August 3, 2006
Written by C.N.
Recently, a series of incidents originally precipitated by police brutality in Edison, NJ has brought to the surface some very interesting and in many ways unfortunate inter-Asian tensions between community members and the city government:
After an Asian-Indian resident claimed he was beaten by an Edison police officer in July, Mayor Jun Choi reached out to Asian-Indian community leader Peter Kothari, in an effort to defuse tensions over the alleged incident. . . . But the two leaders themselves couldn’t see eye-to-eye.
The night before their joint meeting was to take place, the township broke off. Choi decided Kothari was not an honest broker and could not provide security for him and Police Chief George Mieczkowski. Instead, the mayor said he would hold his own meeting.
An infuriated Kothari said it was Choi who broke terms, bringing in other officers and the police union when the talk was to be only with Choi and Mieczkowski. Kothari said he would not organize a meeting that would “sing a song for Choi.” His group’s meeting would go on, he insisted.
The article goes on to describe that not all Indian Americans in the Edison community support Kothari and that he does not necessarily speak for the entire Indian American community there. Let us also remember that Jun Choi was the first Asian American mayor ever elected in New Jersey.
Obviously I don’t know all the details of this situation and can only speculate on the different factors that have contributed to the misunderstandings and tensions between the two sides. However, I would like to note that I am not surprised that this type of situation has occurred.
Why not? Because even though Choi received strong support from the Indian American community in his bid to get elected mayor, there is inevitably going to be some form of jealousy among other Asian Americans and Asian American ethnic groups that it was not them who became NJ’s first Asian American mayor.
I’m not saying that Kothari is jealous of Choi. Rather, I’m just pointing out that on a group level, perhaps many Indian Americans in Edison felt that after they helped get Choi elected, he “owes” them something. And when Choi did something with which they did not agree, then perhaps they felt betrayed. In fact, the article quotes Kothari saying words to that effect.
Ultimately, I bring up this incident as another example of the type of inter-ethnic rivalry and differences among Asian Americans that still unfortunately stands in the way of true pan-Asian unity and collective power. Is it realistic to expect that these sorts of tensions and conflict will never happen between Asian Americans? Of course not.
But can we use this example as a way to learn more about how the intersection of politics and ethnicity can have a significant effect on unity within Asian American communities? Absolutely.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Tensions Between Asian American Communites" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/08/tensions-between-asian-american-communites/> ().
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