Being an editor has its advantages. Meeting the movers and shakers of a community is just one. It gives you free rein to be curious and inquisitive—and expect answers. Journalism gave me an outlet to feed my curiosity about the world.
History has long held a place in my heart. As a child, I’d sneak into my brothers’ room and read their high school history textbooks, leaving tiny ear marks to save my place and continue the next day. As an editor, I’m expected to know current events. There’s rarely a week that passes I don’t hear from a peer about the latest news on state budget cuts or Jeremy Lin. I try to stay on top of pop culture, too, mostly to better understand and relate to our younger audience. It’s good to know what’s trending on their Facebook comments. So as you can gather, editors amass quite a bit of random knowledge.
So when it came to compiling questions for the IE’s first annual trivia contest with an Asian American twist—also known as our Bubble Bowl—I gleaned what Asian American-related knowledge I could from those experiences. The “bubble” in Bubble Bowl is inspired by the popular Asian American beverage of choice, bubble tea.
Held on July 14, at Oasis Tea Zone in conjunction with the Dragon Fest, the Bubble Bowl kicked off with six teams. Some of the team names still bewilder me, among them, the Flying Squirrels, Farm Animals International and Team FOB. With the help of an energetic emcee, we launched our questions, organized into four categories: Food, Pop Culture, Current Events, and Asian American History.
“Here we go! Our first category is food!” exclaimed the emcee. Questions included: “In what city was the fortune cookie created?” (Answer: San Francisco.) And, “What Asian country did bubble tea originate from?” (Answer: Taiwan.) Teams answered promptly and checked other team’s answers with enthusiasm.
“The next category is Pop Culture! Are you ready?!” Players perched pens above answer sheets.
“What was the name of the first Asian American player in the NBA?” Silence. Players whispered, “Yao Ming? Jeremy Lin?” (Answer: Wataru Misaka who played three games for the New York Knicks in the 1940s.) Yeah, they didn’t know that either.
As we progressed into the Current Events and particularly, History categories, frowns and wrinkled foreheads appeared. People scratched heads. Pencils flicked on tabletops. Standing on the sidelines, I wasn’t as concerned whether the questions were too tough, but that local Asian Americans—younger and older—weren’t familiar with these topics so critical to our community.
“What was the name of the Asian American U.S. soldier who came out of the closet in protest of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy?”
“What is the name of the U.S. legislation in Congress that if passed, would grant undocumented students in-state tuition and citizenship?”
“What year was the Chinese Exclusion Act?”
(Answers: Lt. Dan Choi; the DREAM Act; and 1882.)
Come on, people! I thought to myself. Slowly, it dawned on me that my questions may have been too … Asian American. Should I have asked more mainstream questions? Eased up on the history portion? No, I decided. Part of my goal in the trivia bowl was to educate on Asian America. Answers were explained with a bit of context, so participants could learn while having fun.
A team did win the Bubble Bowl—Warring Properties, a local real estate company. But, after tallying every team’s points, most didn’t get half of the responses correct. The best score was 19 out of 34 questions. That’s an ”F”— a “D” at best.
As I reflect on the poor state of our youth and community’s education on Asian America, I’ve come to understand that what’s more important than what people don’t know, is that those who do, share. We need to do a better job of getting out of our own bubble and reach those who aren’t aware of our community—even if what they currently know will require patience. So, Team FOB, remember, it wasn’t Tupac Shakur that was the first Chinese American Seattle City Council person. (Hint – a local museum was named after him.)