Asian American Fishermen Sue BP for Racial Discrimination

The Louisiana Weekly reported on Vietnamese and Cambodian fishermen in Village L’est and Versailles in New Orleans East who were among the first residents to return after Katrina, only to see their livelihoods crushed a few years later by the BP spill. In early April, 41 Asian American fishermen sued BP, claiming discrimination in the company’s Vessels of Opportunity program. Other groups of fishermen have also sued over treatment in the VOO, which hired boats to remove spilled oil. Asian Americans were underrepresented in the VOO given their numbers in the Gulf fishing community, reported the Weekly. Over half of all commercial fishermen affected by the spill were Vietnamese and Cambodian Americans but they accounted for less than 10 percent of the vessels hired by BP, the suit says. Of the 5,000 vessels BP engaged, only 350 belonged to Vietnamese and Cambodian Americans. Why didn’t BP want to hire Asian Americans? Attorneys and others point to the cost of translating legal language, a preference for workers outside the area closest to the spill, and cronyism—between BP and its contractors and certain boat captains hired by the VOO.

Ashton Kutcher’s Racist “Raj” Depiction for Popchips

The actor, Ashton Kutcher, is at the center of a new controversy. The actor of the television sitcom, “Two and a Half Men” recently participated in what has been called by critics, “misguided marketing.” In a racist caricature of Asian Indian people, Kutcher role-plays in an ad commercial for the snack brand, Popchips. According to the New York Times, the campaign was developed by Kutcher, Popchips and an advertising agency named Zambesi, and cost an estimated $1.5 million. The new Popchips worldwide dating video and ad campaign featured four characters, all depicted by Kutcher. One of the characters was a man named “Raj,” complete in “brown-face” and “Bollywood” garb.

In an apology from Popchips, they replied: “[The ad] was created to provoke a few laughs and was never intended to stereotype or offend anyone. At Popchips we embrace all types of shapes, flavors and colors, and appreciate all snackers, no matter their race or ethnicity. We hope people can enjoy this in the spirit it was intended.” Popchips has since then yanked the main video featuring “Raj” but still has the initial video of Ashton Kutcher as all four characters up and running on its YouTube channel.

‘FREE Vietnam Act’ Introduced in D.C.

Nguoi Viet reported about Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) who joined four representatives recently to introduce the bipartisan “Fostering Rights through Economic Engagement in Vietnam (‘FREE Vietnam’) Act,” which would bar Vietnam from enjoying special U.S. trade preferences until the country takes serious measures to curb human rights abuses. Despite consistent pressure from Congress and human-rights organizations, the Vietnamese government continues to violate its international human rights obligations and its very own constitution, according to a news release issued by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), one of the bill’s sponsors. The FREE Vietnam Act would prohibit Vietnam from participating in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program as long as it continues to engage in repressive behavior, and denying basic human freedoms to individuals in Vietnam. “We need to put Vietnam on notice that it cannot continue to violate human rights and expect preferred trade relations with the United States,” Lofgren said. “The FREE Vietnam Act gives us the tools we need to not only send the right message to Vietnam, but also to take action against Vietnam for their continuous human rights violations.”

Chinese Kicker Could Be Answer For Pittsburgh

Long Ding, a native of China, is fresh off a weekend tryout at the Jacksonville Jaguars rookie orientation, where he made an impression but has no contract, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He is trying to become the first Chinese native to play in the NFL and while he waits, his agent believes he could help solve the Pittsburgh Power’s kicking problem.

Ding is a product of NFL China, the league’s attempt to introduce football into that country. He played rugby in China and, with the help of the International Federation of American Football, moved to New Hampshire in 2007 to play high school football. He then kicked for Norwich University in Vermont. He was not chosen in April’s NFL draft but his tryout with Jacksonville may just be the beginning.

“I think the kid legitimately has some talent,” Jaguars special teams coach John Bonamego told the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. “He is a guy you pull for. Like all kickers coming out, he’s got to sort of find himself. He is by no means a finished product, but he deserves to be here. I’ve seen better and I’ve seen a whole lot worse in camp. “He is a very, very fun young man to be around,” Bonamego said. “I could see him being very popular in the locker room in a short order of time. He’s got a good mindset and it doesn’t seem like a lot of things bother him. He’s got a nice, smooth, compact stroke.”

Blog’s Complete Guide to ‘Hipster Racism’

There’s been a lot of talk these last couple of weeks about “hipster racism” or “ironic racism.” A blog commentator from wrote: “It’s, you know, introducing your black friend as “my black friend”—as a joke!!!—to show everybody how totally not preoccupied you are with your black friend’s blackness. It’s the gentler, more clueless, and more insidious cousin of a hick in a hood; the domain of educated, middle-class white people (like me—to be clear, I am one of those) who believe that not wanting to be racist makes it okay for them to be totally racist. ‘But I went to college — I can’t be racist!’ Turns out, you can.”

He continued, “Modern racism lives in entrenched de facto inequalities, in coded language about ‘work ethic’ and ‘states’ rights,’ in silent negative spaces like absence and invisibility, and in Newt Gingrich’s hair. And in irony. When people are trying to be sensitive about race but they don’t know what to say, they usually go with, ‘Well, race is a complicated issue.’ Except, no, it’s not. Race is one of the least complicated issues that there is, because it’s made up. It’s arbitrary. It’s as complicated as goddamn Santa Claus … What’s actually complicated is our country’s relationship with race, and our utter ineptitude at talking about it … But this new scheme someone came up with—where we prove we’re not racist by acting as casually racist as possible? Not our best, white people. Not our best.”

He continued, “Racism is like a wily little bacterium. It doesn’t just roll over and die once we swallow our antibiotics—it mutates and evolves and hides itself in plain sight … A long time ago (not really!), it was socially acceptable to own people. Then it wasn’t, but it was socially acceptable to murder people if they looked at your wife. Then it wasn’t! Yay! But it was still okay to say that people whose skin color you didn’t like weren’t allowed to be around you. And so on. Eventually we arrived at the point (now) where it’s socially unacceptable in mainstream culture for white people to say denigrating things about people of other races. But just because the behavior has been suppressed, that doesn’t mean people’s prejudices have simply disappeared … So racism went underground. Sure, you can’t say racist things anymore, but you can pretend to say them! Which, it turns out, is pretty much the exact same thing.”

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