tv Beyond the Headlines KOFY May 6, 2018 7:00pm-7:31pm PDT
>> now from abc7, "beyond the headlines" with cheryl jennings. >> welcome to "beyond the headlines." our show today focuses on our local asian-pacific-american community, or apa for short. the library of congress defines the asian pacific as encompassing all of the asian continent, as well as the pacific islands of melanesia, micronesia, and polynesia. a u.s. census estimate in 2015
found 19 million residents of asian and pacific islander descent with a total u.s. population of 248 million people. in california, asian and pacific americans make up almost 21% of the population. and the bay area census in 2010 found that asians and pacific islanders make up almost 24% of the population, inching above latinos as the largest minority race across the nine counties. abc7's chris nguyen is here now with local apa leaders to talk about important issues affecting our bay area communities. >> cheryl, it's great to be here. i'm excited to introduce you to our panel of guests today. gina su is an actor based here in the bay area. she's the winner of the 2016-2017 miss asian global pageant. next, lan diep is an attorney. he currently serves as a san jose city council member representing district four. and finally, vincent pan, executive director of chinese for affirmative action.
he's also a board member for the center for asian american media. thanks to all of you for joining us today. we have a lot to talk about. our first topic is civic engagement and how to get more asian americans involved in the process. vincent, we'll start with you. would you say that we are seeing an up-surge in political activism? >> i would. i mean, i think that there's always been a lot of unseen activism that's occurred in the asian american community that maybe hasn't been recognized by dominant culture. but if we look at things like voting, if we look at things like people running for office, we do see that we continue to increase our numbers after election. but one of the most interesting things, i think, is the way asian americans are starting to show up across the spectrum of ways to be involved, and especially in many of these direct actions and protests against many of the federal policies that have been targeting immigrants, that have been targeting communities of color. and i think that those types of ways of being involved are
really important for the asian american community, not only to be involved in but to be recognized for it. >> and with social media, it seems like everyone has an opinion these days. they want to share it. we're seeing more people on facebook getting in fights more than ever before. gina, do you get the feeling that more people are hiding behind the monitor instead of just having that conversation face to face? >> yeah, absolutely. it's so easy to just type on your computer and write something that you want to be heard. but i think for civic engagement, especially in the asian american community, it starts with your immediate family, your immediate friends. i'm never afraid to admit the first year i was able to vote, i didn't 'cause my parents didn't. i didn't understand the process. i didn't understand the value. and it wasn't until a close friend of mine that i actually met through the pageant -- her name's sharon chung. she's so passionate about politics that that's what encouraged me to do it. and so sometimes social media is
great to see all of that, but you really need someone -- a friend, a family member -- i think to encourage it to really happen. >> yeah, good point. and, lan, i want to get your thoughts. but first we have some video of your swearing-in ceremony as a san jose city council member. let's roll the clip. >> i, lan diep... >> do solemnly swear... >> ...do solemnly swear... >> ...that i will support and defend... >> ...that i will support and defend... >> ...the constitution of the united states... >> ...the constitution of the united states... >> ...and the constitution of the state of california... >> ...and the constitution of the state of california... >> ...against all enemies, foreign and domestic... >> ...against all enemies, foreign and domestic. >> lan, you've spoke about wanting to make government more fun. we saw in that video you wearing your captain america shield. i have to ask, what was the reaction from people in the audience that day? >> the reaction was quite warm, i thought. i got laughs, i got applause. i didn't realize it at the time, but it kind of took off, and i
got a bit of national attention for that. and i think it was just great. i did it not to make any political statement, but to just bring home the point that government can be fun, it should be fun. and if it is fun, it can bring more people into the process, because a lot of the things that we discuss as elected officials or as policymakers are of great importance, but they tend to be dry and drawn-out conversations. there's nothing wrong with bringing a little levity to the process and making it entertaining as well as educational. >> but, lan, when you hear that people are saying, "he's not taking his job seriously," et cetera, does that make it discouraging at all? >> i do get that, but i think that i'm not taking myself too seriously. and i think we need more politicians who are able to laugh at themselves. and as long as people are laughing with me and i'm giving them the opportunity to engage, i think that's great, because for everybody who says that i'm not taking my job seriously, there are people who reach out
to me to say that i'm a symbol of hope for them. they project positive things on to me, and i'm very happy to be that symbol for them. >> vincent, what would you say are some items that are holding the community back from being more engaged? >> well, there's some structural issues. so if you look at the number of times that asian americans are contacted by either people running for office or by the political parties, it's much, much lower than for other groups. so i think that one thing that has to change is that there needs to be a better awareness from the overall political infrastructure about the importance of the asian american vote, the importance of the pacific islander vote. so i think that's one thing. i think the other thing is that we do need more candidates that people can relate to and that understand that their community is their home base and who had the cultural competency to really discuss the issues that matter to them. i think all these things have to happen at the same time. >> gina, what do you think it will take to get more people involved, more of your friends involved, more young people? >> you know, i always think it starts with passion.
when i got politically involved was when i saw the soda tax. i love health and nutrition, and this was something i could relate to, i could understand, and i could easily share with my friends and family. and i could tell them, "this will affect your life if this passes." and so i think more people, if they do want to get involved, take a baby step. start with something that you're excited about, maybe you want to root for, and see what happens. >> okay, some very good points. and as we see more people take an active role, you know, another question is, you know, could that lead to a rise in racial tension? we'll tackle that issue coming up on "beyond the headlines."
>> welcome back to "beyond the headlines" with cheryl jennings. i'm abc7 news anchor chris nguyen sitting in as guest host for this special roundtable edition. as more asian americans get involved in the political process, many wonder will this lead in a rise in racial tension? vincent, you work for a civil rights organization. it's important that people push
back on bias and discrimination. >> it is, and i think the way we should understand our own identity is as a means, not an end. and so i think when we understand what it means to be treated as an other, we can maybe be more empathetic to other groups who are marginalized. and so in that way, we don't see everything as a contest for limited resources, but how we need to work together to make sure that everyone has a fair shot, i think that's the way to address some of these questions around, you know, any potential downsides of diversity, including tension between different groups. >> vincent, are you hearing more reports of people becoming more hateful toward others? >> well, i think we look at it nationally. we've seen a huge uptick in the attention in the amount of support groups that identify as either white nationalists and white supremacist groups. i think that when you have a place like the bay area and in california where there's maybe a much more sophisticated appreciation and pride in diversity and inclusion, the
issues are a little bit different. and so, yes, we still do have a lot of problems of dealing with this notion that, you know, america is only for white people. but i think also within our community, within other communities of color, we have to do a much better job of actually getting to know one another and learning from each other. >> valid points. gina, what are you hearing amongst the millennials, so to speak? any experiences that stand out that have kind of just left you thinking, "oh, my goodness"? >> i definitely have had a few friends who have had this experience of racial slurs or things being said to them, which is incredibly disappointing that that's happening now. but i think it has always been happening a little bit, and so i'm glad it is being brought to the surface and now we can have courageous conversations about it. >> lan, as a younger politician, as the son of two immigrants, do people still view you as a foreigner? >> yes, i think the working assumption is that i'm also an immigrant myself. i'm actually san jose's fourth vietnamese american council
member, but i'm the first american born. so there is a change in the guard, change of generations. and i think it's important for more, you know, asian americans to get out there, not just be elected, but to run for office, make the attempt and to just create this normalcy around asian american candidates. >> okay, so we have a question from our facebook community for the panel, and this one comes from praise santos. and the question is, "is the passive tendency of asians in our current climate of racial tension in the united states benefiting us in the immediate but hurting us in the long term?" vincent, we'll start with you. >> well, i actually don't accept that premise. i think that asian americans are much more active and outspoken than often is understood. you know, certainly the myth of asians as being passive across the globe is easy to debunk, and you could see that in the elections in south korea, you could see that in protests like occupy central in hong kong. and even in the united states, i do think that asian americans
are involved in so many different ways, either as political leaders, community leaders, grass roots activists. and so i actually don't think that folks haven't been outspoken. i think we haven't been heard. and i think there's a difference between that and actually not speaking up. >> and, lan, what motivated you to run for city council? you know, you're obviously -- you know, that question from one of the viewers, in some ways, you're going against what they're saying. >> sure. i was a legal aide attorney. i helped a lot of folks in the bp oil spill in mississippi and louisiana. i did some legal aide work here in the bay area dealing with limited english proficient vietnamese americans, and i saw myself helping a lot of people resolve the same issues, more or less, again and again and again. and i thought if i were to run for office and were able to affect change at a policy level, i'd be able to help a lot more people with, you know, one ordinance or so. and that attracted me to politics, it attracted me to run, and i'm glad i did.
>> gina, your thoughts? >> you know, i actually do think in the asian american community there is the sense of being passive, about not rocking the boat and bringing too much attention to yourself. it's obviously important to speak out and be bold about it, but i do think that, as asian americans, we're also not innocent in this climate of racial tension. so if we can just be the best ambassadors to fight for the rights and things that we believe in, then maybe we can also help support other minorities and people of color. and if all of us can do that together, i think there's quite a bit of strength there. >> now, immigration is always a hot topic. we hear a lot about immigration when it comes to hispanics. but this is also an issue that affects asian families across america. vincent, can you expand on that for us? >> sure. there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the united states, and about 10% of them are people of asian descent. right here in san francisco, there are 10,000 undocumented chinese immigrants. so this whole narrative around
immigration and undocumented immigration being a latino issue is really, again, i think something i think we have to look at more closely. the reality is that half of the asian american community is foreign born, that the same fear and bigotry that's targeted against undocumented immigrants are the same types of fear and bigotry that are targeted against legal immigrants, as well. and so i think we're seeing nationally this rhetoric that, you know, on the one hand, been about undocumented immigrants, but really it's about, you know, people who have not been part of the old notion of what it means to be america, which is a very white america. >> and talk to us about the importance of celebrating diversity and, in particular, asian american accomplishments. >> well, i think that when we understand our accomplishments, when we understand our history, it can maybe point the way forward. and it could help us understand that we have always contributed to the things that do make america great and that there's so much more that we can do.
but to do it in a way that isn't just about us, that is about reaching out to others, that identifies common goals, and really moves us to maybe a higher and shared humanity. >> gina, when you were going through the process for the miss asian global pageant, was there anything that you learned in particular that you didn't necessarily expect to take away? >> that was my first very pageant, so it was a very new experience for me. and when i thought of it as a miss asian global pageant, i just thought of my chinese american friends, my taiwanese american friends, and it was interesting to have people fly from japan and china. we had an awesome candidate, maya, who is cambodian, and that really expanded my understanding of the asian american community in the u.s. it's so diverse, yeah. >> lan, when you told your mom that you were gonna run for city council, what did she say? and then what was the reaction like from your family and friends when you actually won? because you won by 12 votes.
is that correct? >> i did. my mother's reaction initially was, "are you serious?" [ laughter ] and i ran in 2015. i lost by 13. i ran again in 2016. i won by 12 against the same person who beat me the first time. so it's an ordeal, but i think generally asian parents, at least vietnamese parents, don't encourage their kids to go into politics. you know, they encourage their sons and daughters to become pharmacists, doctors, engineers, lawyers even. but in the case of vietnamese americans, their political history has been to be disappointed by government, to be wary of government. and so they don't want to see their kids move into that field. and i think that's a common thread i hear among vietnamese americans, perhaps asian americans more broadly. and i'm glad to kind of move in that direction because i think we need representation, and i represent not just vietnamese americans and asian americans, but also my entire district of north san jose, which is more than just asians. >> and real quickly, what made
you decide, "you know what? i'm gonna try again, even though i lost the first time around"? >> maybe there's a bit of pride in it, but there's also a bit of wanting the district to have good representation. i observed in the second round of that election, there were no contenders. in the first time when there was an open seat, we had 10 people sign up to run. in the second round a year later when there was an incumbent, nobody decided to run. and i thought, in a democracy, you need choices. and some people are unwilling to put up their kind of political capital and lose. but i'm willing to do that because i believe in democracy. i believe people deserve a choice. but i'm thankful that they chose me. >> great perspective. well, we're gonna pause for a quick commercial break. but coming up, we'll dive into the topic of asians in entertainment. stay close. you're watching "beyond the headlines" with cheryl jennings.
"beyond the headlines." i'm chris nguyen sitting in for cheryl jennings on our special roundtable episode today. let's move in now to another interesting issue -- asians in entertainment. so, lan, this first question goes to you. growing up, did you have any asian american role models on television that you can remember? >> i remember two, and i don't know if they were role models, per se, but people that i identified with. one was dustin nguyen of "21 jump street." >> mm-hmm. >> and two was connie chung, because those were the only asian people that i recall seeing on tv. and i watched a lot of tv. i learned english completely from tv. so those are my two. and, you know, i guess it impacted me to see somebody familiar to me on tv. i lived in houston growing up at a time when there weren't many vietnamese people in houston. i was kind of the token vietnamese kid in my class. i remember going to, like, target and hearing a vietnamese person speak, like, two aisles down. i would run out just to see them. and so i think it's important for young people to see other people le them in media as
tors, as entertainers, as elected officials, as news reporters just so they know that there are many paths and avenues available to them, and it's not just the kind of stereotypical thing that you would typically get from, you know, old school media like you're a kung fu fighter or martial artist of some sort, and i think that's important. >> yeah, we're gonna talk about stereotypes in just a bit. but first, gina, as an actress here in the bay area, can you share some of your experiences that you've had as you've gone on auditions? >> yeah, absolutely. so, auditions are always nerve-wracking, i think, for me and for a lot of other actors. and there's a sense of when you're confident and you're calm and you have this good, you know, humor about you and sense of self-awareness, then i always find that those are the auditions that do really well. and in the bay area, we have a very tight-knit community of artists, directors, producers, and it's nice to see people collaborating and using the same actors or producers again.
so it's great here. >> and there's a lot of student filmmakers, as well. as you go out to read for some of those roles, are you seeing that, you know, race isn't that much of a deal for those student projects, but then when it comes to the commercial side, there's a difference? >> yes, absolutely. for all my commercial work, there's definitely a pool of diversity. you know, you want in a shot with people of all different colors being shown. but when it comes to student films and indie films, every single role that i've been casted as a lead for had nothing to do with my race. and i find that to be incredible. and i think as these student directors or indie filmmakers take leadership roles hopefully in hollywood in the future, they'll carry that mind set with them. it's the character and it's a story, and that's the most important part. >> and we do have a queson from our facebook community. "what advice would you give to up-and-coming or aspiring asian american actors?" >> for actors in particularly, totally be so good that you are undeniable, you know, because
sometimes people always talk about do we have enough roles written for us, and, you know, are we able to even compete in this era of white-washing or roles given to white actors? but if there's more of us that come out, we're bold about it, we go on as many auditions as possible, and we bring to the table all our talent and our hard work, then it's a choice of choosing between talent rather than race, so... >> and we've also been hearing more from stars such as constance wu, who is on abc's "fresh off the boat." she's been very vocal. >> i love that. i think she's really making a big change and making some waves, and people are having more courageous conversations about it, which is what we need. >> now, vincent, what do you think needs to happen more for asian americans in terms of representation in the entertainment world? what needs to happen forhat to happen? >> well, i think gina's point's really good about what people can do individually. but i do think there's also a need to work collectively. i think that, you know, people
who are involved in the creative arts, in all the creative arts, have to think about the ways that the industry is set up and how changes need to be made in order to make sure that there's full representation. and i think that's how we've seen gains in the past, and i think that's how we'll continue to see gains in the future. >> and one of our viewers on facebook was wondering, "do you think asian stereotypes are going away at a fast enough rate in hollywood?" >> well, i don't think it's ever fast enough. there's clearly been some progress, and i think it's important to have roles and to have stories that really reflect our experiences, some that center our experience as asian americans and others that don't. i think that a lot of that, again, happens throughout the chain of how things get on air, and that's both the writing, the producing, the directing. and also that crew has the decision to green-light what projects go forward and what don't. >> lan, you're an attorney, now serving on city council. is it encouraging for you to see
more young asian americans choose different career paths as opposed to what you mentioned, the doctor, the typical doctor, et cetera? >> i think, you know, asians are very talented, just like any other community, and living in america, we have choices. and what's important is to pursue a career path that is fulfilling to us as individuals. i mean, i keep telling people as a politician, but i think this is true for anybody. what's important is you're able to live with the reflection in the mirror that you see every day. so whatever you do, you have to find that fulfillment and live for yourself. >> panelists, thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to be with us today. we are out of time, but we're gonna keep this conversation going online on our website, abc7news.com. for now, cheryl, we'll send it back over to you. ♪ >> thank you, chris. for more information about today's show, go to our website, abc7news.com/community. we're also on facebook at abc7 community affairs, as well as cheryl jennings abc7.