Angry Reader of the Week: Alton Wang

"I'm an activist passionate about all things Asian America."

Good people of the internet, you know what time it is. Time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Alton Wang.

Who are you?

Name's Alton, like the celebrity chef Alton Brown, except I was named after Alton Parkway in Irvine, CA. I'm a second-generation Taiwanese & Chinese American with the whitest first name ever (I believe it means "town at the river's source" in old English). My mom thought it sounded cool.

What are you?

I'm an activist passionate about all things Asian America—whether Asian American Studies or representation in government. My Twitter (and Tinder) profile pretty much sums it up: "Blogging, social justice, Asian America, technology, coffee, and Friends reruns."

Where are you?

Recently migrated to Washington, D.C. and typing this out a few blocks from the Capitol. I could use some friends.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley outside of Los Angeles, but my parents moved here from Taiwan over three decades ago. I like to say that I'm from a part of America that doesn't always feel like America (think billboards and storefronts in Chinese), but in the most awesome way possible.

What do you do?

Professionally, I currently do communications and development for an organization called Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), which focuses on increasing the strength of the AAPI electorate by registering our communities to vote and encouraging them to turn out to the polls. We work with local organizations in twenty states (and counting), and also do awesome research with really smart folks (way smarter than I).

AAPIs have one of the lowest rates of voter registration (56% for Asian Americans and 58% for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders), thus resulting in lower rates of AAPI actually voting in elections. Yet we are reaching a point in our communities' growth where we can actually decide elections, from what Rep. Judy Chu calls "from the margins to the margin of victory." So if you're reading this and you're not registered to vote, go register!

And if you're someone who doesn't believe in voting or think it'll get you jury duty (false), let's talk. I respond to tweets (@altonwang).

I also try to blog (check out unhyphenate.me) but spend most of my life on Twitter instead. Usually I end up writing when I see something that pisses me off and makes me angry, which results in unexpected late nights and run-on sentences which I rarely actually edit. I'm an advocate for Asian American Studies programs, co-teaching a student-led course as a college undergrad -- I believe that we all have a right to learn our own histories, and I'm sick of people that tell me our stories are relevant in the broader curriculum.

What are you all about?

Dialogue, for one. I have yet to reach *peak* burnout, so having conversations with people, those that I can reach through platforms available to me about whatever I'm currently most passionate about (right now it's voting), is where I flourish. I also strongly believe that it should be on the shoulders of allies to also push forward on various issues, whether it may be combating sexual violence or racial justice.

But in working to educate others on substantive issues, I know that I will never be the all-knowing on any issue. There is always something left to learn, there is always someone who is brighter, more knowledgeable, and more eloquent about the issues we care about, and there are always perspectives left unheard or left behind. I'm all about keeping myself in check to ensure that I'm not alienating someone from the dialogue, and lifting up stories we often ignore. And I'm not too great at it, I admit -- but that never means we can stop.

I'm all about history -- I believe our histories, while they may not always be as inclusive as they need to be, ground us in where we stand today and guide us as we look to the future. This is why Asian American history has been so important to the development of my racial and social consciousness, and why I care so much about having these courses available to students.

What makes you angry?

My friends, family, and even my boss can probably attest that I get angry a bit too easily, about anything and everything.

The first thing that comes to mind that makes me angry is people who think that racism doesn't exist, or worse yet, that we live in a post-racial society. Oh, also people who think Asians can't experience racism, that think Asians are not people of color, or those that think the model minority myth is positive and we shouldn't complain about "positive stereotypes."

Another issue that makes me angry is folks that do not think intersectionally in their work -- particularly those in the social justice and human/civil rights world. We can't talk racism without talking feminism, we can't talk gay rights and leave out trans* rights, we can't talk economic justice without talking about the prison industrial complex. Whenever I say this, I remember poet Staceyann Chin saying in a spoken word poem, "all oppression is connected."

A few other things that make me angry: forgetting the NHPIs in AAPI (I'm working on this myself), ignoring the fact that when we speak about sexual violence there may be survivors listening and triggered (I get triggered all the time by well-meaning people), yellowface/blackface/brownface, and white supremacy.


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