by TOM L. HAYASHI of OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
A letter to Patricia Mitchell and the Ordway Center for Performing Arts:
I am writing on behalf of OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, a national membership driven organization dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) – in support of the letter advanced by the Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition and to express our vehement opposition to the Ordway Center for Performing Arts’ decision to produce the Miss Saigon musical.
Every iteration of Miss Saigon has been met with criticism and critique from the APA community and our allies for its continued negative depiction of Asian Pacific Islanders. The fact that the Ordway Center decided to produce this show in spite of the history of opposition against it is insulting to the APA community.
Miss Saigon is filled with a myriad of racist and sexist depictions of APAs. The musical continues the long American media trend of fetishizing and exoticizing APA women as docile and submissive objects. Likewise, APA men are also reduced to overdone tropes. However, unlike women, they are villainized as insufferable men with no redeeming human qualities. It is unacceptable that racism against the APA community continues to be defended as artistic freedom when equally racist caricatures of other racial groups, such as mammies, are avoided.
Similarly, a musical about a transcontinental slave trade where the female slave falls in love with the slave master would be impermissible, and rightfully so. Though stories such as those may have occurred, they are racist and offensive, such is the problem with Miss Saigon and the argument for its historical accuracy.
Cultivating dialogue about race and educating an audience does not have to come at the continued expense of Asian Pacific Americans. The Ordway could have chosen to tell stories from that time that includes holistic depictions of Asian Pacific Americans, or it could have chosen to amend scenes to more accurately depict APAs.
In conclusion, Miss Saigon is an affront to the Asian Pacific American community. It further perpetuates negative portrayals of APA men and women and trivializes the experiences and narratives of Vietnamese individuals during that time. We ask that the Ordway Center for Performing Arts comply with the requests from the Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition.
This letter is written in support of the letter advanced by the Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition. Thank you for your consideration. Please feel free to contact me at (202) 223-5500 ext. 111 or at email@example.com.
Tom L. Hayashi
OCA National Center