One of the first things we notice about people when we meet them (along with their sex) is their race...Without a racial identity, one is in danger of having no identity. —Michael Omi and Howard Winant
I was born and raised in Sacramento, California. It is likely that both of my grandfathers entered the United States under false pretenses which was a common practice among the Chinese during the Exclusion era (1882-1943). My mother says her maternal grandfather was born in San Francisco, but I have my doubts! The 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed birth certificates and other important documents and enabled many Chinese to falsely claim they were born in the U.S. so they could circumvent the discriminatory Chinese exclusion laws that legally forbid Chinese laborers from entering the United States. My paternal grandfather might also have been a paper son since one of his immigration documents indicates he entered the U.S. in 1878, before the Exclusion Act passed, but another that he entered in 1888, after Exclusion! Men who entered with false documents are called “paper sons” because they are really only related to bona fide Chinese American citizens by forged papers. Between 1910 and 1940, Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, housed the immigration station and barracks where immigration inspectors detained many Chinese in their attempts to enforce exclusion laws. For more information on this historical site including how to get to the island, visit the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation website.
I feel fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area because I can draw course materials from a wide variety of historical sites like Angel Island or community events that reflect the ethnic vibrancy of the area such as readings, plays and performances, art exhibits, and films. For example, after viewing the silent film The Toll of the Sea (1922), an interracial love story between a Chinese woman and a White American man, at the annual International Asian American Film Festival, I researched whether this film was available for purchase and finally found it in a collection Treasures from American Film Archives, 50 Preserved Films. Students are now able to see this film in the Interracial Sex and Marriage course. It stars legendary actress Anna May Wong and is the first Technicolor film using a two-strip process technique. I also appreciate the Bay Area because it has a host of community organizations in need of volunteers. I currently serve on the board of the Chinese Historical Society of America which has a museum and learning center in San Francisco and on the Asian Pacific Advisory Council of the Oakland Museum of California. My service to these organizations informs my teaching and research.
One of my pedagogic priorities is to expand the learning environment beyond the walls of the classroom and enable students to make connections between what they are learning in class and what is happening in their communities, the U.S. and the world. In a couple of my courses, I require students to attend community events and write evaluative papers about how they complemented the required materials for the course. In other courses I require students to conduct oral history interviews or construct family trees (genealogies). I am proud to teach in the Department of Ethnic Studies at CSUEB because I have intellectually engaged colleagues and students. Not only do I thrive on teaching a diverse group of students, I find that my teaching and intellectual development are enriched by my students’ experiences—immigration and migration stories, family histories, work lives, etc. I also appreciate the variety of campus organizations available on this campus. I am a part of Asian/Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association and the Diversity Council.
Up to this point it might seem that my interests only lie in the field of Ethnic Studies but this is definitely not the case. I find solace in the natural environment and regularly hike the trails in the East Bay. I also try to live “lightly” on the earth and on a daily basis I think about how I can use fewer resources and create less waste! I have been inspired by the way in which Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth has publicized the movement and how books like Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, encourage individuals to think about how their food choices impact the environment. One of the easiest ways for me to participate in the environmental movement is to be a member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project with Full Belly Farm which is located in Yolo County. In other words, I “subscribe” to an organic produce service for $15 per week which provides a box of seasonal vegetables and fruits grown about 100 miles away from where I live (Oakland). In doing so I am supporting a small “local” organic farm and eating seasonally rather than buying fruits and vegetables that are grown out of state or in another country and transported to my local supermarket with a tremendous amount of fuel and/or refrigeration. Subscribing to CSA is healthier for me and the planet!
Chinese American History
Sociology of Ethnic Groups in the U.S.
Gender in Asian American Communities
Asian American Families
- A.A., 1975, Sacramento City College
- B.A., 1977, University of California, Santa Barbara
- M.S., 1980, University of Oregon
- Ph.D., 1989, University of Oregon
Not teaching this quarter.
Commentary: “Seng-Hui Cho: Mentally Ill, Victim of Racism or Both?
The Pioneer, May 24, 2007
Introduction to Keynote Speaker Iris Chang
Chinese Diaspora Symposium of the Fulbright Association, April 2004
Journal of Ethnic Studies, 1, 2 (spring 2005), the Department of Ethnic Studies on-line journal
Editorial: “On the Backs of Peoples of Color”
Ethnic Notes, 3, 2 (winter 2002), the Department of Ethnic Studies newsletter
Review of On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family, Lisa See (1995), New York: Vintage in Journal of American Ethnic History 17, 2 (1998): 73-74.
“In Search of the Right Spouse Interracial Marriage Among Chinese and Japanese Americans"Amerasia Journal 21, 3 (1995/96): 77-98. By Colleen Fong and Judy Yung.
"The Model Minority" (1995), Asian American Encyclopedia, edited by Franklin Ng, North Bellmore, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 1072-86.