Archive | June, 2012

Hartford Police Seize Drugs, Money And Dealers

By Francine Nelson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The neighbors in the upper Main Street vicinity had had enough.

So they kept calling the Hartford Police until Department’s Vice and Narcotics Division, with the assistance of the FBI, State of Connecticut Department of Correction, Statewide Narcotics Task Force and the HPD Patrol Division and Emergency Response Team, seized more than 6,000 bags of heroin, $7,274 in cash and made arrests on Thursday, police said.

The seizure and arrests come after numerous citizen complaints of drug dealing and other criminal activity, police said. So Hartford police launched an investigation in the area of 2495 and 2505 Main Street.

Police arrested Michael Blodgett of Manchester, Joseph Guadiano of Hartford, Steve Massie of Windsor, Cynthia Vary of New Britain, Jennifer Oquendo of East Hartford, Luz Turner of Manchester, Steven Tracy of Enfield, Oscar Pecuilia of Hartford, and Jose Pinto of Hartford, all for alleged possession of narcotics.

Angel Santiago of East Hartford, Roberto Perez of Hartford, Anthony Benvenute of Enfield, and Lisa Thompson of Enfield. were arrested for alleged possession of narcotics and conspiracy to possess narcotics.

Rafael Martinez of Hartford was charged with possession of narcotics, possession with intent to sell narcotics, sales of narcotics, first degree criminal trespass, possession of narcotics within 1,500 feet of a school, and sale of narcotics within 1,500 feet of a school, police said.

Victor Guadalupe of Hartford was charged with possession of narcotics, possession with intent to sell narcotics, sale of narcotics, first degree criminal trespass, and possession of narcotics within 1,500 feet of a school, police said.

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Hartford Leadership Program Starts Endowment

HARTFORD — In recognition of its 35th  anniversary, and to ensure continued support for its work, Leadership Greater Hartford has established an endowment fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Grants from the fund will be used by Leadership Greater Hartford to support its mission to develop, connect and inspire diverse leaders to build strong and vibrant communities throughout Greater Hartford.

This is accomplished through programs that provide experiential learning through workshops, tours and hands-on team projects.  Leadership Greater Hartford brings together and trains a diverse array of community-minded individuals, representing all ages, socioeconomic levels, home towns, and occupations.

“The endowment fund will ensure that Leadership Greater Hartford is able to sustain our 35-year history of building leaders while building community,” said Leadership Greater Hartford President Ted Carroll.

LGH provides a forum for leaders from different sectors and experiences to undertake collaborative endeavors and then supports them as they assume community leadership roles. The year-long program is now known as Quest, and is but one of many Leadership Greater Hartford’s leadership training programs designed for people at various points in their personal and professional lives, from teens to executives to those in their retirement years.

Nancy Bernstein of West Hartford is serving as the establishing donor of this new endowment.  Bernstein has served on Leadership Greater Hartford’s Board of Directors, currently serves on its Legacy Advisors committee.

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Adamowski Named Special Master to New London Schools

By Francine Nelson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Former Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Steven Adamowski has been named special master of New London Public Schools effective July 1.

On Wednesday Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor named Adamowski, who is currently a special master of Windham Public Schools, to the position.

The appointment comes after the State Board of Education on June 6 unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Pryor to hire a special master for the New London Public Schools and to require the New London Board of Education to “participate in training to improve its operational efficiency and effectiveness. ”

The action followed the Board’s consideration of a government and management audit completed by the State Department of Education’s Bureau of Accountability and Improvement on May 7, 2012.officials said.

Adamowski’s new role as special master in New London will be performed in concurrence with his current responsibilities in Windham under an existing two-year employment agreement entered into among the State Department of Education, the State Education Resource Center, and  Adamowski on August 15, 2011.

He will serve as New London special master for the 2012-2013 school year.  The term may be extended by the State Board of Education.

A native of Connecticut, Adamowski has previously been Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer of Cincinnati Public Schools Associate Secretary at the Delaware Department of Education, and Superintendent of Schools in Clayton, Missouri Chatham, New Jersey  and Norwich, Connecticut (1983-1987).  “Dr. Adamowski is uniquely positioned to assist New London in the strategic planning and execution needed to improve student achievement,” said Commissioner Pryor.  “This collaboration between State Department of Education and local leadership will position New London’s students for success.”

In New London, Adamowski’s immediate priorities will include improving the governance structure of the district to support student achievement; immediate stabilization of the district’s finances; completion of New London’s Alliance District Plan; and the development, in conjunction with the local board of education, of a systemic, strategic long-term operating plan for improving student achievement, offiials said.

New London Public Schools have been subject to intensified supervision and direction since September 2008, during which time a State Department of Education Technical Assistance Team has monitored New London’s school district improvement plan.  In February of 2012, New London’s school board President and school superintendent requested greater intervention by the State Department of Education, citing a lack of focus on student achievement and diminished school board functionality.

In terms of student achievement, New London is among the lowest performing districts in Connecticut.  The district’s four-year cohort graduation rate is sixth lowest in the state; just 63.9 percent of New London high school students graduate within four years.


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We Just Don’t Get It — Education is ALL About the Teachers

By Matt Amaral Contributor

As I often peruse articles on education, I am forever baffled by the lack of meaningful ideas about the direction it should take. The only plans seem to revolve around curtailing collective bargaining rights, evaluating teachers, tenure reform, and Mitt Romney going so far as to say class size doesn’t matter.

It is as if we are in an endless spin-cycle of nothingness. A washing-machine that doesn’t clean.

The only way we are going to make gains in education is if the quality of teachers goes up — and in our capitalist society, that quite simply means paying teachers more. This might be the single-biggest solution no one is talking about.

Let’s take the inane babbling about evaluating teachers. We talk and talk and there seems to be some sort of expectation that if we evaluate teachers more effectively, they will get better. It is as if the problem we have is we just aren’t trying hard enough.

But if we get these great evaluations going and get rid of all the dead weight, who is going to replace the bad teachers? It’s not like our public high schools have lines around the corner of highly-qualified, ambitious people trying to get these jobs.

At my high school we hire 3-4 new English teachers EVERY YEAR. And that’s just in the English department. Choosing a few applicants from a stagnant pool doesn’t ensure any kind of success. And if we got rid of teachers with tenure who aren’t operating at a high level, we have no one to replace them.

Even if evaluations get done right, there just aren’t enough top-notch people out there who want to be teachers. They want to be hedge-fund managers.

Then there is the notion that everything else but the teacher in the classroom – be it the curriculum or a new program — will fix the problem. My high school went so far as to offer a scripted curriculum that told the teacher the exact words to say over the course of the entire two hours. That’s right, cue cards that required no deviation.

As for the administration, there hasn’t been a single principal, vice-principal, department head, superintendent or district official that has ever made a difference in the way I teach. I couldn’t even tell you what our superintendent does, but I can tell you in all honesty he has absolutely no effect on what I do in my classroom. I do know a little bit about what our assistant principals do, and to a lesser extent our principal, but I can also tell you their effect in my classroom is so negligible it might be non-existent.

I should know, in the last six years my high school has gone through 8 principals and 24 assistant principals. The turnover at administration has been just as bad as the faculty. Those administrators have barely figured out how our school works before they run away. Two years ago, we went through four principals.

Oh, and we’re getting a new one next year too.

Let me be real clear, so there’s no mistaking my message. Nothing matters but the teacher in the room. NOTHING.

Unless you’re talking about the development of new teachers and raising the status and pay of teachers in our society, you are speaking on fringe issues. Even class size is a fringe issue because good teachers can teach a class of 38 (I’ve done it).

When I was hired one day before school started for my first year of teaching, they told me I was teaching something called AVID. Within weeks I learned that I was tapped because no other teacher at the school would touch it. It was a broken program. It didn’t work. So they gave it to the new guy because it had been adopted district-wide and my site had to have a section. They were 9th graders.

Fast-forward six years, and the AVID program is thriving. I’ve brought in five other teachers, a counselor, our principal, even people from the local community college to be part of our AVID Site Team. We recruit from our feeder middle schools, we have a Junior Trip to Southern California, end of year banquets, parent nights, field trips, college panels.

How do you explain this?

Did they limit the AVID teachers’ ability to bargain collectively? Did they start evaluating us? Did they take away our tenure? Did they start giving all the AVID students multiple-choice tests all the time? The answer to all of these is no.

It was the teachers. And a counselor.

Call it AVID, Puente, MESA, EDGE, AP, Honors. The programs themselves are meaningless unless you have someone in the room who is doing the job right.

I always find it funny when a student says to another student, “AVID is awesome. It is such a great program.” I feel like telling them, “No it isn’t. It’s a program just like all the others, it just has different letters. In fact, it is a program designed to make you take notes, organize your binder, and get into study groups. You hate that kind of s–t. The only reason you like AVID is because Ms. Eastwood is your teacher.”

If we are serious about improving education, nothing matters but the teacher in the room. You need to show us the money, or all this talk will continue to be what it always is — fringe babble. And in a presidential election year, we sure don’t need any more of that.

Matt Amaral is a writer and high school English teacher from the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a featured blogger at, a leading international website for education issues. You can also follow his work on the blogsite,

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Voters Watch New Wave of Restrictive Voter ID Laws

By Keesha Gaskins, Contributor

With the 2012 election just a few months away, organizers and voters are working in earnest to support ballot issues, community concerns, and political campaigns.

This year there is a great deal of chaos and confusion regarding what is happening with the unprecedented wave of restrictive voting laws that has swept the nation since 2010. Understanding which laws are in effect and what it will mean for the November 2012 election is crucial.

One category of restrictive voting law that is especially important to navigate is voter ID requirements.

Since 2010, 10 states passed voter ID laws (Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin). Although each law is restrictive they are each unique. They have varying enactment dates, some are waiting for pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and others are in litigation. In addition, some voters will vote on ballot measures to decide the fate of voter ID in their state.

In Effect

Kansas and Tennessee both have restrictive voter ID laws that require voters to show a photo ID currently in effect.

Pennsylvania also has a restrictive voter ID law in effect, but it is being challenged in state court with a trial date set for July 25th.

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, voters can use a non-photo ID for the November 2012 election, but starting in November 2014, they will be required to show a photo ID at the polls. It is important to note that Rhode Island’s law permits voters without the required ID to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted provided the signature matches the one in the poll book.

Not in Effect and Being Challenged in Court

A restrictive voter ID law is also being challenged in Wisconsin, where two separate state trial courts temporarily and permanently halted the law. Those cases are ongoing and it is not known whether the Wisconsin law will be in effect in 2012. There are two additional cases in federal court, delayed by the outcome of the state law cases.

Not in Effect, Awaiting Pre-Clearance

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, changes to election laws in certain jurisdictions must be approved or “pre-cleared” by the Department of Justice or a D.C. federal court to ensure they do not violate federal law by discriminating against racial or language minorities.

Mississippi passed a restrictive voter ID law through a ballot measure last year. The state, which is covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, sought pre-clearance from the Department of Justice in May — following enactment of the legislation — giving effect to the law. It is not clear if the law will be in effect in November.

Virginia passed a restrictive voter ID this year, but the state has not yet submitted the law for pre-clearance.

Finally, Alabama also passed a restrictive voter ID law, which it submitted for pre-clearance to the Justice Department. That law, however, would not be in effect until the 2014 primary election.

South Carolina and Texas passed restrictive voter ID laws in 2011, but both laws are currently tied up in court. The Justice Department rejected both state’s laws because of their discriminatory effect on minority voters, and each state sued in federal court for a new determination of whether the laws should be pre-cleared. The pre-clearance trial for Texas begins July 9th, and for South Carolina on July 30th.

South Carolina submitted additional materials to the Department of Justice in April 2012. The Department has not issued a final decision on administrative pre-clearance. An affirmative decision by the Department would render the matter before the federal court moot, but if the Department upholds its initial objection issued in December 2011, the trial will proceed on schedule.

Not in Effect and Awaiting Approval from Voters

Minnesota voters will decide in November whether to create a voter ID requirement in the state. The Minnesota ballot measure will likely affect not only in-person voting but also the ability of Minnesotans to vote absentee, or to participate in the long-standing practice of Election-Day Registration. There is a lawsuit challenging the language of the ballot measure in state court.

With all these laws in effect or tied up in court, it is crucial that voters are informed about what they need to be able to register and vote this fall. Numerous voting rights groups, including the NAACP, have announced programs to help register voters. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Demos, Fair Elections Legal Network and Common Cause are working to support organizations to help voters get the proper form of voter ID.

The Brennan Center for Justice has the current information on what each law requires to vote. Check back on our Election 2012 page for updates in the coming months.

Keesha Gaskins serves as Senior Counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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Alert: Hartford Police To Conduct DUI Check Points

HARTFORD — The Hartford Police Department Traffic Division will conduct a DUI Enforcement checkpoint on Thursday, June 28, 2012, from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.., in the area of Brook Street and Mather Street.

This checkpoint is part of the Hartford Police Department’s ongoing expanded DUI enforcement program supervised by the HPD’s Traffic Division and funded through a grant from the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation DUI Enforcement Program.For the most up to date traffic information visit the Connecticut Interactive Travel Map by clicking here.

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Hartford Occupiers to Join Gathering in Colt Park

HARTFORD — New England protesters in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement on June 28  will descend on Colt park in Hartford to prepare for a Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia.

The national movement plans to convene on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall from June 30 to July 4 for a week of direct actions, movement building, and creation of a vision for a democratic future.

Members of Occupy Hartford will join activists from across New England  to this first Occupy National Gathering as the Occupy Caravan sweeps America with the “This Land is Our Land” road tour, id a spokesperson for the Hartford Movement.   The Occupy Caravan will be stopping briefly in Hartford. Occupiers from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut are expected to arrive at Colt Park in Hartford at 1:00pm.

Organizers said Occupy Hartford will be welcoming the Caravan, led by the Occupy the Roads RV, at Colt Park.  There will be interactive activities, time to share stories and food, and a food drive as part of the Caravan gathering, with 90 percent of the food going to the Hartford community, and 10 percent going to feed the homeless in Philadelphia, in defiance of a citywide ban against doing so.

The Caravan will leave at 3:00pm, continuing on to New Haven, then to Newark and finally Philadelphia.  One of the purposes of the Caravan is to gather up local riders and drivers as they head south to Philadelphia, so all members of the 99% are invited to gather friends and a vehicle, and join the Caravan.

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New Jamie Chung Film Brings Attention to Sex Trafficking

Koream Journal, Oliver Saria

Jamie Chung arrives for our interview at a Los Angeles café bearing a gift for Chong Kim, the woman upon whom Chung’s latest film, Eden, is based. They hug one another warmly and sit side by side. Kim shares photos from her smartphone of her 12-year-old son and scrolls through some snapshots taken during the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, which both attended and where Eden won three awards: Narrative Feature Audience Award, SXSW Chicken & Egg Emergent Narrative Woman Director Award (Megan Griffiths) and Special Jury Recognition for Performance (Jamie Chung). There’s an ease and lightness between them that belies the gravity of the film, inspired by Kim’s horrific true-life ordeal.

Set in 1994, Chung plays Hyun Jae, a Korean American high school student in New Mexico who enters a bar with a fake ID. She leaves with a seemingly kindhearted fireman who turns out to be a wrangler for a sex trafficking ring, headed by a corrupt law enforcement official. Imprisoned in a storage unit with dozens of other girls, Hyun’s captor gives her the name Eden and forces her to become a prostitute. Tortured, raped and injected with narcotics, Eden escapes her two years of captivity by deftly rising through the ranks of the organization.

On this bright Sunday afternoon, Chung, based in Los Angeles, and Kim, who lives in Dallas, seem like friends reuniting over brunch, nothing to indicate the extraordinary circumstances that have brought them together.

Kim opens the gift box that Chung hands to her, revealing a purple enamel bracelet framed in gold. Kim immediately puts it on. Chung presses her arm next to hers, “See? They match.” Chung is wearing the same bracelet in orange. Her gesture drives home the point that whatever happens to Eden, these two women are bonded, not merely by the film, but by a cause.

That cause involves the rampant, yet seldom-discussed issue of human trafficking. Federal law defines victims of human trafficking as those induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion. Legislation passed in 2000 states that any child under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud or coercion is involved.

Within U.S. borders, its victims are American-born and immigrants alike, the common denominator being that the most vulnerable in society often suffer the greatest risk: the teenage runaway who falls prey to a pimp for shelter and protection; the rural peasant from China who incurs debt for passage to America and gets trapped in indentured servitude at an illegal sweatshop; the young woman from Korea, duped by a recruiter, who finds herself forced to perform sex work in a massage parlor in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.

There are as many as 27 million men, women and children involved in forced labor, bonded labor and forced prostitution around the world, and upwards of 100,000 people live in bondage in the United States, according to State Department estimates. Some 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, with 14,500 to 17,500 trafficked into the U.S., according to a 2005 U.S. State Department report.

Sex trafficking, in particular, is believed to be the second most lucrative organized crime, experts say.

“Drugs can only be sold once,” explains Kathleen Ja Sook Bergquist, associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ School of Social Work and a licensed clinical social worker. “But a person can be sold over and over again.”

To read more, click here

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Former Hartford Housing Chief Alan Green Dies

HARTFORD — Alan Green, a former Executive Director of the Hartford Housing Authority who took the top post after a tumultuous episode of housing issues and disputes with the agency’s administration, has died. He was 66.

Known as an exemplary leader in the city, Greene took the helm at the Authority in  200 8. He resigned in January for health reasons.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra described Green as “a tireless advocate, effective leader and energetic catalyst for strong communities and families.  In leading the Authority and throughout his career, he made an enduring difference in his City and throughout Connecticut.

Green, who led the Authority for just over four years, amassed a distinguished career in philanthropy and public service in the city and state.  During his tenure at the Authority, Green made “significant progress” in redeveloping the Authority’s housing portfolio, including successful completion of the redevelopment of the former Stowe Village and beginning the redevelopment of Nelton Court, among other initiatives, officials said.

Prior to his appointment as Executive Director of the Hartford Housing Authority, Green served for five years as the President and CEO of New Samaritan Corporation, a Connecticut-based nonprofit developer of affordable housing.

He was founding partner of Green, Wilson & Associates, a management-consulting firm with a focus on managing charitable foundations and strategic planning for nonprofit corporations.

“Alan Green moved the Authority forward.  It was a privilege to work with him, and I look forward to building on the success achieved during his leadership of the Authority,” said Annette Sanderson, appointed to succeed Green by the Authority Board this month.  “His impact will long be remembered.”

A scholarship fund honoring Alan Green has been established at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

In addition to the scholarship fund, plans are already underway for the Authority to further honor Green for his contributions to the organization.

A native of the City of Hartford, Green earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Hartford, and a law degree from the University of Connecticut.  He has served throughout his career on the boards and committees of numerous charitable organizations and has made significant contributions to the well-being of the city, state and its residents.

Family and friends will hold a memorial on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Asylum Hill Congregation Church.

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Asian Americans to Pew Study: We’re Not Your ‘Model Minority’

News Analysis by Julianne Hing

It’s not every day that deep and rigorous research about Asian Americans is released to the public. So when the well-respected Pew Research Center released “The Rise of Asian Americans,”last Tuesday, it should have been reason enough to celebrate. Instead, the report drew widespread criticism from Asian American scholars, advocates and lawmakers.

We are “deeply concerned about how findings from a recent study by the Pew Research Center have been used to portray Asian Americans,” the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (AACAJ), a network of civil rights advocacy groups said on Wednesday.

Pew Answers

Although the Pew Research Center was not initially available to answer to criticisms of its report, “The Rise of Asian Americans,” Cary Funk a Pew senior researcher, responded to the article following its publication by Colorlines: “[The report] is a detailed analysis of the census data combined with a nationally representative survey of all Asian Americans.”

Funk said one of the “strengths” of the Asian-American population, its diversity, was a key hurdle for designing the survey. “It literally took talking with 65,000 households in order to reach enough Asian Americans to complete the survey with 3,500 U.S. Asians,” she explained.

“We do have a lot of information there that tries to look at the averages, and the extent to which there is diversity and range among groups,” Funk said, adding, “If you are going to talk about Asian Americans as a whole, then the facts are what the facts are.”

Funk said that survey questions about Asian Americans’ cultural attitudes and values were developed “with our panel of external advisors,” and that topics were general lifestyle questions Pew regularly covers in its surveys of other groups.

When asked about the narrative framing of the report, with which Asian-American advocates and academics were most concerned, Funk said, “What we’re trying to do is portray the information and present it in a way that is clear to everyone. And one of the things we’re not trying to do is take a stand. We’re not advocates one way or another, and we’re not in the business of trying to tell people what to think about this information.”

Funk was emphatic that Pew did not exclude any group in its survey: “If you were an Asian American you were included in this survey.”

Simplistic Portrayals

The report’s authors, AACAJ said, “paint a picture of Asian Americans as a model minority, having the highest income and educational attainment among racial groups. These portrayals are overly simplistic.”

The Pew report included both census data and social-trend polling of the six largest Asian-American ethnicities—Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese. These communities make up 85 percent of the roughly 17 million Asian Americans.

According to Pew, half of Asians in the United States graduated from college, compared with just 30 percent for the general population, and they report a median annual household income of $66,000, when Americans as a whole make $49,000.

Pew’s results are filled with nuggets of information that cement the idea that Asians are exceptional in other ways. They report the greatest satisfaction with their lives and are more invested in traditional markers of success.

Pew found that Asian Americans place a higher value on having a high-paying profession and a successful marriage than other ethnic groups. They also care more than the general public about “being a good parent.” Asian Americans make up only six percent of the U.S. population, but are actually the country’s fastest-growing racial group.

Critics say the Pew report mixes some fact with too much mythology about what people imagine Asians to be. Although a portrayal of Asian Americans as highly achieving and adept at overcoming humble beginnings to reach great financial and educational success seems flattering, many Asian Americans say this frame is not only factually inaccurate, it’s damaging.

The Real Story

“Our community is one of stark contrasts, with significant disparities within and between various subgroups. The ‘Asian Pacific American’ umbrella includes over 45 distinct ethnicities speaking over 100 dialects, and many of the groups that were excluded from this report are also the ones with the greatest needs,” said U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

More than a third of all Hmong, Cambodian and Laotian Americans over the age of 25 lack a high school degree, for instance. While some Asians may report incomes at or higher than whites, Cambodian and Laotian Americans report poverty rates as high as or higher than the federal poverty level of African Americans, according to the 2010 census.

Even among those that Pew included in its study, such as Chinese and Vietnamese Americans, these groups report a below-average attainment of high school diplomas, said Dan Ichinose, director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center’s (APALC) Demographic Research Project.

The more complex–and far less exciting explanation–for Asian American’s relatively high levels of education has more to do with immigration policy. It has driven selectivity about who gets to come to the U.S. and who doesn’t, said Ichinose. But a focus only on those in the upper echelons of the community renders everyone else invisible.

At the start of the recession, Asian Americans may have been more well situated to ride out the worst of the downturn. But as the recession has stretched on, Asian Americans have actually suffered the worst from long-term unemployment, the Economic Policy Institute found earlier this year.

And 2.3 million Asian Americans have no health insurance, said Deepa Iyer, head of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together.

Other indicators that supposedly show Asian Americans as comparatively well off can be misleading, Ichinose said. Although Pew used median household income to measure the community’s economic power, APALC prefers to go by per capita income.

Asian American households tend to be larger than average American households, with more workers and several generations living under one roof. With per capita income measures, some Asian American communities start looking more like Latinos than non-Hispanic whites in terms of their income, he said.

“It’s hard to comport Pew’s statistics about Asian Americans’ supposed happiness–and the we [have such] great stats–with all the other stats we know,” said Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

Asian American women, in particular, are more likely than the general U.S. population tocontemplate and attempt suicide, and are more likely to suffer from depression. Referring to the Pew study’ conclusions, Yeung stated, “Something just doesn’t add up.”

New Headlines, Old Tropes

Just as troubling for progressive Asian-American scholars and advocates was the mainstream media’s amplification of the Pew frame.

The headline from the Wall Street Journal’s writeup of the study announced: “Asians Top Immigration Class.” And the San Francisco Chronicle’s front page story proclaimed, “Group Has Highest Incomes, Is Best-Educated and Happier.”

This narrative fits neatly with a very American “bootstraps” ethos, where people rise and fall on their own skills and merits. It’s a convenient narrative for silencing groups who claim they’ve been impeded by institutional racism and racial discrimination, Yeung said.

“There’s this aspect of the media coverage where races are being played against each other,” she observed. “The not so implicit message is Asians are the better people of color, whereas blacks and Latinos are seen as having all these kinds of problems, so why can’t all people of color be like us.”

It is telling, Yeung noted, that Pew chose to focus so much of its polling on cultural attitudes toward parenting, success and home ownership. That framing smacks of the tired fascination with supposedly superior Asian cultural values, which can explain Asians’ relative success in the U.S. “I do think it’s important to look at how questions were asked,” she said.

Numbers without context don’t help readers understand what kind of meaning they should place on the information they’re given, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political scientist at the University of California, Riverside. Ramakrishnan served on Pew’s advisory council, but alongside other members of the board, has raised concerns about the report’s narrative.

“What’s really unfortunate is you have studies done by Asian Americans that are very rigorous that get no attention,” he said, citing the National Asian American Survey and the Advancing Justice organization’s 2011 study “Community of Contrast.”

They aggressively dig in to the nuances and diversity of the community.

Ramakrishnan added, “Then you have an organization like Pew that has a lot of credibility on other things that gets instant recognition.” He continued, “The danger in framing the study the way Pew did, and the way the media picked up on it, is that folks who are in the general public and institutional stakeholders and policy makers might get the impression that they don’t necessarily need to dig deep into our communities to understand that any sort of disparities that exist,” Iyer said.

“It’s a constant struggle to educate others, including Asian Americans, about the diversity within the community,” said APALC’s Dan Ichinose. “But we are not a monolith. We have needs. Hopefully policy makers will recognize that and respond.”

Photo: May Day Immigrant Rights March, Los Angeles Photo: Creative Commons/Korean Resource Center. First published on Colorlines.

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