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Dang, Yang

politics racism Asian
Phil Chu
Phil Chu
Making software since the 80s

As pleased and surprised as I was to see an Asian American do so well in the Democratic race, Andrew Yang was not one of my preferred candidates largely because I have a rule against voting for anyone who has shown no interest in any elected office besides the top one (a rule I also applied to Donald Trump, Jesse Jackson, Ross Perot…).

I also had some other qualms about his campaign. The whole Yang Gang thing felt very Bernie Broish. And he seemed to be more willing to blame robots than racism for society’s ills. That could have been somewhat tactical since, face it, if you want to win, you want the racist votes, too.

But the opinion piece by Yang exhorting Asian Americans to prove their American-ness could have been written by a white guy, like someone I could think of in the White House, and it doesn’t sound any better coming from an Asian American.

I can relate to the first few paragraphs relating his past experiences with racism. In the spectrum of racial experiences in America, I’ve had it pretty easy, mostly just people telling me about their summer trip to China and how polite my people are, but I still remember ching-chong comments from my youth and more recently while I jogged by a grade school I heard someone call me a Chinaman (first time I felt the urge to climb a fence and chase down a pack of schoolkids — kids these days, just like kids in the old days).

But his piece goes downhill from there. I think this is the worst paragraph.

During World War II, Japanese Americans volunteered for military duty at the highest possible levels to demonstrate that they were Americans. Now many in the Asian American community are stepping up, trying to demonstrate that we can be part of the solution. Some 17 percent of U.S. doctors are Asian and rushing to the front lines.

I’m not Japanese American, but I find that first sentence awful. It diminishes the patriotism of those who volunteered for the war (and also fails to mention fat lot of good that did them, they ended up in internment camps and got drafted to fight anyway — those who resisted the draft got imprisoned even more).

Similarly, I assume Asian Americans who are risking their lives on the front lines of the pandemic are doing it for the best of reasons, not primarily to “demonstrate that we can be part of the solution.” By the way, don’t forget the nurses (shout out to all the Filipino nurses out there — you won’t see them on TV medical shows, but they’re here).

We Asian Americans need to embrace and show our American-ness in ways we never have before.

I’ve never doubted I’m an American or felt obligated to prove it. It doesn’t seem Andrew Yang is there, yet.