Biden/Harris Win Also a Proud Moment for Interracial Families

Wow, just wow. After a roller-coaster ride of an election day week (and a very long four years), I have been savoring this moment of learning that Joe Biden has been officially projected as the next president of the United States. And Kamala Harris will make history in the vice presidency as the first woman, the first woman of color, and the first child of immigrants to take office at that level.

But it feels a little sweeter knowing that, a little over 50 years since Loving v Virginia made interracial marriage legal across the US, we’re also going to see a woman who is part of an interracial couple and family in the office of the vice presidency. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, a black and South Asian woman, is married to Douglas Emhoff, a white man. It sends a powerful message to people across the country, if not the world, to have that kind of diversity reflected in the second-highest office in the US. I’d like to imagine that the Lovings are smiling down from heaven at this groundbreaking moment.

Four years ago, I braced for what a Trump presidency would portend for interracial couples (and found the results more chilling and cruel than I ever imagined). It’s been a long road, and this year’s election will not magically undo all the damage. But it’s an inspirational start, one which I will celebrate with smiles, laughter and maybe a little dancing to Mary J. Blige’s “Work That”. 😉

via GIPHY

How do you feel about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris winning the US election?

Cambodian Husband Deported from US, White American Wife to Follow Him to Cambodia

As the US continues to ramp up its deportation efforts, the media have documented the casualties of this punitive response toward immigrants in terms of affected families.

A heartbreaking story on PRI I came across the other day details the deportation of a Cambodian man married to a white American woman from Wisconsin:

Lisa Kum has an endless list of tasks every day. The 41-year-old from Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, has a 19-month-old daughter and a high school-aged son. She’s also tending to her health after undergoing elbow surgery earlier this year.

Nowadays, she’s also busy growing her business that sells refurbished HP printer parts — so that she can sell it and move her family to Cambodia. That’s because Kum’s husband, Sothy Kum, was deported to Cambodia, a country he left when he was just 2 years old. She plans to shut down the small business they started together four years ago and start over 8,000 miles away.

“It’s pretty much been pure hell,” she says. “It’s very emotional. At the same time, you have to get up every morning and keep going because what other choice do you have?”

I can only imagine what a nightmare this has to be for her and her family. Meanwhile, you’re probably wondering, what exactly prompted the US to arrest and deport Sothy Kim? The article details that as well:

Lisa says her husband spent most of the last two years in immigration detention, almost as long as their young daughter has been alive. Sothy and his family fled Cambodia as refugees and spent years in camps, first in Thailand and then the Philippines. He arrived in the US in 1981, when he was about 6 years old.

Lisa and Sothy met in 2009 when they worked at the same company. In 2014, they decided to quit their jobs and take the financial risk of starting their own business. Sothy allowed an acquaintance to pay him to send marijuana to his house. He was convicted of possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver.

After serving his one-year sentence in 2016, Sothy was again detained by ICE. Though Sothy was a legal permanent resident with a green card, his conviction made him deportable. He remained in ICE detention until August 2017, when he was released just in time to see his daughter turn 1 and to marry Lisa. But by October 2017, Sothy was back in custody.

The reporter doesn’t probe further into Sothy’s conviction for marijuana, but it follows a sinister pattern in the US — that people of color constitute close to 80 percent of those imprisoned for possession and sales of marijuana, compared with a paltry 4 percent for whites. (And interestingly, with the legalization of marijuana in America, the people who now stand most to profit are overwhelmingly white.)

Does a conviction of this nature warrant deportation? Supposedly only people committing “crimes of violence” should be sent back to their countries, and it’s hard to imagine that any real violence was going on here.

Meanwhile, there’s another question worth asking — is it right to deport a man who came to the US as a refugee, and at such a young age? The actions of the current Trump administration have overwhelmingly shown they have no regard for such people, including the most recent example of ending protected status for Hondurans in the US. But still, it boggles the mind that a country that would welcome a refugee when he was only 6 years old has now shipped him back to his country of birth, despite the fact that he’s lived the vast majority of his adult life in the US.

Lisa and Sothy Kum remind me of so many interracial couples I’ve encountered over the years, and it was chilling to encounter their story in PRI. Meanwhile, I can’t help but wonder, what will their lives be like after reuniting in Cambodia? Will they be able to find a way forward for themselves and their family? I know deportation can have a devastating effect on people and their families, as a recent report of the tragic end of one man deported to Mexico revealed.

But here’s hoping their family will overcome these difficulties and start anew in Cambodia.

What do you think of this story? Do you believe Sothy Kim’s crime warranted deportation?

Pub’d in the China Daily: Why the Negative Bias Against Chinese Students in America Needs to Stop

This past Wednesday, the China Daily just published my op-ed titled Why the Negative Bias Against Chinese Students in America Needs to Stop. Here’s an excerpt:

When Chinese students in the US returned to universities in 2017, they began a new semester under a cloud. The Los Angeles Times reported that, in the wake of Trump’s election, the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco warned students of rising anti-China sentiment that might be dangerous. The Consulate’s letter cited instances of verbal abuse directed at Chinese students. Meanwhile, Asian Americans Advancing Justice has recently reported a huge uptick in hate crimes against Asians, thanks to Trump’s demonization of China as America’s enemy.

But it would be naïve to assume that all of this started with Trump’s election. In fact, there has always been a negative bias against Chinese students in the US

Much of the mainstream news coverage of Chinese students in America has a negative slant – from stories like “Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Students Sows Discord on US Campuses” (Wall Street Journal) to more exaggerated headlines such as “How Chinese Students Are ‘Cheating’ To Get Into US Universities” (Forbes) and “Fraud frenzy? Chinese seek US college admission at any price” (CNN). Meanwhile, that bias has trickled down to the public. I’ve had many conversations about Chinese students in America with academics and the general populous; most often, people allege Chinese are ruining the quality of education, or stealing admissions spots from more deserving American students. Even Google displays this bias; when I searched for Chinese students in the US, of the four suggested search strings, two were the following: Chinese students in the US problems, and Chinese students in the US rich.

The negative bias against Chinese students in America needs to stop.

To read on, visit the China Daily for the full article.

P.S.: A huge thank you to everyone who helped make this article possible, including Susan Blumberg-Kason and Marissa Zhang.

Why the Trump Immigration Ban Threatens Us All

IMG_20160213_170645So, it’s the year of the cock – and in this new Chinese zodiac year, Trump has decided to stick it to Muslims with his immigration ban.

I learned this appalling news in a haze, still recovering from the lack of sleep. (Anyone who has ever celebrated Chinese New Year in China knows that the fireworks, often set off late into the evening and early into the morning, aren’t that helpful to rest.)

Normally, this is a week when I take time off from the blog. We’re celebrating Chinese New Year, kicking back with family, and recovering from a busy run-up to the holidays here in China. It’s a lot like Christmas and the week after, when everyone spends time with their loved ones (often taking a much-needed break from things like e-mail and the Internet). I always enjoy sharing a few choice pictures from the holidays here.

But after learning about Trump’s immigration ban, I don’t feel right in merely pushing through with the post. I don’t want to ignore what’s going on, because right now I’m sick to my stomach over this immigration ban.

If you’re reading, chances are you probably know a foreigner. Or know someone who was once a foreigner. Or you are/were a foreigner yourself. That means you should understand, more than anyone else, how horrible this policy could be. Just imagine if you or your loved ones were arbitrarily blocked by virtue of arriving from one of seven countries.

But here’s another more important point – once you allow a grave injustice like this to move forward, it isn’t long before more follows. It isn’t long before the people you love become targets. It isn’t long before you become a target. This is the same wisdom that Pastor Niemoller spoke in the 1950s with the “First they came” poem.

I am reminded of the words of the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, who once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If you care about safeguarding justice for all – including yourself – you need to oppose this ban now.

As I’ve written before, I don’t usually get political. But Trump is different. This is different. Everyone ought to be appalled by what Trump has done. I don’t care how many times they try to spin this, claiming it isn’t a Muslim ban. It is a Muslim ban. This will go down in history along with many other shameful acts by the US, such as the internment of Japanese Americans on US soil. It is an ugly, hateful, racist policy.

This is the time to stand up, to show that hatred and fear will not prevail. #Resist

What a Trump Presidency Means for Interracial Couples

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Stunned and shocked. That about sums up my reaction to the election this past Tuesday. Well, when the United States of America elects a xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, homophobic narcissist (see if you can say that five times fast), I don’t know how else you can feel about it.

I don’t normally discuss politics. This isn’t a political blog and I’ve always felt content to keep my political leanings off these pages. But this election is different. Trump stands as an affront to things that matter to those of us in interracial relationships – especially those that cross borders. He has denigrated people of color. He is against immigration and immigrants. He was endorsed by white supremacist groups. He is a misogynist who has admitted to sexually assaulting women.

That’s a lot to swallow. I know.

I could talk about how and why this happened in 2016 (cue the #ThisIs2016 hashtag), but I think there are far better reflections on that elsewhere. (See also this post from fellow blogger Autumn regarding the election.)

Instead, I feel it’s worth considering the question on many people’s minds. What does this mean for interracial couples and their allies?

I don’t have a crystal ball to gaze into the future and imagine what a Trump Presidency will do to America. But I do know the next four years are going to be really tough to witness. That feeling of dread still hasn’t left me since I learned the election results.

At the same time, I have a lot of experience processing personally catastrophic events.

A university completely screwed my husband and his future – and by association, screwed me too – in the most reprehensible and unimaginable way. In the wake of this, I seriously considered committing suicide for the first time in my life. Yes, suicide. The university had wrongfully robbed my husband of his career and future, everything we had hoped for together. Was there anything else worth living for?

It took at least a week before I could push through all of the devastation, before I could see a path forward. My husband and I ultimately decided we were not content to just accept what happened. We would take action. We would fight this injustice. Why? Because we knew deep in our hearts that what happened was wrong. Because we were determined to never give up on our dreams.

This positive momentum of this decision uplifted me. Even though this wasn’t what I had expected to work on in late 2013 and beyond, this decision gave me something to live for. We rallied together and, over the years, our optimism and hard work paid off in unexpected ways (such as gaining the support of leaders in the American psychology field). We’ve never been closer to justice than now, even though it took us over three years to get here.

I’ve learned the value of standing up for yourself and what you believe in, even when things look dreadful.

Here’s what I hope the Trump Presidency means for interracial couples. Let this election be your rallying cry to stand up for your beliefs. To champion and protect the rights of everyone, including people of color, immigrants, women, and the LGBT community. I know it’s a total cliché, but we really do have more power than we imagine. Believe in yourself and remember that your voice matters more than ever.

I know it’s not going to be easy, because I’ve been there. You’ll need some time to process this all. And chances are, you’ll need something like meditation, exercise, therapy, chocolate, or, in my case, an evening with Ang Lee’s version of Sense and Sensibility (seriously, that movie never fails to calm me down).

But once you’re done, come see me. Because we’ve got some work to do.