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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

November 4, 2010

Written by C.N.

2010 Election: Results for Asian American Candidates

I presume that by now, you don’t need me to summarize how the Republican Party made significant gains in the House of Representatives along with state and local races around the country. Instead and in keeping with this site and blog’s main focus, below is a brief summary of how some Asian American candidates (both Democratic and Republican) fared around the country this past week (feel free to add more information and updates about other Asian American candidates not listed here in the ‘Comments’ section). For a more complete list of Asian American candidates, see APIAVote.


Indian American Nikki Haley is New South Carolina Governor

  • Staunch conservative and Tea Party-backed Republican Nikki Haley (her parents are both Sikh immigrants from India) becomes South Carolina’s new governor, joining Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal as the second Indian American governor in the U.S.


Vietnamese American Joseph Cao Ousted from LA Seat

  • “Cao [the first Vietnamese American ever elected to Congress] cast himself as a bipartisan friend of Democratic President Barack Obama. But votes against two key Obama initiatives, the economic stimulus and health care overhaul, were among Richmond’s attack points in a mostly Democratic district that supported Obama for president.”


Hansen Clarke and Colleen Hanabusa Win House Races

  • “Hansen Clarke[MI, Democrat] will be sworn in as the first Bangladeshi American to serve in the US Congress. Trained as both a fine artist and a lawyer, he has two decades of experience serving the state of Michigan as a legislator. . . . Colleen Hanabusa [HI, Democrat] is a national trailblazer in her own right, as she is the first woman to preside over either chamber of the Hawai’i State Legislature, and the first Asian-American or Pacific Islander woman in the nation to preside over a state legislative body.”


Jean Quan Elected as Oakland’s New Mayor

  • “City Councilwoman Jean Quan won the final tally Wednesday in Oakland’s ranked-choice mayoral election, capping a dramatic eight days in which she came from behind and surged to victory because she had more second- and third-place votes than rival Don Perata.”


Filipino American Tani Cantil-Sakauye Elected as California’s New Supreme Court Chief Justice

  • “Cantil-Sakauye, daughter of a Filipina farm worker and a Filipino-Portuguese plantation worker, thus made history as the first Asian-American, and also the youngest jurist, to hold the highest position in any state judiciary in the United States.”


Vietnamese American Candidates Generally Fare Poorly

  • “Across the country, except for a few bright spots, most Viet candidates fall flat, losing their races, sometimes spectacularly. Now, of course, there is such a thing as a “Vietnamese bounce” – late absentee ballots cast mostly by Vietnamese – which has caused people to sometimes prematurely announce the death of some campaigns. But, from the way things look, even the ‘Vietnamese bounce’ won’t help this time.”


Indian American Amil Bera Loses CA House of Representatives Race

  • “[Democratic candidate] Bera took the stage . . . Tuesday night like a rock star. About 250 supporters — Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, California Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, Caucasians young and old chanted ‘Bera! Bera! Bera!’ Bera, who lost to [incumbent Republican] Lungren 51 percent to 43 percent told The Bee, ‘We are winners – look at the enthusiasm in this room. As the son of immigrants who came here in the 1950s, this is the culmination of the American dream.’”


Kamala Harris Leads in Contest for CA Attorney General

  • “With nearly 7 million ballots counted, Democrat Harris, daughter of an Indian mother and African-American father, was holding a lead of fewer than 38,000 votes over Republican Steve Cooley in the race for state attorney general. But with thousands of late absentee and provisional ballots remaining uncounted, she has not been declared a winner. If her victory holds, Harris would become the first Indian-African-American and first woman ever to hold the job of California attorney general.”

August 3, 2009

Written by C.N.

The Social Significance of Asian Americans in the News

Two recent news stories involving Asian Americans caught my attention. The first is an announcement about an Indian American seeking to become South Carolina’s new Governor:

Nikki Randhawa Haley, 37, who is in the fray for the post of governor of South Carolina in the US, says she is in the race to win. If she gets elected, Nikki will be the first Indian American woman to become governor in the US, and the second Indian after Bobby Jindal of Louisiana state. A member of the South Carolina state assembly since 2004, Nikki is one of the three candidates to seek nomination from her Republican party for the 2010 elections. . . .

Asked whether her Indian background will matter in the race, she said: “What matters most in South Carolina — and I imagine elsewhere in the country — is not the personalities of the candidates but the message they carry.” . . . Reminded of her maiden campaign in 2004 when her opponents had raised the issue of her ethnic background, she said: “I imagine my opponents will throw everything they can and more at me over the course of the campaign.

“That said, those opponents will not be the focus of our campaign — we will keep our focus on reforming the backward way South Carolina’s government operates and bringing good government back to the people.” Nikki added: “I am very proud of my background and how I was raised. Just as in 2004 I will hold my head high and focus on what I can do for the people of this state.”

To be honest, this is the first that I’ve heard of Nikki Randhawa Haley. It is interesting to see that like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, she is both Indian American and a Republican. As with Jindal, being a Republican makes her a minority within her own ethnic group, who strongly lean Democratic and with the overall political preferences of Asian Americans in general.

Nonetheless, as with Jindal, I think it’s great that more Asian Americans are participating in the political arenas on the state and federal levels and that they are increasingly vying for — and achieving — the highest political offices and positions available (as a reminder, in addition to Jindal, we have Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Joseph Cao (the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress), Michelle Rhee (high-profile Chancellor of Washington DC’s public schools), and most recently, Councilman Sam Yoon running for Mayor of Boston, Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress), and Jacqueline Nguyen, recently nominated by President Obama to become our country’s only current Asian American federal judge.

I find it very encouraging that Asian Americans are becoming more fully integrated into mainstream American institutions such as politics. This actually leads me to the second news story that caught my eye: I was watching the CBS Evening News the other day and the following segment came on, profiling Edward Tom, Principal at the Bronx Center for Science and Math, a magnet school in New York City:

After watching the segment, I basically thought, “Hey, that’s pretty cool — a principal who gave up a cushy job to work with inner-city kids and to try to help them succeed in life and overcome the obstacles in front of them. Good for him.”

It only dawned on me a little bit later that he was Asian American.

I had to take a few minutes to reflect on this quick realization. Combined with the first part of this post about the emergence of new Asian American politicians, I struck me that perhaps I am now beginning to see what I hoped I would see one day in my lifetime: Asian Americans are so much an integral part of American society that it’s no longer a surprise when I see them in the news or in other media.

In other words, perhaps we are beginning to see that mainstream American society no longer thinks of Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners, as “the other,” or as completely invisible altogether. Instead, with the recent examples of Randhawa Haley, Jindal, Chu, Shinseki, Locke, Rhee, Cao, Yoon, Chu, Nguyen, Tom, and other Asian Americans increasingly attaining high-level and high-profile positions, maybe we as a community have turned the corner in our quest for true integration into American society.

Having said that, I am under no illusions that we no longer experience racial prejudice or outright discrimination or that our identities as “real” Americans will no longer be questioned (you only have to read my recent posts for examples of that). There is still plenty of statistical and anecdotal evidence that Asian Americans are still underrepresented and under-appreciated in many aspects and institutions of American society.

Nonetheless, I think these are very positive developments and it gives me hope that despite the struggles still to come, American society is moving in the right direction.