Are “Equality” and “Diversity” Two Opposing Forces?

Growing up in the 80’s the fight was for racial and gender equality. My understanding was that when it was all said and done, all Americans wanted to be treated equally with no regard to gender or race.
“Equality” means that we are judged by the content and quality of our character and not on the color of our skin, nor our gender. “Equality” means that we are all Americans and not African- or Asian-Americans. In the workforce, we were hired based solely on our qualifications. In society, we were to treat our neighbor as ourselves.
But is the dream of “Equality” lost? Was it ever a goal in the first place?
It appears that “Equality” is being replaced by “Diversity”. This is not necessarily a bad thing. For me, it’s simply a change in thinking. I no longer have to look at people as equals, but I have to look at them as men and women, Caucasian, African, Asian, Hispanic, etc. I have to look at my life and wonder, do I have enough Hispanics, Africans and Caucasians friends in my life. Am I being racist because I’m hanging out with the Asians? Do I have the right racial balance in friends?
Ultimately, the “Diversity” question is bigger than myself. Are companies hiring from a diverse pool of applicants? Does the Widget Corporation hire enough African, Hispanic and Asian employees? If a company has met it’s quota of Asians, does that mean it can stop hiring Asians without penalty?
Funny, but this seems to be just an American thing. If you go to China, the country of my heritage, there’s no such thing as diversity. If you’re Chinese and male, welcome to the head of the line. Mexico doesn’t seem to care much about diversity. I don’t see African-Mexicans on television of film. How many Asian business owners are there in Africa?
Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is. Mainly, because I don’t know what the end game is. In fact, many of you will respond to this post decrying society. It’s easy to pass off the solutions to a third party, like the government. But ask yourself, “what is my end game?” I have a dream, and it remains a dream.

The Rape Culture – Let’s Blame the Ladies

I’ve been a little late on this one. Simply because I’m more ready today to stir things up than I was at the beginning of the month when it counted. Anyways, it’s almost the end of International Women’s History Month and this is the post that I was afraid to post:

There is one thing that every culture on Earth has in common and it is the horrible way we treat our women.

I was afraid to post it because I was afraid that it came across as too flippant toward women and I held it back. It’s all true. There is no nation on earth that holds its women in high esteem. Here in America #BlackLivesMatter but women are still objects of violence and subservience.

Women have claimed that while we may have abolished slavery, we have put in its place a culture of rape. You and I can argue about pay equality and women’s liberation, but where there is an agreement in my mind is that violent nature that men exhibit toward women. Take, for example, Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies. She takes the bold step to speak out about feminism and instead of logical facts and opposing viewpoints, she is inundated with threats of rape and violence on every social media platform available.

Essentially, rape culture is a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. I got that from Wikipedia. To men, rape is our weapon. It is the ultimate form of dominance that man can display over any person, male or female. I once sat in the green room of one of the improv shows I perform, and one of my fellow actors asked the ladies, “why do you dislike rape so much?” Normally, I don’t respond to conversations that I’m not directly a part of, but I just had to. “Tell me what part of being violently forced into sex, do you not find exciting.” I believe that was the last time I ever performed with that person.

As much as women present a preponderance of the evidence that a rape culture exists and as much as women on a daily basis fall victim to it, we do nothing about it. That’s where the word, “culture” comes into play. It’s normal to us, men. Women are sexual conquests. Our threats are always sexual in nature. As men, we do nothing about it.

“Nothing?” you say, I say. “Nothing!” We perpetuate this rape culture in two ways. The first is by shifting blame. It’s not my fault, I treat women so horribly. It’s the way they dress and the amount of makeup they apply. The string bikinis, short-shorts and perfume are essentially pheromones.

There we sit on the witness stand, explaining that the sex was consensual. “It was obvious to me by the way she dressed, that we wanted to have sex.” “She made a porno, of course, she wanted sex.”

Growing up as a teen, I went to my church’s summer camp every year. There was Bible study in the morning and Bible study at night. But in the afternoon was free time. Free time meant swimming and that meant seeing my girl-friends in bikinis. Being smart adults, the camp counselors put an end to it before it could begin and all the girls had to cover up and wear a large t-shirt over their swimsuits. Girls should not be a “stumbling block” (1 Cor. 8:9) to the boys. That’s right. It’s the girls fault boys can’t handle themselves.

As Christians, we teach girls not to wear make-up until they are adults. We monitor the lengths of their skirts. We place rules on ear piercings. Listen to what girls are hearing from our attempt to protect them. It is a sin for you to wear make-up. It is a sin for you to wear provocative clothes. It is a sin for you to be a stumbling block to men. If you violate these sins, whatever happens to you is your fault.

The second way that Christians perpetuate the rape culture is what we don’t do. We don’t teach our boys to exercise a little thing we call “self-control.” Here’s something you never hear a father say. “Son, when you and Jane go out tonight. Don’t rape her!” I would personally add the phrase, “or I’ll shoot you!” In those all-important teen years, parents are not setting their sons aside and explaining that women are not prey for sexual hunting. Or that there is no such game called “Get In Her Pants.” No, instead we tell our women, not to sexually stimulate guys or there will be consequences. Boys are then unleashed on college campuses scoping out their first, second and third target for the upcoming semester.

Oh my God. I’m ranting. I’m a self-righteous prick. Ladies. All I can say is I’m sorry for my behavior and that of my fellow men. Not that it changes much.

My Chinese Wife

This post is written in love. I love my wife. I love my wife. I’m writing only because I love the irony.

Every year during the Lunar New Year, or as I called it all my life, Chinese New Year celebration, we enter banquet season. My mother’s side of the family holds a lavish banquet and then on my father’s side we take a trip to San Francisco for two lavish banquets.

This is the time of year that I do some sort of Chinese/Asian thing. This is also the time, my Caucasian wife dives deep into my culture. For the rest of the year, I’m basically an Asian WASP or AASP. My wife mingles with my Chinese family, she learns a new Chinese words and she tries to be as Chinese as possible. I don’t even up this amount of effort into the event.

This year’s “I’m Chinese” adventure is to talk about Chinese New Year to my daughter’s elementary school class and distribute red envelopes to all the kids. This is the ironic part. My wife is not Chinese and neither is my daughter. It was then I realized I’m married to “Lucy.”

My Real Position on Diversity and Racism

After looking at my last few tweets and status updates, I’ve discovered that I’ve been a little cryptic about my real position regarding racism and diversity for the sake of being humorous. I feel to continue this discussion in a real way, I should make a statement and share my real feelings about race and diversity.

Let me start by saying I’m an Asian-American. Like that’s a surprise. Both my mother came to the United States at the age of 10 just after WWII ending. My father was born in San Francisco. His father came to the United States around the time of the earthquake. Both my grandparents came to the U.S. so that their children could have better lives. The vast majority of my aunts and uncles, ten in total, graduated from college. My father was an Aeronautical Engineer and worked for Rockwell on the space program that put an American on the moon, and my mother was an early computer programmer and knows more about computers than I do. My brothers have college degrees, and most of my cousins also have college degrees.

I write this to say that for my family being a minority in the United States was not easy, but somehow we made it. We survived and somehow flourished in what some of my peers call “The most racist country in the world.” In my old age, I still would rather live in “the most racist country in the world,” than anywhere else. I’ve also come to believe so would everyone else, even the worst of victims of white racism.

That said, let’s dive headfirst into the subject of diversity. My official statement is this. I probably would be more behind the whole diversity movement if the movement embraced Asians and Latinos. At the moment, Diversity is meant for the groups that yell the loudest. As of 2016, the loudest groups are African-Americans and the LGBTQ communities. In my mind, this is not a problem, but a sad reality of human nature. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I’ve been told that Asians need to support African Americans because once they have equality, when we’re next in line after the Latinos. So basically, we’re going to solve racism one race at a time. I don’t buy that.
We may be different racially and culturally, but we’re all still human beings. The sad truth is that we’re all selfish by nature, and when we gather as blacks, Latinos, and Asians, we’re downright narcissistic. Human truth: my group’s demands are to be met before yours.

We may be different racially and culturally, but we’re all still human beings. The sad truth is that we’re all selfish by nature, and when we gather as blacks, Latinos, and Asians, we’re downright narcissistic. Human truth: my group’s demands are to be met before yours.

I know American history. I’m not blind to the atrocities of slavery. I’m not blind to the violence leading up to the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. At the same time, my ancestors didn’t own slaves, nor were we enslaved. As an Asian, I feel like an outsider to the America’s conflict between white and black. I am now relegated to a mere observer in the conflict. As an observer, to my Caucasian and African-American friends, you all are screwed. There will be no winners in this fight, and you’ll kill each other to ensure, you’re not the loser. Sadly, you are actually doing this. More thought about this in the future.

Let’s get back to diversity. As my African-American friends felt frustrated that no black actors had been nominated for a second year in a row, I wish to convey my frustration that only one Asian actor has won an Academy Award in acting. That was Haing S. Ngor in 1985 for the Killing Fields. He was Best Supporting Actor. As happy as I was for him, the guy wasn’t even American. That’s like Javier Bardem’s Oscar was a victory for Latino Americans. It’s as if Bardem’s win was a victory for latinos, and he isn’t even latino, he’s hispanic. We’re a little frustrated too. There is a level of frustration that occurs when there are thousands of Asian and Latino actors and the actors that win were imported from outside the United States.

Why aren’t there more Asians with leading roles, hell any role, in Hollywood? If I were to be truly honest, we just not that good…yet. Hold on, before you brand me as a self-loathing Asian. In all honesty, I can’t think of the Asian George Clooney or the Asian Matt Damon. What about the Asian Meryl Streep? She doesn’t exist…yet. Is it a cultural issue? I’d say “yes” on both sides.

When Asians came to America, our parents encouraged us to get into careers that made a lot of money so that we would be financially stable. We should become doctors, engineers and bankers. Any thought of becoming actors and artists were literally beaten out of us as children. So yes, culturally we just don’t have a lot of good Asian actors.

White American culture has also held us back and not because they are overtly racist. HUMAN TRUTH: It’s sad but true, with every culture and race in the world, we are most comfortable being around people who are the most like us starting with race. We tend to root and support people who are the same race as us. I support Asian actors in Hollywood, but I support the Chinese ones more. As an American, I would rather see an American succeed over a Canadian. The only way to end racism is to end culture and become one homogenous group. You know you would hate to live in that world.

White people would rather watch movies starting white people, just as black people watch movies starring black people. Is that racist? No. White people don’t hate black movies and vice versa. It’s what we as individuals prefer. I love movies and 99% of movies star non-Asians. I don’t shrug my shoulders and put up with it. White or black, just tell me a good story and I’ll watch your damn movie. Sure, I’ll sees an Asian movie in support of my movie.

Last year, I attended the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. By the title, you can guess what kind of movies are shown there. This is the best showcase of films produced by not only Asians but Asian-Americans. It served as the barometer of how far Asians have come in Hollywood. I walked away feeling, we’re not there yet, but we’re on our way. Of the movies, I saw only two stood out as potential mainstream successes. The first was “Twinsters” (now on Netflix), a documentary of an adopted Korean actress, who in her twenties, discovers she has a twin sister she never knew existed. The other was “Miss India America,” a comedy about the “Miss India” beauty pageant. It was genuinely funny with great jokes and told a non-typical story surrounding the adventure of a strong Indian woman. I had high hopes for the Wong Fu film, “Everything Before Us.” This should have been a breakout hit. They had production values of a typical Hollywood Rom-Com movie, but the story and acting had few fatal flaws that could have been easily fixed. This is not to put down the Wong Fu film, but just a statement that a few noticeable changes could have made this a significantly better film. Again, we’re on our way, but not there yet.

Let me conclude by saying this. The fact is the United States is a predominantly white country. That’s a fact, and this predominantly white country produces predominantly white movies. I may be a little naive, but I believe excellence in the things we do and produce is our only trump card to problems of the lack of diversity. For people of color, including myself, opportunities are opening up right now for black, Hispanic and Asian actors and filmmakers. It’s time for us minorities to seize the opportunities and up our game and become better actors and filmmakers. Strive for excellence because the door is closing and we have the opportunity to make sure that door stays open for a long time.

Fixing Diversity in Hollywood – Stop Nominating and Voting for White People

Is Hollywood racist? Many would believe it is. Recently, evidence has presented itself for the second time in a row when no person of color was nominated in any of the Academy Awards acting categories. Results from this atrocity include a boycott of the award ceremony by Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith and Snoop Dog; pressure for Chris Rock to step down as host of the Oscars; and threats of long-winded sympathy diversity speeches from the night’s winners.

Many respected Caucasian actors and actresses have come out in support of minorities in film. Some of the more cynical actors of color find it hypocritical for white actors to express outrage. As members of the majority class, they have not experienced prejudice in their career, so their outrage feels a bit shallow. No white person has yet to step forward and say, “As a race, we’ve had our lion share of nominations, please stop nominating us and please stop voting for us.”

Ultimately, we people of color would like to see one white actor step forward and say, “As a race, we’ve had our lion share of nominations, please stop nominating us and please stop voting for us.” Instead they blame the racism of their fellow actors and actresses…basically everyone else but themselves.

So let’s fix the problem. The nomination process for the Awards is peer-to-peer. This means actors nominate actors, directors nominate directors and so on. I would be interested to see which minority actors, the “concerned” white actors nominated or did they just go straight to Matt Damon as their first choice. If these “concerned” actors are actually concerned, then they will refuse to vote this year for anyone who is not a person of color. Then next year, refuse to nominate anyone who is not a person of color. White Hollywood Liberals…stop looking to your own race for qualified recipients, it’s OK that you don’t win every year. Give others a chance.

Action Steps for White People

  1. Refuse to nominate a white person in any category.
  2. Refuse to vote for a white person in any category

Expected Results: Ride Along 2 will be the Best Picture of 2016

Just Chiming In – Harassment in Improv Comedy

If you’re in the improv community, and you have a Facebook account, you know that the issue of sexual harassment has become the topic of choice for several weeks. After reading post after post of harassment issues on-and-off stage, I’ve found myself both angered and offended is all the right and wrong spots. I’ve refrained from responding until I’ve come to grips with the issues in a meaningful way. The time has come.

I am going to split the subject into two separate topics. The first is sexual harassment, bullying and physical assault on and off stage.

Sexual Harassment On and Off Stage

Actual instances of sexual harassment have reared it’s ugly head in the improv community recently. Male improv teachers are using their positions of authority to harass sexually female students. Male performers are groping female performers, claiming its part of their on-stage “character.” Female performers coerced into engaging in simulated acts of sex and rape. This a-hole then claims it’s vital to the scene and then follow-up by accusing the female performer of not being a team player.

I’m very capital punishment about this behavior. It has no place in improv, theater or life. Personally, I believe the laws in this country do not protect women enough, and the courts need to find a way to prosecute sexual harassment and other crimes by giving the benefit of the doubt towards women and children victims. Improv troupes and theaters must take this issue seriously and the claims of harassment even more seriously.

No literally means No. When engaged in any behavior with women, romantically, theatrically or otherwise, once the words “no” is uttered you stop PERIOD. If you’re on stage, and your partner rebuffs your advances, you stop PERIOD. The only body you own is yours. You have no artistic right to control your partner’s body, so stop. Violate this and you need to go to jail.

If you are a member of an improv troupe, get to know the words TRUST, SAFETY, and CONSENT. Your teammates need to trust that you will be appropriate to them. If the scene requires the female to close her eyes, she has to know, you will not violate her. Your teammates need to know they are safe in your hands. Zero tolerance. If caught, you are fired from the group. Really, you should go to jail! You want mercy? It’s up to the woman you victimized, if there’s any discussion of mercy.

Intimate contact between any two performers on stage, requires CONSENT. In over 20 years of performing improv, I’ve only kissed a female performer on two occasions. On both instances, I did not initiate the kiss and I did not intentionally “write” or steer the scene, just so I could kiss my fellow performer. You need to be as close to 100% certain you have consent before ever being physically intimate on stage.

Comedy is a Sacred Artform

The second issue is the one that will get me in the most trouble–the portrayal of women on stage and jokes at the expense of women. Specifically, it is the art of comedy and the art of storytelling on stage. During the Internet discussion, someone posted a series of “rules/suggestions” that improvisers should follow to ensure they are sensitive to women and women’s issues.

For over 20 years, I’ve considered my form of improv as art. I’m telling stories on stage. I’m portraying life and turning life on its head for comedy. Regarding theater and comedy, I am incredibly First Amendment about the issue. Comedy, at its best, is controversial. No topic is immune to comedy. We as a society need to protect this freedom. We can not establish rules governing what is funny and what is not.

Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is one of my favorite movies about racism. It is considered one of the greatest satires about racism in America. Sadly this film could not be made today because of political correctness. What we, as a society, don’t understand is humor allows us to address controversial subjects, laugh at it and discuss the subject. If we’re ever going to grow as a society, we need to loosen up and laugh.

Am I saying that jokes or scenes about rape are funny? Fortunately, I’ve never been part of an improv troupe that performed a rape scene. I’ve also never been part of a team that took on a funny rape scene as a challenge. In my mind, I can not ever imagine rape ever being funny in a scene or as a joke.

I’ve been to countless improv shows, where white actors slant their eyes, drive bad and speak in horrible accents just to indicate they are playing an Asian. Am I offended? Yes. Do I wish to censor them? No. Was any of these instances funny? Admittedly, yes. Some of them at least. The groans from the audience, the exclamation of “that’s racist” and the lack of applause for the scene should be enough for those performers to censor themselves.

As a theatrical community, we can not use censorship to control the way people think and behave. If we censor certain topics, then we can not shed light on the evils of those topics. Let us not censor our community but at the same time we, as individual performers, should censor ourselves.

I fear the day when we begin posting rules about what is funny and not funny. Don’t say the b-word. Don’t take “churning butter” as a suggestion. Men can no longer portray women in scenes. Are these things funny? Most of the time, No…rarely ever. Would I censor you from telling these kinds of jokes? Absolutely not. But good luck not coming off as a sexist.

Who ultimately decides what is funny and what isn’t? I would like to think common sense and the audience is a good indicator. Common sense tells me rape jokes are not funny. Common sense tells me that taking the challenge to make it funny is not one I should attempt. Common sense tells me humping a female performer on stage is not funny and incredibly uncomfortable for her and the audience. If someone on your team challenges common sense and attempts a rape joke, is that someone you want on your team…emphasizing the word “team.”

Serving the Audience

When I step on stage, I am a servant of the audience. Why? They paid me money to give them a fun night of entertainment. As a business, my goal is to entertain the audience and in turn, they come back, and they bring friends. I’d like you to tell a rape joke, grope a female performer or slant your eyes, and see how much that affects attendance at future shows. I support your first amendment rights to do whatever you want on stage. I also support the audiences’ right never to return to your sexist show.

I’m fortunate to be performing in a wildly popular family-friendly improv show in San Diego. To my knowledge, we’ve rarely had to deal with this issue on stage. Common sense says it’s a bad idea. Practically speaking, we have some great women on the stage, and we don’t want to lose them. The modest 100-seat theater sells out almost every weekend, why would we want to jeopardize that just because we have the right to do it.

The more you know…

A Special Moment on Stage #WhitePeopleCantWin

The weirdest moment happened to me during Saturday’s show. The game was blindline and I was performing with an amazing couple. The scene was a lot of fun and the audience, I believe, enjoyed the scene as well. In the scene, I played a guy, who had just gone out on a date with his friend’s sister. After incorporating a few random lines from the audience, the scene’s story was that my character wanted to marry the sister, but the brother thought it was a bad idea, since I had a drug addiction. So far, so good. We have a relationship and a good conflict.

As the scene progress, an audience was read and it had something to do with driving a Porsche (I honestly don’t remember the exact line). The sister then exclaims, “I don’t need to drive a Porsche. I drive a Honda Civic.” Then I responded, “I would even downgrade to a Toyota Prius.” I know…lame. I was just trying to justify the Porsche line and not doing a good job of it.

The scene ends and we all sit down, patting ourselves on the back for a well done and entertaining scene.

Jump to the end of the night and we discussing notes from the show. When it came time to talk about that scene, someone brought up the controversy surrounding the “Honda Civic” line. My first reaction was, “what the hell are you talking about?” Then it was explained to us, that might have gotten uncomfortable because I was being compared to a Honda Civic, because I was Japanese and that we just continued the scene as if nothing happened. My second response was, “Yes, nothing happened.” Apparently I didn’t don on me that I should have been offended because someone mentioned a popular make of car, that happened to be manufactured in Japan. Now that I think about it, I should be offended that people thought I was Japanese (no offense to my Japanese friends…some of you are my best friends).

My immediate reaction was to immediately accuse my fellow actors that they are way to sensitive when it comes to race. How did it come to this? My issue with political correctness is that good people are being accused of racism, when all they did was state on stage the type of car they drive when an Asian is standing next to them.

I rarely ever post about scenes I’ve performed in shows. Personally, I found the situation 100% funny and 0% offensive. I’ve been performing with this group since 2001…15 years. Have I ever felt uncomfortable or mistreated because of my race? NEVER!!! Have I ever felt uncomfortable or mistreated because I’m a Republican? HELL YEAH!!!

My suggestion for my white friends is please expend your energy going after real racists and less on trying find racism in the smallest of areas. There are bigger battles to fight.

Still Doing Improv In San Diego

Believe it or not, I’m still performing improv comedy. You can see me monthly at National Comedy Theater in San Diego and occasionally at ImprovCity in Costa Mesa. I’ll be performing this Saturday in San Diego at 7:30 pm and 9:45 pm.