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COMMENTARY: Will the First Asian American President of Purdue University Northwest Fire Its Racist Chancellor in 2023?

This situation could have been a teaching moment for the entire nation about Asian Americans and social justice, had it been handled properly. We are, after all, coming out of a three-year period where the organization #StopAAPIHate has recorded more than 11,000 hate instances against AAPIs. From minor to major transgressions, from verbal slights to aggressive assaults — sometimes resulting in death. This is the hate that’s emerged in American society since Donald Trump began scapegoating Asian Americans for what he called the “Kung Flu” and “China Virus.” And Keon’s slur shows us that both he and the nation still don’t get it. Keon should have stepped down immediately from his leadership role of an institution of higher learning.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. His talk show is on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. His talk show is on www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

Oakland, with its new Asian American mayor, is one of the most diverse cities in America.

How many times do you think Mayor Sheng Thao, an Asian American of Hmong descent, has heard someone make fun of her and all Asian Americans with some accented joke?

That’s why the racist comment by Thomas Keon, the chancellor and CEO of Purdue University Northwest really matters.

And the one person who can give us a sense of justice, ironically, is Dr. Mung Chiang, an Asian American immigrant from Hong Kong, set to become the next president of Purdue University on Jan. 1.

This is an important moment in Asian American history.

This all started on Dec. 10 at the commencement of Purdue Northwest, just south of Chicago in Hammond, Ind. Keon, a white educated man in accounting, acted the dumb white insensitive male and used an accent that sounded like doggerel but in fact was Asian. We know because he admitted it while in the act. The astonishing self-awareness of a racist.

See the video for full context if you missed it: (A keynote speaker ends, then Keon walks up and delivers an anti-Asian slur) https://www.youtube.com/clip/UgkxmOYq9oO5PqPLA470oR2D1d2Umwib5VC-.

This situation could have been a teaching moment for the entire nation about Asian Americans and social justice, had it been handled properly.

We are, after all, coming out of a three-year period where the organization #StopAAPIHate has recorded more than 11,000 hate instances against AAPIs. From minor to major transgressions, from verbal slights to aggressive assaults — sometimes resulting in death. This is the hate that’s emerged in American society since Donald Trump began scapegoating Asian Americans for what he called the “Kung Flu” and “China Virus.”

And Keon’s slur shows us that both he and the nation still don’t get it. Keon should have stepped down immediately from his leadership role of an institution of higher learning.

It’s an example all America needs to see.

No Resignation

Instead, Keon, the accounting guy, wasn’t held fully accountable for the harm his public speech caused. Four days after the slur, Keon finally issued a kind of bureaucratic apology on Dec. 14, indicating the slur didn’t express his values or the university’s. The Board of Trustees, not wanting controversy, hastily accepted.

That’s when the faculty senate became enraged and voted to demand Keon’s resignation. And when that didn’t happen, a majority of Purdue Northwest’s tenure-track and clinical faculty, including department heads and deans, gave Keon a “no confidence” vote, 135 to 20.

It was his second no confidence vote this year. And Keon still didn’t resign.

And yet the attempts by the board to save Keon’s job have been extraordinary.

Most amusing is how everyone knows it’s racist, and yet, there is such a willingness to discount it as if there is no real infraction.

African American scholar John McWhorter in the New York Times defended Keon, acknowledging racism but saying that Keon shouldn’t lose his job or be forced into retirement.

It’s a kind of gaslighting 2.0.

It happened; we’re not going to pretend it didn’t happen.

But we’re going to treat the perpetrator like it didn’t happen.

Everyone thinks about poor Chancellor Keon.

No one thinks about people like Vichar Ratanapakdee, the 84-year-old Thai man who was killed in San Francisco on Jan. 28, 2021, after he was shoved to the ground in a hate attack.

And he’s just one victim among thousands. The hate starts with an accent that “others” us and makes AAPIs vulnerable.

But the Purdue Board of Trustees, though recognizing the racism, wants to see a pattern in Keon’s behavior before they go beyond a reprimand. The faculty disagrees.

“There should be consequences for his behavior, and a reprimand is not the answer,” a tenured AAPI faculty member of PNW said in an email to me on Tuesday. “His behavior is a trigger for many and is still disturbing. He should resign or be fired. I am still livid.”

If the board doesn’t act, then justice is up to the next president of Purdue, Dr. Mung Chiang.

He’s a young hot shot academic, a Hong Kong immigrant who went to Stanford, starred in engineering at Princeton, and was lured to head the engineering school at Purdue for the last five years. More revealing is his stint as science advisor to the xenophobic and racist Trump administration.

That would signal a real change in America. The first Asian American president fires the racist chancellor who told a bad joke with an Asian American slur.

That’s almost too good to be true.

Just think. Would Keon still be on the job if he said the “N” word?

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. His talk show is on www.amok.com

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Activism

Moms 4 Housing Hold Sit-in Demanding County Supervisors Extend Eviction Protections

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms. Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

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Participants in the sit-in, which began Tuesday afternoon, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.
The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

By Post Staff

Moms 4 Housing held a sit-in in the nonviolent civil disobedience tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., to demand that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors uphold their original vote to pass permanent Just Cause eviction protections for the 60,000 tenants living in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County.

The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms.

Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

The Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), ACCE and EBHO, along with other local activists, are mobilizing outside of the Alameda County Administration Building to stand in solidarity with Moms 4 Housing, an organization focused on uniting mothers, neighbors, and friends to reclaim housing for the Oakland community from the big banks and real estate speculators.

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Activism

Following More Mass Shootings Democrats Introduce Assault Weapons Ban

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9. The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns. President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

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The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans
The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire

Two proposals aimed at curbing the spread of assault rifles were submitted today by Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California, and Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The Assault Weapons Ban seeks to prohibit the commercialization, distribution, production, and importation of assault rifles and other firearms designed for use in military operations, as well as high-capacity magazines and similar devices.

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9.

The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns.

President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

Biden said that the number of mass shootings declined during the decade that the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect.

“In the 10 years that the Assault Weapons Ban was on the books, mass shootings went down,” Biden remarked.

“After Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled,” he declared.

Both houses of Congress were urged to take quick action by the president.

According to Biden, “the majority of American people agree with this rational measure.”

“There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation,” he insisted.

In the House of Representatives, Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline said he plans to introduce a companion bill to the Senate’s Assault Weapons Ban.

Feinstein said assault rifles “seem to be the unifying denominator in the seemingly endless number of horrific shootings.”

“Because these firearms were created for maximum efficiency in mass murder,” the senator noted.

“They have no place in our society or educational institutions. It’s time to take a stand against the gun lobby and do something about getting these lethal weapons off the streets, or at the absolute least, out of the hands of our youth.”

Blumenthal added, as the gunman at the Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park demonstrated just days ago, assault weapons are designed for one and one purpose only: to murder or hurt human beings.

“These military-style combat weapons – built for the battlefield and designed to maximize death and destruction – have brought bloodshed and carnage to our streets and continue to be the weapon of choice in countless mass shootings,” Blumenthal said.

“Guns don’t respect state boundaries, which is why we need a national solution to restricting the ownership and use of assault weapons. Now is the time to honor gun violence victims and survivors with this commonsense action.”

Rep. Ciciline argued that it is long past due to reinstate an assault weapon ban and remove these “weapons of war” from civilian areas.

The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans,” Ciciline noted.

“We need to come together to enact this commonsense, effective, and proven policy to reduce gun violence and save lives. I thank Senator Feinstein for her partnership in this fight and look forward to introducing the House companion bill in the coming weeks.”

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Activism

With a 97.3% Strike Vote, More Than 500 Richmond Educators Rally Before School Board Meeting

“We don’t want to strike, but we will if it means doing what is best for our students. Over 90% of all union members who participated in the strike authorization vote are ready to meet this crisis created by a board and management team not working in the interests of the district. We are hoping our actions through the fact-finding process will show WCCUSD that we are serious about fighting for the best resources for our students. They deserve the best, and nothing less,” UTR President John Zabala said.

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Educators across the district have weathered crisis after crisis: from budget cuts due to poor financial management, to building new virtual learning systems during the pandemic, or giving up countless prep or non-contractual hours to ensure students are with a credentialed adult every day
Educators across the district have weathered crisis after crisis: from budget cuts due to poor financial management, to building new virtual learning systems during the pandemic, or giving up countless prep or non-contractual hours to ensure students are with a credentialed adult every day

By Post Staff

United Teachers of Richmond (UTR) held a rally urging West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) officials to reach a “fair settlement” and avoid a strike.

Teachers, school psychologists, school nurses, school counselors, program specialists, librarians, and speech-language pathologists are calling for a settlement that includes community schools, shared decisions, and competitive compensation that keeps outstanding educators in the community — and brings the next generation of educators to the district.

The rally was held at Lovonya Dejean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond.

“We don’t want to strike, but we will if it means doing what is best for our students. Over 90% of all union members who participated in the strike authorization vote are ready to meet this crisis created by a board and management team not working in the interests of the district. We are hoping our actions through the fact-finding process will show WCCUSD that we are serious about fighting for the best resources for our students. They deserve the best, and nothing less,” UTR President John Zabala said.

In mid-November last year, the Legislative Analyst Office of California announced additional guaranteed, ongoing funding for the 2023-24 school year. The district intends to only provide less than half of the percentage of ongoing permanent funding it receives from the state for educator compensation, according to a statement released by the UTR.

Despite that projection of continued funding by the state, the school district declared an impasse in negotiations with UTR. Educators across the district have weathered crisis after crisis: from budget cuts due to poor financial management, to building new virtual learning systems during the pandemic, or giving up countless prep or non-contractual hours to ensure students are with a credentialed adult every day.

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