On the afternoon of Thursday, July 28, the DiversifyIT movie club held its last session to discuss the PBS documentary series, “Asian Americans,” and how recent history and current events surrounding Asian Americans have emphasized hopeful signs of progress, but there is still a long way to go.
It was the end of the series, but as DiversifyIT co-chair Laura Webb noted, “it’s not the end of the conversation.” Below are some of takeaways from the discussions, and a list of resources compiled by Angela Zoss, who led the movie club, along with Will Sexton. Big shout out to them for hosting!
Be sure to join us at 2 p.m., Aug. 5, for “What’s New? An Introduction to Neurodiversity,” with Kimberly Blackshear, MSW, and Tara Chandrasekhar, MD, co-chairs of Duke Neurodiversity Connections and Sarah Brandsen, a Duke Ph.D. student.
- There is a wide variety of experiences of different groups within the Asian American community, including different waves of immigration, different countries of home origin, and different places where people settled in the U.S.
- The Asian American community has played a huge role in U.S. labor movements, civil rights law, politics, education, business, and popular culture.
- When we don’t know the full history of the experiences of a community, we can accidentally make things worse by interpreting things without context or trying to solve problems without understanding the situation.
- When we don’t teach this history, the few who do learn bear a burden of sharing it.
- Throughout history, marginalized groups have been pitted against each other.
- White supremacy creates a system that not only oppresses people of other races and ethnic origins but also relies on dividing groups and pitting them against each other to keep them oppressed. The system doesn’t have any incentive to be fair or move toward justice.
- Marginalized communities are often insular and protective of their culture, perhaps due to a need to survive, which may come from the need to protect, survive, and pay bills as a marginalized or immigrant population.
- The diverse, “melting pot” nature of America is a source of pride for some, but a source of conflict for others.
- History has shown that America’s unique diversity is not celebrated, but rather condemned, and working to improve America’s issues is often seen as unpatriotic.
- Political power is crucial to creating social change. “Everything is political.”
- For example, the whiteness of country music, a genre that is emblematic to American patriotism, is extremely white and male dominated. Only 3 out of 213 Grand Ole Opry members have been Black.
- American ideals are often “double edged swords.”
- The same values that Americans take pride in (freedom, resourcefulness, hard work) can also be used in harmful ways, used to oppress other people.
- While the U.S. has proven it can mobilize resources quickly and effectively, it often uses this power to create systems of violence rather than to dismantle them.
- Progress has been made in recent years, but 400 years of history cannot be fixed in a short amount of time.
- Making personal connections with people who have different experiences from us is a powerful way to change minds and hearts.
- There is still a lot of work to be done. There’s a long way to go, but listening and sharing with others during conversations is an important place to start.
Resources mentioned across all sessions:
- Hollywood (series on Netflix)
- My Family Story through the Duke Digital Collections Program (blog post)
- Far East, deep South (Documentary, available via Duke Libraries)
- Allegiance (Musical, recording on Amazon Prime via Broadway HD)
- Getting Started – Japanese Americans (Duke Libraries research guide on Japanese American studies, especially Japanese American internment)
- Luo Zhou (Duke’s librarian for Asian American Studies and a wonderful resource for research topics across many areas)
- The Sympathizer (Novel)
- An Other War Memorial — Memories of the American War in Viet Nam (USC library project with oral histories)
- The Problem with Apu (Documentary on Amazon Prime, also on HBO Max)
- A Different Asian American Timeline (Website)
- The myth of the model minority : Asian Americans facing racism (Link to book in Duke library catalog)
- A Love Song for Latasha (Documentary on Netflix)