Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston was partially right when he said illegal
campaign donations were "only the tip of the egg roll" during
Congressional hearings into questionable fund-raising by a number of
Kingston's comment and Sen. Sam Brownback's "no raise money, no get
bonus" remark are attempts at humor that are indicative of the lack
of sensitivity many have toward Asian Americans. We're still viewed as
foreigners in this country and bad Hollywood stereotypes are
pervasive, as the Congressional hearings so blatantly showed. That's the whole
The hearings put the national spotlight on something that Asian
Americans face daily. Almost every Asian American person I know has
heard "ching chong," "do you know karate?" or "do you speak English?"
Recently, while walking to a bus stop in San Francisco, someone
at the curb uttered "ching, chong, ching" as I walked by. This isn't
first time something like this has happened to me, and it probably
be the last.
But I reacted differently. I didn't just brush it off and let it pass.
didn't want to fall into the "quiet, passive" Asian stereotype again.
"Are you talking to me?" I asked. He didn't answer, he just muttered
something under his breath that I couldn't understand. I stared
at him. I wanted to hit him and literally beat some sense into him.
the thought of going to jail for this idiot made me think twice. I
still angry, but I kept my composure.
The incident was a real-life reminder that the color of your skin
matter. Racism, no matter how subtle, is still racism and Asian
Americans aren't immune to it.
Other reminders are a federal civil rights lawsuit filed August 21 in
Syracuse, N.Y., against the Denny's restaurant chain by seven Asian
American students and three black students who alleged they were
seating and left vulnerable to an attack by white youths, and a report that hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise.
The history of discriminatory policies against Asian Americans in
country could be part of the reason these racial attack and insults
occur. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 essentially halted
from China. Numerous state laws forbade Asians from owning land and
property. And of course, the internment of Japanese Americans during
World War II is the most infamous act of institutionalized
against Asian Americans.
This anti-Asian fervor raised its ugly head in the Denny's parking
and during the Congressional hearings. The Denny's incident and
like those made by Kingston and Brownback are indeed "the tip of the
It will be interesting to see what happens in the Syracuse suit given
the recent history of racially-charged civil rights cases.
Brownback apologized for his "no raise money" statement, saying he
no offense. His spokesman, Bob Murray, was quoted as saying it was an
"unfortunate statement, not meant in a racist way."
Kingston's communications director, Robyn Ridgley, told reporters
the Congressman's "egg roll" comment was "strictly humorous, as Jack
often makes humorous remarks. This was not done at Asian Americans'
All Asian Americans are paying the price for the illicit acts of a
Whatever illegal fund-raising John Huang, Charlie Trie, Johnny Chung
others might have done for the Democratic National Committee doesn't
justify the ridicule or the scapegoating of an entire race of people.
With this in mind, a coalition of Asian American groups has filed a complaint with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and wants hearings on whether anti-Asian sentiment is up as a result of the campaign finance controversy.
Asian Americans as a group have achieved high education and
income levels, both desirable traits in mainstream America. But it
seems we are on the outside looking in, never being fully accepted,
Denny's or anywhere else.
Hollywood has tended to portray Asian Americans as foreigners. The
Asian American film or TV characters are usually employed for laughs
because of their accents and manners, or they are caricatures
the worst stereotypes. Males are either martial arts, super heroes or
befuddled geeks who never get the girl. Asian females are portrayed
demure and exotic.
These stereotypes could be one of the reasons for the "ching chong"
"egg roll" attitudes that some people have. Much progress has been
since the civil rights movement and you'd think people are smart
to look beyond the stereotypes. Even in San Francisco a city known
as a bastion of openmindedness that has an Asian American population
of nearly 30 percent I can't walk down the street without having
Kingston's egg roll waved in my face.
Several years ago I dislocated a joint in my thumb and went to the
emergency room. The doctor asked me if it hurt but quickly answered
me by saying, "Even if it did hurt, you wouldn't say anything, you're
It did hurt and I'm tired of the pain. I'm tired of not saying
All Asian Americans need to start speaking up, particularly when even
our country's leaders are so clueless.
Jail? It might have been worth it.