My activist friend, Jack Stephens, took me to Chinatown, and I met with some of his friends who work for Chinese Progressive Association. They advocate for better living and working conditions for low income/working class Chinese immigrants in the city, and they also ally with other oppressed minority communities in San Francisco. They have organized many big protests and rallies in the city. Chinatown is one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Francisco despite being a hot tourist spot. The CPS comrades are very cool. Please check out CPS website
Asian-American soldier was forced by comrades to crawl 100m on gravel while being pelted with rocks hours before he killed himself
The parents of a New York City Army private who committed suicide in Afghanistan have been told distressing new details of the racial bullying and mistreatment their son endured at the hands of his comrades.
A spokeswoman for Chen’s parents said investigators told them that on the day of his death, he was forced to crawl 100 metres on gravel with his equipment on as fellow GIs threw rocks at him.
Speaking through an interpreter, his mother said her 19-year-old son was called ‘dragon lady’ and derogatory phrases.
Soldiers made him give orders in Chinese while they mocked him. He was also forced to do multiple push-ups and sprints.
Private Danny Chen, who grew up in New York’s Chinatown area, was found dead in a guard tower at Combat Outpost Palace on October 3 after apparently committing suicide.
Eight U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been charged in connection with multiple counts of negligent homicide, assault and involuntary manslaughter.
Chen’s parents met with Army officials at the Fort Hamilton base in Brooklyn, where Army officers released the results of their investigation.
They later held a news conference where they revealed the distressing new details.
On the day of his death, Chen was forced to crawl on gravel while soldiers threw rocks at him.
He was separately taunted and mocked, all because he was the only Chinese-American in his unit, said Elizabeth OuYang, a spokeswoman for the family.
‘Almost immediately after he arrived, Danny was required to do exercises, which quickly, within a few days, crossed over into abuse,’ she said.
The alleged anti-Asian bullying and taunting started during basic training when fellow soldiers used a mocking accent while calling him Jackie Chen; others allegedly told him to ‘go back to China’.
On September 27, OuYang said a sergeant dragged Chen out of bed and over gravel, which left him with shoulder bruises and cuts on his back. The top two leaders of the platoon knew about this, she said, but chose not to report it.
His mother, who wept throughout the conference, told reporters that the pain of her only son’s death still has not subsided.
His father urged that the trial of eight fellow soldiers, for an array of counts from dereliction of duty to negligent homicide, should be held in the United States, not in Afghanistan.
‘The family has been through absolute hell,’ OuYang added. ‘They must have the right to face those who are found guilty.’
The family also is awaiting answers from 25 questions they asked the Army, they said, which promised a response by January 13.
Investigations continue into Chen’s death. It is now no longer clear whether Private Chen, who was from the Chinatown area of Manhattan did in fact take his own life.
Hundreds of supporters held a vigil recently after demanding officials address the treatment of Asians in the military, reported MSNBC.
His cousin Banny Chen read out a letter sent by Private Chen in February at the vigil last Thursday, which said: ‘Everyone knows me by Chen’.
‘They ask if I’m from China a few times a day,’ he wrote. ‘They also call out my name Chen in a goat-like voice sometimes for no reason.
‘People crack jokes about Chinese people all the time. I’m running out of jokes to come back at them.’
Around 400 people were at the vigil and march in Manhattan as Occupy Wall Street protesters also got involved.
Asian Pacific Americans civil rights group OCA has expressed outrage at what happened and have their own theory on why he was allegedly abused.
‘They did it because they knew that there was an environment that they would get away with it,’ an OCA spokesman said, reported NBC New York.
Relatives of Private Chen said they are encouraged to learn of the charges brought.
His father Yen Tao Chen said the family realises he will never return, but the news ‘gives us some hope’.
First Lieutenant Daniel J. Schwartz, Staff Sergeant Blaine G. Dugas and Staff Sergeant Andrew J. Van Bockel were all charged.
Sergeant Adam M. Holcomb, Sergeant Jeffrey T. Hurst, Specialist Thomas P. Curtis, Specialist Ryan J. Offutt and Sergeant Travis F. Carden were also charged.
All eight soldiers are of 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
“I blamed my ethnicity, being Chinese limited me”
By Phoenix Tso
There are several ways for ethnic Chinese people who were born in or grew up in America to describe themselves, or be described by others. From a young age, my mom would tell me that I was “Chinese-American”. When I studied abroad in China two years ago, I learned to refer to myself as a 华裔 (hua yi, foreign citizen of Chinese origin) or “American-Born Chinese” to those who asked where I was from. Yet, for many years I refused to refer to myself as both American and Chinese. Instead, I was just “American”.
I grew up outside of Boston, learned English first, and am most familiar with American (or at least Western) music, books, movies, politics, fashion, religion, etc. It was jarring therefore to find myself in situations where being from a Chinese family was a limitation to how comfortably I could fit in with other people in this country. When I was four or five years old and playing with my first best friend, she started talking about how excited she was to celebrate Hanukkah, as someone who is Jewish.
“I’m Jewish too,” I said, wanting to be whatever she was.
“No you’re not. You’re Christian,” she replied.
Sure, as far as I know, there are very few Chinese Jews in the world, but the implication that being Chinese limited me from exploring different aspects of what American society had to offer, or that I could not try on different identities as easily as other people, stayed with me. This was reinforced by other incidents: When we played Power Rangers at recess, I could never be the Pink Ranger. In sixth grade, my classmates were surprised I knew something about their favorite rappers. Strangers, when they met me, would often assume that I was smart, even when I offered no evidence to support that theory.
Above all, I could never get rid of this niggling feeling that I would be more “fun” or “cool”, that I would have more friends, if I weren’t saddled with the “Chinese people are studious” stereotype. In retrospect, there were many other good reasons for any social exclusion I faced, but at the time, I blamed most of it on my ethnicity.
So I consciously stopped speaking Chinese at home, or even with my grandmother when she would call from Taiwan. I engaged very little with the people around me or with the sites we visited on our trips to China. I ignored the Qing Dynasty soap operas; the CDs of Taiwanese pop music, and other relics of that bygone culture that my parents kept in the house. When others would ask me where I was from, I would defensively tell them the hospital in Connecticut that I was born in. When people referred to me as Chinese-American, I would tell them to cut off the “Chinese-” part.
I started rethinking this choice though when I traveled back to China the summer before I entered college, and found myself unable to communicate with my relatives in Shanghai. I realized that I was cutting myself off from a culture that had shaped me so much, from my eating habits (namely my preference for pig ears and fermented bean curd) to my experimentation with religion (I first embraced Christianity through my town’s Chinese Gospel Church, and then rejected it in line with my family’s religious history). And after being known as a “good student,” who never actually did her homework, I embraced academic achievement as the best way to attain success, mindful of my mom’s history, of how pursuing an education in America was her second chance after being denied the opportunity because of the Cultural Revolution.
Now I take pride in the fact that being Chinese is an inextricable part of identity, and completely enjoy deepening that part of myself. I will always feel more American than Chinese, which is why I will never identify with being an ABC. But I’ll never be just American either.