Scott Nakagawa-Helen Ying

[00:00:03] Dmae: As far as you were talking about we chat which happens and what led you to I guess have concerns. Can you talk a little bit about that.

[00:00:15] Helen Ying: Well actually it wasn’t me that had concerns. It was really more of my friends who contacted me because you know she said the group that’s organizing this rally in Portland. They don’t have a lot of experience. They really need to have CCA (Chinese Citizens Alliance) get involved in and help them to make sure that they have their T’s crossed and i’s dotted and so on. And knowing you know that’s what they’re you know primarily because of the detention. You know that there was a Chinese-American officer you know the person who was killed in shot and killed was an African-American. And so there was a concern that the African-American.

[00:01:00] Helen: African-American Community may take issue with a group of Chinese rallying you know at Pioneer Square. And did it.

[00:01:10] Did they create alarm. No.

[00:01:13] Helen: Like I said because of the pre-work that we did to connect the leader of them with that was making the rally with leaders in the African-American community and acts so that they actually had an opportunity to talk to each other on the phone so they understand you know what was behind this rally and for the people who are already organizing ballot initiative with the African-American committee might stand on the issue. And so long story short there was no incident. And one of the leaders Teressa Rayford from. Can’t get her name correctly is “Hands Up Don’t Shoot.” That’s the name of their group. She actually came and spoke at a rally alongside of other speakers that are Chinese-Americans.

[00:02:04] Dmae: So what’s your advice for other communities organizations to build those bridges.

[00:02:14] Helen: So I think really is about.

[00:02:18] Helen: Gaining understanding. Right. And I think you just mentioned you know even during our panel discussion, our presentation, is building relationships and breaking down walls in really going in. You know I remember one of my friends that I used to work with you know she often will say I’m asking discussion because I’m really seeking for understanding. So is asking questions and you know in a non-threatening way and willing to seek to learn and seek to understand.

[00:02:58] Dmae: You talk a little a lot about the historic I guess precedent for creating divisions and tensions.

[00:03:06] I don’t want to go too far back but I thought what you said about the pope ’65 generation and the civil rights movement and how intertwined both the API and the African-American communities are from that experience. Could you talk a little bit about that. Well.

[00:03:26] Scott Nakagawa: The breath. In 1965 we got immigration reform prior to 1965. There were racist immigration bans in photos that favored European immigrants over immigrants from Latin America Asia and Africa. And the civil rights movement in that period of time created a context for a national discussion about race and that national discussion about race allowed many of us to find our voices and start to push against these kinds of exclusionary laws. And we’re we were able to eventually force the taking down of those bands.

[00:04:06] Scott: Those bands were not simply though taken down because of the kinds of demands that people community made that they did play a very important role. They were also taken down because of labor means that the United States had particularly during the time when we were involved in the Vietnam War and shortage of highly skilled laborers who was created in the United States by that war. And we saw the necessity to be able to recruit them from abroad particular effort was made to recruit highly skilled workers particularly American service workers from Asia and particularly South Asia. We still live with the legacy of that and the number of South Asians who are doctors and other medical professionals there are disproportionately represented in that industry. So. By taking down those bands and opening those doors. We gentrified Asian-Americans. We created a situation of.

[00:05:03] Scott: Immigration screening so that a significant number of new immigrants coming to the country particularly from Asia would have college degrees employer sponsors and direct avenue to elite employment and created the basis for a stereotype concerning Asian-Americans some of them are culturally superior as opposed to simply that some of what we’re allowed in the reality is that while these were highly educated immigrants the fewer countries they came from places like India and China and Korea and Vietnam or not places in which a significantly high number of people were getting college degrees. In fact the rate of college degrees among people who were immigrating into the country was much higher than in those countries. And so it wasn’t representative of those countries or Asian Americans generally. But this became the impression that it created and that impression was exploited by those on the right conservatives who were concerned about the rapid advance of the civil rights movement.

[00:06:05] SCOTT: And they put out a story that went viral that focused primarily on Japanese-Americans who had recently been interned in mass and were rising up into prosperity and made the argument that the reason for it were cultural or racial characteristics including that we were loyal familially loyal particular that we were a hardworking quiet cooperative and obedient and that we were willing to do whatever was necessary to make any sacrifice in order to be able to rise.

[00:06:34] SCOTT: Now this is true of many different kinds of immigrant groups. But what this argument was used for was to make the case that if this group would rise all groups should be able to rise by the same means not through protests but through work and basically vilified African-Americans who are reaching for rights by saying perhaps that’s not the way not the American way. Here’s the way that Americans have achieved rights is by working for them. And so the two communities have forever since been played off against one another. It became a meme that was used by the Reagan administration and other conservative administrations since and has become widely popularized so that it’s become kind of part of the racial commonsense of the United States that we believe that somehow Asians are more equipped than others to be successful and that their success lies not in protests not in asking for reform but simply putting their heads on and working hard.

[00:07:29] DMAE: We’re going to keep with Scott. So were you surprised by the reaction about the Peter Liang case.

[00:07:37] I mean was that expected in some way.

[00:07:42] SCOTT: Well you know the Chinese-American community in the United States is very diverse as well as are all ethnic minority groups.

[00:07:49] And so you know there are people who have many different political persuasions. It didn’t surprise me that much that some people would protest. You know it was an incident in which a Chinese-American police officer has been prosecuted in a situation where most people in the same situation where police officers are not prosecuted as vigorously or at least that’s the impression has been created. And so it’s certainly unfair. And so I did expect that there would be some outcry. I had hoped that we would be able to engage in a dialogue about this about the rule of law about whether or not we think it’s OK. For many officers to be getting off for committing these acts if it is not ok to us, then why would we hold ourselves to that standard? Why would we hold ourselves to the standard that if others get off we should get off to in spite of the rule of law. And in spite of the public safety problems that this creates but the passion that drove those protests is something I of course can relate to and Chinese-Americans in the United States have been horribly persecuted for a very long time and their persecution has never been fully addressed. And so people are looking for avenues for protests to make themselves visible and to make themselves vulnerable because they feel vulnerable. You know they want to feel powerful because they feel vulnerable. And I think that that’s a really important part of this that we should remember. There’s been a lot of talk about how they’re just wrong headed.

[00:09:15] The reality is that you know many groups in the United States as we rise into political participation do so awkwardly and I have to look for issues in order to organize ourselves around. And I believe that this is not going to be the way that these issues get polarized every time. I think that people are building bridges and making it possible for us to have a dialogue that will move forward together.

[00:09:40] DMAE: Thank you. I was going to switch to water. Yes actually it. And then we’ll know. Well it doesn’t really feel. Like. Capsulized. Thank you.

[00:09:57] I’m basically asking you the same question too.

[00:10:06] So were you surprised by the reaction from the Chinese-American community.

[00:10:13] HELEN YING: So Dmae I don’t know if you picked up when Jennifer was talking about it to the folks that had the kind of response were mostly new immigrants.

[00:10:29] DMAE: Can you tell me rather than assuming what people will know that sponsors Could you start. Sure. What that response was. Sure. And so you remember you know when the things that is that many of the.

[00:10:42] HELEN: Many of the rest came about We Chat discussions and so I’m going to give the case that we know about locally. It started with one person feeling like you know in the information it got home mostly from Chinese media. And so.

[00:11:03] Helen: So I don’t really know what they follow because. So when I got wind of this. I contacted our national. Network you know and like our national president says hey this is what’s happening in Portland. What are you guys hearing about what’s going on. Other parts of the country.

[00:11:23] Helen: And so. So what we have seen like online is a lot of a Mandarin speaking… folks who are new newer immigrants from mainland China that are having this kind of response. And because a lot of the information they have received are from you know Chinese written language media and so on and so forth.

[00:11:55] HELEN: And they really feel because they don’t know what the big picture of it except for the fact that here at this poor you know this is what I learned from the local leader. You know this is how he put it he says this is a officer a young officer.

[00:12:15] Helen: Whose parents don’t even speak English. And when he was being tried his parents couldn’t even come to the trial to the court because they have to work.

[00:12:28] So basically he’s saying you know that this officer didn’t even get like really the time of day just because his parents you know they don’t they don’t they don’t have the means they don’t even make the money even have been able to hire a lawyer that could represent him well. And so.

[00:12:48] HELEN: So they were kind of looking at it from that angle as well. Besides the fact you know about what Scott mentioned earlier about you know the history of how many white officers you know have been involved in police shootings and so forth.

[00:13:06] So so that’s one part of it too you know.

[00:13:09] So they just felt like he was being scapegoated because you know he’s like this quiet co-operative you know that kind of the model minority myth. Right.

[00:13:20] HELEN: And so I think a lot of that plays into what had happen with how many of the folks around the country had. You know. Rallied around this this particular case by demonstrating by protesting and so in and the thing too is that.

[00:13:42] HELEN: This is the bottom line. They also want to see this as a way to connect the community to really say you know must not stay silent let’s really speak up and that voice be heard. And so that’s what’s happening right now locally with this group which is really cool.

[00:14:00] DMAE: It’s happening now right now. OK.

[00:14:02] HELEN: So so. So the leader you know I don’t know if you wanted to use this name but since the rally stay connected and so you know I kind of taught him about how we’re trying to work on revitalizing Chinatown. And how a lot of the. Buildings that are. Kind of. Like. That up there if they can.

[00:14:27] HELEN: That are owned by Asian or Chinese Americans are being sued because you know. People wanting to sell. And so a lot of them are. Transferring hands to people who are non-Asian. So I’m as you know what a person who is involved in this work. I’m kind of concerned about that.

[00:14:47] And so I kind of shared it with one of the leaders in and he got a group together and raised enough money and bought a building.

[00:14:56] And then in turn he also organized cultural performances for three consecutive Saturdays.

[00:15:04] DMAE: What group is this?

[00:15:04] HELEN: They don’t even have a name for it it’s like they just form themselves by chatting or We Chat. (laughs) You know they coming up with a name but they haven’t actually created the name yet. So.

[00:15:22] DMAE: That’s a pretty good success story for you.

[00:15:24] HELEN: It’s really cool to see them banding together and you know wanting to stand up and make their voices heard.

[00:15:31] DMAE: Thank you. It just sounds like in summation that you know it helped having a larger perspective.

[00:15:38] HELEN: I think so.

[00:15:40] DMAE: And I think that’s what you were bringing into it too is that that. Is for a. Larger perspective.

[00:15:47] SCOTT: What’s that Marting Luther King quot. “A riot is the language of the unheard.” It these were not riots by any means his were orderly peaceful protests. But we have an unheard-from minority trying to tell that story. And I think we should be listening.

[00:16:07] DMAE: Is fair to say they were all immigrant communities?

[00:16:10] HELEN: I don’t think so. I don’t think so but I think by and large many groups were in that. You know how you know. I don’t have like a study to say how many lives work today through which I had been through what children were said. And apparently that’s how she learned about how some of these groups got shot at.

[00:16:32] And We Chat is a it’s like Facebook is not Facebook it is like Facebook sort of but it is a Chinese version from mainland China. And that’s where it originated and that’s where you know the people who created it still there made in China. It’s called We Chat