Friday, October 17, 2008

Asian Americans: we're not as conservative as you think

I recently came across this entry in Angry Asian Man about the National Asian American survey that polled Asian American voters across the nation (in 8 different languages--so it's the most comprehensive political polling of this particular racial group to ever happen) and discovered that overwhelmingly Asian Americans supported Obama (41%) over McCain (24%).

But what it also revealed this past Wednesday was that 57% of Asian American voters in California opposed and planned to vote against Proposition 8. For those of you not in the know, Prop 8 is the measure meant to overturn same-sex marriages--you know that post I wrote in May making the connection between banning gay marriage and anti-miscegenation laws and those happy pictures of couples I posted back in June? Well the forces of hate are at it again. I tried to think of something less polemical, but it's hard not to think that someone is in need of a hug when a Prop 8 supporter like Mr. Bill Tam goes on record in a prominent newspaper as saying the following:

Gay marriage supporters "have very cleverly portrayed homosexuals as a kind of minority,'' Tam said. "They've been very effective in portraying it as a civil rights issue, and this is very much a concern for us. We hope to convince Asian-Americans that gay marriage will encourage more children to experiment with the gay lifestyle and that the lifestyle comes with all kinds of disease,'' Tam said.

Oh Bill Tam, you poor misguided soul, with your rabble-rousing, fear mongering message of equating a particular type of person, a minority group, with an unsavory lifestyle rife with disease. This sounds familiar...this sounds like... WAIT A MINUTE! This is what people used to say about Chinese people living in California in the late 19th C.! Chinese women were accused of being promiscuous and lascivious and prone to all sorts of venereal diseases, and Chinese men were also accused of being nasty rat eaters who allowed vermin to infest their homes and who subsequently brought about all sorts of disease! Oh Bill Tam, you are using late 19th C. rhetoric by white Californians that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882! Oh Bill Tam, you are using RACIST RHETORIC to support a bill meant to exclude a group of people for no other reason than bigotry and prejudice. Ironic, no?

Here's the thing though, the Bill Tams of the world aside: Asian Americans are not as conservative a group as you may think. I mean, I know that there are these stereotypes of ultra-conservative Asian Americans who only care about money (hence the number of registered Chinese American Republicans, which my Mom likes to remind me of recently--she's a rabid Democrat but has some Republican leaning friends and right now they are driving her CRAZY) or who come from traditional Asian cultures that frown on gay lifestyles (or which don't even recognize queer as as category).

Anyway, for all you Asian Americans in California and across the nation that are taking non-conservative stances in the upcoming election season, I say BRAVO! Especially bravo because you are breaking stereotypes about conservative and a-political Asian Americans. Especially my own family--I want to give a particular shout out to them (you know who you are) because after all, how could I have become so social justice minded if it weren't inculcated in me from the very beginning?

[Next Up: Asian Americans and inter-racial dating--are there still tabboos? Tune in next time!]


CVT said...

I got you, Jennifer (said while nodding my head emphatically and pointing).

Jennifer said...

CVT--thanks for the empathy--I know you know what I'm talking about. And I do think that while Asian Americans get this rap for being conservative and traditional, that we're such a large diverse group and you just can't paint us with broad brushstrokes, esp. politically, because we'll surprise people!