Month: April 2016


Ian Zamora, another one of our Diversity Advocate Interns, has created a video that explores hip hop in the Filipino community.  

When thinking of hip hop, I tend to ask myself from time to time: How has hip hop influenced me? This video is an interview piece asking several Filipino/a individuals about their experience with hip hop and what hip hop means to them.

To watch the video, click on this link:






A Podcast on Socialization: Part I

For the next two weeks, we will be showcasing the media creations of our Diversity Advocate Interns. Here is one of several media pieces that will be shared through this blog.

As part of her media project as a Diversity Advocate Intern, Fatema Elbakoury has created a podcast in which she discusses the concept of socialization with one person every week. This week, she talked to Elaine Le, a fellow DAI. To listen to the whole thing, visit this link:

For next week’s discussion, please be sure to visit this blog next Friday as well!


Making it to Graduate School

I’m about four weeks out from graduating, but I want to share with you all my story of applying for graduate school that carries a lot of importance for me as I wrap up my undergraduate career here at San Jose State University. I remember the feeling when I finished my application for graduate school. I decided last minute to apply to the University of San Francisco (USF) for the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) Master’s program for the upcoming Fall semester. I scrambled around for about two to three weeks as I tried to get together my resume, letters of recommendation, and my personal statement. I asked both previous and current supervisors huge favors to support me in the process and when I finally got everything together, I turned it in with only two hours left until the deadline. I felt so relieved that it was no longer in my hands. I did what I could to represent myself in the best way possible.

Fast forward about three weeks later, it’s Spring staff training for Residence Life and I just ran 5k Friday. I was pretty damn tired after running it; my feet had not felt the concrete pounding against it for a long time. After I had gotten my lunch, I decided to check my e-mail. I saw that there was an e-mail from someone whose name I didn’t recognize. I opened it up and it said the following:


“Dear Ian,

I hope this email finds you well. Attached you will find a copy of the faculty’s decision. Congratulations! The hard copy should be arriving in the mail next week, we just wanted to let you know as soon as possible.”


When I saw that, I quickly scrolled through the rest of the e-mail to see the digital copy of my acceptance letter from USF to make sure this wasn’t a joke. Sure enough, it was real. When I made it up to my room, I yelled as loud as I could to express my excitement. This was definitely something I had not felt in a long time. A rush of adrenaline came over me as I knew I was going somewhere that I wanted to be. It was as if I had made it and that I was somebody again.

Another few weeks had passed and I was meeting with my advisor for my research on Filipinos and hip hop. I hadn’t seen her for weeks because it was winter break and there was no real need to. I told her when we last met I had applied to USF, but I had not told her yet that I was actually accepted into the HESA program. When I told her, she was really excited for me. That definitely validated me and my feelings of being in the program, but at the end of our meeting I expressed that I feel like I couldn’t accept it. It’s as if I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. It’s like it’s a shameful and bad thing that I’m striving for a Master’s degree. I didn’t really know why or how to even explain it to her. I just felt that I couldn’t. I normally have words to explain things or a very basic level of processing of my feelings, but this was one time where I couldn’t articulate my frustration to her. After several minutes of writhing in my feelings, she told me this:

“As people of color, we are not supposed to be obtaining degrees of higher education, let alone a master’s degree. You need to remember that educational institutions were never built for us. Educating ourselves to pursue passions and knowledge about ourselves and others was something that was never meant for us in the first place. You should be proud that you’ve made it into a master’s program as only so many people have access to it and actually obtain it.”

Hearing this from her had given me a piece of mind and calmed me down. I had totally forgotten that most, if not all institutions of higher learning were never built for me, a person of color, especially a Filipino.

There’s probably someone out there saying that because I’m part of the ambiguous Asian racial category and many Asians are going to college that I shouldn’t be feeling this way. Rhetoric like this is heavily rooted in the Model Minority Myth and is persistent across the country. Just because I am doing well in college, doesn’t mean that I am absolved of having to cross barriers. I am privileged in many different as a heterosexual, middle class, and most of all a male; but I am also oppressed by being Filipino, a young adult, and agnostic. I experience the world in a very unique way. Participating in the supposed meritocracy of higher education as an undergraduate has not been an easy path and won’t be any easier going into a master’s program. For far too long I have been walking silently in an oppressive institution that indoctrinates me to not think critically, question what’s happening around me, or reclaim my ethnic identity. It’s time to make some noise in a stifling institution of higher education not only for myself, but also for those that have neither space nor voice to achieve social justice. I’m changing the world from here and there.



image source: (

The Fire Next Time

The loss of identity that will take place for white people is perhaps one of the more crucial reasons as to why racial progress does not occur more rapidly in the United States. This identity loss will occur only when white people begin to reexamine their past and the role they have to play in this country’s potential for universal equity; this may very well be the reason why critical dialogue around US race relations does not transpire. Perhaps nowhere is this loss more accurately explored than in James Baldwin’s essay, “My Dungeon Shook” where he writes to his nephew:

“Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them.”

Here, the “storm” is the severity of the racial injustices that are taking place, especially in the civil rights era during which Baldwin is writing. Furthermore, the idea that white people must “accept” black people also ties into the notion of blackness as some sort of contaminant: one accepts what cannot be changed; one accepts the repercussions of adversities; one accepts inherent flaws in one’s self. For white people, the black community is a national flaw that must be “accepted” and not loved or even respected. Baldwin correctly calls this an “impertinent assumption.” The idea that black people are such a burden that they cannot be loved is a lie.

In addition, the distinction between “acceptance” and “integration” is that there is not one: black people must accept the shortsightedness of the general white community and they must accept that this shortsightedness will manifest itself not through the uplifting of black people, but through the slow integration of them into white spaces so they can be continually surveilled, controlled, and policed. In the above quote, Baldwin confronts his nephew with this bitter truth: in the end, it will be black people who will have to accept white people as they are, with all of their fallibilities, because for white people, “to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity.” This brief essay shows how ultimately, it is still people of color who have to live out the negative ramifications of whiteness, precisely because they will be the ones who will have to “accept them.”

Despite this, white people still need to be loved because they have been raised to believe in their superiority only to the extent that it is juxtaposed against the supposed inferiority of black people. And this love is not the affectionate kind; it is the kind of love that involves deep self examination and deeply pluralistic dialogue where one risks losing aspects of knowledge in order to gain new pieces of truths. It is the kind of love that means seeing in others the humanity and the potential that may have historically been allocated to anyone other than said community.

When a whole community’s identity only exists within the context of this power dynamic, challenging it is akin to “any upheaval in the universe” that “profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality.” When one’s worth is only defined in relation to another community’s, this is not a reason to despise this person. Rather, it is all the more reason to sympathize with him or her as they are nothing without the supposed inferiority of black people. This is why Baldwin goes on to claim to his nephew, “these men are your brothers—your lost, younger brothers.”

They are lost and younger because their vision is blurred by the lie that they have something towards which black people can aspire to. As Baldwin states, “there is no reason for you to try to become like white people;” this is precisely the case because it is white people who are in need of the black man, and not the other way around. Black people are the older siblings because they have lived the unmitigated reality of the United States and as a result they understand that white people are not, in fact, intrinsically better in any way and the work that is left to be done now is not the burden of black people, but the burden of white people, as it is they who must look into their hearts  and ask themselves what their whiteness has meant in the course of this country’s history.




image source: (

Neither Here, Nor There

I recently attended a conference. A few months ago, I had not an inkling of knowledge to even conceptualize the existence of conferences, let alone how to navigate such spaces. My experiences are not unique. This pattern recreates itself. We see it in the reproduction of social class. As I daydreamed (or theorized, as I like to call it) in my identity class the other day, I wrote this in my notebook: More necessary than actual resources are the sense of entitlement and knowledge required to benefit from them.

To anyone who has read my past blog posts or who has experienced my self in its essence, here is another brief (and quite possibly, the last) glimpse into the mess of my feelings—


Although I could look around and see people who looked similar to me, I did not sense visions of people who truly looked like me. A topic that came up often was the challenge in collecting demographic data and the need for disaggregation of the statistics.

It was highlighted that certain communities, namely Cambodian and Vietnamese tend to be low-income and in need of more resources. I felt this. I am part of this.

Someone mentioned that making it up there, achieving success in the academy, is selling out.

I am still figuring this out.


I had the honor of meeting Jeff Chang at a book signing. In accordance with some of my vocalized concerns, he underlined this: It is not enough for us to vouch for someone by the sheer fact that they too are Asian—we must essentially be critical in seeing what someone stands for, if they stay woke or if they stay sleeping.


Is it enough for me to be in a space with others whose skin tones reflect mine? Is it enough to be in a space with others whose ancestral roots lie nearby–yet far–from my ancestral roots? Is it enough for me to attempt a smile at someone who far surpasses me in the social hierarchy? Because we check mark the same racial category on the census? Even though he is a man who takes up much more space than me, a small Asian woman? What is enough?

How do I navigate spaces as a young, petite Vietnamese American woman? True, there is a power and command to a naturally quiet voice. My guitar teacher from years ago once told me this—that a quiet voice, a quiet sound automatically draws people to a quiet, draws them to lean in and listen.

The hopeless romantic in me soaks up this sentiment. And the real living person that I am knows this is not the entire reality. Its truth exists merely within a vacuum.

The theme for the conference was Asserting our Voices. And did I feel heard? Did I find my voice? The quiet sounds that blur out of my mouth were illuminated—this is who I am. This is the space that I occupy. A little bit. A challenge I find is in trying to take up more space, assuming a sort of hegemonic masculine behavior, to speak louder because that has been associated with power.

I do not want to yell to be heard.

(And this is not hyperbole. Oftentimes, when people complain that they cannot hear me—I adjust my voice in such a way that feels like a yell emerging from within me.)


It was actualized for me. The reality that The Structure continually recreates itself, in any space that we should come to fill regardless of volume, regardless of time.

And as of late I have been feeling this once again, a familiar feeling I now have the language with which to articulate that I did not have years ago—being neither here, nor there.




image source: (

No Need to Be Dramatic

blog post 2I’ve never thought of myself to be dramatic. I play around a great deal and I am very theatrical but when it comes to real life issues, I think I always handle them pretty well. And I think I can say the same for this situation.

I always took pride in the fact that both of my parents were in my life. That they both lived under the same roof and that they both were involved in every aspect of my life. I took pride in that because where I come from it is truly rare to see.

It made me smile when other people asked me if my parents were still together and I could almost jump for joy after I answered and watched their facial expression and reactions. I loved that my house was the kick it spot on the block and that all my friends loved my parents and my family. It was just a really good feeling. It made me feel like that was the one blessing I had that many other African American children didn’t. It made me fit one less stereotype. To the next person that may not matter to them but to me, oh it definitely mattered.

I use to watch movies and shows that featured divorce. I even heard about it often within classmates and I always felt it was so dramatic. Most of my friends have experienced it with their parents and when they cried, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes (don’t think I’m a horrible friend). Of course I felt it was sad when younger children were involved, but when it came to older kids (14 and up) I just felt it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Well now I’m the child experiencing it and I’m still very nonchalant about it in a way. I don’t know how to explain it but it’s as if it just doesn’t matter to me. I feel like I’m too old to cry or whine about it and be dramatic. My mom is a great mom and my dad is a great dad, and together they did a great job. Although the role of parenting is never complete, I feel as if I’m past the age where if my parents were to separate it would cause much harm to my life. I honestly don’t know how to explain it but I just think making it a big deal or about me would be selfish.

I chose the word selfish because although I am their daughter, I am also a young woman now. I am a young woman that has experienced many things and that includes love. It includes arguing with my partner, feeling unhappy and most importantly, wanting to end a relationship but being afraid to. If I was afraid to end a relationship at the age of seventeen I can only imagine what my parents feel. To split an entire home up is a lot to think about and I just feel it would be selfish to make it about me. I want to be mad. I want to be self-centered and tell them to stay together so that when I come home I can have just one place to call home. So that I can have only one house to go to on the holidays, and so that I can sit in the middle of their bed and tell them both stories instead of repeating each event in my life twice.

But I also can’t help but to think how wrong that is; How wrong it is to expect my parents to stay together just for me. They deserve to be happy too, right? They deserve to be loved and cherished, not just tolerated, right? I think so. I would love to see them happy, maybe just not with anyone else.

Believe me I know this makes no sense.

I know I am just rambling on and on, but this is just me actually processing it and thinking about it for the first time.

I haven’t really given myself any time to think about it, and now that I am thinking about it, I do not want to anymore.

It is what it is.

No need to be dramatic.