The Negress spent a day with a pair of David Henry Hwang plays in Chicago and several days at the Asian American Journalists Association convention in Detroit. The Silk Road Theatre produced “Yellow Face,” an older play of Hwang’s about racial identity, stereotypes and artistic freedom while the Goodman has sent his latest, “Chinglish,”a masterpiece of interlocking misunderstandings, to Broadway. Thanks to the convenience of scheduling, the Negress saw them both on the same day and was delighted by each for different reasons.
current thoughts so to speak
“Yellow Face” is a delicious mingling of a revenge fantasy, hard truths and the fluidity of racial identity. In some ways, it reminded the Negress of “Passing Strange,” which is happily available since Spike Lee made a film of its last Broadway performance. When you’re not white or not straight, you often fiddle with how you show yourself to the world. Sometimes it’s a matter of survival and there’s an enormous cost. Sometimes you can have some fun, but you can’t always be sure the joke isn’t on you. Expectations, stereotypes and archetypes keep close company and it can be challenging to separate them. The conversation begun with “Yellow Face” continues in “Chinglish” with the tables turned. Hwang places an earnest white American businessman in China where his understanding of how things work is often lost in linguistic and cultural translation. As the Negress often says to friends near and far, some people just don’t get it. And some never will.
So, with all that bouncing around in her head, the Negress drove to Detroit for the AAJA convention. AAJA doesn’t have a racial requirement for membership, just a belief in the organization’s goals. Unity, the quadrennial gathering of journalists of color, is coming up next summer in Las Vegas. The Negress hopes to go, work and finances permitting and being a member of one of the sponsoring groups gets her a discount. The National Association of Black Journalists, of which the Negress was a member for a while, pulled out of Unity for various murky reasons, some of which are financial. Unity has coincided with the Presidential campaign for the past two campaigns, and it is likely candidates will be invited to attend. While that’s a selling point for going to Unity, the Negress mainly goes because it’s fun and she gets to see a lot of friends from all over the country. Journalism as she knew it is dying in place, and she figures the upcoming Unity might be one of the last opportunities to see some pals before everybody’s required reinventions take them away.
Hence, Detroit for AAJA. The Negress had a great time and learned some things she didn’t know, which is always good. The most important of those was how much of an issue immigration is in Asian communities. One AAJA member took 22 years to go the legal route to citizenship since his having siblings in the U.S. was not a strong enough family relationship for his case to be expedited. Also, since he is Filipino, there are country quotas that he also came up against as he sought legal status. Not surprisingly, many opt to enter the country without papers, figuring that there’s a good chance they can stay without getting caught. A highly publicized case in point is Jose Vargas, a former writer for the Washington Post, who came out as an undocumented immigrant and hid the fact from most of his employers and close friends for years.
Another area of interest were transnational and, in some cases, trans-racial adoption. The Negress found out that boys have been adopted from China, contrary to the prevailing perception that only girls are chosen. A panel discussion including adoptees as well as adoptive parents covered ways in which these adoptions have changed over time. More parents now are taking their child’s cultural and linguistic heritage into account, while that wasn’t always the case. It was delicious to hear tales of half Jamaican heritage black, half Chinese parents adopting half black, half Korean kids and living happily ever after.
The Negress made a desultory pilgrimage to the job fair and had an enjoyable conversation with a woman who offers fellowships to journalist in search of career revitalization. Then she got sick to her stomach and went back to the hotel to resume studying for her securities license. Although the events were in close proximity to each other, they weren’t entirely
related. However, all led to a sure conclusion: The Negress is done being a full-time journalist, and she thinks that’s going to be OK.
Now back to calls, puts, straddles, bonds and other such lingo.