How are Asian Americans reacting to the news from Ferguson?

One of the few times I heard a reference to Ferguson was in this panel: from left, Hansi Lo Wang (NPR),  Shefali S. Kulkarni (PRI), Ernabel Demillo (CUNY-TV), Emil Guillermo (AALDEF) and moderator Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man).

One of the few times I heard a reference to Ferguson was in this panel: from left, Hansi Lo Wang (NPR), Shefali S. Kulkarni (PRI), Ernabel Demillo (CUNY-TV), Emil Guillermo (AALDEF) and moderator Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man).

I just got back from a week in Washington, D.C. attending the Asian American Journalists Association’s annual convention. I sat in on a lot of interesting (and some not-so-interesting) sessions about social media and journalism, issues in the Asian Amwrican Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, and lots of other current topics in the news.

But one topic was barely mentioned as part of the panel discussions: The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed African American man who was shot by a local police officer in the small town of Ferguson Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

He was killed on August 9, and for the next week – during the AAJA convention – the tension in Ferguson between protesters and law enforcement has been front and center in the news.
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Asian values kept doctor who found herself in an emergency room from speaking up about the quality of her care

Dr. Charlotte Yeh in her AARP office, proudly holding her colorfully decorated cane.

Dr. Charlotte Yeh in her AARP office, proudly holding her colorfully decorated cane.

Note: As the Asian American Journalists Association AARP Fellow, I’ve been writing articles for the AARP.org website about AAPI themes but mostly work within the AARP AAPI Community’s social media platforms on Facebook and Twitter. I’m starting to write profiles of AARP’s AAPI volunteers and staff and post them to the AARP AAPI Community Facebook Page. This is the first profile I’ve posted, and because it’s such a compelling story that I’ve decided to repurpose it here. If you find the story is valuable, please LIKE the Facebook page!

When Dr. Charlotte Yeh wrote a powerful article earlier this year in the Washington Post about shortcomings in emergency care, she subtly hinted at the conflicting cultural values that affected her that night two and a half years ago when she was hit by a car as she crossed a street.

She was taken to a nearby hospital’s emergency department, but wasn’t given the level of customer care she would have liked. And she’s an expert on the subject: Trained in surgery, Dr. Yeh was an emergency department physician and experienced healthcare administrator.

But she didn’t complain or raise questions with the doctors and nurses giving her care that night. Instead, she wrote in her Post column recalling that night that she wanted to be the “good patient.”

“The good patient in me wanted to please the doctor and saunter out of the room, but the real person in me was scared,” she wrote, even though in fact she wasn’t sure she could even stand and walk at all.

That phrase, “good patient,” comes up three times in her article, and is an echo of a deeply-felt Asian value that affects many immigrants in the United States, as well as generations of Asian Americans.
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Growing up with stinky, slimy, altogether wonderful Japanese food

Homemade kimchee, homemade takuan and natto.

Homemade kimchee, homemade takuan and natto.

I’m a foodie. Everyone knows this. I write about food, I take photos of food everywhere I dine, I love to cook, and I love food from everywhere. One of my personal rules has always been, if someone somewhere in the world eats something, I’m willing to try it… at least once.

So I’ve had chocolate covered ants. Fried grubs. The meat of some strange animals that you wouldn’t think humans ought to eat, like rattlesnake brats.

In a way, I was prepared for this gastronomic open-mindedness (open-stomachnes?) by growing up Japanese. I was raised in Japan until I was 8, but even lifelong Japanese Americans know what I mean when I say that Japanese cuisine — although hailed today as the epitome of high culture and is accepted as mainstream with commonplace dishes like sushi, ramen, tempura, sukiyaki and teriyaki – can feature some nasty stuff.

Foul-smelling, slimy and icky-textured. Food that’s best swallowed quickly, without chewing or thinking about. No savoring the flavor, just pop it in and send it down the chute.

A lot of people probably would disagree with me, but I feel that way about oysters. I think they’re gross. Keeping my personal rule in mind, I’ll eat them if I’m at a nice restaurant in a town like Boston, where oysters are de rigeur. But I won’t seek them out and suggest an oyster bar for a night out.

It’s ironic, then, that people who would slurp down an oyster at a moment’s notice would probably themselves grossed out at some things I love: Raw eggs mixed with soy sauce and drizzled on hot rice; natto (fermented soy beans) mixed with soy sauce and mixed with hot rice; crunchy takuan; oden, an odiferous winter stew.
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