Being the Other People of Color in this Election

This election has come down to the wire. I’ve already casted my vote absentee in the State of New York, where I reside (I’m away on business and will be so for the election). I’ve donated numerous times to HRC. This is my last piece before our “day of reckoning” that I’ve been writing on and off for the past few weeks, so the tone shifts back and forth quite a bit.

First, my friend Alice, who is also Asian American articulated why she’s voting more than I ever could:

We filled out our ballots yesterday. Just a nice Saturday afternoon spent enjoying the fresh breeze coming in from our patio, and a little political discourse. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am voting this election cycle. I vote in every cycle, but this one has obviously given our nation a lot of food for thought. So, here goes:

Because we moved from our home of Hong Kong to America in advance of the 1997 return to China, so that we could live in a democratic nation.
Because my parents worked multiple jobs to scrimp and save so they could become small business owners.
Because despite not initially speaking a lick of English, immigrants like my parents (and ultimately their children) can be successful through education and hard work.
Because so many people live in a place where they do not get a vote.
Because so many before us fought for our right to vote.
Because I don’t believe in more walls or directed policing of specific communities.
Because Black Lives Matter.
Because I don’t condone inflammatory, hateful statements towards people because of their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference.
Because taco trucks are awesome.
Because I believe in equal rights.
Because love is love is love is love.
Because inappropriate sexual behavior should not be rewarded.
Because any human being’s body is theirs, and nobody should violate it by touching without consent or telling a person what they can and cannot do with it.
Because Planned Parenthood is needed in many communities across the nation.
Because we should not invite foreign nations to hack us.
Because global warming is real.
Because the unemployment rate is now below 5%, down from 10% in 2009.
Because our next generation shouldn’t have a bully in the Oval Office as their example.
Because experience matters.
Because a woman should not be defined by what her husband did/does.
Because it’s time to shatter ceilings.
Because I can.

So many reasons. What are yours?

The NYTimes ran this article Donald Trump Is Seen as Helping Push Asian-Americans Into Democratic Arms, which was followed up with this piece on FiveThirtyEight and NPR.  I also wanted to add more layers to this conversation, especially given our historically low-levels of voter turnout.

I know as an Asian person, I’m not seen quite like other People of Color or even as an American by both White people and other People of Color. I’ve lost count of the times racist White people think I’m playing on their team in being okay with being prejudiced toward other groups, not understanding why I would identify and side with Black and Brown people, not understanding oppression is one big hate I know whose barrel could be turned against us at anytime.

I’d like to think this needed no explaining but the nonetheless this piece below articulated this much better than I can:

“Pollsters remain puzzled why Asians, the wealthiest racial demographic, still vote to the left, and social scientists breezily wonder out loud if it won’t be long before whiteness invites Asians to join the club. I’m doubtful. As long as Asians continue to be reminded they ultimately do not have say over their own Americanness, they will have more in common with the other minority groups vulnerable to the caprice of public fear and political fearmongering. Muslims and Arabs are terrorists; Latinos are undocumented job-thieves; blacks are violent criminals. And Chinese—those circumspect, duplicitous, sneaky Chinese—are spies.
There is a reckoning coming for people of color, as the steady march toward a majority-minority country butts up against retrenched white nationalism, currently feeding on the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s campaign. For Chinese Americans, the contours of how that reckoning might take place are visible thanks to Wen Ho Lee. Referring to trade deficits, Trump has said, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country.” His website includes zero-tolerance language about “China’s ongoing theft of intellectual property.” It’s not hard to imagine Trump, or whoever comes after him, drastically affecting Sino-American relations; and thus the lives of Chinese Americans.
Wariness is now the word. The next generation of Chinese American voices will have to remember that despite their patriotism, their relative privilege, their country doesn’t trust them. This is the enduring lesson of Wen Ho Lee, the Patient Zero of the unnerving present and uncertain future of being Chinese in America. He was there at the wrong time, had made just the wrong amount of missteps, and was just the wrong amount of American.”
Also: I like Karthick Ramakrishnan’s quite cerebral piece as well for reference.

When I first graduated college, more than a few people suggested to me I could work as a translator or something of that nature for a government agency.  Honestly, I probably didn’t have the right language skill or communication skills at the time. Still, I was like, “Hell no, they ain’t ever gonna do me right.” I knew I’d always be under suspicion of some sort, even though I grew up as (and still am) a fat taco eating Southern Californian.

At some point in a formative stage of my life even before then, I read about what happened to Wen Ho Lee around the same time I was figuring out what it meant to be a person of color and deciding to not aspire to Whiteness or even White-acceptable. I say no to respectability politics. I had never been model minority enough, and it is very weird people consider me that way now off face value as a hipster culture-loving yuppy New Yorker.

Both in the United States and in the rest of the West to quite an extent (Canada, Western Europe), see us Asians are seen as a model minorities, a double-edged sword of eager assimilationists and/or a foreign fifth column threat.  An image both partially of our own making and for us to be used by larger forces as a wedge group.

So now people are confused to find that we’re also increasingly publicly not fine with being used as a model minority wedge group and the continued orientalist views of Asian culture as “fitting conservatism.”  I always find that these assertions that we’re supposed be Republican and aligned with conservative values ironic given that richer Asian countries have more socialized healthcare systems than the United States and large majorities of Asian Americans support Obamacare.

A lot of immigrants and even American-born Asian-Americans are okay being racial mascots and playing second fiddle to White people and doing what they need to do to be accepted, effectively scrambling over other minorities to get the first scraps, but I’m not. It’s not like I hate White people (except you basket of deplorables. You are just terrible humans because you don’t consider other people human.) My homies is great though, but we are not treated like them.

We are not the same. Those of who are woke know that and are voting accordingly.

I’ve been told I’m one of those supposedly rare loudmouth Asians. I don’t think we’re rare, we just to don’t get to be on TV (also see wedge group above).

I’m a proud Taiwanese-American. I’ll say this, aside from the appalling bigotry and just ridiculousness of Donald Trump being a candidate that could elected, I’m personally also engaged at the potential of my American life possibly getting ruined right after feeling like I just got my piece of the American dream.

It’s been an interesting (if not terrifying) time to be a Person of Color, an immigrant, or thus descended from in America and the rest of  Western world. I was listening to Monocle one morning where the conversation mentioned it felt like race relations were getting worse in both Britain and America.

I don’t think that’s necessarily true quite. What’s changed is that the conversation is much more out there, uncomfortable, and unavoidable for White people. A lot of them aren’t responding to that well. Simultaneously, we’re also seeing is a more public abandonment of respectability politics by People of Color, exemplified by Colin Kaepernick.

Previously, I think in the past public spaces and mass media tended to stay clear of the race conversation or were perhaps overly permissive in a way to make White people feel comfortable.  It was probably also much harder for all People of Color in general to speak up in the past without being blacklisted or paying a huge cost. We now have a greater ability to control their own story to the public through social media platforms, exemplified by Black Lives Matter.

A lot of left-leaning Americans joke around about moving to Canada or getting the hell out if Trump gets elected. I make the same jeers, but I also went through the trouble of checking to see if I qualify for express entry because of professional skills and also think about Taiwan, where I have right to jus sanguinis citizenship. Just in case if things actually get bad enough.

And it’s unfortunate, because I love America.  

I love America, but I am not a fool. If Donald Trump gets elected, I’m in danger. 

And I know the America I love is not the same one Donald Trump supporters love.

The diverse cacophonous complicated America, where we come from everywhere and don’t always get all along the time but solve our problems. The America I grew up in, where Chinese restaurants exist next to burger stands that play mariachi music.  Where people move to cumbia and salsa on concrete sidewalks along side cars rolling by bumping trap music.

When Michelle Obama talks about waking up in a house built by slaves and Khizr Khan.  Like, I straight up ugly cry. Like not tears down face, but straight up ugly cry, hot tears streaming down my cheeks onto my clothes, choking on my snot, alone in my apartment wrapped around a blanket bawling.

Diaspora Person of Color America meeting White America and finding a way to broker a country and society together to move forward. That’s what I’m voting for. The place where we all came to be free.

Our people and our culture and everyone else’s people and their cultures deserve to be treated as full human beings as equals with the same amount of respect. I’m not ok with being a sidekick or a second class citizen or even being second place to White people in the racial hierarchy. We all deserve the same dignity.

I love my country, the one I was born in, but I’m not a fool. We’re all different, you and I. Acknowledging that difference shouldn’t make people so uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean precluding equality, justice, and ability to reach our highest human potential and happiness. You know what’s really uncomfortable? An unequal society that chips away everyday at everyone’s humanity.

I’d like to believe we all deserve the same chances to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So help me God.

So don’t forget to vote. In every state. The downballot matters. It all matters. #imwithher


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