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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Established in 1991, the Asian Pacific American Law Journal (APALJ) is dedicated entirely to Asian Pacific American issues. APALJ is one of only two law journals in the nation that focuses exclusively on the legal issues affecting APA communities. Run by students at the UCLA School of Law, the Journal seeks to facilitate discourse on issues affecting South Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian, and Pacific Islander communities in the United States.

APALJ plays an important role by providing a forum for legal scholars, practitioners and students to communicate about emerging concerns specific to Asian Pacific Americans and by disseminating these writings to APA populations. We work hard to continually outreach to the community and initiate discourse on APA issues. The journal welcomes articles from academics and professionals in the field, as well as comments and case notes from law students.


Hiding and Speaking in Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker

Native Speaker defies easy summary. Published in 1995, Native Speaker engages with the uneasy milieu of its era—the rise of globalization that accompanied the end of the Cold War, race relations and ethnic tensions in the United States during the 1990s and, connecting the two, an increased consciousness of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism.

Criticism about Native Speaker commonly focuses upon Henry’s role as a spy, and the politics of ethnic visibility and racial capital that accompany this creative decision. There is also a strong scholarly focus on place and cosmopolitanism, particularly with Native Speaker’s brief forays into globalism. Finally, John Kwang is another central figure for literary scholars, particularly in conjunction with Henry’s role as a spy and a mole within a Korean American politician’s base. I will depart from these analyses in the general topics of my focus, although they will figure into my scholarship. Instead, this essay will first investigate Native Speaker’s heavy emphasis on language and speech—two threads that run throughout the novel and are indivisible from the central concerns Native Speaker addresses. Then, I will focus on how Henry’s family influences his understanding of identity, often through their own unique modes of communication. In particular, I will explore family as a mediator of assimilation, looking at how Henry derives an understanding of his own right to belong in America through his parents, his wife Lelia, and son Mitt. I argue that Native Speaker contests and problematizes the racist system of white supremacy through these thematic elements, often marking moments of ideological whiteness with physically white objects or descriptors. Ultimately, Native Speaker indicates that little is as we expect it to be regarding the way race operates in America, questioning even the foundations of social interaction such as language and the family unit.

Coming Home to Health: Addressing Housing Insecurity to Improve the Health of Native Hawaiians in Hawai'i County

Hawaii has one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing unhoused populations as well as one of the highest costs of living in the country. Native Hawaiians experience housing insecurity at the highest rates among all communities within Hawaii. Hawai’i County, encompassing the entire Big Island of Hawaii, has the highest percentage of Native Hawaiians  and demonstrates the unique housing challenges faced by rural Native Hawaiians in the rapidly modernizing and tourist-heavy state. In Hawai’i County, three factors drive Native Hawaiian housing insecurity: 1) high cost of living, 2) insufficient economic opportunities, and 3) the historical underfunding and belated assignment of home lands.

This widespread housing unaffordability among Native Hawaiians in Hawai’i County has a detrimental impact on Native Hawaiian health. Native Hawaiians who face threat of eviction are more likely to experience increased depression, high blood pressure, childhood lifetime hospitalization, and poor child health.8 Additionally, Hawaii has the nation’s highest utility costs, displacing funds from food and medical needs. When faced with housing unaffordability, many households resort to overcrowding, which Native Hawaiian families report at a higher rate. Overcrowding has been found to contribute to respiratory and digestive diseases. Families faced with housing unaffordability also tend to resort to subpar living conditions, which has been connected to increased lead exposure, a health risk Hawai’i County reports at higher rates. Subpar living conditions also drive environmental triggers for asthma, which impacts Native Hawaiian children at higher rates.

Ameliorating the situation requires addressing each of the factors discussed above. First, Hawaii could address the high cost of living by limiting or regulating short-term rentals and vacation homes. Many other large vacation destination cities have made similar efforts which provide Hawaii a range of options to consider. Second, Hawaii could improve economic opportunities in Hawai’i County by restructuring the economy to include more medium and high skill jobs and specifically incentivizing Native Hawaiian educational attainment and job training. Third, legal advocates could maintain pursuit of home lands distribution through litigation. While progress has been slow and efforts may take decades, the tide of mounting legal victories is slowly shifting and recent changes mean the long-awaited watershed victory may be on a distant horizon.

Cultural Zoning as Reparations: Providing Power to Asian American Communities

This Article combines three different concepts that have previously been researched into something novel. It starts by exploring how Asian Americans can justifiably claim reparations for over a century of xenophobia and exclusion committed by the American government and society. The Article then considers what form reparations should take, considering cultural zoningand its usage by Asian Americans in cities like San Francisco and New York.Then, it considers the value of minorities being granted power rather thanrelying only on the assertion of legal rights, incorporating Professor MaggieBlackhawk’s writing about Indigenous communities. Crucially, ProfessorBlackhawk notes that even the most championed civil rights have considerablelimitations when it comes to providing minority communities the abilityto protect themselves from political and social harm.

Synthesizing these three distinct ideas, the Article then outlines a mechanism to achieve reparations for Asian American communities by granting these communities the power to create cultural zones. Such a mechanism would allow these communities to protect their unique interests and to wield a limited degree of sovereignty over spaces and institutions that have become important to them. After identifying some concerns with this policy proposal, this Article will consider how a cultural zoning power would have been helpful in the recent struggles over development in the Two Bridges neighborhood of New York City.

Legally Codifying A Social Construction: How American Courts Have Weaponized Whiteness to Exclude Black and Chinese People

Race, including whiteness, is hard to define because different groups have used it differently, for their own purposes. Ian F. Haney López defines race as “a sui generis social phenomenon in which contested systems of meaning serve as the connections between physical features, faces, and personal characteristics . . . social meanings connect our faces to our souls.” Although López focuses his analysis on the othering of Mexicans, he is clear that “a Mexican might also be White, Indian, Black, or Asian.” He describeshow increasing social prejudice against Mexican people “quickly became legal [prejudices],” with laws being passed that both purported to define what a “Mexican” was, and labeled them as “not peaceable and quiet persons.” Ultimately, the “attempt to racially define the conquered, subjugated, or enslaved is at the same time an attempt to racially define the conqueror, the subjugator, or the enslaver.” By creating sub-classes of races, it follows that there would be a superior race. As Cheryl Harris writes, “being white automatically ensures higher economic returns in the short term, as well as greater economic, political, and social security in the long run. Becoming white meant gaining access to a whole set of public and private privileges that materially and permanently guaranteed basic subsistence needs and, therefore, survival.” Even as society evolves, whiteness continues to be the yardstick by which everything else is compared.

Here, I will focus on how the courts have legally developed and legitimated the concept of whiteness to achieve no other purpose besides exclusion. Part I will discuss case law in the mid to late 1800’s regarding Chinese people and Chinese Americans. Then, I will discuss case law in the same timeframe regarding Black Americans. The case law will be presented chronologically to showcase the development of the interpretation of law over time. Part II will then explore how the courts have weaponized the concept of whiteness by comparing how law is manipulated and interpreted to be exclusionary. I will examine how the repercussions of this legal history have manifested in various areas of law, such as immigration law. In Part III, I will discuss how this knowledge can be used moving forward.

"Concededly Loyal": Mitsuye Endo and the Continuing Significance of Ex parte Endo

Ex parte Endo involves issues ranging from the constitutionality of detaining citizens during wartime, judicial avoidance in cases alleging fundamental rights violations, the selectively porous barrier between the judicial and executive branches, the evaluation of a citizen’s loyalty, and the implication of disloyalty due to one’s ancestry—in short, questions of enduring social and legal import that demand further and engaged study with the case and the woman who made it possible. This Article argues that Ex parte Endo and the petitioner at its center merit greater attention and recognition in both legal and cultural discourse.