关于在美华人权益保护的思考1 ——之一 新移民
A Personal Reflection on Chinese American Civil Right Advocacy – 1 The New Arrivals
Ying Gao, Esq., J.D.
加州大学Hasting法学院吴华扬教授（Frank Wu）在他最近的一篇文章(百人会吴华扬致老一辈美国亚裔社会活动家们的私人信函 —— 关于新移民)中提到了“新移民”，在华人社区引起各类反响。说实话，我个人并没有因他的文章感到需要生气，而是觉得很有意思，很能引发些思考。
Professor Frank Wu from University of California, Hasting College of Law, mentioned “the new arrivals” in one of his recent articles. It caused minor earthquakes in some parts of the Chinese American Community. To be frank, no pun intended, I did not find his article offensive. Rather, I was amused and enjoyed this thought-provoking article. I am a “new arrival.” Although I could never see myself wrapped up in bling bling, when I was just “fresh off the boat” nine year ago, I carried with me every bit of “mainlanderness” I had collected and polished during my formative years. Yet, I have never been apologetic or proud of these traits – they are just part of me, and they have and will continue evolving with me.
I am not sure if I know who these Asian Activist old friends of Professor Wu’s are. Maybe they are Chinese immigrants who have been here in the US for a long time, or persons of Chinese ancestry who were born here. They have somewhat shed off lots of cultural and habitual traits that they brought with them or brought by their ancestors. Who knows, perhaps thirty years later, the new arrivals like me will also grow out of many of our old habits. The same experience will happen to the Chinese folks who will arrive in 5 or 10 years, or many years later. One thing is certain: Some of us will welcome and embrace the changes, others may refuse to change, at least attempt to refuse. The amalgamation of many different generations, many sub-group of Chinese arrivals will continue to modify the DNA of Chinese American, and even Asian American in the US.
Professor Wu intended to convince the older generation of Asian American Activists to work with us new arrivals despite our not-so-great traits on civil rights advocacy. If the ultimate goal is to help them to change their view on us and work with us, I would suggest that Professor Wu should invite these friends to sit down with us, listening to our experiences and our thought process, and telling us theirs. We will be open to their advice on how to engage in the cause, and we will be even thrilled to be guided by them or led by them to try our hands in defending the civil liberty of Chinese Americans, whether for the long-time Chinese Americans or the new arrivals.
Professor Wu could have initiated such a project to bring us together. Unfortunately, he picked a different route: a beautiful article with well-crafted sentences and carefully chosen words and phrases that us new arrivals most likely would have difficulty to comprehend and even misunderstand, published in a national media. I do not doubt he sincerely believed that he was making a pitch to his fellow Asian American activist friends and it resonated with them by enumerating our freshoff-the-boat traits that they might detest. But I doubt that Professor Wu ever anticipated the backlash against this article from parts of the new-arrival community. While I believe that Professor Wu is brilliant, this well-written article could cause him to be treated either as a well-meaning but inept ally in the civil right advocacy for Chinese Americans, or worse, as a deriding and condescending cousin that we all hate. Well, we all know the result.
Regardless how one reads Professor Wu’s article, he brought up for us a crucial and practical problem. How do we unite the Chinese American community to make it most effective in protecting Chinese American civil rights as a group? We like to divide ourselves into various groups: country and region, geographical location within a country, language, food, whether born and/or grown up in the US.
And during the Presidential Election in 2016, an additional division by the presidential candidates surfaced, which lasted till now and will probably continue during President Trump’s presidency. There is nothing wrong about grouping ourselves. It is human nature that we like to listen to our own dialect, eat our hometown dishes, and spend time with those who share our political views.
However, to the rest of the US society, we are all Chinese Americans. Maybe sometimes they will notice our English proficiency level, our knowledge and compliance with American culture, and make some adjustment in their understanding to reach a conclusion that we must be a sub-group of Chinese American. The reality is that when a Chinese American individual benefits from civil rights protection, or suffers from civil rights violation, some or all of us Chinese Americans may be affected.
Wait! What if the US society overreacts to some Sino-US military conflict or what not, and that creates an anti-Chinese/anti-Chinese American sentiment? Then none of us can escape the discrimination and persecution associated with it. As new arrivals, it is true that the marks left on us from our prior experience in the home country can still be spotted: we may still speak English with an accent, we may get loud when we talk, dress a little differently, or we love to have some special chili sauce when we eat. But it is equally true, if not more so, that the US has become a part of our lives, and we have also become an integral part of the US. We are on this boat and we must advocate for our civil rights in the US.
As new arrivals, we have our own strengths and weaknesses. Maybe we feel that we can succeed in advocating for the rights of Chinese Americans without the help from Professor Wu’s Asian American activist friends. But, it is in our best interest to work with them, to learn from their wealth of experience, and to take advantage of the communication channels they have established with the local, state, and federal institutions at great cost. Being pragmatic as we are, there is no reason for us not take the shortcut and learn from the lessons that they have learned over a long period of hard work.
Professor Wu, we may still tease you for a while about this article, despite of your subsequent explaining note. So be prepared. Meanwhile, please continue the great work you have been doing for us new arrivals. Chinese American civil rights advocacy is a tremendous cause. None of us could afford to go on the journey all alone.
1 特地中英文对照的来写，英文和中文有些地方因为做了意译不是直译，所以辞藻上会有一些不同。This article is written both in Chinese and English for readers who have some level of Chinese. Certain phrases are expressed differently in English version comparing to its Chinese counterpart when it is better to translate the meaning of the Chinese phrases rather than translate verbatim and cause confusion.
2 拒绝改掉在家里“刺溜”吃面条的习惯，因为不出声绝对不过瘾，犹如隔靴挠痒。I will NOT to give up sucking and smacking while eating soup noodles at home. It is about an experience of levitation.