Letter in English | Yitao
You wrote a letter blaming your parents and relatives for being indifferent to the racism against the black community, accusing them for siding with White Supremacists, and you extended this accusation to the broader Chinese American Community. It is sad to see that even though you must be getting a good education at a very fine university, you are still so ill-informed and wrong.
I don’t know about your family. But most first-generation Chinese Americans came to the US, not with capital and power, but with ideals and industry, to pursue liberty and happiness through hard work and self-reliance. They built their American dreams, contributed to society, and sent ABCs like you to good schools. Since the first-generation Chinese Americans rarely complain or protest, there is a perception that they must be selfish and indifferent to social justice. This is a STEREOTYPE that they hope you, the new generation, could counter instead of perpetuating!
On the contrary, I believe you will find your fellow Chinese Americans, including your relatives, are among the most courageous and compassionate people. That courage drove them to overcome difficulties unimaginable to you to come to the US, to fight stereotyping and racism, overcome challenges in a new language and culture, to become successful and responsible citizens.
They are stories of success not failure, and should be the source of your pride not embarrassment. Their successes come from their values, which if you really care to understand, are exactly what is needed to advance your social justice causes in order to improve the lives of disadvantaged minorities.
The first value is societal responsibility. I hope I don’t need to translate this Chinese saying to you “天下兴亡，匹夫有责” (any in case you can’t read Chinese: the rise and fall of a nation is the responsibility of every ordinary person.) This is a core Confucius value deeply ingrained into Chinese culture. Every Chinese American I have met deeply cares about the fate of this great country, and believes they have a role to play. Just recently during the COVID19 pandemic, many Chinese are contributing their time, money, and connections to donate PPEs for hospitals and local communities. Many of our fellow Chinese Americans volunteer community service to disadvantaged groups including blacks and Latinos.
They not only help those in need, but also help them to help themselves (授人以鱼不如授人以渔). That is why many Chinese Americans are involved in PTAs and School boards to help public schools to be more responsible and more competitive. This leads to another Chinese core value, self-reliance.
The first-generation Chinese Americans had very little to fall back on. They believe in hard work and self-reliance instead of government hand-outs. They also understand that in a humane society, some groups do need help and social safety programs are important. But to fundamentally lift the disadvantaged out of their bad situation is to let them become self-reliant, through better education and hard work and entrepreneurship.
Last but not least, American Chinese believe in creation, not destruction. We stand firmly by the black community against the atrocity and wrongs committed to them. But we don’t condone violence. There is no way that Chinese Americans will participate in rioting, not only because it is wrong, but also because it is totally counter productive to solving the problems.
To be clear, the wrongful death of George Floyd is outrageous. Every person, including every American Chinese, should demand justice in this case. Chinese Americans share some painful histories with blacks as victims of racism. But generalizing, moralizing, or victimizing will not solve problems. Rioting and violence will only make matters worse. If there is a way for Chinese Americans to make their unique contribution to social justice, sharing our cultural values is probably the one. And we can and should do a better job at this. We need your help to let whites, blacks, browns to better understand Chinese Americans, not to box us in.
Now a specific suggestion. When your parents say things that appear to be racist to you next time, ask them to stop. Don’t be afraid to educate them on equality and the other western values you learned at school, but also try to understand their values and where they are coming from. Between you and your parents, there should be no reason for being lost in translation. And by the way, don’t tell them we owe our freedom and rights to others. We don’t, we earned them.
You quoted Cathy Park Hong. While I am sure I am not as well-versed in Asian American poetry as you are, I can tell you Chinese Americans will NOT be in line to either be white or disappear. We are poised to have a stronger identity of our own, a more participative and contributing one in the American society. And as for which side we are on, we are on the side of equality, justice, and a greater America!
Author Bio: MIT educated engineer and MBA. Have lived in Asia, Europe, and the US，labored days and nights along side steel mill workers; “strategized” with executives at multinational companies; visited hundreds of factories in dozens of countries. I have seen first hand the winners and losers of globalization. I consider myself Chinese-American, intensely Chinese and intensely American.
你引用了凯茜·帕克·洪（Cathy Park Hong）。虽然我肯定没有你那样精通亚裔美国人的诗歌，但我可以告诉你，华裔美国人既不是排队在成为白人的路上也不是走向消失。我们会以更强大的华裔美国人形象为荣，将更加积极地参与社会建设和发挥更大的贡献力。