There’s a reason why you won’t see an Asian American on the main tier of CNN’s
GOP debate. Or any presidential debate in the near or distant future.
Republican or Democratic, it doesn’t matter. Most people who see an Asian
American simply don’t see “president.”
Even with Donald Trump lowering the bar for presidential behavior, it’s not low
enough to put Asian Americans on a candidates list.
We have a serious profile issue.
We live in an age where Asian Americans are still hampered by preconceived
This week, there’s been a rash of reminders to let us know all the ways people
don’t see us.
POTUS? Us? Uh, no.
NBA pro? No.
Loyal American government or university scientist? Oh, heck no.
It’s 2015, and Asian Americans are still limited by the take-out box people
automatically put us in.
As far as the debates go, I don’t like Bobby Jindal because of his politics, but
the way he’s being treated makes me feel sorry for the guy. I’m sure others
don’t like him because they simply don’t see him as president.
As Donald Trump might say, using the Carly Fiorina scale, “Look at that face.”
Does Jindal look presidential?
You mean like the guys on Mt. Rushmore–all white? Like Trump?
In fact, here’s an idea. South Dakota–home of Mt. Rushmore–is nearly 90 percent
white. It’s just 1.2 percent Asian. And 3.4 percent Latino. That’s almost SIX
TIMES lower than the national average for Latinos (17.1 percent). So you want to
cut down that minority immigration? Try the Rushmore effect. Maybe instead of a
wall at the border, conservatives should just erect the stone faces of white
guys like Trump at the border. That would really keep people away. It’s worked
wonders in South Dakota. But I digress.
An Asian American president? I suppose Gary Locke, the former governor of
Washington, might think of a run someday. Or maybe California’s comptroller John
Chiang or Congressman Ted Lieu. Filipinos helped elect Ben Cayetano governor of
Hawaii. I have no problem imagining an Asian American face in the White House. I
just don’t see it happening in my lifetime, and I’m half done.
So much for the post-racial world that we started hearing about in President
Obama’s first term. That’s a dead phrase now.
Just in the last week, we saw examples of how un-post-racial things are.
There was James Blake, the former Harvard tennis star, now a retired pro,
waiting for his car service at the Grand Hyatt when he was unceremoniously
tackled by a plainclothes cop. Did you see the video?
Blake’s Harvard past, status, wealth, didn’t matter. See a black man, see a
suspect. Still. In 2015.
That is, unless you’re in the NBA. Then you’re most likely a millionaire, black,
and definitely not Asian.
Just ask Jeremy Lin to share a bit of the anti-Linsanity he experienced over the
weekend at his new home base in Charlotte.
Went to the Hornets arena for 1st time and tried convincing security im a
player. She said, “what team?!?” lollll
#literally — Jeremy Lin
(@JLin7) September 12,
It happens. Even if you’re a successful reigning Asian American hoopster.
You don’t fit the profile.
Maybe restaurant owner. Something math-y. A scientist.
Lin can be thankful that the security guard didn’t panic and think Lin was what
some would consider the top profile for Asian Americans.
Because then Lin might have been handcuffed, paraded in front of his family, and
shamed as he was carted off as a spy.
That’s what happened in May with Temple physicist Dr. Xiaoxing Xi, when a dozen
FBI agents stormed his home in Pennsylvania.
It happened last October with National Weather Service hydrologist Sherry Chen
at her home in Ohio.
These days, it’s see a Chinese American, see a spy.
No need to find out more. Make the arrest. Wreck an innocent person’s life.
It happened in the ’90s with Wen Ho Lee. It happened with the campaign donation
scandal during the Clinton Administration.
It’s hard not to mix politics and science, because we live in a time when the
politics concerning China affect Chinese Americans here, whose loyalty is then
put under a microscope.
And then they are discarded. No harm, no foul? Hardly.
In Xi’s case, the feds charged him in June, put him through the wringer, then
dropped charges against him last week when they realized they were wrong about
the schematics he was accused of passing to China.
“Oops” needs no translation.
Xi was somber at his lawyer’s office in Washington, DC on Tuesday.
Prof.Xi: “It’s disorienting to go from threat of prosecution to off of it… I
don’t think my wife has had a single night of good sleep.” — NAPABA (@NAPABA)
September 15, 2015
Prof. Xi: (To Sherry Chen) “The charges can be dropped but this will never go
away. This is the human cost.”
pic.twitter.com/m7XO2MYMWf — NAPABA (@NAPABA)
September 15, 2015
The pictures on Twitter show Chen sobbing.
But her situation is more immediately dire than Xi’s. As I first reported on
Chen received a letter from her employers at the National Weather Service and
may lose her job.
Even though the feds dropped the charges against her in the spring, she was
still placed on leave until they could figure out what to do with her.
What was it that she did exactly? The hydrologist was given a password from a
colleague to access a secure database on U.S. dams, and she shared information
with a top official in China. Her white colleague wasn’t given the Chen
treatment, and the data wasn’t considered sensitive. But the official reason
given for dropping the charges against Chen: “prosecutorial discretion.”
Months later, the NWS is now exercising its employer discretion. Despite Chen
having no prior discipline, seven years of federal service and satisfactory
performance, Laura Furgione, the Deputy Director of the National Weather
Service, informed Chen last week of the proposal to remove her from her job “in
order to promote the efficiency of the service.”
Her efficient firing maybe.
The Xi and Chen cases are just the latest, but we should expect more on the
horizon. There’s currently a fear in the U.S. of Chinese cyberspying in both the
private and public sectors, and it’s promoting a new kind of hysteria we haven’t
seen since the Cold War.
Wen Ho Lee’s life was wrecked by a full-speed ahead government prosecution, and
now we see it happening again.
See an Asian American scientist, see a spy.
It’s Asian American racial profiling at its most elemental. The only way to
fight it is to break through and create new original profiles at every chance
that show the full breadth of our community’s talents. We need to keep speaking
out loudly when some would rather trap us in a box of their making.
But do speak up. Or, as I like to say metaphorically, go amok.
Being quiet only plays to the stereotype.