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I've been standing at the edge of the water

Featuring Amanda Nguyen, creator of the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and CEO of Rise. Photo credit: Kate Warren.

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News from the front

Updated on stories we've reported on previously.

Preserving Hawaii

While it’s very much a part of the US of A, Hawaii faces  a unique set of challenges specific to the state’s geography and native culture.

Climate change and Hawaii

Recent reports predict the impact that rising temperatures has on a global level,  and it’s not pretty. But for Hawaii in particular the impact may felt much sooner than for folks on the mainland.

A federal report shared that in an extreme scenario, sea levels could rise by more than 8 feet by 2100, with a rise of up to 3.2 feet by as early as 2060 (previous predictions put sea level rise at about 4 feet by 2100).

In this scenario, Hawaii would face chronic flooding of major roads and cultural sites, as well as destruction and loss of 25,800 acres of land. Estimates cite displacement of 20,000 residents and an economic loss of more than $19 billion.

As an island state, Hawaii has had its fair share of natural disasters. But these findings indicate much longer lasting damage, including potentially irreversible threats to marine ecosystems.

Language preservation efforts

On top of preserving the islands themselves, native Hawaiians also face the battle of preserving their language.  

Mayor of Kauai Bernard Carvalho Jr. estimates that there are only 300 native Hawaiian speakers left in the world. Faced with this threat, Carvalho signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Malie Foundation, an organization that preserves Hawaiian culture through events, activities, and education. The foundation will be creating school curriculum and workshops and advising on language preservation strategies as part of this agreement.

A parallel effort from the University of Hawaii’s Academy for Creative Media involves distributing a Hawaiian language version of “Moana” to every accredited school in the state.

Auli’i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in both the original and Hawaiian language version, said, “It’s amazing to know that our language will be heard again around the world.”

 

Chery Sutjahjo, editor, whose affinity for islands makes her very concerned for the future of Hawaii

Locals voiced parts in the Hawaiian version of Moana

NOW READING: 24 new books by Asian writers! There’s no better time to stock up on these, because if you buy them now you have enough time to read them first and then gift them to your family and friends for the holidays. Just don’t eat Hot Cheetos while you’re reading and nobody will ever know.

Speaking of books by Asian writers, I just finished reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It was published in 2015 so I’m a little slow on the uptake, but this book was remarkable and devastating all at once, and I highly recommend it (and talk to me about it after you’re done PLZ). It follows the friendship of four young men through the decades after college as they establish themselves in their respective professions, battle with addiction, trauma, and loss, and navigate the changing nature of their once innocent and seemingly simple friendship. It’s probably the best book I’ve read in a long time and I don’t even regret sobbing through it and getting major puffy eyes over Thanksgiving break!

Needless to say I’m on the hunt for another great book by an Asian author and will promptly be digging into this list. Knowing me I will likely zero in on the most heart-wrenching book and sob through Christmas vacation, too.

Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who stans Jude & JB & Willem & Malcolm maybe even more than she stans Lara Jean & Peter Kavinsky

Remember those Kaplan days?

Unfortunately, many of us might. Researcher Julie J. Park's studies show that over half of Korean Americans have taken an SAT prep course, compared to 35.6% of white students, 32.4% of Hispanic students, and 40.4% of Black students.

And this past October, results from the ACT showed that while the average score dipped for every other racial group, Asian Americans' scores didn't—showing that even as Asian Americans emerge from the model minority myth, test prep might still be a rite of passage.

There’s no separating race

According to Park, East Asian countries often require high-stakes admissions tests that dictate students' futures. Thus, East Asian immigrant parents condition their children into doing test prep.

And test prep groups target students, too. They specifically advertise in ethnic media, create signs visible in Asian-heavy neighborhoods, and make test prep's presence hard to miss.

Plus, test prep's designed for the academically (and economically) prepared. In this case, Asian Americans are more likely to benefit, because they're less likely to attend racially segregated, under-resourced schools, unlike their Black and Hispanic counterparts.

Rising above test scores

These test prep scores display how certain groups—primarily East Asian Americans—are not only conditioned into accessing test prep courses, but have the privilege to access them in the first place. 

That’s why we must factor the racial and economic disparity involved in SAT and ACT scores, rather than complain about how folks with lower scores are being let into Ivy Leagues.

Natalie Bui, editor, who definitely took a Princeton test prep course and still did SO badly on the SATs

Average ACT composite score drops back down

Amanda Nguyen on rising above assault and starting a movement

Amanda Nguyen is the leading force behind what is now the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, which passed in 2016. The law changes the way survivors’ rape kits are preserved, and enumerates other basic rights within the criminal justice system.

Nguyen is also the CEO of Rise, an organization working to standardize and improve sexual assault survivors’ rights across the U.S. and the world. On top of being a global reckoning force, she is a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was a former NASA intern, and is currently working towards becoming president an astronaut.

We caught up with Nguyen over e-mail. Read the full transcript of this interview on Medium.

How can the #MeToo movement be more inclusive for people of color and their stories?

The #MeToo movement helped shine a light on the prevalence of sexual violence in the entertainment industry, but it was largely wealthy Caucasian women with resources to find support. But the world is in a moment of reckoning, making this movement accessible to all survivors — not just women, not just wealthy, not just white.

I’m most optimistic about the opportunity to pursue intersectional protections for survivors. What’s been really exciting to see is how Rise’s bill, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, has become a concrete, tangible action item that people who care about this issue can take in response to the #MeToo moment. It is a proactive step to protect the rights of all sexual violence survivors.

What are things we don’t talk enough about within sexual violence amongst Asian American communities?

Women’s lives are often not valued with full human dignity. As an Asian-American woman, I know all too well how race and sexual violence intersect. Asian American women are subject to hyper-sexualization which contributes to sexual violence. Yellow fever, the objectification of Asian female bodies, and the stereotype that Asian women are submissive are examples of this. The exotification of our bodies dehumanizes us and that dehumanization creates a greater chance for sexual violence.

How has your Asian American experience impacted the way you do your work?

I am often the only person of color — and woman of color — in the room. Representation matters and Asian Americans need more representation in public office, the entertainment industry, and in the community so our voices are heard. Unfortunately, the model minority myth only serves to suppress engagement and it affects people well beyond Asian American communities.

What is your advice for someone who is scared to open up about their sexual assault experience?

The first thing I tell survivors is “you are not alone.” That’s such an important message to carry. I never fully understood loneliness until I left my local area rape crisis center following my own assault. I felt so isolated until I looked around and discovered how many other people were sitting in that waiting room. That turned my isolation into fire. It turned my single story into a collective narrative of progress and change and justice. To survivors afraid of opening up: I know what it’s like to be scared, but your story is another coal in a collective fire that we each carry.

How does one reconcile conflicting feelings towards their assailant and is forgiveness even an option?

Each survivor story is different and there is no one way to react or respond to assailants. Because statistically, the majority of female survivors were sexually assaulted by someone they know, it is possible and understandable to have conflicting feelings. It is important, however, to prioritize your own safety, self worth and self care. After that, forgiveness is a personal journey.

For sexual assault victims, is there ever closure? If so, what are some of the ways closure can look like?

Much like forgiveness, closure looks differently for every survivor. I often say, the only justice I may ever receive is in passing the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. That has become a form of closure for me. For others it might be sharing your story for the first time, or volunteering. For some survivors, closure remains out of reach. It’s most important to break the stereotype that all survivors and all individuals react to trauma the same. That perpetuates harmful narratives such as a “perfect witness” or a “credible victim.” Traumatic experiences affect people drastically differently and it’s critical each reaction is considered valid.

At this time when it’s important to focus on women’s stories and elevating their voices, where do you think the movement will go next?

It’s been incredible to see so many survivors who have hidden behind shame and guilt of their own stories finally feel safe enough to step forward and reallocate that blame. The stigma-breaking phenomenon of this #MeToo moment has empowered many survivors to channel their trauma into action. Yet, there is still a lot of work to do in order to create a society that not only makes way for survivors to come forward, but also to be believed.

If we want to be a society that treats rape seriously and gives survivors the right to talk about their experiences at various points in their life, believing survivors is necessary. Believing allegations and investigating them thoroughly is necessary, but it is also not enough. And I am more ignited and committed as an advocate to continue creating a safe and supportive environment for survivors to come forward.

Our Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights does just that without infringing on the rights of the accused. We’ve passed our bill in 15 states and will keep pushing forward until every state recognizes equality under the law for all survivors.

What are the ongoing policy challenges in pursuing your work? What’s surprised you when it comes to the bureaucracy?

The biggest obstacle we face is simply ignorance and validation. People don’t often understand the full extent of a survivors’ experience in navigating the criminal justice system or how many odds are stacked against us. Awareness is such an important first step when speaking with legislators and they are often unaware of the gaps in legal protections and equality.

How do we make a day in 2018, 2019, 2020 easier to live through?

Fight for survivors’ rights. Organize in your community. Join Rise!

Learn more about Rise, and follow Nguyen on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with her work.
Read our full interview

This weekend ... 📅

  • ENJOY YOUR LEFTOVERS. Whether you had the traditional turkey, stuffing and sides or enjoyed your turkey with a side of noodles, or kimchi, or samosas. After all, Thanksgiving originated with people of different backgrounds coming together (just leave the side of colonization off the table).

  • CELEBRATE RESILIENCE. Often, “people of different backgrounds coming together” doesn’t happen so easily. After the Vietnam War, a surge of Vietnamese refugees to the Gulf Coast faced racism and a surge in the local KKK - but decades later, they’ve persisted and built a deeply-rooted community.

  • MOBILIZE FROM YOUR COUCH. WeChat is emerging as a powerful tool to get Chinese Americans politically engaged. Democrat Lily Qi recently entered the national spotlight because of how effectively she wielded it to reach people who usually don’t vote ... and WeChat also took center stage in efforts to take down affirmative action. (Yikes.)

  • BE INSPIRED by Jin Kyu Park, Harvard senior and the first DACA recipient to win the prestigious Rhodes scholarship. It’s the first year that the program has accepted DACA recipients, and Park said of the award, “Gratitude has given way to kind of a desire to use this opportunity to make sure I lift up others in the community. There's no way something like this belongs to just one person."

  • LOOK TWICE AT TRUCKERS. They may look different than you expect. With unemployment at a historic low, the trucking industry has been hit with high turnover. And stepping up to take the jobs that most Americans no longer want? Indian-American Sikhs—about 30,000 of them.

This week's stories are curated by Jessica Yi, editor, who had a Boiling Crab-inspired shrimp boil for Thanksgiving. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at news@slant.email.

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, Alexander Quion, Diane Lee, Angela Yang, Katherine Chin, Paul Kerr, Talisa Chang and Claire Tran, who are like a beautiful vacation in Japan while your editors help you write the entire issue of Slant HI EDITORS I LOVE YOU —AH.

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As a little girl, I was quite self-conscious about my Asian features. A few kids made fun of the shape of my eyes. All the Barbies had blond hair and blue eyes, and I remember wishing I didn’t look the way I did – I was the only girl of colour in the area. But now I’ve got older, I’ve realised what makes you different is your strength.

— Gemma Chan, from her interview with The Guardian

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