Dear Asian-Americans: It’s Up to Us to Save the World

Asians have been given the keys to white privilege, but we also know the struggle of the immigrant. What will we do with this dual identity?

Asians are not usually cast as heroes. 

We’re usually the ones in cubicles, silently animating the CGI to make the white heroes look even more convincing. 

But our unique identity as both privileged and immigrant Americans puts us in the sniper’s seat to defeat the monster wreaking havoc on our land. I am calling on all fellow Asians to shake off your stereotypical soft-spoken and submissive identities and rise to the significance of our time; the beast before us needs new heroes to rise. 

The Bridge Between Privileged and Immigrant

Born in the US to Taiwanese parents, I grew up in the 80s in a white world surging with asian immigration. As a child, white on asian bullying was commonplace. I heard “Go back to your own country” shouted at me as a preteen when I rebuffed a panhandler. 

For this reason I relate with the Hondurans and Salvadorians at our border, just trying to escape the violence in their home countries, but labeled as gangsters and terrorists. Imagine if our parents were treated so poorly when they arrived here: us, their children stripped from their arms; they are deported and we enter foster care or become lost in the system. Would we have attained the privilege we enjoy today? 

I went on to get my BS from Davis and am about to get my MBA. I own a business and a property in California. Today asian males like me make over $1.30 for every $1.00 a white male makes.

(OMG I did the most Asian thing possible, I put a spreadsheet in my blog! Source: Bureau of Labour Statistics, second quarter 2020 )

We Asians have been given the keys to white privilege. The question I confront myself with is: what will I do with the duality of my newfound privilege and my kinship with the most desperate at our border? 

What will you do with your dual identity?

We Keep Our Heads Down and We Do Our Calculus 

We asians don’t complain about inequity, we don’t demand our rights… we never needed a civil rights movement. We keep our heads down, and we do our calculus. This is the mantra we quietly used to slip to the top of US society. 

In our adoptive western countries we are known for being submissive, for not rocking the boat. 

And in our native countries, we are not known for our individual capacity to enact change democratically. There is an intoxicating malaise across our continent that lulls the common man into accepting that he/she can change nothing. 

But that is not true in 2020, United States.

Democracy is in Peril 

In any normal election, I’d expect the usual: candidates never focus on the Asian electorate, we have terrible voter turn-out (link: NBCnews), and the political parties carry on ignoring us. But November 2020 is entirely different, we are not answering the question of which party to vote for, rather: Do we want more or less democracy in our world? 

From Trump’s despotic attacks on the free press (link: Washington Post) to his disruption of election integrity repeatedly lying about fraud in mail-in voting (link: NYTimes), democracy has never been so strained. Most urgently, the fact that he won’t commit to accepting the outcome of the election (link: businessinsider) is a veiled threat to attempt to stay in power if he loses. This poses the most critical threat to our democracy in US history. 

Trump defunding the post office is a subject way too severe to try to treat here

American Presidents don’t do this. Asian despots, Junta leaders, and fading dictators do stuff like this, and this is what our ancestors were trying to immigrate AWAY from. In one generation will we allow it to fester here? 

I am simply urging you consider the following: 

Our parents did not fight to cross the Pacific to enter this version of the United States. If we stand by quietly as Trump steers us toward authoritarianism, we disgrace everything our parents fought for by bringing us out of oppression in Asia. 

Joe Biden is the best remedy to this authoritarianism. He is a flawed candidate, but he much more closely represents the US our ancestors fought for than his opponent. And his running mate being of Asian descent (link: washingtonpost) is the biggest indicator that we have a hand on US destiny.

This is a good ticket. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

The Root of All Evil

I hate wasting time attacking the symptoms of a problem when we can attack the root directly. The problem here is not mail-in ballots, or “All Lives Matter”, or caged children separated from their parents… the root of all evils: 

White Privilege. 

And what is the only remedy to White Privilege? When people of privilege challenge it. Remember the ultimate example of this: White union soldiers giving life and limb to tear down the white privilege that declared coloured people inferior. 

Today that same battle rages on, and we need people of privilege to enter the battle. The second most privileged people are groups like white women and us Asians. How powerful would it be if we rose up and told white males: “hey, enough is enough.”

The Sniper Shot 

The action point is simple: take one step toward being more active this election season: Go from a non-voter to a voter, or from a voter to a donor, share links that call out white privilege: you won’t change the minds of the extreme, but there are moderates quietly listening.

Asian American phone bank volunteers. Notice how few of them there are.

Please also consider initiating a difficult conversation with your white friend with whom you’ve built up a sense of confidence. Or chat with your crazy uncle that still supports Trump despite his overt attacks on immigrants (I have one of these). Urge them to do the same: even if it’s to just not vote for Trump as he does not represent the true republican party. 

These minor actions multiplied across ours, the fastest growing voting demographic (link: nbcnews), can be the sniper shot that saves democracy. 

If we do nothing this election, we will quietly be using our privilege to support the privileged. But if we act, we use our privilege to tear down tyranny and protect the poorest immigrants: we just might save the world.

Author: Kaiping Liu

Professional educator, musician, world traveler.

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