Barack Obama: Almost Like Us
November 6, 2008
By William Wong
I can't stop crying. Tears of joy, tears of history, tears that join a babbling brook that becomes a stream that becomes a river that connects me and other Chinese Americans and Asian Americans to Barack Obama, who will be our 44th president.
Chinese Americans and Asian Americans ought to be rejoicing Obama’s amazing election victory. In many ways, he is like us.
He is a racial and ethnic minority, just like we are, in America. He is the son of an immigrant, like me and many Chinese Americans and Asian Americans. He was born and grew up in Hawaii, the only state with a majority Asian and Pacific Islander population. He lived in Indonesia as a youth and has blood relatives who are of mixed Asian heritage.
That may not be strictly relevant to being our next president, but he is certainly closer to us in terms of living experience and background than any other U.S. president has been.
Should we then expect him to cater to our community's needs? Some will say, "Of course he should!" But not I.
For one thing, our "community's needs" are all over the political map in part because our "community" is all over the demographic map.
In spite of what some of us say and want, we are not one "community." We are many communities, separated by ethnicity, Asian and Pacific Islander roots, histories, cultures, faiths, languages, traditions, and ideologies. Certainly, we share some experiences, especially those having to do with our immigration histories and interactions with the majority white population and other people of color in the United States.
Besides, not all of us voted for Obama. Our collective political profile is quite mixed, some voting Republican, others Democratic, while others going back and forth, or not voting at all, partially because of ineligibility, partially because of inertia and ignorance.
I am certain that different segments of Asian and Pacific America wish for special attention from Obama when he takes office next year. But for my tastes and inclination, I am hoping he will usher in a more progressive, more sensible, more rational, more humane, and more equitable set of policies that will help not only the five percent of Americans who are Asian and Pacific Islander, but the country as a whole. After all, right now, we are as an American people unusually hurting economically, culturally and spiritually under the incompetent and disastrous Bush administration.
It would be nice if we Chinese Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders got special treatment from the incoming Obama administration, but we would benefit even more if he and his team work to lift the nation up from its doldrums.
That way, we can truly be part of what promises to be a great new era of American life led by a charismatic, brilliant, and inspiring man who happens to be the son of a white American woman and a black African man.
William Wong is author of Yellow Journalist: Dispatches from Asian America, Images of America: Oakland’s Chinatown, and co-author of Images of America: Angel Island.
[keywords: Chinese and Asian Americans; Barack Obama; racial and ethnic minorities; communities]