A conversation with Jeff Yang on the state of Asian America
I talk with the activist/writer/consultant/podcaster/celebrity dad
Jeff Yang is a writer, a consultant, a podcaster, an activist, and a celebrity dad. Over the last few years, quite without realizing it, he’s become one of the most important Asian American voices. His podcast “They Call Us Bruce” (with co-host Phil Yu), his columns at CNN, and his relentless Twitter posting have created an entire zeitgeist — which his son Hudson’s TV show, Fresh off the Boat, fits nicely into as well. There’s something like a mainstream Asian American consciousness emerging, and Jeff is one of the people helping spin it into reality.
Without sounding too dire, I think it’s fair to say that Asian America is in a tough spot right now. A massive wave of anti-Asian hate crimes has terrified innocent people across the country. That comes against the backdrop of the U.S.’ age of unrest and culture war — a conflict Asian Americans don’t always fit neatly into — and a looming conflict with China. And it follows decades of a strange, liminal experience in America, in which Asians have often been treated as perpetual foreigners, or model minorities, or other unsettling stereotypes.
In these troubled times, voices like Jeff’s are especially important. He and I have followed each other Twitter for quite a while, but this conversation was the first time we’ve gotten a chance to talk face to face. We cover a lot of ground — racism, representation, U.S.-China relations, Taiwan’s history, and more. I’m not sure we reached any definite conclusions on how to improve the situation, but it was great to be able to think out loud about a lot of these things.