Monday, April 3, 2006

Where Are My People?

On Saturday, as I was walking to Chinatown to grab lunch, I came upon a mass demonstration at Foley Square concerning the immigration reform legislation currently under debate in Congress. The majority of the protesters were Hispanic.

As I strolled closer towards Chinatown -- a bastion of immigrants, legal or otherwise -- I couldn't help but wonder: Where are my people? We have just as significant a stake in the debate as other more demonstrative immigrant groups, yet we were, for the most part, ostensibly absent from the demonstration.

All that reminded me of the night I attended the biennial meeting of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance back when I was a junior in high school. I was seated at a table with a man named J.D. Hong (J.D. as in Jefferson Davis), who had grown up in segregation-era Mississippi with a brother named Sherman (Sherman as in General Sherman). J.D. explained that Asian Americans were considered colored folk, and they, too, could not drink from white water fountains, go to white schools or ride at the front of buses. Seemed logical enough. I mean, did I really need him to explain to me that yellow isn't white? Yet, the thought had never crossed my mind. I never even imagined that there were Asian Americans in segregation-era Mississippi, let alone the consequences of their existence. Why? Because I didn't hear anything about that during history class. And I certainly hadn't heard anyone speak of it based upon first-hand knowledge.

Why do we so rarely feel compelled to speak up?