The Time for Asian American Revolution

Source: Cynthia Trinh

Source: Cynthia Trinh

I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine, a fellow Asian American, about our opposing views between Trump vs. Sanders. As our conversation continued he explained to me that he felt Bernie Sanders was a decade too late, or two terms too late, and on his ‘last leg’ so to speak. I went on to list the consistency Bernie provided and the fact that he continues to actively be on the the front lines of activism for civil liberties. Not to mention bills he has sponsored such as the Workplace Democracy Act and Prescription Drug Affordability Act of 2015. I could see though he had his mind set and so I turned the conversation to why he supports Trump. Basically he felt that Trump loves America, will make America wealthy again, and can, pardon my language, ‘get shit done’.

I agree that Trump loves the American way, at least in the narrative he lives in. Will he make America wealthy again? I could see that but making America wealthy does not mean that the average American will become wealthy again which will only lead to more income inequality. I also fear that his capitalistic mentality will lead to high risk, high reward decisions that may lead in the best case scenario a wealthy America during his terms but could also lead to bankruptcy similar to his most recent one, Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009, which pretty much led to his exit of business ventures in Atlantic City. Finally, when it comes to ‘getting shit done’ you really can’t argue with Sander’s 16 years of experience in politics compared to Trump’s how many? On top of that I explained that it takes more than one individual to ‘get shit done’ in America which is why our nation is founded on three checks and balances. So even if Trump were to be president who says he could get Congress to cooperate with him and that he can conquer the bipartisan divide that seems to rot progressive politics, which by the way Sanders has experience in. His work with John McCain in 2014 where he passed legislation reforming the VA health care system is proof of that. If Trump were to be able to bridge the gap between the bipartisan divide then Congress will have essentially publicly, symbolically admitted to being bought out. That our Government IS for sale!

So what does this have to do with an Asian American revolution you may be wondering and why I chose this as my title. The reason is simple. This election may be the most important for the Asian American community to promote progressive changes in a social and civil liberties setting. A chance to change the representation of Asian American’s in the public sphere and to bring forward issues such as immigration reform, education, and racism. Why now?

It is clear with recent articles such as “The Asian Advantage,” by Nicholas Kristof and the reactions by writers such as Yanan Wang’s Asian Americans speak out against a decades-old ‘model minority’ myth of the Washington Post and Mark Lennihan’s Asian-Americans and Stereotypes of the New York Times, that Asian American’s time in the lime light is now. Wang explains that Kristof even with his experience in speaking out about controversial topics, “did not expect the magnitude of the pushback from the Asian American community to be so great that it would prompt him to post a follow-up on Facebook this Saturday.” which gives me great hope that my fellow Asian Americans are no longer willing to stand on the sidelines as mere model minority figures. Lennihan’s article is a collection of backlash to Kristof which is a great read. This shows me that the stage is set and the Asian Community is prepared to make a change, a sign that a social revolution is coming and coming fast.

I’m not recommending a radical revolution but instead a political one. What do we need for this to become a reality? Well first we need a community who is willing to take action which is already taking place. Secondly, we need more visibility in mainstream media and politics which is becoming apparent with these articles and also with the new anti-bullying campaign launched Thursday morning by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The campaign, #ActToChange, was launched in collaboration with the Sikh Coalition and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE). The campaign’s website features blogs, resources, and video testimonials from celebrities, athletes, and community members in multiple languages. Frances Kai-Hwa Wang of NBC News published a great article about it,the New White House Anti-Bullying Campaign Seeks to Empower Asian Americans. So far I’ve mentioned three major media outlets, NY Times, Washington Post, & NBC News, which is putting Asian Americans more and more in the spotlight.

Finally, why THIS election is so important is we need a leader who will help bring about this political revolution and you guessed it, Bernie sanders. Why Bernie for Asian Americans though, well lets compare what he can do for the community to three other major candidates I feel have a serious chance of winning.

Donald Trump, well aside from his racist comments, the only thing ‘Asian’ he seems to have on his mind is that China is the economic enemy which can be seen in this video mashup of his references to ‘China’. He claims to love China but don’t let this fool you as Philip Bump of the Washington Post in his Why Donald Trump is smart to talk about China, China, China outlines, “Trump talks about China for two reasons. First, because it allows him to argue, as he did during his campaign announcement, that China constantly beats the United States in trade deals. And, second, that he’d beat China — and everyone else — given the opportunity.” One thing that’s for certain, his focus is not on the national Asian American community.

Hilary Clinton. Well this one is simple. I only see her caring if LG, Samsung, Sony, & Toyota all decided to give generous donations. And that’s only if either GE, Apple, Microsoft, & Ford hasn’t already or won’t be giving her any generous donations. I’m sorry Ms. Clinton I just feel like you can bought easier than won over. But hey maybe we can afford a meeting in private?!

Jeb Bush. I admit this may be a show of ignorance on my part but I really feel that he wouldn’t know the difference between a Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc American. Not to mention I doubt he would be someone I could have a conversation with explaining the differences between South Asians & Pacific Islanders, and how it relates to the Indian & Pacific oceans. Not an intelligent one at least. He reminds me of Joseph Dunn who put up signs saying “don’t vote for Ho Chi Chin” targeting Maine mayoral candidate Ben Chin, which you can read about in Traci G. Lee & Chris Fuchs’ article ‘Ho Chi Chin’ Signs Target Maine Mayoral Candidate Ben Chin, in his comments about ‘anchor babies’ earlier this summer and his inability to understand that it is a slur for all people of immigrants. You see Ben Chin’s grandfather “emigrated from southern China at age 5, fought in World War II and was later investigated for being a communist during the McCarthy era after a business he started became successful.”

Bernie Sanders. He is the only candidate that has shown true initiative with addressing social issues with people of color such as his fulfillment of his promise to mention Sandra Bland in his statement,

“This video of the arrest of Sandra Bland shows totally outrageous police behavior. No one should be yanked from her car, thrown to the ground, assaulted and arrested for a minor traffic stop. The result is that three days later she is dead in her jail cell. This video highlights once again why we need real police reform. People should not die for a minor traffic infraction. This type of police abuse has become an all-too-common occurrence for people of color and it must stop.”

On top of that he has shown attention to immigration reform which I believe is a big issue among Asian Americans when he hired longtime immigration activist Arturo Carmona to be his national Latino outreach director and southwest political director. I personally have dealt with immigration and know many who have.

Another issue many Asian Americans don’t realize because we don’t speak out enough about is poverty. Unfortunately, America is home to;

  • Asian Americans living below poverty: 12.6% (U.S. average living below poverty: 12.4%).v
  • Poverty Rates of Hmong: 37.8%; Cambodian: 29.3%; Laotian: 18.5%; Vietnamese: 16.6%.vi  

This is why it is important to raise the minimum wage to a wage that will help lift our fellow Asian Americans out of poverty. Many of our ancestors came to the States with little in their pockets and we can’t turn out backs on them.  (Statistics provided by Initiative on Asian American and pacific Islanders). On the education front, as Colleges & Universities have made it harder and harder for Asian Americans to earn scholarships, free tuition is that much more important for our community than others. Finally as an Asian American it is important that I take care of my family and especially my elders. That I repay them for supporting me which makes expanding Social Security near and dear to my heart.

I have to end this with a caveat. Yes, I am biased towards Senator Sanders for personal reasons that I sited in my previous article.  So my knowledge of his platform compared to others is skewed but I am just a 23 yro recent graduate from Rutgers University so please let me hear your thoughts, correct me if I’m wrong, and lets start an Asian American Revolution and put ourselves on the forefront of politics and make a change.

 -Andie K.

Author: Andie K.

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1 Comment

  1. Good essay. I agree with a lot of it.

    What many people, including middle class Asian Americans, don’t realize is that the population is very “bimodal” – there’s one cluster of people who are middle class or upper middle class, and another cluster who are poor. The upper mode is well known, and identified with areas like Flushing Queens, in NYC or Arcadia, California.

    The lower mode is less well known, but live across the country in places like South Central, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Minneapolis, Houston, Chinatowns all over, and New Orleans. Really, the working class Asians are everywhere, but virtually invisible to the media and affluent Asian immigrants.

    This is a somewhat contemporary, post-1965 development. Prior to 1965, when immigration was restricted, Asian Americans were mostly Chinese-American or Japanese-American or Filipino-American, and broadly working class (and eligible for affirmative action when that was enacted).

    Consequently, Asian American politics, despite appearing very middle class, has roots in the working class. Not only that, but I think there’s broad support for a lot of Sanders’ policies:

    – workplace rights – because we aren’t heavily unionized, we need laws to protect us

    – education – yes, a stereotype, but we need education, partly because we have a hard time breaking into established middle class jobs like construction work. Asian Americans tend to support regular (non-charter school) public education more than other groups.

    – healthcare and welfare – because so many working class Asian Americans work for small businesses, we are one of the most under-insured groups out there. In LA Koreatown, I heard half the people didn’t have health insurance before Obamacare. The percentage is probably still high. I have seen it – in L.A. Korean and Vietnamese people use public health facilities.

    – we’re also very present in home healthcare, which can be a low-wage job.

    – there are numerous South Asian groups, and while people tend to think of middle class Indians and Pakistanis, there are also poor South Asians from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. We may be seeing more poor Afghans as well.

    – the War on Terrorism has forced Muslims in to activism, and the Asian American organizations have reached out to build bridges and form a political alliance, so this affects everyone from Indonesia and Malaysia in the east, to people from Turkey and the Balkans.

    – PTSD and mental health – are actually big issues for Asian Americans. It’s an emerging issue because people have always bought the “model minority myth” and assumed everything was OK. It turns out we’re more depressed than average. Also, we have an aging population of war veterans and refugees who suffer PTSD. Unfortunately, they don’t get help from the VA hospital because they weren’t in the US armed services. They might be military of other countries or just civilians who saw war.

    – there are also numerous Pacific Islander communities that are under the AA umbrella, but aren’t immigrants because they are natural born citizens of the US, from a territory. Chamorro from Guam, Marshallese from the Marshall Islands, Indigenous Hawaiians and Samoans. There are also immigrants from the islands as well, like Tongans, Tahitians, Fijians, and Maori from New Zealand. I’m sure there are more.

    – finally, there are many Asian Americans who come from countries other than their ethnic identity. We are people on the move, and may have moved from Latin America, Africa, Canada, or Europe.

    This is all food for thought.

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