For many years, I thought anti-Asian public statements were in history books like the “No Japs Allowed” photos and anti-Chinese political cartoons in the early 1900s. But Sery Kim, who is running for the Texas 6th Congressional District this year, reopened old wounds among Asian American communities.
Kim, who was the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership during the Trump administration, said that she doesn’t want Chinese immigrants “here at all.”
“They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don’t hold themselves accountable,” Kim said during a tribute to the late Rep. Ron Wright on March 31.
Her ultimatum, “I can say that because I’m Korean.” Wow.
That’s like Ted Cruz saying “I don’t want Mexican immigrants coming here at all” because he is part Cuban.
U.S. media coverage about racism tend to focus on Black and White, but among different ethnic groups, there is racism with roots that goes back centuries within the group.
One obvious one is World War II where the major players in Asia were primarily the Chinese and the Japanese. With the Rape of Nanking as one of the most atrocious events during the war, anti-Japanese sentiments among most Chinese run deep.
Even as recently as 2018, there were anti-Japanese rallies in Hong Kong to remind people not to forget the Manchurian Incident, which sparked the Japanese invasion and World War II.
Korean Americans, who are mostly of South Korean descent, may also harbor anti-Chinese sentiments because of the Korean War where the Chinese Communist Party, under Chairman Mao Zedong, supported the North Koreans.
A recent poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs showed that six out of 10 South Koreans today have a slightly lower favorable perception of China (3.1) than its former colonial ruler Japan (3.2).
Young and middle-aged South Koreans tend to hold a negative view of China (about 80 percent) compared to older Koreans aged 50-plus (68 percent).
I’m not surprised that these anti-Asian sentiments are almost everywhere in the U.S. like Chinese takeouts, even among Asian Americans. Kim may have a valid point in her rhetoric against China’s encroachment to international trade, as many Americans do, but her anti-Chinese immigrant statement stokes old hatred among Asian Americans who know their roots.
It’s the same rhetoric against Chinese and Filipino immigrants in the 19th Century.
It’s the same rhetoric against Jewish, Italian and Cuban immigrants during the 20th Century.
It’s the same rhetoric against Mexican and other Latinx immigrants today.
Kim’s statements only hurt and further divide those among Asian communities. If American voters support candidates like Kim, we’ll continue to see the same problems as we have seen with the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor and the recent assaults against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
As a Chinese immigrant myself, I am glad to see more Asian Americans in political and entrepreneurial positions, even Sery Kim. Her recent comment, however, taught me to look beyond race and nationality when it comes to voting and building trust.