Sunday, September 25, 2011
Diversity: or How America makes Americans
God Save the Queen!
No, the Republicans Abroad is the group in Hong Kong for Americans of the Republican Party to gather together for networking and political events. This last Thursday's Lan Kwai Fong event was a reception to get to know Philip Yin, a state of Washington native working in Hong Kong, who is returning home this week to run for the U.S. Senate.
As someone who had run for the U.S. House of Representatives, Yin and I had a bit to talk about. We hold a similar position on a number of issues, tend to favor a more "moderate" approach in general and both shook our heads in embarrassment at the performance of a majority of the Republican presidential candidates in the previous night's debate. I was able to encourage him in the undertaking he was preparing to start and I always applaud anyone willing to "enter the arena" so to speak.
As Philip Yin addressed the group of about 30 who had come out to wish him well though I was struck by a thought. He talked about his father immigrating to America as a young man from China speaking no English but working hard to achieve the American Dream. He stated although he supports China he is American and his loyalty is to America. The thought that struck me was the pride I felt in our country that we can absorb the best and the brightest from around the world and create Americans. This son of a poor Chinese immigrant is making a legitimate run for the U.S. Senate. Its as if America says to the world, "Yes, you to can be American". There would (most likely) never be the reciprocal opportunity for an immigrant's child in Asia. I mean the child of a Filipino maid could never get elected to public office in Malaysia, Japan, or South Korea.
Even in cosmopolitan Hong Kong, the Legislative Counsel is made up of only ethnic Chinese and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.
In 2008 I was teaching a class in Qingdao China made up primarily of Korean International students. It was election week in American and I asked the class who they wanted to win the U.S. presidency...McCain or Obama? The class mostly supported Obama. I asked one young South Korean student why? She responded, "Because it's good for America to have a minority president to promote diversity."
I responded that was very thoughtful and true that because of past racial tensions in America the election of Barack Obama may help demonstrate new opportunities for diversity in America. Then I furthered the notion, "So you would also be open to more diversity in South Korea as well and perhaps have a minority president in the future...possibly a black president?"
She quickly dropped her head and I sensed a wave of discomfort among the mainly Korean students. They whispered in Korean for a moment and then she looked up at me and embarrassingly responded,
"No, that couldn't happen in Korea."
Apparently diversity is good... you know, for Western nations who are into that sort of thing.
But at that Republicans Abroad reception I realized for all the bumps, bruises, and challenges that come from our vast melting pot...its still cooking up a pretty good dish!