By Nick Lee
Chinese Americans for Hillary
Hillary Clinton & Tim Kaine Embrace
Last night, I wrapped my first Democratic National Convention (DNC) and I was not disappointed. Throughout, I felt that I was at the center of a once in a lifetime opportunity and a true turning point in our history as a country. I will openly admit my prejudice: if I am asked to imagine the president in a split-second they can be of any race, but almost never do I see a woman. I hope that this bias will change very soon when Hillary becomes president, so that my children never grow up with the same inherent biases that have conditioned me over the years.
Yesterday’s events all lead up to the acceptance of the nomination by Hillary Clinton, but there were some major highlights for AAPIs along the way. Congressman Ted Lieu, a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, introduced General George Allen to speak on national security issues. It made my heart swell to see an immigrant of Chinese heritage shown as a soldier and a statesman, effectively countering narratives that Asian men are weak and cannot be warriors or leaders. Giving the Congressman a chance to introduce a prominent military figure like the General gave our community great visibility that I am thankful for.
Balloons drop to celebrate Hillary Clinton’s nomination for President of the United States
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth also gave strong remarks about her sacrifices for the country while serving in the Army. She recounted the story of losing her legs during an attack on her Blackhawk helicopter, and how living as a wounded warrior helped encourage her to make positive change for veterans in the same situation. Her presence, like Congressman Lieu’s, was an important step towards correcting some of the false notions about Asian women as well. Asian women are so often sold short of their skills, intelligence, and bravery, all because they are over-sexualized and objectified to the point of dismissal by the mainstream of American media and culture. She also spoke to the importance of the yesterday’s nomination for women and girls, saying, “My [daughter] Abigail already knows women can fly helicopters in combat. And in 102 days, when we elect Hillary, my daughter’s first memories of a president will be a woman.”
However above all else, Khzir Khan was the one who stole the show. Paired with his impassioned story of his son’s valor in combat, Khzir’s rejection of Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and illegal ban on Muslims played an important role by finally putting forth a symbol of Muslim American patriotism. Unfortunately, most Americans need a symbolic and sympathetic figure to represent a minority groups struggle because otherwise they may never bother getting to know any members of that community. Though there have been many Muslims who have served our country honorably, the media had yet to latch onto an example of a person who was easy to sell to viewers. That changed immediately after Khzir Khan’s speech in which he excoriated Trump by saying, “Let me ask [Donald Trump]: have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy,” before pulling out a pocket version for dramatic effect. “In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’.”
Nick Lee with his significant other Monica and her sister Liz.
It is also important that we recognize the AAPI background of Khzir and Humayun Khan. Though they emigrated from the United Arab Emirates, their ethnic background is Pakistani, making them members of the AAPI group. It is no secret that in the Asian American community we sometimes do not embrace all aspects of our community. Often, an East Asian will fail to see a South Asian as “Asian American” because of the color of their skin or different cultural customs. However, if we truly want to live up to the inclusive vision we have for our community and build our power through numbers, we must educate others, no matter how societal norms for how an Asian American should look dictate.
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(Nick Lee has been sharing his thoughts all week with AsAmNews readers. Last week, we ran the diary of an AAPI Trump delegate)
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