API Collegiate Press

Welcome to the Asian Pacific-Islander (API) Collegiate Press Tumblr page--the place where you can check out articles from API presses from various campuses!

Contributing Presses:
Bamboo Offshoot (USC) | Official page
Generasian (NYU) | Official page
hardboiled (UC Berkeley) | Official page
Pacific Ties (UCLA) | Official page
Yellow Pages (Duke University)
Posts tagged "hardboiled"

by sam lai

How younger generations see Asian American identity through older generations

While I have been fortunate to have visited Taiwan several times with my family, I took those vacations for granted as a child. My older sister, brother, and I lived comfortably with our Taiwanese parents in Los Angeles, but at times Ma and Ba needed a change of scenery. They wanted to go back to Taiwan not because they felt sick of Southern California suburban life in the same way their children did, but more that they have always felt at home in Taiwan. Once a year, during either summer or winter breaks, we would fly to Taipei to stay with wàipó and wàigōng, my maternal grandparents. My siblings and I welcomed these trips with a different kind of anticipation than my parents did.

Born and raised in America, we never thought of Taiwan as a place we belonged to, and perhaps we saw it more as tourists than as locals no matter how familiar we grew with the surroundings. Young and materialistic, I would buy as many trinkets as I could stuff into my suitcase. I came to see Taiwan as a shopping spree, having more skill in spending money than in speaking with my grandparents.

I have not been to Taiwan in over two years, and I say this not to complain but to highlight a moment in my life which I am still trying to understand. The last time I went to Taiwan was October 2009. My wàigōng had passed away. Since my sister and brother had to study for midterms at the time, only I could be there for the funeral, and for a day at most because I had school. Unable to join in the hymns because I could not read the Chinese lyrics, I sat feeling only numbness. I knew I should have felt loss, a grief I saw when my mother and grandma held each other as the funeral staff pushed the casket into the cremation chamber. Regret more than any kind of anguish haunts me when I think of my grandfather.

Not until I came to Berkeley did I start coming to terms with my grandfather’s death and what my family means to me. Away from home, I could step back and reflect on how my parents identify as Taiwanese compared to the way I see myself as Asian American. From my classes, I heard about the generation gap, a broad term that generally describes the conflict in ideologies between older generations and younger ones. The most common perception of the generation gap involves immigrant parents and their U.S.-born children, but taking into account the fluidity of Asian American identity, nationality alone does not influence interpersonal relationships within families. Rather, the beliefs and ideologies that individuals absorb from living in the United States and other countries gives a transnational perspective on the generation gap.

For 1.5 generations like freshman Bonita Choi, the emphasis on being educated came not just from parental pressure, but also an overarching pressure for recent immigrants to assimilate. Born in Korea and raised in Vancouver, Bonita remembers her mother talking to other Korean moms, overhearing how their children felt afraid to go to school because they did not understand English.

My parents went to university in Korea, and when we first immigrated, we lived in a bad part of Vancouver,” Bonita commented.

Knowing the struggles of her parents and other Korean immigrants to adapt and integrate, Bonita said, “I agree with them about the value of education, [so] I always felt like I had to go to school.”

A major point of struggle between the older generations and their descendants sparks from the desire to conform to Anglo-American rules but also to preserve ethnic background. For younger API generations, knowing one’s history can be limited by a number of factors: geographic barriers, a lack of fluency in a particular language, and the very validity of memory. All of those aspects became clear to me when I took a beginning Mandarin class in community college a year after wàigōng’s funeral.

Speaking conversational Mandarin came to me gradually, but on paper, the traditional characters turned me into a bungling monolingual. For hours on end, I would practice by writing the characters over and over again until they covered an entire page. From this routine, I gained a literacy at the same level as my young cousins’ in Taipei, with whom I exchanged two letters before lapsing back into English-only once I started going to Berkeley. The brief correspondence between my cousins and I unlocked a door that had been closed for a long time, providing an emotional contact made possible only through a common language.

From my own experiences, the generation gap relates more to the absences and silences that result from a lack of communication and understanding. Younger generations may struggle to comprehend the demands of older generations, but each side should take the time to tell their stories because the further they move away from a specific point in time of their lives, the less accurate the account.

A few months ago over winter break, I dug out some old videotapes taken by my father, dating back to my parents’ early marriage in the 80s. I felt bored at home, and finding footage that preceded even my older sister’s existence piqued my curiosity: what kind of life did my parents have when they first came to the United States, as newlyweds and recent immigrants? A thrill of joy seized upon me when I caught a glimpse of wàigōng in one of the videos, and I called over my parents to watch with me. My father left the room not long after, but my mother stayed, transfixed by the moving image of her father on the TV. Simply from her eyes, I knew she missed him, and always will. That moment brought home the fragile opportunity that the generation gap presents: in the face of loss, older and younger generations can unite in finding the missing pieces.


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The author at 3 months with her maternal grandfather (Photo courtesy of Sam Lai)


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In Taiwan, fidgeting in front of the camera with waigong (Photo courtesy of Sam Lai)

by christine tran

Hazing Asian American men in the U.S. military

Looking back at last year’s events, it’s apparent that for Asian American soldiers, to “Be All You Can Be” is as hopeless an achievement as the “American Dream.” No matter how much blood, sweat and tears colored people may shed for the sake and pride of the red, white and blue, reality often undermines their so-called freedom to prosper and succeed.

Although Danny Chen died on October 3, 2011, I didn’t spot any news articles circulating his case on Facebook until December. It was one of those posts my friends shared with half-hearted remarks, such as “Poor guy,” “That’s horrible!” and “How could anyone do this?” It’s easy to distance ourselves from a person’s harsh situation and think, “I’m blessed to be living a life like mine and not his.” But this hate crime is based on something much larger than the individual. The military hazing of men like Chen is founded upon racial inequalities and prejudices that communities of color struggle against every day.

What’s frightening about this reality is that we American citizens put our faith in the hands of the men who “serve our nation,” the so-called “Army Strong.” Yet judging by how vague and unresponsive the U.S. military is in uprooting these blatant hate crimes, how can APA communities not wonder how many others are undergoing the exact same brutal practices?

These military hazings were first brought up in two high-profile 2011 cases: Harry Lew and Danny Chen. Although both were in different branches of the military, they faced similar circumstances of aggressive treatment by their peers.

New York Magazine revealed that “eight men charged in connection with [Chen’s] death are all white and range in age from 24 to 35,” and that these men were guilty of racial slurs, neglect of duty, and abuse of authority, even going so far as to put Chen in a hard hat and force him to give commands in Chinese.

It also mentioned that because Lew fell asleep on guard duty, “his fellow lance corporals ordered him to do push-ups, then stomped on his back and legs if he didn’t do them right; poured sand in his mouth; punched him in the back of his helmet; and forced him to dig a chest-deep foxhole.

When questioned whether Lew faced any racial discrimination within the military, however, “several Marines said Lew was the target of some jokes and teasing, like many other Marines of all ethnic backgrounds, but they weren’t aware he was discriminated against because of his race,” according to Associated Press.

Whether or not Lew’s sufferings explicitly stemmed from racism as in Chen’s case, ignorance alone can’t propel “jokes and teasing” to the harsh aggression that led Lew to kill himself. To present Lew’s suffering as an accident is an insult to the glaring issue at hand—that those in the military subconsciously accept hazing and bullying without understanding that these are manifestations of social inequalities.

While these military reports suggest a strong correlation between the hazings and the suicides, the court rulings determining the perpetrators’ fates don’t reflect the gravity of these violent events. In fact, the Army recommended dropping the charges of involuntary manslaughter against Specialist Ryan Offutt, one of the suspects involved with Chen’s death.

An MSNBC update this February on the latest court-martial decision stated that “Orozco was acquitted of charges involving the assault, cruel treatment and humiliation of Lew.”

Defense attorney Captain Aaron Meyer maintains these actions as well-meant, justifying that “Orozco was authorized to have a Marine in the squad do physical training like push-ups if the purpose was to maintain good order and discipline, there was no malice involved, and the training didn’t physically exhaust the Marine.” Of course, every soldier needs to have a battered body and a mouth full of sand to know good discipline.

Although military superiors like Meyer acknowledge the presence of these actions, they make light of the situation when these victims’ families are in grief, their demands for compensation unheard. The fact that racism against ethnic minorities is never explicitly stated as the main cause of these hazings is but a testament to the lack of social justice within the military system. How ironic that our nation fights for freedom and justice when we can’t enforce that within our own ranks of power.

Since Sept. 11th, America’s race awareness has spiked with a hypersensitivity to the threat abroad in the Middle East. It’s unlikely, perhaps even unpatriotic, to address any threat within our own country in a time that calls for nationalistic pride and support for our armed forces. During a recession when everyone needs money to keep afloat, mainstream news stations can’t highlight any discriminatory issues within our military without fear of being labeled as traitors to the “greater good of society.”

What’s even more shocking is the lack of awareness and reception by the APA community, let alone by the general public. How much does the community reallycare about military hazings in the realm of public issues?

In the struggle to integrate themselves into American society, Asian Americans have grown up emphasizing certain social values over others. In fact, New York Magazine quotes that Chen’s mother was against him going to the military, “preferring him to be something else, something safer. Maybe a pharmacist.

Perhaps that in itself is adopting a cultural hegemonic value that it’s uncommon and somewhat remarkable to see Asian Americans in the U.S. military. There’s also the fact that the U.S. military-industrial complex has influenced the countries from whence APAs came from. Considering what happened with U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, it’s not surprising why Vietnamese American immigrant communities don’t exactly idolize the military.

When it comes to issues of racism and discrimination in the military, different Asian American communities can’t seem to relate on the same level due to their unique cultural and immigrant backgrounds. Considering how insulated Asian Americans are in their respective communities, different ethnic groups may be more focused on their own local issues and concerns. The overall apathy towards military hazings could additionally be attributed to a general lack of political awareness and participation.

Contrary to however the U.S. military and media may try to put it, the actions escalating to Chen’s and Lew’s suicides were not unforeseen and could have been addressed. APAs deserve every right and opportunity to do well in the military as much as they do in education, business and politics. Even though it’s important to retain individual ethnic backgrounds and histories, it’s about time that APAs gain a “panethnic” sense of unity and solidarity and overcome being pushed aside in America’s peripheral vision. In doing so, we can promote social and economic justices that benefit all groups of color. We can develop a strong political awareness that can see through the racial camouflage that the U.S. military has slipped into, and protect our soldiers from discriminations that go by unnoticed.

by stephanie wong

How Proposition 209 stifles diversity in education

Some students may attend a four-year university for the promise of a better career. Some may have parents or teachers remind them of college-bound futures before they can even understand basic algebra. Some may have never questioned why they want to attend a higher education institution, except for the notion that it is what everyone else does. But none of the students at any public education institution in California has been placed in that institution with consideration of their race, sex, or ethnicity, since the passage of Proposition 209 in late 1996. Therefore, only a few students who want to go to college in hopes of a better career or out of a passion to learn must combat multiple obstacles in making their pursuit of higher education a reality.

On Feb. 13th, a multicultural student coalition attended a hearing at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rally for a repeal of Prop 209. The civil rights activist group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) challenged Prop 209 under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. When California voters approved Prop 209, also known and strategically pushed as the California Civil Rights Initiative, state government institutions, such as the UC system, could no longer consider “race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin” in public education, public employment, or public contracting. Basically, it was an anti-affirmative action act that used the rhetoric of anti-discrimination to offset its discriminatory-by-colorblindness policies; yes, I just coined that term.

Colorblind policies essentially neglect any characteristics, histories, and experiences associated with certain racial and ethnic groups. I am not referring to stereotypical characteristics that are oftentimes used to undermine or poke fun at a certain group or groups of people. I am referring to social, economic, and political obstacles pertinent to certain minorities. 

By ignoring a person’s history and experiences, we neglect any of the struggles that may have put a person on a different route and experience. We thereby discriminate their strengths or capabilities, especially with approaching challenges. Experiences and histories of struggle should not prove a point about a group’s weaknesses. Instead, they can shine light on a student’s power in strength, capabilities, and resilience. Although not all API students have gone through these moments or periods of struggle, family or community struggles from earlier generations can transcend throughout future ones. We need these sorts of perspectives in the classroom. Until there is greater diversity on my television shows and movies, in my classrooms, in my government that reflects the diversity of this state and country, I don’t believe that race and ethnicity are not factors that keep certain groups persistently at the bottom. Merit and performance are not biological. 

Another way in which members of the API community are stripped of their histories and experiences within and out of America is through the umbrella-term: Asian. Beneath this umbrella, there are a variety of subgroups that have different histories and experiences within the United States. These differences in stories should be even more a testament of what we need to hear in order to diversify our conversations in the classroom, to challenge the ways we understand foreign or domestic policies, economics, theories, and solutions.

Most news coverage on the recent student rally focused on Prop 209’s effects on students from black, Latino, and Native American communities. However, according to the Fall 2010 University of California Statistical Summary of Students and Staff, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, and “Other Asian” groups have all decreased in UC Berkeley’s undergraduate enrollment from 2009. Whereas, the UC Berkeley’s international student enrollment from 2009 to 2010 has increased 32 percent for total undergraduate enrollment.

According to CalServe senator Sydney Fang, there was not a very high turnout from the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community, but she also pointed out that one difficulty in organizing rallies is that some of the students most affected cannot make it out to the events due to other commitments or obligations.

Fang wishes to see greater solidarity within the API community. She said, “As students of color, we face a lot of the same struggles and have common histories, so being in solidarity means that when one community or [a member of the API community] excels or rises above, then we all do well.” 

Furthermore, in response to the criticism that affirmative action steals the placement of well-qualified students like Abigail Fisher, whose case will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court and who believes that because of affirmative action she was not accepted into the University of Texas at Austin, CalServe senator Fang said, “It’s not about competing against each other, but it’s about how do we open the doors for more people.” 

Whether or not the Court comes to its senses to repeal Prop 209, our commitment to our siblings’, cousins’, children’s, our nation’s future in holding their own dreams, should include affirmative action, diversity, and quality education in K-12 levels. Here at Cal, there are APA support groups for current youth in local areas, like Oakland Asian Students Educational Services (OASES) and Recruitment and Retention Centers (RRCs) under the bridges coalition. Perhaps these can be our next steps in supporting diversity in higher education. 

Why not reconsider why you are attending a four-year university? Instead of considering your grade-point average, SAT score, or extracurriculars and rather than focusing on the high-paying career you might want after college, consider why you want to be here. Is it the prestige of attending the “No. 1 Public University?” Is it a place to connect with others who come from similar backgrounds and think like you?

What is the purpose of higher education?

No matter what our reasons are for attending higher education, higher education institutions, like Cal, should bring together a mixture of students from different backgrounds, with different interests and perspectives so that we can unite in becoming problem-solvers and innovators in whatever fields we choose, for the sake of our future—or at least that’s a big part of hope.

by Chi Tran

Battling the inequalities for people of color in mainstream media

Why is it that Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) are rarely featured in movies? Not having the spotlight in the entertainment world is one thing. But it is absolutely frustrating when missing person or homicide cases that involve APAs, or other people of color, are also not given adequate attention in mainstream news media. If there is a person of color who is missing or was murdered, the entire nation sees barely five seconds of the case before being shown a piece of news that’s obviously more notable, like the “McRib is back!” or something of the sort.

In contrast, when an attractive, white female disappears, she is on the news nonstop. We are talking extensive coverage with the same scenes of the case shown repeatedly, and then a commercial break followed by the same scenes again with more of the same coverage. This is not to say she is unworthy of being on mainstream news media, but why can’t the missing African American, or Latino, or APA woman get the same response from the media? Of course, there are many reasons why certain victims are featured more, including age and class, but the prominence of the missing white woman syndrome really denotes race as being a main factor.

Family and friends of victims of color have tried to combat this syndrome, such as in the 2005 case of LaToyia Figueroa. Unfortunately, she barely made it through the glass ceiling of national news before her story was shoved aside. A more recent case, involving the nursing student Michelle Le from Hayward, however, shows the APA community getting one step closer to treating the white woman syndrome.

Le was reported missing in late May 2011. Immediately, the community saw the efforts of her family and friends to raise awareness about Le. Through various methods, Le was kept alive and constant in people’s minds. A website* was created shortly after she went missing, which included updates on the case and blogs from Le’s family and the public. It was a way to engage the community in the process of searching for Le and a means through which they could show their support. Even more significant, this website was a way for news reporters to contact Le’s family to cover the story.

The one and only Facebook was also highly utilized to mobilize the community in the search for Le. Surely, many in the Bay Area received invites to the searches, fundraising events, and vigils. Not surprisingly, many responded with open hearts and supported the family. Facebook was obviously a great way to reach out to the community, particularly to the younger people, who are very active in social media. Their high activity really helps spread the word at an efficient pace. Like other recent events happening around the world, the movement to bring Le home was being mediated through Facebook.

Not only did Le’s family and friends strive to retain the media’s attention, they also came up with creative techniques to keep the community motivated and united in the search for Le. One was designing different t-shirts with a picture of Le and her information to help keep the community’s focus on the situation. It seemed to be an excellent method that was completely doable for the public.

All of these efforts to raise awareness about Le required knowledge that is more commonly found in the second generation, especially in the APA community. Many members of the APA community are first generation immigrants who came to the United States for different reasons but have probably all struggled in one way or another to survive and break through cultural barriers. The world is very fast-paced when it comes to social media and technology, and at times, it is hard for the older generation of immigrants to keep up. In Le’s case, it seemed that much of the work done, from dealing with the press to using social media, was by the younger members of the family and community.

If this case had happened a couple of decades ago, given all the resources we have today, first generation APA immigrants would probably have a difficult time. Le’s family is of Vietnamese origin, and 30 years ago, many Vietnamese immigrants were just starting to build their lives here. There were cultural and language barriers that might have hindered their efforts in raising awareness about a situation like Le’s. Fast forward to 2011, as the children of those immigrants are being educated in the U.S. and have adapted to this culture, those barriers seem to be deteriorating. Although not all of the first generation may have completely adapted, the second generation is here for them to lean on when needed.

Anthony Vo, an acquaintance of Michael Le, Le’s brother, recognizes the role of the second generation, “Michael Le and his cousin Krystine Dinh were very vocal with the media and kept everyone well informed over the Internet. I think being raised and educated here opened up a lot of resources for them to be successful.”

Through watching the videos of the gatherings that were organized in honor of Le, it is clear that the second generation was the core of the process. After many years of being guided by and learning from their parents, they took the reins and used the knowledge they gained through education in the U.S. to appeal to the community and effectively mobilize people. This signifies the great distance that the APA community has traveled since first generation immigrants first arrived. Le’s family and friends may have only had one goal to find Le and bring her home, but their endeavor benefited the larger APA community in fighting against the disparities of mainstream media, while overcoming struggles of the past.

On September 19, 2011, the Hayward Police Department confirmed that Michelle Le was found. Due to the incredible organization of the community by Le’s families and friends, their goal was reached. Though the outcome was not exactly as everyone had hoped, the efforts of Le’s family and supporters were definitely not futile. We offer our condolences and wish her family the best as they continue to fight for her justice. Rest in peace, Michelle Le.


Krystine Dinh, Michelle Les cousin, and Michael Le leading a march.
Krystine Dinh, Michelle Le’s cousin, and Michael Le leading a march.


Michael Le, Michelle Les brother, rallying up the community.
Michael Le, Michelle Le’s brother, rallying up the community.


Supporters donning Missing Michelle Le t-shirts.
Supporters donning “Missing Michelle Le” t-shirts.


Supporters marching.
Supporters marching.


*All photos are courtesy of michellelemissing.com

*For more information, visit http://michellelemissing.com./.

by Alex Lee

While I’m sure no one believes that every Asian American student majors in molecular and cellular biology, there are still lingering stereotypes about what motivates these students. One can’t help but visualize the tiger mother, who just definitively exists, pressuring her children to become doctors or scientists at every waking moment. That’s a problem. As obvious as it seems, as intuitive as it should be, these students have more individual and sincere stories as to how they chose their academic careers. Just ask them.

First there is Alex Tang, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering. He originally came to Cal thinking he would major in physics. However, both his parents, who both happen to have physics degrees, suggested Tang go into engineering, as they saw engineering as more practical. He followed their advice and is now extremely happy with his decision.

“Where I’m from, everyone is either pre-med or engineering, and I happen to like engineering because it’s practical and I’m good at physics,” said Tang.

Tang shows that if you’re good at something, pursue it. He would like to one day work for a design firm such as Alloy or Tesla and continue to pursue his interests.

Next there is Anni Huang, a freshman looking to major in political science. She currently plans to go to law school after her undergraduate education. When asked for reasons why she wanted to pursue a law degree, Huang said that she didn’t want to be like every other Asian Pacific American (APA) majoring in the sciences or other math based majors.

She wants to focus on a single path and not have to worry about other decisions. The freedom to not be constrained by single answers is a plus for Huang. This coupled with her own mother being a lawyer motivates Huang to continue her pursuit of a Doctorate in law and one day become a lawyer as well.

On the other end of the spectrum is Jerry Chen, who loves abstract math and fears the humanities. His interest in a field that causes misery to so many others began at an early age, when Chen’s parents started entering him into math competitions and math camps. Chen found the material to be compelling and built on those interests all the way up to college, where he is now working towards a B.A. in math.

“My parents asked why I wanted to major in abstract math and not applied math, but I overruled them. I’m here in college to learn more about what I like. And besides, Calculus is no fun,” said Chen.

Chen plans on going to graduate school so that one day he can become a professor in math and hopefully bring less misery to students than the professors of today do.

Last is Jamie Li, a double major in anthropology and Asian studies. Her story is a bit different than the other three students. Although Li originally aspired to be a bioengineer in middle school, events during high school changed her mind. She realized she didn’t like math but the social sciences and humanities instead.

After an interview with a doctor, she began thinking about anthropology which matched her interests in the cultural aspect of academia, while also being a popular choice for pre-med students. The plan seemed set and Li decided to be pre-med and anthropology. Then Li’s English teacher asked her a simple question.

“Would you be happy being pre-med?”

That was a pivotal moment for Li. After thinking about it for a while, she realized she wouldn’t be happy with math, science, or following the footsteps of other anthropology students that were pre-med. It was too clichéd, so Li decided to go all the way with anthropology.

It was in a Chinese class that Li realized she also wanted to explore that particular culture more. However, she wasn’t interested in the literature. Li wanted something more regional, something that explores not only China, but its relation to other countries, its significance in government and politics, and so on. So she decided to major in Asian studies as well.

Li recalls one moment where she had to Google translate anthropology for her father. When he read it, he was incredulous, remembering Li’s early goal of being a bioengineer. In the end though, both of Li’s parents strongly supported her choice in anthropology and Asian studies.

When asked about APAs and their majors, Li replied, “There’s always exceptions. A student doesn’t embody a major. A student identifies as much with a major just as majors need students in turn. A student is a part of the academic field like a member of a community, but people fall under several communities, identifying themselves through a unique combination of connections. People can’t be judged based on one stereotype.”

The individual stories of these students reflect those sentiments. Each one comes from a different background, which in turn leads to different motivations and ultimately different goals in life.

I don’t believe there should be a single answer to how APAs choose their majors. The desire for job security is and always will be a factor, but even then I feel that one’s specific motivation is nuanced. Students have their own reasons for picking a major and it would be unsatisfactory to let a stereotype define a group’s motivation for their collegiate pursuits, especially when there are those that diverge from the popular choices of the group.

The majors certainly reflect an extension of each student, but the reasons behind them in the first place are not something that can be discovered with sweeping generalizations. To continue pigeonholing these students as hardworking automatons motivated by the tenacity of the mythical creature that is the tiger mom robs Asian American students of their individuality. After all, these four interviewees have shown that there is no single Asian American experience.

by Hannah Shin

The US Senate’s official apology for decades of racist and discriminatory legislation

On Oct. 6th, Senate Resolution 201 was passed. SR 201 is a bill that states the United States Senate: “(1) acknowledges that the framework of past anti-Chinese legislation, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, is incompatible with the basic founding principles of equality recognized in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution; (2) regrets passing six decades of legislation targeting the Chinese people for physical and political exclusion; and (3) reaffirms its commitment to preserving the same civil rights and constitutional protections for people of Chinese or other Asian descent in the United States accorded to all others.”

In other words, SR 201 is supposed to be an official apology to the Chinese American community for decades of racist legislation and treatment, and a resolve to protect the rights and liberties of individuals of Asian descent.

It’s been almost 130 years since the passing of the only bill to exclude individuals solely on the basis of race. Passed in 1882 and repealed in 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act, which blocked Chinese immigrants from the U.S. mainland and denied citizenship to individuals of Chinese descent, was an apt apex of the racist, anti-Chinese sentiment that had been simmering since 1848, when the first wave of Chinese immigrants had eagerly flocked to “Gold Mountain” in the quest for lucrative riches. After experiencing the first acts of discrimination against them in the form of physical violence and the Foreign Miners’ Tax, among other things, many Chinese immigrants moved on to other fields of work, causing a perceived competition in the job market and increasing racial tension.

Even after the establishment of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, a slew of racist policies followed, ranging from the Geary Act of 1892, which barred those of Chinese descent from bearing witness in court and required all Chinese to carry residential papers, to the Immigration Act of 1917, which designated an Asiatic Barred Zone from which immigration was denied. The effects of this legalized racism were readily apparent: families were torn as a result of being denied entry or reentry, and assimilation grew increasingly difficult for Chinese Americans who were forced to live on the margins of mainstream American society; having no option but to cluster together, Chinatowns abounded, eventually becoming the fodder for vicious stereotypes and contempt still perpetuated in the present day.

So 130 years later, where does this leave the Chinese American community—and in a broader sense, the Asian American community?

While SR 201 may acknowledge the nation’s injustice to the Chinese American community, that’s really the only thing it does. The fact that the bill sticks a disclaimer that it’s not meant to “authorize or support any claim against the United States” or to “serve as a settlement of any claim against the United States,” essentially says, “we’re sorry, but don’t hold us accountable.”

But if someone consciously committed a crime, how can you not hold them responsible? If a nation not only admits clear wrongdoing but also remorse, then it’s only rational that it should work to correct those wrongs or at least take measures to prevent anything of the sort from happening again. The only reassurance given in the resolution is the reaffirmation of the nation’s commitment to protect the rights and liberties of individuals of Asian descent—the resolution merely recommits the U.S. to what it was already committed to do in the first place (and ironically broken, on multiple occasions).

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who co-sponsored the resolution, has stated that SR 201 is meant to enlighten those who may not be aware of this regrettable chapter in our history.” But this statement raises some doubts who exactly does the resolution set out to enlighten? If the bill refers to the general mainstream populace not well versed in Asian American history or with Asian Americans in general, it does a pretty terrible job of reaching out to those individuals. Not only is there no direct effort to educate the general public with solid measures like incorporating Asian American history in school curricula, but there’s barely any media coverage on the resolution at all—you have to literally go out of your way to find any information about the resolution or its significance.

So while the resolution is meant to acknowledge past wrongs and ultimately provide closure, apologies without amends are essentially empty gestures. Others may argue that it’s the symbolism that counts: a nation acknowledging its wrongdoing is sufficient enough. And to a certain extent, I agree. Acknowledgment, though, is only the first step toward reconciliation; if the nation proffers an apology to the Chinese American and Asian American community, it should take physical responsibility for its past crimes.

It’s like slapping a band-aid on a wound and hoping that with time it’ll heal on its own. But we know that sticking on a band-aid isn’t enough. If we want the wound to truly heal, we need to apply medicine that will not only heal the wound, but will make the area surrounding it sturdier and less susceptible to harm. And even band-aids can be detrimental; what is meant to seal things in for safety can in reality lock in already present contaminants and in turn cause the wound to fester and sore to a point where drastic intervention is necessary. And in this case, measures to promote awareness and prevent future injustices from being committed are necessary to truly salve the wounds of the past.

Words must be backed by actions, and until measures are taken to address specific injustices, this “official” admission of guilt will only be just that: an admission—not an apology.