Asian Americans: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

791.63k views4712 WordsGrade 17 ReadabilityDownload TxT File
LastWeekTonight

John Oliver discusses the large and diverse group of people who fall under the term “Asian American”, the history of the model minority stereotype, and why our conversations on the subject need to be better-informed. Connect with Last Week Tonight online... Subscribe to the Last Week Tonight YouTube channel for more almost news as it almost happens: www.youtube.com/lastweektonight Find Last Week Tonight on Facebook like your mom would: www.facebook.com/lastweektonight Follow us on Twitter for news about jokes and jokes about news: www.twitter.com/lastweektonight Visit our official site for all that other stuff at once: www.hbo.com/lastweektonight

... Show More

Video Transcript:

Moving on our main story tonight concerns asian americans a group that currently makes up around seven percent of the us population and is actually the fastest growing racial group and yet despite that asian americans can sometimes be oddly overlooked a recent survey asked respondents to simply name a well-known asian american and the Results were not good forty-two percent of people said that they don't know one the next most popular answers were jackie chan who's from hong kong and bruce lee who died in 1973. oh come on no disrespect to jackie chan and bruce lee there but that is embarrassing even before you consider the poll was conducted while kamala harris who's asian american was vice president How do you up a question that easy it'd be like asking americans to name a well-known joe and getting back what's joe john krasinski and joe millionaire it is pretty clear many in this country don't seem to know much about the histories or experiences of asian americans and to the extent that experience has been discussed in recent years it's often been in a tragic context such As killings or mass shootings or racism around the coronavirus triggering verbal and physical attacks in the street as well as the kind of idiocy that forced local news to have to produce pieces like no you can't get coronavirus by eating chinese food because of course you can't your brother is likely to get coronavirus from eating chinese food as you want to Get chickenpox from eating kfc that's not gonna happen and it's alarming anyone thought it might and all of this has highlighted the need for us to have a long overdue better informed conversation about the way this country regards asian americans and before we start i fully recognize the history of white people on tv generalizing confidently about this subject isn't great sometimes making statements That are offensive even when they think they're being complementary like this idea that has come up constantly they've worked their way past column a's and column b's past no starch please to become our nation's model minority listen to the numbers median family income higher for asians than for whites once again super achieving asian american students are becoming a Phenomenon they are over achievers driven to excel by tradition the academic achievement of asian american students are so notable that in some colleges students warn each other that if they end up in a class with a lot of oriental faces get out the grading curve they say will go out of sight wow that is jarring to here especially When delivered with such a weird combination of amused self-satisfaction and totally inappropriate sourcing i was eavesdropping on some teams last week and i heard one of them say never share a cab with a black person just thought i'd pass that along this has been for some reason the news but that idea that asian americans are a model minority has been as persistent as it is problematic so tonight We thought we'd try and unpack both parts of this sentence and let's start with the first half asian americans we're actually going to spend most of our time on this term because it's having to do a lot of work it encompasses a vast group who can trace their heritage back to more than 20 countries covering a huge amount of the world's land mass from mongolia to indonesia to pakistan to japan and Even some who fall under the term asian american or the broader aapi which includes pacific islanders feel that it may not fit them or that the broadness of the category means their experiences get erased people associate asian with east asian filipinos aren't so much dismissed they're just overlooked just because they're not as popular within at least the american Culture sometimes i will identify as asian but then other indian people don't identify as asian why are you considered asian you're in the pacific islander wouldn't you be considered more hawaiian and i'm like not really yeah the term asian american applies to a ridiculously large and diverse group of people and there is clearly not going to be enough time to discuss everyone who Supposedly fits under that umbrella in this piece even though i do intend to talk very fast so apologies in advance to all 127 maldivian americans i promise i will make it up to my one maldivian american fan in the future i am serious kareem stay with me trust me on this you will be seen but the fact the term asian american is so incredibly broad isn't an accident it was kind of the Point from the start because it was first coined in the late 1960s by asian american student activists in california who went on strike alongside black hispanic and native american students to demand an ethnic studies curriculum in those days the term asian american didn't exist we were all orientals 1968 that was the first time that i Heard the term asian americans asian american encompasses everybody i said wow that's something people are finally starting to realize that we wear our race on our face it's true under a system of white supremacy we do tend to wear our race on our face my face for example is currently wearing down market vintage colonial casual i'd change it into something a little less Imperial if i could but i can't so instead i wear these glasses for those activists the term asian american was an attempt to unite a massively diffused community in solidarity thus increasing their power and crucially forcing their universities to devote resources to making sure the histories of all their communities were actually Taught it was a political term a radical redefinition at the time but it's since become a common shorthand that can unfortunately end up being used in a way that is far too reductive and superficial to the point where an old government psa felt the need to make a pretty obvious statement people always ask me how i like america my great grandfather was born here like most americans we've been american For a long time some of us follow asian traditions my family is apple pie american mini bikes football rocket tie all asian americans are no more alike than any other kind of americans we don't all look alike do we well do we the government money paid for that even this kid has a smirk that says white people although i will admit the writer of that psa defining Apple pie american as mini bikes football rock guitar is magnificent it should be the oath of citizenship you put your hand over your heart say mini bikes football rock guitar and then you never ride a regular sized bike again why because you are an american now and obviously recognizing the diversity of asian americans is about much more than simply Recognizing those three children have three different faces because one of the main dangers of treating asian americans as a single entity is that it obscures the reality of what is happening for the different subgroups inside it for example about 10 of asian americans live in poverty which is actually lower than the overall u.s poverty rate but when you disaggregate the data when you break it down by Subgroup you start to see a much more complicated situation with mongolian and burmese americans having a poverty rate of 25 more than twice the national average and when it comes to education while around 75 percent of indian americans have a bachelor's degree well above the national average for bhutanese americans that figure is just 15 which is well below it the point is Disaggregating the data can reveal big disparities that you couldn't see previously looking at averages for asian americans as a whole is like looking at the average income of the hemsworth brothers it's very misleading when we all know some hems are worth a lot more than other hems are worth and look using the term asian americans to represent a political Coalition made sense and still does to some extent but a coalition is not a monolith and to start to understand some of the present day differences here it really helps to understand the differences in when and how people came to this country and you can break down those experiences into a few broad categories starting with those who arrived earlier in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th asian immigration in that time was essentially a cycle of economic exploitation followed by a violent and restrictive backlash this began with chinese immigrants who were recruited to work on the railroads in the 1860s they faced virulent racism from the beginning both from their bosses who saw their lives as disposable and from Whites many of whom saw them as unfair competition for jobs at the time this senator from california described chinese immigrants as automatic engines of flesh and blood making them sound like some kind of railroad lane terminators and demanded that the federal government secure the american anglo-saxon civilization without contamination or adulteration and in 1882 With the chinese exclusion act he got his wish the chinese exclusion law is one of the first really comprehensively restrictive laws and it's also the first and only time in the entire history of the united states that a group is singled out by name chinese by name as being undesirable so this is truly a remarkable moment yup the poster said hip hurrah to the chinese exclusion act And if you look at the whole thing it says in the middle hip hurrah the white man is on top which is a bit redundant if you've said hip hara twice you really don't need to say the white man is on top it's like saying blue lives matter or welcome to carrie bradshaw's bedroom the white man on top part is very much implied and america committed to that exclusion Policy here is something you might not know there were actually six chinese men who survived the sinking of the titanic but upon reaching u.s shores were not permitted to enter the united states to recover instead they were forced onto another boat and sent away the very next day which isn't just racist it's insensitive did it really have to be another boat they had just been on the Best boat and it sucked could you not put them on a zeppelin or something at the very least let's try and mix up the doomed turn of the century transportation methods here and the experience of chinese immigrants unfortunately set the template for the different groups that followed because waves of japanese korean south asian and filipino immigrants later came over as agricultural workers with those in charge often pitting the Groups against each other with unequal wages and treatment each group that came face the common experience of racial hostility violence and laws denying them the possibility of becoming citizens or owning land here is a poster targeting chinese people here is a sign targeting japanese people and here is one targeting filipinos it's just like the statue of liberty Says give me your tired your poor your huddled masses but not over there not there either definitely not in maine you know what you guys just figured out don't worry the signs will make it really obvious and no matter how long asian americans or their families had been in this country they were as now treated as perpetual foreigners whose loyalties were in question with the most famous example of this Being the world war ii internment camps where 120 thousand japanese americans who've been rounded up on mass were imprisoned and to add insult to injury when they were finally allowed to leave the us government had the gall to try and give it a positive spin if you don't have money enough to get to your new location the government through wra will make a Grant of enough money to get you there and a little extra until the paychecks start coming in this money does not have to be repaid it's a helping hand from uncle sam it's a big moment when you start to pack for your trip outside it's an even bigger moment when you walk through the gate for the last time and present your path to the guard for the last time and take a look at the Barbed wire fence for the last time and as you look at that barbed wire you can think you america for the last time go ahead we're cool with it you can even say it out loud if you want to we'll pretend we didn't hear you and then we'll be even in fact you know what let's shake on that you can say you america one time and then we'll be cool but around the middle of the last century attitudes began to shift as the U.s locked in a cold war came to see exclusion laws and racial quotas as bad for its global image so laws like the chinese exclusion act went away to eventually be replaced by the 1965 immigration act and this is the next broad category of asian american immigrants those who came post 1965 as a result of that act because in contrast to the previous migrants who were Generally relegated to low-wage manual labor a key thing that this law did was prioritize educated and highly skilled workers like doctors and engineers and it also tried to address specific labor needs like when a nursing shortage resulted in overseas ads like these labor recruiters and travel agencies started targeting filipino nurses with ads that promised them bright futures in America one particular ad featured a basket that was decorated with the philippine flag it's addressing the filipino nurse saying dear nurse if you're not happy where you are right now contact us and we can't promise you happiness but we can help you chase it all over the place i've got to say that Is a refreshingly honest slogan you might not catch happiness but you can chase it and it did seem to work as nurses are one of this country's top imports from the philippines followed closely by of course jollibee the world's greatest fast food mascot because believe me unlike american labor recruiters in the 60s jollibee can promise you happiness and deliver it To you in videos like this [Music] yes please i don't know what i love more there jolly be tastefully shaking that stinger like it's a bottle of his signature banana ketchup or the koi flutter of those naughty humanoid eyes jollibee can get it so very broadly asian americans before 1965 were largely exploited for their labor and legally discriminated against While after 1965 there were many more who came as skilled workers and who faced fewer formal legal barriers and then there's the final group here that has less to do with america's labor needs and more to do with its geopolitical interests those who arrived as refugees because between 1975 and 2010 we took in over a million refugees from vietnam laos and cambodia which wasn't so much Generous as it was a direct result of people seeking refuge from wars that america waged in the region basically we bombed the out of their countries to thwart the spread of communism sometimes in secret wars to fulfill henry kissinger's napalm kink and then once we took those refugees in we didn't really do much to set them up for success When it comes to refugees we hold a lot of trauma a lot of ptsd a lot of mental illness from the war and the genocide we have in the u.s with respect to our refugee policy this doctrine of work first it will work immediately it doesn't matter if you just came from a war zone and haven't healed from the mental and physical traumas of war we want you to get a low wage job Immediately and that is really the full spectrum of the american experience isn't it to go from the u.s not giving a about your life abroad to not giving a about your life here good luck and by the way if you think you hear bombs again try not to freak out it's either a holiday half the country kind of hates or some couple telling their friends what gender their baby is Welcome to america the point is different groups of asian americans have had vastly divergent migration experiences and when you understand them more the variation you see in everything from income to education to health outcomes begins to make sense and yet groups that have in some ways so little in common often have been unified unfortunately Through the common experience of bigotry as was the case in the early 1980s when america's fear of an economically ascendant japan led to a racist fervor at home pretty soon the finger of blame ended up on japan [Music] all of this hatred you could feel it it was palpable detroiters were invited for 50 cents a Smash to take out their anger on japanese cars wow that's stupid i honestly can't think of a single good reason to beat up a car except maybe if lightning mcqueen owes you money and to be honest even then if you really want to hurt him you don't beat him with a sledgehammer you light mater on fire and you make him watch that's what you do everybody knows that where is my Money mcqueen but tragically and unsurprisingly that type of resentment and blame turned to violence and eventually culminated in the murder of vincent chin a chinese-american man who was beaten to death by two white men who blamed him for what japan was doing to the u.s auto industry chin's killers were arrested and convicted but the judge sentenced them to exactly No prison time instead giving each of them three years probation and less than four thousand dollars in fines and he insisted at the time he'd made the right decision judge charles kaufman says justice was done he would not talk to cbs news but he did tell a detroit newspaper that the two defendants were long-time hard-working members of the community adding these men are not going to go out And harm somebody else i just didn't think that putting them in prison would do any good for them or for society oh it gets worse that judge also said these weren't the kind of men you send to jail and it's hard to tell what criteria that judge used to decide what kind of men these two murderers were was it the color of the skin on their faces the colour of the skin on their hands or just Judicial instinct a gut feeling that these two men were in fact white that's the thing about the criminal justice system at the end of the day it's more race art than race science but the enduring legacy of the vincent chin case was that it managed to bring asian americans of all ethnicities together to call for justice and out of that sprang a new chapter of asian american activism And political identity and that is just the most famous example of a rich history of asian american activism which has often worked across racial lines from the student strike that we mentioned earlier to filipino labor leaders working with cesar chavez to organize a grape boycott to yuri kochiyama's friendship with malcolm x and her advocacy for marginalized people of all backgrounds And yet a prevailing narrative most people hear regarding asian americans is one of conflicts between them and other communities of color like during the 1992 la uprising and look it's not that those tensions aren't very real but it's not the whole picture either and it's also a narrative that fits into a much larger pattern in which white america has actively Pitted asian americans against other communities and that brings us to the second half of this sentence and the model minority myth the idea of the model minority emerged over half a century ago in part because some asian americans were strategically typecasting themselves in a bid to enhance their demands for racial equality and they did so by Promoting their communities as upstanding and hardworking and as immigration law began selecting for skilled and educated asian immigrants the credentials of those new arrivals seem to conform to the stereotype which then took on a life of its own especially in the civil rights era as whites unnerved by black americans radical challenges to the system held up japanese and chinese Americans and their success as evidence that they claimed disproved systemic racism very basically america prioritized wealthy more educated asian immigrants then turn to black people who've been subjugated for centuries and said see they're educated and successful why aren't you and using asian american success to downplay american racism Is a trend that very much continues to this day if america were such a hate-filled discriminatory racist society filled with animus against asian americans how do you explain the remarkable success of asian americans in our country their mindset is to just work really hard it's not to protest things and not to shut things down it's just oh Yeah they're in the library the asians the whole reason why they kick ass is because they don't spend any time on petty asians are concerned about hate crimes but they're very upwardly mobile very success oriented very business oriented they're model citizens in many cases in my view probably the most admirable ethnic group we have wow congratulations asian americans dick morris thinks you're the most Admirable ethnic group we have that's so sweet of him to say if you want to write dick a thank you note just address the envelope to shove this right up dick morris's ass new york new york whatever zip code dick morris's is in a central premise of the modern minority myth is that the key to overcoming american racism is simply strong values and hard work with the implication being That groups that haven't succeeded simply haven't tried hard enough and putting aside how offensive that is the truth is whether or not you're successful living a life defined by a racist fantasy just isn't good for you striving to maintain the idea of a model minority has really severed my self-esteem it really makes me feel that i'm nothing more than someone who could Get good grades someone who was supposed to be perfect and be mom about everything right trying to be perfect your whole life is going to be too much to bear that is why i made a promise when i started this show that i'd always get one fact in every story completely wrong is that responsible absolutely not but it is what keeps me looking young and the model minority myth is Especially calling for some members of groups like those whose families came as refugees whose lived experience doesn't remotely match the stereotype the truth is that kind of pressure can do real damage suicide is the leading cause of death for asian americans between the ages of 15 and 24 and yet apparently only eight percent of asian americans sought Help for their mental health which is less than half the rate of the general population and that is not just a result of cultural stigmas around mental health it's also what happens when you're consistently told to quietly and happily accept discrimination because your version is the nice racism but there is no nice racism there is no silver lining to it and there is no Working your way out of it you are still perpetually treated as a foreigner still asked where you're really from and asian americans always seem to be just one geopolitical crisis away from becoming the target of violence yet again whether it's those internment camps for japanese americans or the spate of attacks on south asians after 9 11 or all of the recent racial violence During the pandemic so the model minority myth is both a tool of white supremacy and a trap and as with so many things in this story with a community this diverse there are going to be different perspectives on how to handle it andrew yang has annoyed some by leaning into it with self-deprecating jokes and his math hat And he also angered many when he responded to the trump administration's china virus rhetoric by writing an op-ed in which he claimed we asian americans need to embrace and show our american-ness in ways we never have before by among other things wearing red white and blue that argument prompted a backlash with eddie wong tweeting out of here with this america drag you bumbling pineapple bun and i do get that because it's pretty insulting to suggest two centuries of racism could be defeated by serving uncle sam realness so all of that is very simplistically too broadly and probably too quickly an abridged version of how we all got to where we are right now so where do we go from here well what is Clear is we have to find a way to have smarter more nuanced conversations about the reality of the asian american experience and we cannot do that with our access to high quality disaggregated data that can help better fit public policy to the actual needs of individual communities but that is not all because asian americans have been warning for decades About all of this just watch a man tell a reporter five years before i was even born what i've been trying to tell you tonight during yet another of those old model minority profiles but i suggested that compared to the black and the chicano the japanese american has it made he can get a job a place to live it's a situation where i think the question is not material making In terms of economics but a question basically of human dignity you know what i mean in terms of human dignity like for example we've been set in a certain category and many people argue man you got a good stereotype you got a stereotype to get you apartments where you don't have to play cleaning deposit because you're so goddamn clean that's our stereotype but it's an infringement it's a violation of Our human dignity because they don't view us as individuals as human beings we fit into a certain category we fit into a certain box that's how they view us he's right it's a category it's a box but the thing is you don't learn anything from it unless you bother to look inside because obviously no group community or indeed individual is just one thing and when you reduce the asian american Experience to that of a modern minority you're emitting a history that includes exploitation and exclusion but also includes activism some infighting challenges with issues like immigration education and access to social services that continue to this day and an array of interests and achievements that go far beyond these two guys to be as vast and diverse as america itself by the way can you see Who's in there i told you kareem i told you i got your back i see you kareem and look i know this story has barely skimmed the surface of this subject but i hope that it's at least introduced some of you to a bit of the history involved here as well as what i think we can all agree is the world's most bee that's our show thank you So much for watching we'll see you next week good night you

Related Videos

Asian Americans: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

2.7M - 2 days ago - 27:2

Cereal: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Web Exclusive)

LastWeekTonight

3.6M - 1 week ago - 6:57

Bankruptcy: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

5M - 1 month ago - 21:13

Covid Vaccines: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

6.6M - 1 month ago - 24:28

Stand Your Ground: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

4.4M - 3 weeks ago - 19:18

[FULL] Last Week Tonight With John Oliver 6/06/21 | John Oliver HBO Today Jun 06, 2021

Dancof Game Highlights

394k - 2 days ago - 31:15

Hair: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

4.6M - 4 weeks ago - 24:24

Tucker Carlson: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

11.4M - 2 months ago - 24:53

The National Debt: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

6.1M - 2 months ago - 22:26

State Attorneys General: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

6M - 2 years ago - 19:7

Long-Term Care: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

4.4M - 1 month ago - 22:41

Raids: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

4M - 3 months ago - 25:55

Authoritarianism: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

9.9M - 2 years ago - 18:29

Unemployment: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

6M - 3 months ago - 21:14

Plastics: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

4.1M - 2 months ago - 22:24

The Next Pandemic: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

9.1M - 3 months ago - 20:29

Alex Jones: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

17.8M - 3 years ago - 22:22

U.S. History: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

7.4M - 10 months ago - 28:29

Filibuster: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

LastWeekTonight

6.9M - 1 year ago - 19:7

Robocalls: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight

9.7M - 2 years ago - 17:46

Like it? Make YTScribe even better by leaving a review