September 14, 2005
Written by C.N.
Two stories in the news recently caught my eye, both dealing with proposed legislation that many Asian American-owned small businesses say would hurt their livelihoods. The interesting irony in both of these cases is that the proposed legislation was drafted and advocated by Asian American politicians.
In the first example, reported by AsianWeek Magazine, describes proposed legislation in California that would tighten sanitation and safety requirements for nail salons, introduced by State Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Leland Yee. This follows several highly-publicized incidents where customers — most notably Paula Abdul — suffered bacterial infections due to unsanitary instruments and practices.
The second example, as reported by the Queens Chronicle, New York City Korean grocers are upset at legislation proposed by City Councilman John Liu that requires sidewalk displays in front of grocery stores not to obstruct sidewalks and pedestrians. The grocers complain that Liu purposely introduced the proposal so that they would not have enough time to respond to it.
Neither of these two news articles mention anything about the fact that the “anti-Asian” proposals were created by Asian American politicians. In both cases, the proposed legislation was authored by Chinese Americans and would supposedly hurt Korean businesses the most. This leads to the question, does race/ethnicity — or more specifically interethnic rivalry between members of different Asian groups — have anything to do with it?
Or can it be that these Asian American politicians are directly or indirectly trying to demonstrate that they can serve non-Asian constituents just as well as their Asian ones, and that indeed, they’re not afraid to challenge members of their own community in order to “serve the public good?”
I can only speculate at this point, but I would think that both Chinese American politicians are acutely aware of the interethnic and interracial issues involved here, even if it may not be their primary motivations. At least on the surface, the proposed laws do not seem unreasonable to me. However, the bottom line is that politicians — whatever their racial/ethnic background — need to ensure that any such laws are applied consistently to Asians and non-Asians alike.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "“Anti-Asian” Laws Passed by APA Politicians" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/09/anti-asian-laws-passed-by-apa-politicians/> ().
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