Calling All Asian American Voters

Politics was never my business before, but as I have come to recognize  the prophetic call upon those who follow Christ is take on the role of activist, I’m beginning to accept that I must engage my faith and my beliefs in the public sphere.

As an Asian American, this is no easy task. I don’t recall politics being a common household subject. The ideals of a getting into a good school, acquiring a profitable career, and securing a family seemed to be a non-political issue. If you mind your business, work extra hard, and save your money – it doesn’t matter who’s President; that’s what was communicated to me growing up. Political fanatics seemed bizarre to me, made me realize how foreign I am. And indeed, it is this same sense of foreignness that is used to discriminate Asian American voters today in this article.

Some quick excerpts:

…on polling day in 2006 there were many examples of “racist and intimidatory” remarks to Asian Americans such as: “‘How come you don’t speak English?’, ‘Why don’t you go back to your home country?’ and ‘You’re turning this country into a dump.”‘

…The group said it registered 200 complaints during monitoring of 172 polling sites and a multilingual survey of over 4,700 Asian American voters in nine states.

…”Asian Americans, even though they are citizens, are still perceived as foreigners. As part of an anti-immigrant sentiment that seems to be on the rise there is hostility and some sense that these people are newcomers and don’t belong,” she said.

In short, my fellow Asian Americans, get out, get informed, and vote.

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Comments

  1. jonolan says:

    Add “learn english” and you’ve got a good list.

  2. David Park says:

    English is not the problem. Ignorance and racism are. But thank you jonolan for exemplifying the common sentiment of Whites in America.

  3. jonolan says:

    David,

    I have lived near Asians for many years and have seen many who had resided in the US for a great deal of time who did not speak English with even marginal fluency. I have seen many 2nd generation Asian-Americans who’s accents were nearly incomprehensible.

    If you want the issues to ease – they won’t ever fully stop – integration is essential. Language is first step in that integration.

  4. daniel so says:

    David — Thanks for sharing this article and for the prophetic call to engage culture and society. On a similar note, I have read the complaints of many white Americans about how “those Asian” people don’t get involved in local schools (e.g., PTA, etc.). I’m not sure what they expect when there is such vitriol and hatred simmering just beneath the surface, and purposeful attempts to marginalize and discriminate against anyone perceived as being different. And, for the record, we are actively involved in our local school.

    Jonolan — Even if we were to accept your claims of living near “many” 2nd generation Asian Americans with “nearly incomprehensible” accents, you certainly have not known *all* of us. So, until you perform a legitimate and comprehensive nationwide survey, your attempt at asserting some kind of expertise falls laughably short.

    You claim that integration is essential, and yet you display obvious disdain for others who do not conform to your beliefs. Unity and peace come from empathy and understanding, not grandstanding and posturing about “my” country and “you” people.

    Perhaps you could benefit from some English lessons: you should have written “whose” accents rather than “who’s” accents.

  5. jonolan says:

    Mr. So, thank you for correcting my spelling; sadly it’s not my strong point. I get too caught up in whats tumbling through my mind to keep up with it sometimes.

    I do not claim any authoritative knowledge of the Asian culture in America. I merely state what I have observed. I will freely admit that I’ve lived near various Asian “areas” – find me a PC phrase if you wish – where the prevalence of other languages did not reinforce the ideal of learning fluency in English. Perhaps things are different in more integrated areas.

    I maintain that immigrants of any sort need to assimilate into their new culture. Becoming fluent in the local idiom is a crucial first step.

    But hey. you’ve already decided I’m a bigot so what difference is my opinion?

  6. jadanzzy says:

    Jonolan you have a scary avatar!

    disclaimer: written in anger.

    “You’re turning this country into a dump.” Ellis Island was once a dump, probably occupied by the ancestors of the person that made that ignorant remark.

    The SPECIFIC white Americans that are annoyed of Asian Americans are so because we actually use the system in our favor and become their bosses. They’re usually dumb and uneducated.

  7. jonolan says:

    Jadanzzy, thank you; I’m generally considered a scary person and chose an avatar that closely suited me.

    You and Daniel are both right in th assertion that the people who make vile comments at the polls are wrong and probably ignorant. I just believe that this doesn’t preclude the need of people to integrate into American society.

    There are two types of people generally described as xenophobic: ignorant bigots and people who are concerned about an irreversible change in American society. The latter are further concerned about about the trend in “multiculturalism” that seems to encourage ethnic groups not to assimilate into the general population.

  8. While I, too, have concerns about a “multiculturalism” that ghettoizes under a veneer of a heavy blandness, generally the only Asian immigrants I know who’ve made little attempt to seriously learn English are those who are already past the retirement age and thus under the care of their younger family members.

    »I have seen many 2nd generation Asian-Americans who’s accents were nearly incomprehensible.«
    What are you calling second-generation? Do you consider immigrants who came at age 13-15 second-generation? I would not be surprised about accents in that case, since 12 is the approximate threshold for first-language acquisition, which we could also expect to be the age after which a second language will typically be acquired with a significant accent.

    »I maintain that immigrants of any sort need to assimilate into their new culture. Becoming fluent in the local idiom is a crucial first step.«
    I think there’s a crucial distinction to be drawn between integration, where immigrants are able to function and participate fully in the society in which they are immersed, and total assimilation, which rather entails cultural shift and loss in the younger generation of the ways of their ethnic culture. While this will not by any means wipe out, say, Cantonese, we have seen at least three waves of Chinese immigration, each associated with one distinct Sinitic language. I for one do not want to see assimilated populations with no knowledge of their ethnic culture washing out their heritage into a sterile, generic pan-Asianism.

  9. jonolan says:

    Epeuthutebetes,

    I’m calling born in the US or cam over as toddlers 2nd generation. I’ve seen / heard many who were nearly incomprehensible. To be fair though, I’ve spent most of my time in the US near large Asian communities where integration is not the rule so my experiences may not be typical across the US. I stated that, though not as explicitly as just now.

    I used integrate s opposed to assimilate for exactly the reasons that you stated. Gods above and below! Can you imagine the blandness of a totally homogenized society? Ick! Immigrants do need to integrate though – both for the sake of society and for themselves.

  10. nick says:

    good starting point for discussion. i hope contemporary asian-american christians can conceive of a political imagination that goes beyond voting in nationally staged elections. participation in community-based grassroots organizations or ecclesial communities (such as the new monastic movement or Christian Community Development Association communities) seems to be a mode of political action that accounts for the incarnational nature of the gospel and runs less risk of being coopted by the powers of the nation-state.

  11. Robert Shih says:

    I wonder how jonolan can make such ludicrous statements about immigrants when America in general was BUILT on the backs of immigrants. In fact the immigrant experience is one of the most American experiences there are. From Irish to Chinese to whatever, we have come to America many times with little more than our clothes on our backs and high hopes for a better life in a new land and a new place to call home. And another thing, the freedom of America INCLUDES being able to practice your own culture. And the idea of integration isn’t always necessary for “society” as many times groups of immigrants create localized communities with strong economies all their own. Chinatowns are capable of generating revenue both for the immigrants which you urge to integrate and the cities that host them. America is about being a melting pot, but a good soup doesn’t necessarily need to be all blended together homogeneously. A good hearty soup has it’s meaty chunks.

  12. jonolan says:

    But learning the language of your host nation is essential. Otherwise they’ll always be foreigners, just ones living within our borders. Robert, you mistake the desire for immigrants to achieve enough assimilation to function alongside others for a desire to homogenize America.

  13. Robert Shih says:

    The measure of success isn’t one that can be uniformly applied to all people. For some it’s owning a business that adds to that niche community of immigrants. For some it’s even simpler. Not everyone drives to have that white collar executive job and white picket fence in suburbia. They simply live to fill their roles in life many times and do just measurably better than they would have back in their home countries. And to be honest, many immigrants stay foreigners by choice in their mentality. Their homelands will always be in their hearts. They are perfectly entitled to that mentality. For them, their children will mark the real steps into Americanization in their stead.

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