when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and went through treatment in 2011. “There’s kind of a mythology around breast cancer that’s very pink and fluffy and positive,” she says. “And that is not the experience the whole time, so I felt like I gave myself permission to not feel that way. It ended up being an alphabet — starting at A for Anxiety, H for Hair, M for Mastectomy, ending at Z — and I hope it will be of use to other people going through it.”

Whether it’s providing “4 Tips To Help A Foodie Get Through Chemo,” penning a Daily Beast article about her late mother’s bravery (“As I wrapped her body in a red sari for her funeral, it dawned on me that her refusal to dress in Western clothing was more pioneering than anything I had ever done”), or slipping behind the scenes to study how best to engage her growing NPR audience (an intellectually curious group that hungers for, above all, interesting stories), Sikka wants us to open up our minds in terms of how we view the world.

“I think our primary goal is to provide information so they can be informed about the decisions and choices they make,” says Sikka. “If [our listeners] learn one thing that they didn’t know before, then we’re doing pretty well. An informed democracy is a more healthy democracy.”

 

WEB EXCLUSIVES:

On why she’s wanted to be a journalist since she was 16

I wanted to be able to shed light on things that were happening around the country and around the globe. I grew up in England watching the BBC and being impressed at their ability to be everywhere, to open a window to places and issues that I might not have otherwise thought about. And I thought that was a wonderful thing to do.

On the difference between working on Morning Edition vs. being Executive Editor of NPR News

When you produce a daily news show, it’s very focused. You’re responsible for filling two hours every day without a break, so producing Morning Edition helped me hone the skill of working fast and being decisive — which is what a deadline does to you.

[Being Executive Editor of] NPR News is different. I’ve been a news person my whole life — that is what runs through my blood system, and that’s hard to eliminate — but now, to have a hand in discussing broader coverage, and even coverage online, is a really exciting new prospect for me. How can we move, how can we react, what’s appropriate for each particular outlet? For example, when the President came out unannounced [to speak about the Zimmerman verdict and reactions in the African American community], I realized it was a pretty extraordinary thing to hear a President speak that way, so we were able to get together very quickly and talk about what we’d do in next hour, the next morning, the morning after that, what we’d do online, etc. And that’s really what you come in for.

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On her first book, The Breast Cancer Alphabet

I never thought I’d write a book, and I certainly didn’t think this was the book I’d write if I was going to write a book. When I was getting treatment, I was just writing a little bit for myself, because I had things I needed to get out. A lot of people encouraged me to write and then talking to people helped me hone a concept. My agents and publishers are excited about it, because they think it’s a different kind of cancer book.

Who influences you?

I wrote about my mother and her death in an article that was published in the Daily Beast.  It took me a while to come to the realization that she was a very brave woman. She got married when she was not quite 18, left her family behind and moved to England in 1960s.

I think that there’s a different measure for our modern interpretation of a brave woman, but it’s kind of extraordinary to think about that generation of women in the Indian diaspora and the idea that you’d have three kids with a stranger in an arranged marriage and raise them by yourself with no family around in early 1960′s England, which wasn’t the most hospitable place in the world for people of color, all without the benefits that we have today. I can’t go a week without calling my family in England, but Skype wasn’t even around when she was alive.

So are there amazing pioneering women in journalism? Yes, of course, and also in other spheres of life, but when I actually took the time to think about what my mom did, it’s pretty remarkable.

 

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

 

Audrey Magazine’s Women of Influence | Keli Lee, Executive VP of Casting at ABC Entertainment (with Web Exclusives!)

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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Photo by Narith Vann Ta.

KELI LEE
Executive VP of Casting at ABC Entertainment

For everyone who’s grateful for the recent rise of minority faces on American television, it’s important to note that behind every Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy, every Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Jorge Garcia and Naveen Andrews in Lost, is a casting director responsible for pairing these actors with the unforgettable roles that will go down in television history.

Keli Lee, an executive who has been casting TV shows at ABC for more than 20 years, was on her way to law school when she landed a fortuitous college internship that introduced her to the entertainment casting industry. In her first week working for Phyllis Huffman, who often did casting for Clint Eastwood’s films, Lee operated the video camera that captured the auditions for the Academy Award-winning 1992 film Unforgiven. From there, she eventually worked her way up the ladder, and as Executive VP of Casting at ABC, Lee now has a corner office with a view and spends her days looking for the next new star.

Born in South Korea, Lee moved to the States as a toddler, and whenever her father stayed in Korea for work, her adventurous, road-trip-loving mother would move her young kids to a new state every six or seven months, depending on her whims. “Up until I was 13, I never started or finished the same school, so I met thousands of people from around the country,” says Lee. “It forced me to socialize and understand people, and ultimately I think that’s how I got to be good at what I do. I’m searching for people and learning about their emotional core.”

For Lee, more important than finding a good-looking specimen or skilled thespian is determining whether the actor is authentic. “I think within the first 10 seconds of meeting someone, you can get a sense of a person,” says Lee. “You know whether you want to continue to watch them.”

Twelve years ago, Lee started the ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase with the goal of providing more opportunities for minority actors who either don’t have representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities available. Since its inception, 14,000 people have auditioned, and 432 actors have participated in 30 showcases, with winners earning mentorships. Beneficiaries of this program include Liza Lapira (Crazy Stupid Love,Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23), Carrie Ann Inaba (Dancing with the Stars), Aaron Yoo (Disturbia, 21), Archie Kao (CSI), Randall Park (Larry Crowne, The Five-Year Engagement), and Janina Gavankar (True Blood, The L Word).

In the upcoming fall season on ABC, TV audiences can look out for Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Wang Bennet in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Liza Lapira in Super Fun Night, Ginger Gonzaga in Mixology, Summer Bishil in Lucky 7, and Albert Tsai in Trophy Wife.

“My goal is to change the face of television,” says Lee. “When I came to the U.S. at age 2, there wasn’t much diversity on television, and now, it’s such a different time.”

GET THE FALL ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE FEATURE NOW!

 

WEB EXCLUSIVES:

On how she ended up in the casting industry

Like most Korean American families, entertainment [as a career] was not an option. It was the stereotype: are you going to be a doctor or a lawyer? So, I had planned to go to law school, I was studying philosophy at NYU, and I was a hostess at Caroline’s Comedy Club, so it was the comedians who introduced me to the world of entertainment. I actually fell into this business. I got an internship in casting and worked my way up, while I went to school full time at NYU. First, I worked at Warner Brothers, and then I went to ABC, where I’ve been for 21 years.

On starting ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase to find diverse talent

12 years ago, we were talking about diversity and thinking about how we can provide more opportunities for diverse actors, so I started this showcase program to give exposure and training to actors who either don’t have the representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities that exist. After my team auditions the actors, we select the top 15-20, and we put them through this training program. Usually you have material, and you find people to play the characters, but this is the reverse: we find the right actors and then try to find the right material for them. Some of the actors who’ve gone through this program that we’re excited about are: Liza Lapira, who was on Don’t Trust The B—- in Apt 23, Jorge Garcia from Lost, Dania Ramirez from Devious Maids, and Jesse Williams on Grey’s Anatomy.

On their first digital talent competition this summer

This is new. We’re the first network to launch a digital talent competition. We had over 14,000 submissions, we’re having a public vote, and the winner will be announced August 30. The winner gets $10,000 and a talent option hold with ABC. Just based on the submissions, I’m excited to be able to find new faces. These are actors from around the country: there’s coming from everywhere from Florida to Alabama, and it’s really great to hear some of their stories.

On the Latino and Asian Outreach Initiatives

This is international. We started this program last year. For the Latino Outreach, we targeted Mexico, Latin America and Spain, and I’m excited to say that one of actors we found in first year of the Latino Outreach Initiative, Adan Canto, was cast as series regular in Mixology. The Asian Outreach Initiative started in India, and we just expanded to the Philippines this year.

Asian faces to look out for in the 2013-14 ABC season

Aubrey Anderson Emmons in Modern Family
Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Wang Bennet in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Ginger Gonzaga in Mixology
Liza Lapira in Super Fun Night
Sandra Oh in her last season of Grey’s Anatomy
Yunjin Kim in Mistresses
Summer Bishil in Lucky 7
Albert Tsai in Trophy Wife
Griffin Gluck in Back in the Game
Naveen Andrews in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Tim Jo in The Neighbors

Who influences you?

I have an amazing circle of really strong, smart, successful female friends, and we feed off that positive energy and help each other out. That’s part of what I do in my profession: I’m helping people realize their dreams, and that’s what we do for each other. I often have these conversations with my girlfriends, where I wish I had women as role models or mentors, so now that we’re in our positions, we think, how can we help empower other women and be role models for them? All these female pioneers paved the way for us, so how can we pave the way for other women?

 

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

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Fall 2012 Issue: Where My (AA) Girls At?

Before HBO’s Girls was set to premiere this past spring, the comedy about 20-something struggling post-grads in New York City sparked a debate about race and representation in Hollywood. My initial thoughts after I finished the first episode of Girls? Sure, it was hard for me to relate to anything that was going on on the show (I’m not white, I don’t come from a privileged, wealthy background, nor do I live in New York City), but I was immensely surprised at how entertaining I found the show to be — namely the awkwardness/quirkiness of the female lead characters. Lena Dunham, who impressively writes, directs and stars in the show, has already been hailed as the next Tina Fey.

Dunham has yet to be dubbed the “voice of her generation” (as her character in Girls states) — and rightfully so. Having such a title bears the social responsibility of, well, speaking for a diverse generation of people who come from different backgrounds and experiences. Fact of the matter is, Dunham is talented — her writing is witty, intelligent and full of charisma. Girls speaks of her own personal experiences; as that saying goes, write what you know. And she does a damn good job of it. Instead of pointing fingers at Dunham, we should be asking the programming departments of major television networks about the diversity in their programming — I mean, they are responsible for
what gets on the air.

Shortly after Girls aired, the extended trailer for FOX’s The Mindy Project premiered and, of course, was met with much applause. It’s been a while since an Asian American woman has taken the reigns of a comedy on a major televisionnetwork and, well, it looks like Mindy Kaling has hit it on the head. However, Kaling still sits alone, as we have yet to really see excellent programming starring Asian American talent that’s also relatable. (Sorry Maggie Q — I wish I could relate to your kick-ass assassin character, but it’s just not happening.) One could argue that Asian American programming now has a place on YouTube. You have your WongFu boys, KevJumbas and Ryan Higas. In a significant move, there’s now the YouTube Original Channels, which features programming in entertainment, beauty, sports and technology. This includes Michelle Phan’s FAWN (For All Women Network) and the Asian American pop culture blog’s YOMYOMF (You Offend Me, You Offend My Family). Speaking of the YOMYOMF Channel, I should make note of BFFs. BFFs is a comedy webseries that features Asian American actresses in the leading roles. While the series was met with lukewarm reactions, I have to say it’s a start, which is better than nothing at all.

If there’s anything I can truly criticize, it’s that there’s not enough self-expression among this generation. When the reality show K-Town (on YouTube’s Loud Channel) surfaced, it was met with so much negativity from Asian Americans whwere afraid of how they were going to be represented. But in all honesty, have our purported “positive” stereotypes (read: the model minority) played in our favor in American society? Going along with this idea of social responsibility, the key thing to note is that there are multiple voices of this generation, but many of them go unspoken. Dunham, Kaling or YouTube celebrities should not be the only ones speaking for us. Whether their work makes us happy, angry, sad or stir any sort of emotion, rather than sit back and mouth off on our soap boxes about what we think others are doing, think about what we can do right. We’re all quick to hate on each other; instead, let’s let theseconversations inspire one another.

This story was featured in our Fall 2012 issue. Get it here!