Every week, AAMPLIFY brings you the week in Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander news.
Putting the spotlight on AANHPI in Hollywood
Lots of AANHPI news in Hollywood this week: Marvel releases more news about Inhumans, Disney release images of its diverse Star Wars cast, and San Diego Comic Con marches onward.
The cast of Inhumans highlighted the diversity of its cast, including Asian Americans Ken Leung (Lost, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Mike Moh (Street Fighter: The Assassin’s Fist), who play superheroes Karnak and Triton, respectively. While those may not be household names, superhero Karnak had a solo comic book series from 2015 to 2016, meaning Leung may especially be in the spotlight.
Meanwhile, at Disney’s own convention, D23 Expo, Disney released more images of this year’s upcoming Star Wars film, including those of Kelly Marie Tran and Veronica Ngo, who play sisters in The Last Jedi. Tran in particular is highlighted multiple times in new footage released this week-- Phil Yu at Angry Asian Man has grabbed all the screencaps he could find in his blog post.
Finally, in some confusing news, actor-producer Masi Oka (Heroes), who is helming the Western adaptation of Japanese series Death Note, sparked backlash three months ago when he didn’t cast Asian leads in Death Note because “the actors we did go to didn’t speak perfect English.”
This Wednesday, he finally attempted to clarify his statements, saying he meant it in the context of foreign actors. Nevertheless, Oka says, he did try to cast Asian American actors, and that he continues to advocate for them in Hollywood-- though he did say “it might be a cliché, but the best actor won the part.”
Asian Americans fastest-growing minority in law, but lag when it comes to leadership roles
According to a study released Tuesday by Yale Law School and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in law, but are underrepresented when it comes to leadership roles, such as judicial clerkships.
While Asian Americans make up 10 percent of all graduates of the U.S.’s top 30 law schools-- even though Asian Americans make up only 6 percent of the U.S. population-- they only make up 3 percent of the federal judiciary and 2 percent of the state judiciary.
Furthermore, of the 94 chief federal prosecutors, only 3 are Asian American; 4 of the 2437 elected prosecutors are Asian American.
Meanwhile, 58.2 percent of students at top law schools, 82.4 percent of the federal judiciary and 80.2 percent of the state judiciary are White. White Americans make up 76.9 percent of the U.S. population.
The factors are unclear as to why Asian Americans are underrepresented despite representing 6 percent of the population. Says California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, it may be the networking opportunities that Asian Americans are unable to leverage as often as their white peers.
“In this very discretionary subjective selection process that involves having contacts, Asian Americans don’t do as well,” says Liu. “[Other students] know how to seek out the professors who know the judges.”
And unfortunately, racism may be involved in the hiring, says Jean Lee, president and chief executive of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. “You hear a lot of recruiters talk about how we are one of the top two candidates but ultimately we weren’t the right ‘fit’,” says Lee. “One of the primary factors is we’re not seen as leaders.”
Jailed Chinese American graduate student gathers support
37-year-old Xiyue Wang, a Chinese American graduate student at Princeton, was arrested in Iran on August 8, 2016 for allegedly “infiltrating” the country and smuggling 4,500 pages of Iranian documents abroad. Yet it was only this past Sunday that Wang’s arrest was made public by Iran’s judiciary.
In a statement, Princeton said it was “very distressed,” saying Wang was in Iran merely for scholarly research-- specifically, researching the Qajar Dynasty, former rulers of Iran, for Wang’s doctorate in 19th- and 20th-century Eurasian history.
Wang’s former doctoral adviser, Stephen Kotkin, appealed further for his release. “Xiyue Wang is a remarkably, linguistically gifted graduate student,” Kotkin told the Associated Press. “He is innocent of all the charges. We saw nothing out of the ordinary on anything he undertook or did.”
The U.S. State Department, which does not maintain formal relations with Iran, stated that “the Iranian regime continues to detain U.S. citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national security-related charges,” and called on Tehran to immediately release “all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran.”
Along with Wang, Iran has imprisoned several other Americans, including Iranian American businessmen Siamak Namazi and his father, Baheer Namazi, Iranian American art curator Karen Vafadari and his Iranian wife, and Lebanese American activist Nizar Zakka.
What to check out this weekend
Want to kick off the weekend by catching up on AANHPI content? These highlights should have you covered.
- Teen Vogue’s interview with Korean American songwriter Japanese Breakfast - Sam Sanders talks with Indian American producer of Kanye West and Harry Styles - Chinese laborers built Sonoma’s wineries, but racist neighbors drove them out - And if you like what we’re doing, donate to AAMPLIFY!
AANHPI to follow this weekend
Looking for AANHPI to follow online? Every week, we’ll showcase interesting AANHPI in media, the news or even on Twitter. Join the community today.
Grace Hwang Lynch is the former news and politics editor at BlogHer and a blogger at HapaMama. She has been featured in NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and Salon. You can find her at her website and on Twitter @HapaMamaGrace. Yoshi Sudarso is a stuntman and actor who’s performed stunts in Logan, The Maze Runner and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s also the Blue Power Ranger in Power Rangers Dino Charge. You can find him on Instagram. Arthur Chu is an actor, writer and comedian best known for his unusual success in a 11-game Jeopardy winning streak. He currently writes at The Daily Beast and Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @arthur_affect.