Even his own granddaughter didn’t realize how important Wong Kim Ark was.

Featuring Marika Justad from Tangerine. Photo credit: Mark Malijan

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News from the front

Updates on news we’ve reported on previously.

  • Hawaii’s Supreme Court has upheld a construction permit for a controversial international giant telescope atop Mauna Kea. Native Hawaiians consider the mountain sacred and protest its construction, while proponents say the telescope won’t interfere with Native Hawaiian uses.

  • Despite its creator facing significant harassment from Simpsons fans, Hari Kondabolu’s documentary, The Problem with Apu, seems to have struck a chord with Simpsons producers. According to Adi Shankar, The Simpsons may drop Apu after all.

The most important case you’ve never heard of

Whether it’s an attempt to distract from the midterm elections or a policy he’ll actually try to enact, the president’s recent attacks on birthright citizenship are pretty eyebrow-raising coming from someone whose father benefited from the Fourteenth Amendment.

But folks have been grousing over birthright citizenship for over a century. And in 1895, Chinese American Wong Kim Ark found himself right at the flashpoint in a case that would enshrine birthright citizenship as an American institution.

Setting the stage

In the late 19th century, the U.S. reeled from the effects of the Depression of 1873—and white working men in particular scrounged for someone to blame. The Chinese, once welcomed for their railroad labor, but sporting a decidedly non-white look, were the perfect victims.

But it wasn’t enough to bar them from the U.S. Critics wanted to dispense with birthright citizenship altogether. And so, San Francisco-born Wong Kim Ark, on his return from a visit to China, found himself unable to re-enter, a “test case” for repealing birthright citizenship.

When you’re right to have this right

Unfortunately for birthright detractors, Wong fought back, challenging the government’s refusal to accept his citizenship.

And long story short, Wong won, with the justice who authored the majority opinion conceding that not providing birthright citizenship would deny citizenship to thousands of European-descended Americans, too.

This wasn’t a victory for everyone—first-generation immigrants of Asian descent were deemed “racially ineligible” to naturalize until 1954, and women who married “racially ineligible” men lost their citizenship, too.

So as friend of The Slant Mark Tseng-Putterman says, citizenship “has always been racially contingent.” And with 45 looking to make immigration a sticking point for his base, that’s something to keep in mind.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who’d love to have been in the room when Wong Kim Ark won

If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of Wong Kim Ark ...

NOW PLAYING: He’s baaaaaack! Our Homecoming King, Hasan Minhaj, often called a “tall drink of water” (by yours truly and probably like everyone else right?) debuted his show Patriot Act this week on Netflix. It’s a cross between The Daily Show and standup—Minhaj finds his sweet spot in giving news and politics a comedic edge, and has the stage all to himself for just that in Patriot Act.

Patriot Act debuted Sunday with two episodes, “Affirmative Action” and “Saudi Arabia,” and a new episode drops every Sunday. In these first two episodes, Minhaj unpacks the history and context of contemporary topics, pointing to factors that influence our current understanding. It’s basically an APUSH DBQ if your APUSH class was surrounded by floor to ceiling “iPads” and your APUSH teacher was a talllll drink o’ water with great hair and a knack for delivering punchlines.

Anyway, my APUSH teacher was really exceptional but no one can do it like Minhaj can. Eagerly awaiting fighting the Sunday Scaries with Patriot Act by my side.

— Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who had fever dreams about this show after watching it while ill

When you stop using your mother tongue

Many of our parents were big on assimilating once immigrating to the United States. (Think about the accent reduction schools.)

And that belief continues today—especially, as NBC reports, in the Filipino American community. In fact, according to the 2015 Census, 78% of Filipino Americans between the ages of 5-17 use only English to communicate.

Combatting assimilation

But with a history of colonization and language erasure not too far behind, Filipino Americans are looking to change that statistic. Filipino cultural schools are popping up all over the nation, where children can learn conversational Tagalog, folk dance, and history.

There’s one in New York and New Jersey (with over 400 people enrolled), in Massachusetts, San Diego, and Cerritos. And they’re connecting Filipino Americans with their culture in tangible ways, allowing them to think critically about what it means to be Filipino in America.

Language and culture as love

In past generations, parents may have decided to forgo parts of their culture to protect their children out of love. But now, Filipino Americans are protecting their culture out of love.

In fact, these schools started with the Sampaguita Women’s Circle, elderly immigrant teachers who dedicated themselves to stoking Filipino traditions and language in America.

With indigenous languages constantly at danger of extinction, and with colonialism’s effects still being felt in 2018, it’s not an option to lose another language and the culture that comes with it.

Natalie Bui, editor, who thinks fondly of her experiences back at Van Lang, the Vietnamese school in San Jose

Take a deep dive into the U.S. Census’s stats on Asian America
"Cherry Red," by Tangerine, from the new White Dove EP

Tangerine’s Marika Justad on navigating the messiness of being in your 20s


Marika Justad, her sister Miro, and Tobias Kuhn have made music since childhood. And as the band Tangerine, they’ve still got youth on their mind.

Though now, it’s from retrospect, and specifically from “the messiness of finding yourself in your 20s.”

“Your 20s is such an interesting time,” Marika Justad tells me over the phone. “You’re still young enough to be dreaming and trying to build your career, trying to figure out who you’re going to be. But the walls are closing in a little bit.”

And with songs like “Cherry Red,” that longing for freedom makes itself clear. Justad waxes nostalgic about cruising around North Seattle in her friend’s red Ford Echo in high school, and listening to Tangerine’s dreamy, pulsing melodies, you’re right there with her in that reverie.

But Justad’s lyricism extends beyond rose-colored lenses. Justad, who is of mixed Korean and Irish ancestry, says her songs are also influenced by the uneasiness she felt as an Asian American of mixed race growing up.

“There was this feeling of everywhere you go, there’s this insecurity that someone could say something to remind you that I don’t belong here. This feeling that you’re never totally in your space,” Justad says. “You’re always in somebody else’s space. And I’m sure that that’s influenced a lot of my lyrics.”

Combined with that yearning for that Ford Echo, that sentiment is irresistible. And Tangerine’s new EP, White Dove, overflows with it. Listen to it on Spotify, and read our interview with Marika Justad below.

We’re showcasing a few interview highlights here. You can read the full transcript, too.

Interview Highlights

On growing up as a mixed-race music fan

When I was a kid, I was a big fan of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Because I loved their music, but also because it was nice to see that [Sarah O, who is of Korean and Polish descent] came from a background that was similar to mine. She was able to be out there. People let her be out there, you know?

I think it’s because the mixed race experience — though it’s the only experience I know — it’s very specific. It’s not the same. I didn’t grow up in a big Asian community that I felt accepted in, and I didn’t grow up in a white community I’d felt accepted in either. I always felt that — and my sister probably feels the same way — that I was walking this line.

And generally speaking — we had a good childhood, but there was this feeling of everywhere you go, there’s this insecurity that someone could say something to remind you that I don’t belong here. This feeling that you’re never totally in your space. You’re always in somebody else’s space. And I’m sure that that’s influenced a lot of my lyrics, for sure.

On talking about being mixed-race without talking about being mixed-race

I kind of inject this uneasiness, is the word I want to say, into these lyrics. I think it’s the product of that feeling I talked about earlier, that you’re sallying the line between two worlds and not belonging to either necessarily.

There’s a line in “Sly Moon,” a song we released last fall. “You were the golden child, the all-American boy in their eye.” And that’s sort of me reflecting on the way I was in a school with pretty much all white kids. And that was me talking about — well, that was about a guy. (laughs) But it is kind of about how some people can be perceived as these golden children, and starting to realize they’re not really perceived in that way.

On being described as a “Californian sound” when the band’s from Seattle

(laughs) Sometimes, we were like, does that mean we sound happy and without substance? ‘cos like, what does that mean? But I think that we didn’t necessarily fit the Seattle sound. And so people weren’t sure what to call it. And I guess that’s what they landed on.

On the backstory of “Cherry Red”

I feel like we’ve been getting people saying “oh my god, it’s so nostalgic,” and we’re like yes, it is, it’s what it’s supposed to be about. (laughs)

It’s like a tribute to different friendships I had growing up, like female friendships specifically. I think Miro can relate to this, too. We just kind of ran a little wild in our girl pasts. Got into trouble, had a little too much fun sometimes. And it’s about capturing that feeling of complete fearlessness. Like at the time, you really do believe that nothing bad could ever happen to you. You’re like, “bad things happen to other people.” And it’s ridiculous but it’s also super intoxicating. And the song is about that. It’s a tribute to those times.

Sisters Marika and Miro Justad and Tobias Kuhn have been making music together since childhood, and as Tangerine since 2013. After touring with Bleachers, Tangerine released White Dove, an 80’s guitar-laced pop EP about yearning, nostalgia, female friendship, and the messiness of finding yourself in your 20s. White Dove is sad enough to dance alone to, bumps hard enough for your next crazy night out. Find it on Spotify and find Tangerine at their website.
Read the transcript on Medium

This weekend ... 📅

  • COOK WITH CLASS. Ever wonder what it would be like to train at Le Cordon Bleu with a Top Chef? Well, look no further—grab a copy of Kristen Kish’s self-titled cookbook where she explores and breaks down classical French techniques with the confident ease that only Kristen can bring. We also caught up with her via phone after fangirling over her cooking demo at the Fulton Market Harvest Festival in Chicago.

  • GET 130 PAGES OF ASIAN AMERICAN AWESOMENESS with the second issue of Slant’d, featuring personal essays, poetry, photography and more from #badasians all over the world. This issue’s theme is Light & Dark, and you can read more about it—and preorder the magazine—right now. Pluuuus (and this is our full disclosure), the folx at Slant’d are our friends, and if you like The Slant, you’ll love Slant’d. Check ‘em out.

  • FEEL REAL GOOD with this story on how regular customers of a husband and wife’s donut shop are buying out donuts before noon, for one simple reason: so that co-owner John Chhan can spend time with his sick wife. Tired of bad news? This is the cure.

  • KEEP FREDDIE MERCURY AFRO-ASIAN and not, uh, white, as folks apparently still think Queen’s late lead singer was. But Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, is too dang big of a figure to let his race be buried. More than ever, it’s important to remember the awesome folx of Asian descent in our cultural history, and this profile on Mercury is well worth the read.

  • HALLOWEEN SOME MORE with these frankly heartwarming photos of people in Lara Jean costumes. In the books, Lara goes as Cho Chang to Halloween, so To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is adding another option for the discerning Asian American costumer. Again: heartwarming.

This week's stories are curated by Natasha Chan and Andrew Hsieh, who are reeeeeady for this weekend. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at

The Slant is brought to you by:

Brian Hsieh, Marina Cheung, Billy Huang, Kevin Lin, Delwin Lau, AJ Grey, Michelle Pal, Mandy Diec, Lloyd Lee, Patrick Trinh, Emily Chi, Naomi Iwata, Kyla Hsia, Gloria Lin, Matt Young, Cat Xia, Crystal Shei, Sooyun Choi, Yi Cao, Meher Kohli, Ryan Ikeda, Jerome Finuliar, Abby Wang, Curtis Leung, Tracey Mantilla, Mika Kennedy, James Boo, Chris Moe, Eve Asher, Diane Lee, Angela Yang, Katherine Chin, Paul Kerr, Talisa Chang and Claire Tran, who are like the freshest, stinkiest-but-in-a-really-nice-refreshing-way durian from (insert your favorite Asian supermarket here).

Join them in supporting The Slant on Patreon.

"She’s here to see us off.

Her voice is the softest ligature, unthreading.

Why are you saying goodbye to everyone except for me who raised you?"

—Aldrin Valdez, "Photograph Curling"

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