It’s the setup for a bad joke: What do you do when you see two Asian men at an airport gate?
Call for an evacuation.
That’s what happened in early September 2019 at Newark Airport after an Alaska Airlines flight attendant sounded an emergency alarm. Hundreds of screaming travelers sprinted through the terminal and crashed through glass in hopes of getting to safety. One person who was there called it “absolute chaos” and the “most terrifying few minutes of my life”.
The allegedly security threat at the center of this chaos? Han Han Xue and Chunyi Luo, two complete strangers who happened to be standing near each other while waiting to board a flight to San Francisco, and were later found to have done nothing wrong.
Dozens of officers arrived on the scene and eventually found and questioned the two men before releasing them without any charges.Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers had their travel plans disrupted and everyone had to go back through security. Many people including Xue and Luo missed their flights and had to stay overnight to catch one the next day. Not to mention the psychological impact of such a fear-inducing incident.
Newark is the 6th busiest airport in the nation by international traffic with tens of millions of passengers passing through its halls each year. Efficiency and safety are presumably high priorities for anyone who works there. How did this happen?
Breaking Down a Racist Encounter
In March of 2019, I spoke at the Empower conference by Kollaboration, a 20+ year old Asian American organization & event series. My talk was organized by JD Chang, a media producer and creator of Crushing the Myth, a speaker series for Asian Americans. The talk went into the story behind the Asian American Man Study and some of my personal stories on why I started it and what it means to me.
You can see a video of the talk below.
After careful consideration and taking feedback from the community, we're proud to introduce the third edition of the Asian American Man Study. Our theme is social institutions: School, Work, Groups, and Friendship.
Perhaps one of the things that most unites Asian Americans in general is the family expectations that are placed upon us. Starting from childhood, we are challenged to do well in school, learn our culture and history, and pursue a career that will make our family proud.
But those expectations from our Asian culture sometimes seem at odds with the ethos we encounter in our new American home. Whether be it in films, books, or even our teachers, we hear messages like Follow your heart. Go off the beaten path. Expand your horizons. Question everything. Every Asian American man responds to this juxtaposition a little differently.
Then when we enter the workplace, we encounter a complex system where what we may have learned in school. Working hard, getting the right answer — these are just one aspect of an often bewildering web of rules, stakeholders, and power plays. We were curious to better understand how our Asian identity plays a role in our ambition, our perspective, and how we are treated.
And finally, we have the groups that bring us together. From fraternities to professional networks to circles of friends, our identities are often shaped by the people we surround ourselves with. Given the emphasis on relationships in career success, health, and happiness, as well as the painful story of Michael Deng at Baruch College, our study explores what these social groups mean to us.
I am grateful to our research fellow Alan Yang, who has been a tremendous partner in developing this year's study, as well as the many who gave feedback and perspective. Special shoutout to to Kifah Shah and Mahait Gollamudi, two wise Asian American women, who provided important perspectives on survey design and shed a light on issues central to the South Asian community.
The Asian American Man Study began in the fall of 2015, and as I enter the third year of the study, I've been reflecting on where we are and where we want to go.
Our first two studies have been very broad, focusing on everything from dating, to stereotypes, to religion and politics, to role models. These are all important topics and the findings have been valuable and will continue to be relevant for some time to come.
But there's a danger in treading the same ground over and over again. So this year, I decided to focus on the theme of school and work. These are two institutions that we spend so much of our lives in and are worth exploring in detail.
So I invite you to share your thoughts with us as we prepare this year's study. What do you want to learn?
After months of number crunching, I'm excited to announce that today, the results from the 2016 Asian American Man Study are publicly available! Divided into seven sections: demographics, race & identity, stereotypes, media, dating, politics & religion, and closing statements, it is one of the most comprehensive analyses of Asian American men that is publicly available anywhere. As always, we've worked hard to ensure the data is clean, and the analysis is done without bias or agenda.
How does the 2016 study differ from our initial study conducted in 2015?
First off, there's value in simply replicating or reconfirming prior results, which we were able to do in many cases. But beyond that, we have better representation and new open-ended questions to explore.
The Asian American Man Study is an annual study an annual survey of the experiences and beliefs of American men of East, Southeast, and South Asian descent. It is administered by Jason Shen, a first-generation Chinese-American.