Lecture discusses Asian identity

By Brandon Hatter

On Tuesday, Cal Poly Pomona hosted its first Weglyn Lecture of the year in the Bronco Student Center.

The event featured two speakers: Phil Yu, creator and editor of the popular blog Angry Asian Man, and Dan Matthews, a hip-hop artist born in South Korea who was adopted by American parents. The lecture was open to the public, and examined the role of social media in social justice and identity politics in regard to Asian Americans.

The Michi & Walter Weglyn Endowed Chair of Multicultural Studies was established in 1999 to promote the interdisciplinary study of ethnic and racial minority groups in the United States. The Endowed Chair began at CPP in 2003, and since then the campus has held various lectures aiming to educate and give new perspective on these issues.

“Michi and Walter Weglyn are friends to the university, and they created this endowment,” said Mary Yu Danico, sociology professor, interim director of the Endowment Chair and the event’s organizer. “So what we’ve been doing are various speaker series that are devoted to social justice, and the focus right now is on Asian American transnationalism.”

The lecture began with an introduction by the event moderator and sociology Professor Anthony Ocampo, who informed the audience that there would be two presentations followed by a panel-style question-and-answer session.

The first to present was Yu, who created the Angry Asian Man blog as a college student in 2001. His blog addresses various Asian American issues he finds in the news, pop culture or politics, and are all written from his perspective.

Yu displayed some of the blog’s more recent or most popular posts, which included the remaking of Asian-influenced films for an American audience, YouTube videos comically depicting Asian American experiences and occurrences of racial controversy.

On the topic of racism towards Asians, Yu brought up a few examples of how social media was used to increase the exposure of these incidents, and how they played a role in calling people to action in protest. These examples included the discontinuation of racially offensive t-shirts by retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, and Rosie O’Donnell’s use of ‘ching chong ching’ during a live television broadcast of “The View.” Both resulted in apologies from the offending parties.

Yu also talked about the podcast version of his blog called “Sound and Fury: The Angry Asian Podcast,” which features discussions on blog posts as well as guest appearances by various Asian-American celebrities.

Matthews, a rapper by the name of DANakaDAN, shared his experiences growing up in America after being adopted from South Korea by Caucasian parents, and what effects that had on his sense of identity.

Matthews also talked about the making of his recent documentary. He was able to contact and meet his birth family in South Korea, including a twin brother he did not know about while growing up.

Coinciding with the documentary, Matthews released a hip-hop album called “Stuntman,” which provided an outlet for him express his experience growing up as an adoptee, the process of meeting his birth-family and his perspective as an Asian American.

The lecture concluded with the question-and-answer portion, which included questions asked by the audience members as well as questions posted anonymously on Twitter. Yu answered questions about the role of mainstream media influencing the misconception of Asian culture.

“The media is how a lot of people form their opinions of the world, for better or worse,” said Yu. “For lack of actual real world experience, the gaps are filled in by media. And so when you have [media] that has a very small representation of Asians, so much of my childhood was just invisibility, I never got to see anybody that looked like myself.

“For some reason, that spills over into your real-world interactions with people, and so rather than seeing them as a person with a job, or dreams, or a family and life, you see them as just this walking stereotype.”

Third-year sociology student Juana Martinez and fourth-year sociology and criminology student Lenale Gortz attended the lecture as part of Professor Danico’s Self and Society class, and shared their thoughts on the importance of having events like these on campus.

“It’s important because we are university students,” said Martinez. “We’re at the point in our lives where we’re about to go out there and do something with our lives. We need more, as our professor says, social capital, this give us so much social capital because these people are telling us about their experiences, and this gives us more perspective of what’s out there.”

“I think a lot of us are unintentionally ignorant,” said Gortz. “Events like this help remove that veil from over our eyes.”

Weglyn Lectures

Chris Maciosek / The Poly Post

Weglyn Lectures

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