The Asian Community: No Longer Silent

An Oct. 3 segment of O"Reilly Factor on Fox News, owned News Corp, drew politicians and community members to protect in from of the headquarters on Oct. 6. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

An Oct. 3 segment of “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News, owned by News Corp, drew politicians and community members to protest in front of its headquarters on Oct. 6. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

[Editor’s note: Many Asian community members and elected officials protested in front of the News Corp headquarters in midtown Manhattan on Oct. 6 against a segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” that Fox News aired on Oct. 3. In the segment, correspondent Jesse Watters was sent to Chinatown to ask Asian voters about their political opinions. But the street interviews included him taunting non-English speaking seniors, asking young Asian women whether he had to bow when saying “hello” in Chinese, and questioning an Asian man about whether he knows karate. Watters later said on Twitter that the segment only meant to be tongue-in-cheek just like many other segments he had done before. But protesters condemned him for perpetrating stereotypes and alienating Asians.

This was but one of the increasingly frequent protests Asian Americans have held in the recent years. A story in Sing Tao Daily tells why a community that used to be known for being quiet is becoming more and more vocal.]

For a long time, the Asian community has been known as a “silent community,” because Asians often tend to stay quiet even when they are mistreated. But over the last few years, things have clearly changed. Asian protests in New York and across the country are happening with a frequency that has never been seen before. Community advocates attribute this change to the rapidly growing population of Asian Americans and their deeper involvement in politics. They say this trend will continue and accelerate. They also expect today’s protests to further ignite the passion among younger generation Asians for politics.

As the fastest growing racial group in the U.S., the Asian population has reached 15 million or close to 6 percent of the country. Since 2000, Asian registered voters have been growing by 620,000 in every presidential election cycle. There are more than 600 Asian elected officials at all levels of public office nationwide. Paralleling these changes has been the frequency of Asian protests. From the 2013 protest against comedian Jimmy Kimmel for airing a joke in which a child suggested killing “everyone in China” to solve the U.S. debt problem, to rallies triggered by the indictment and conviction of Chinese-American police officer Peter Liang who accidentally killed innocent Black New Yorker Akai Gurley at the end of 2014, to the most recent boycott of hip hop artist YG’s song “Meet The Flockers,” which depicts a robbery against an Asian family, to the anger poured on the Chinatown segment that appeared on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor,” the community has been sending out a louder and louder message that it is no longer silent.

Council member Margaret Chin said the community has been consistent in protesting for its rights. But in recent years, when there are more and more Asian registered voters and elected officials, it has been doing so more and more frequently. Many new immigrants also participate in the protests, and “it is a good sign.”

Jenny Low, a member of the Chinatown United Democratic Organization, said that thanks to the growing number of voters and elected officials, Asian Americans have greatly raised their awareness of their rights as well as the belief that they are able to do something to protect their own rights. “More people know better what’s acceptable and what’s not,” said Low. “And Asians being elected to public office helps us to see the possibility for immigrants to participate in every level of American life.”

June Jee, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans New York Chapter, agrees that more Asians running for office at all levels has largely raised Asians Americans’ civil engagement. She thinks an incident like “The O’Reilly Factor”’s Chinatown segment happening at this time is not a bad thing. “Asians have been tired of bias and stereotypes about them. An incident like this arouses anger even more,” said Jee. “Sometimes you need things like this to get people out.”

Despite the progress Asians have made in politics, Jee also sees a field where Asian presence is far from adequate – the corporate world. Jee said the reason Fox News doesn’t care about offending Asians is because it believes its corporate advertisers don’t care. There are very few Asians sitting on the boards of big corporations. “It is not easy to get on the board of a big corporation. But Asians have to get ready to speak up,” said Jee who used to work in the corporate world.

Chris Kui, executive director of Asian American for Equality (AAFE), pointed out that compared with 40 years ago when AAFE was formed to fight for the rights of Asian Americans, today’s Asians have much more political power. “Even seniors in Chinatown know it is important to register to vote,” said Kui. But the outside world may not realize this yet, and things like the problematic Fox News program are still trying to portray Asians as foreigners.

Kui said more protests can help the mainstream to undergo a cultural change. And such a change is destined to happen. “It’s going to take some time for everyone to catch the cultural change,” said Kui. “But remember, by 2050 minorities will be the majority in this country.”

Assembly member Ron Kim said Asians are often portrayed as foreigners in this country. And Asians need to build a coalition with other communities to fight against this together. Kim, who has worked together with African-American Assembly member Walter Mosley to get 12 Assembly colleagues to sign a letter to Fox News requesting an apology, said he and Yuh-Line Niou, the newly elected Assembly member-to-be of District 65 and the only other Asian member in the Assembly, will be working together toward building the coalition.

Kim also said he hopes to see the protests today inspire the next generation to participate in politics. “I hope more of our young people can come out to run for mayor, for governor and for president,” said Kim. “That’s the way we get social justice.”

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