Kat Chow

Kat Chow is a founding member of NPR's Code Switch, an award-winning team that covers the complicated stories of race, ethnicity, and culture. She helps make new episodes for the Code Switch podcast, reports online features for Code Switch, and reports on-air pieces for NPR's shows like Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Her work has led readers and listeners on explorations of the gendered and racialized double standards surrounding double-eyelid surgery, as well as the mysterious origins of a so-called "Oriental" riff – a word she's also written a personal essay about. Much of her role revolves around finding new ways to build communities and tell stories, like @todayin1963 or #xculturelove.

During her tenure at NPR, Chow has also worked with NPR's show Invisibilia to develop a new digital strategy; reported for KERA in Dallas, Texas, as NPR's 2015 radio reporting fellow; and served on the selection committee for AIR Media's incubator project, Localore. Every now and then, she's a fourth chair on NPR's podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. And sometimes, people ask her to talk about the work she does — at conferences in Amsterdam or Chicago, or at member stations in St. Paul or Louisville.

While a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Chow wrote a food column for the Seattle Weekly, interned with the Seattle Times and worked on NBC's Winter Olympics coverage in Vancouver, B.C. You can find her tweeting for Code Switch at @NPRCodeSwitch and sharing her thoughts at @katchow.

It's hard to figure out what to say after the horrific violence of recent days, but Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby are our guides as they walk us through this week's extra episode.

For this week's episode, I sat down with my Code Switch teammate Gene Demby to dig into one of our favorite topics: rep sweats. It's the feeling of anxiety that can come with watching TV shows or movies starring people who look like you, especially when People Who Look Like You tend not to get a lot of screen time.

My dad, who came to the U.S. in 1969 from Hong Kong, who speaks English-lilted-with-Taishanese, who has lived in Connecticut for two-thirds of his life — three times the length of his time in Asia — still uses the word "Oriental."

It's always a casual reference. "This place used to be a Oriental restaurant," he'll say, as we drive by a boarded-up storefront that once was a Chinese take-out joint.

He doesn't use it in a derogatory way. It's just his go-to term for anything Asian, whether that's food, a business, a person, an idea. But I keep trying to get him to stop.

So you walk into the new Korean joint around the corner and discover that (gasp) the head chef is a white guy from Des Moines. What's your gut reaction? Do you want to walk out? Why?

The question of who gets to cook other people's food can be squishy — just like the question of who gets to tell other people's stories. (See: the whole controversy over the casting of the new Nina Simone biopic.)

Jeremy Arambulo, a Filipino-American comic artist who lives in Los Angeles, says he basically came out of the womb knowing the legend of Bruce Lee, the kung fu king. "He's like our Elvis," says Arambulo. "If we didn't have him, geez, who would we have? Charlie Chan? I don't know. Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's?"

In Fresh Off The Boat's first episode, Eddie Huang walks into the cafeteria of his new middle school for the first time, toting a brown paper bag. As he looks for a seat, we're reminded that on top of the usual new school jitters, Eddie's the lone Asian-American kid in a sea of white faces, each with their prepackaged Lunchables and prepackaged friend groups.

Recently, we've been talking a lot about onscreen diversity and how much browner TV has gotten in the past few years with shows like Empire, Master of None and Dr. Ken and showrunners like Shonda Rhimes and Nahnatchka Khan injecting more people of color into the system.

Around this time in 2014, ABC had just canceled the sitcom Selfie, starring everybody's ideal boyfriend John Cho and Karen Gillan. Cho was the first Asian-American male to play the lead in a rom-sitcom — he called his role "revolutionary" — and fans lamented that the show was just finding its legs when it got cut.

The word "diversity" gets thrown around a lot in these parts, and recently, it has come under a lot of scrutiny; it's easy to invoke, but what does it actually mean?

Grace Lee Boggs, who has spent much of her life advocating for civil rights and labor rights, became such a noted figure in Detroit's Black Power movement that people assumed she must be partially black. In some of her FBI files, Boggs, who is Chinese-American, was described as "probably Afro Chinese."

(We'll let that sit with you for a moment.)

And that's not the only assumption she's defied. For almost a century — she turned 100 Saturday — she's challenged how people think about their own activism.

There's a long history to the Emanuel African Methodist Espiscopal Church in Charleston, S.C., — affectionately known as "Mother Emanuel" — where nine churchgoers were allegedly shot and killed by 21-year-old Dylann Roof on Wednesday night in what authorities are calling a hate crime. In fact, this church has become a revered symbol of black resistance to slavery and racism.

Today on Code Switch, writer and critic Roxane Gay, who's a favorite of ours, writes about the problem of all-white recommended readings lists.

On Sunday, five St. Louis Rams players jogged onto the field with their arms raised by their heads, a stream of fog behind them: hands up, don't shoot.

The players — Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Stedman Bailey — were invoking the gesture that's been widely used in protesting the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. This followed the announcement that a grand jury would not indict Wilson in Brown's death, and the release of a hefty batch of evidence shown to the jury by St. Louis prosecutor Robert McCullough.

This past week, we called for stories about your first Thanksgiving in the United States. Who'd you spend it with? Where were you coming from? What'd you eat? What'd you think of it? we wondered.

And many of the stories we heard from you were about food: You had issues roasting the turkey properly. Your mom found, um, a creative solution to making your bird golden-brown. You ate a lot of different alternative Thanksgiving meals. Your stories were goofy and weird, but most of them made us smile. Here are some of them:

Leticia Ortiz

On Monday night, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch delivered the news that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown. And in an unusual move, the announcement was accompanied by the release of an enormous batch of evidence presented to the grand jury — including much-talked-about photos of Wilson, taken after he shot and killed Brown.

In our semi-regular Word Watch feature, we take a look at a word or phrase that has caught our attention, whether for its history, usage, etymology, or just because it has an interesting story.

This is the second half of a look at the history and motivations behind the Asian blepharoplasty, popularly known as "double-eyelid surgery." On Monday, we dug into its background and some of its history. Today, we'll explore the "why."

A lot of assumptions are made about why people undergo double-eyelid surgery. Assumptions like: They wanted to look more white, or they wanted to look less Asian.

This is part one of a two-part series looking at the history and motivations behind the Asian blepharoplasty, popularly known as "double-eyelid surgery." Find part two here.

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