Here are some of the racial epithets I've been called in my lifetime: Chink. Gook. Jap. Nigger. Slant eyes. Dog-eater. Those are just the printable ones. I'm an American of Filipino descent, but have been mistaken for everything from native Hawaiian to Caribbean. I've been blamed for the Vietnam War, attacked for stealing jobs and told countless times to "go back home" -- which usually means Bangkok or Beijing or some other exotic locale I've only seen on a map.
My parents taught me early on not to dwell on racial ignorance. "Don't waste your time on other people's stupidity," my dad counseled. "Everyone has prejudices," my mom explained when I came home in tears because a classmate had ridiculed my brown skin. "Now stop crying," she said. I'm eternally grateful for my parents' no-nonsense attitude about bigotry. Their wisdom has spared me countless hours of self-pitying and grievance-mongering.
Too bad the folks in New York City who run something called the "Committee for 100" didn't get similar advice from their parents. The organization, in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League, released a widely publicized survey last week decrying "racist" attitudes toward Chinese Americans and Asian Americans. The national news media, always eager to stoke ethnic tensions and exploit victim-card politics, played the story big:
"Asian Americans seen negatively; Results of landmark survey called startling, disheartening," blared the San Francisco Chronicle in a front-page story.
"Study finds persistent negative perceptions of Chinese Americans," announced the Los Angeles Times.
"25 Percent of U.S. View Chinese Americans Negatively, Poll Says," reported The Washington Post.
A whopping 75 percent of Americans surveyed did not have strong negative views of Chinese Americans. But that good news didn't make the headlines. Instead, the articles quoted griping liberal Asian Americans like UCLA political scientist Don Nakanishi, who complained to the L.A. Times: "It makes you wonder how not only Chinese Americans, but Asian Americans, can shake this legacy of somehow being less than 100 percent Americans."
Well, the Committee of 100 itself doesn't help matters when it asks poll questions like this: Are Chinese-Americans "taking too many jobs from Americans"? The premise of that question -- Chinese-Americans are not Americans -- is exactly the attitude the group bemoans.
Henry Tang, chairman of the Committee of 100, called the poll "startling." But given the steady stream of woe-is-me whining from groups like Tang's and the ADL's, what's truly startling is that such a large number of Americans polled are
not white-hooded racists. The vast majority have positive attitudes toward Asian Americans. Some 91 percent surveyed said that Chinese Americans had strong family values; 77 percent said they were honest as businesspeople; and 67 percent said they placed a high value on education.
Nevertheless, U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii said the poll "should alarm all Americans who cherish the ideals of liberty and equality enshrined in our Constitution." He pointed to the 32 percent of those surveyed who believed that Chinese Americans are more loyal to China than the United States and the 46 percent who said that passing secret information to the Chinese government was a problem.
More alarming is the media's lack of skepticism and perspective in hyping these results. The Committee of 100, an elite pro-China engagement public affairs group, has a vested interest in playing the victim card to shield its allies from criticism. Not a single newspaper that covered the survey reported that until recently, one prominent member of the Committee of 100 was none other than convicted campaign finance felon and suspected foreign agent John Huang. As Huang himself once warned: "There is a Chinese saying: 'When you drink water, always think about the source.'"
The Committee of 100 has called on minority leaders to develop an "action plan" in light of the survey results. Here's mine: Life is short. Everyone has prejudices. Now stop crying and don't waste your time on other people's stupidity.