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Andrew Yang Is Onstage, but Offstage, Asian-Americans Wonder Where They Fit In

LOS ANGELES — It is a fact of political life Representative Judy Chu is accustomed to: when there is a discussion about people of color in Washington, she will inevitably have to elbow her way in so that Asian-Americans are considered.

洛杉磯——眾議員趙美心(Judy Chu)已經習慣了政治生活中的這個事實:每當華盛頓有關于少數民族的討論,她必然要擠進去露個面,以便人們考慮到亞裔美國人。

“We have long had a problem with Asian-Americans being invisible in politics,” said Ms. Chu, the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress, who represents Pasadena, Calif. “When the conversations are about people of color, we are always making sure that we are included and we have to insert ourselves in the process.”



After weeks of debate over diversity in the Democratic presidential field, it is an unusual moment for Asian-Americans in politics: Seven Democratic presidential hopefuls will step on to the debate stage here Thursday night, each making a pitch to lead a party that is intently focused on black and Latino voters. And all but one — Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur who few saw as a viable candidate a year ago — are white.

在圍繞民主黨總統候選人多元化的辯論進行了好幾周后,一個政治上不同尋常的時刻正在等待著亞裔美國人:七名希望成為民主黨總統候選人的人本周四晚在這里登臺辯論,每個人都想把自己推銷為一個專心致志地把重點放在非洲裔和拉美裔選民身上的政黨的領導人。除楊安澤(Andrew Yang)外,他們都是白人。一年前,幾乎沒有人認為企業家出身的楊安澤是一位政治上可行的候選人。

The debate in one of America’s most ethnically diverse cities will not include any candidate who is black or Latino. Though it will feature two women — Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar — and a gay man, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. the lineup does not satisfy some in the party who believe that Democrats could pay dearly if the demographics of its candidates do not reflect its voters.

這場在美國民族多元程度最高的城市之一舉行的辯論,將沒有一位非洲裔或拉美裔候選人參加。但將有兩名女性——參議員伊麗莎白·沃倫(Elizabeth Warren)和艾米·克勞布查(Amy Klobuchar)——和一名男同性戀者、印第安納州南本德市市長皮特·布塔杰吉(Pete Buttigieg)參加,這個陣容讓黨內一些人不滿,他們認為,如果民主黨候選人不反映其選民的人口統計數據的話,該黨會付出很大的代價。

Last week, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who is black, penned a letter to party leaders noting that many of the people who helped make the Democratic field “diverse” have been “excluded” from Thursday’s debate. The letter was signed by eight other candidates, including Ms. Warren and former Housing secretary Julián Castro, the only Latino in the race. (Neither Mr. Booker nor Mr. Castro met the required threshold of total donors and qualifying poll results.)

上周,新澤西州的非洲裔參議員科里·布克(Cory Booker)給民主黨領袖們寫了一封信,指出許多幫助民主黨“多元化”的人已被“排除”在周四的辯論之外。八名其他候選人在這封信上簽了名,其中包括沃倫和前住房部部長朱利安·卡斯特羅(Julián Castro),卡斯特羅是參加民主黨總統候選人初選的唯一拉美裔。(布克和卡斯特羅的捐款人總數和民意測驗結果都沒有達到讓他們獲得辯論資格的門檻。)

The intense focus on racial identity in politics has once again left some in the Asian-American community considering what diversity really means — and how exactly they fit in.


“A couple of journalists have asked me whether I feel a responsibility to represent all people of color on the debate stage,” Mr. Yang said recently in a tweet. “I tell them that is impossible — our communities are too diverse for that. Most Americans I meet are concerned about very similar things.”


That Mr. Yang — a candidate who has risen from almost complete obscurity to become one of just a few Asian-Americans to ever mount a serious run at the presidency — will be the only nonwhite person speaking to millions of voters on Thursday is in itself extraordinary to many political veterans.


“So often, Asians aren’t viewed as leaders but they are viewed as competent,” said John Chiang, the former California state treasurer who ran for governor last year and started a political action committee to elect more Asian and Pacific Islander Democrats to office. “It plays across the board and whether it’s correct or not, it’s left an impression. You have an understanding of what Asians are and they are not seen as political leaders in the collective consciousness.”

“通常,人們不把亞裔視為領導者,但把他們視為稱職的人,”曾任加州財政部長、參加了去年加州州長競選的江俊輝(John Chiang)說。他為更多的亞裔和太平洋島國后裔民主黨人選入政壇創立了一個政治行動委員會。“這種看法對所有的方面都有影響,不管它是對是錯,已經形成了一種印象。人們對亞裔有一種了解,在他們在集體意識中,亞裔不被視為政治領袖。”

Those impressions may be gradually changing. The 2020 Democratic primary marked the first time three Asian-American and Pacific Islanders all sought a major party’s nomination for president: Mr. Yang, who is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who was born in Samoa, and Senator Kamala Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father. Ms. Harris had qualified for the debate but ended her campaign this month.

這些印象可能正在逐漸改變。在2020年總統大選前的民主黨初選中,首次有三名亞裔和太平洋島國后裔尋求一個主要政黨的總統候選人提名,他們是臺灣移民的兒子楊安澤,出生于薩摩亞、代表夏威夷州的眾議員圖爾西·加巴德(Tulsi Gabbard),以及母親是印度人、父親是牙買加人的參議員卡瑪拉·哈里斯(Kamala Harris)。哈里斯本來獲得了參加辯論的資格,但她已在本月退出競選。

After decades of immigrant exclusion, second-generation Asian-Americans have come of age and experts say they are showing increasing interest and engagement in American politics.


Still, Asian-Americans are far too often left out of conversations about people of color, said Mark Takano, a Japanese-American Democratic congressman from Riverside, Calif.

盡管如此,亞裔美國人仍經常被排除在關于少數民族的討論之外,來自加州河濱市的日裔民主黨眾議員馬克·高野(Mark Takano)說。

“It’s a blind spot even among progressives,” Mr. Takano said. “In my experience, progressives are dominated by a lot of educated white people. They tend to think about African-Americans and Latinos as people of color, and Asian-American somehow doesn’t count.”


In the debate over immigration and Dreamers, for example, Mr. Takano and Ms. Chu both said they had worked hard to ensure that Asian-American undocumented immigrants were included in strategy sessions and at news conferences.


Mr. Takano blames much of the problem on the myth of the “model minority,” which over-generalizes Asians as diligent and high-achieving, and the idea that Asian-Americans do not have any of the same challenges as blacks or Latinos.


“The reason it’s important to think about Asians-Americans right now is they offer this window into race relations, identity and privilege,” said Janelle Wong, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, who studies Asian-American politics.

“現在思考亞裔美國人的問題很重要,因為他們為理解種族關系、身份認同和特權提供了一個窗口,”馬里蘭大學研究亞裔美國人政治的美國研究系教授黃吉娜(Janelle Wong)說。

“Asian-Americans are a nonwhite group and experience racial discrimination, but simultaneously, we exhibit, as a group, elements of advantage,” she added. “This is a window we haven’t had front and center before.”


During Mr. Yang’s remarkable political ascent, he has largely sought to avoid extended discussions about his background, choosing instead to focus on ideas like his signature policy, universal basic income. His crowds at rallies in big cities are young and diverse, and include Asian-Americans who say they were drawn in by his ideas, but are also happy to see someone who looks like them running for president.


But the ways Mr. Yang has chosen to discuss race during his campaign have nonetheless been the subject of intense scrutiny by other members of the Asian-American community. His campaign tagline, for example — “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math” — and his proclamation at a debate earlier this year that “I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors” have drawn heavy criticism for perpetuating stereotypes about Asian-Americans.


“He has really treated his Asian identity as a point of humor or deflection, and he may think that’s necessary,” said Viet Thanh Nguyen, a novelist and professor at the University of Southern California, who has interviewed Mr. Yang onstage. “I think it’s telling that he hasn’t found an approach that takes it seriously, rather than using it as a way to be disarming for many Americans who might not know Asians.”

“他實際上把自己的亞裔身份當做一種幽默或轉移目標的起點,他可能認為這是必要的,”南加州大學(University of Southern California)教授、小說家阮清越(Viet Thanh Nguyen)說,阮清越曾在臺上采訪過楊安澤。“我覺得,他還沒有找到一種認真對待族裔的方法,而不是只把它作為一種讓許多可能不了解亞裔的美國人放下戒心的方式,這很說明問題。”

Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside, said Mr. Yang “is not seen a typical minority candidate because he has not talked about issues in ways that appeal to a broad swath of the black, Latino and Asian-American electorates.”

加州大學河濱分校(University of California, Riverside)的政治學教授卡拉克·拉馬克里什南(Karthick Ramakrishnan)說,楊安澤“沒有被人視為一名典型的少數族裔候選人,因為他沒有以能吸引廣大非洲裔、拉美裔和亞裔選民的方式談論問題”。

To that point, several experts and activists in the Asian-American community said they hope he will use his time as the only candidate of color on the debate stage Thursday to address issues of race head-on.


“He needs to more fully spell out how his signature issue — the freedom dividend — plays out in minority communities,” Professor Ramakrishnan said.


Mr. Yang will be taking his place in the spotlight in a state that is home to one-third of all of the country’s Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Of course, Asian-Americans are no monolith, and the term encompasses a huge range of ethnicities, nationalities, languages and political views. (One example: Thursday’s Democratic debate will be moderated NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz, who is Pakistani-American, in what community activists say will be a first for an Asian-American.) And nowhere is that diversity more clear than in California — a state with significant Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese and Japanese populations among others.

在這個有全國三分之一的亞裔和太平洋島國后裔美國人的州里,楊安澤將成為公眾關注的焦點。當然,亞裔美國人并非鐵板一塊,亞裔包擴了很多不同的族裔、國度、語言和政治觀點。(一個例子是:周四的民主黨候選人辯論將由巴基斯坦裔美國人、《新聞一小時》[NewsHour]的阿姆納·納瓦茲[Amna Nawaz]主持,社區活動人士表示,這將是首次由亞裔美國人主持的辯論。)亞裔的多樣性在加州表現得最為明顯——加州有相當數量的菲律賓裔、越南裔、韓裔、華裔、日裔,以及其他亞裔。

At about 6 percent of the United States population, Asian-Americans are not a large enough voting bloc to propel a national candidate to victory on their own. But Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders represent about one out of every six registered voters in California and Asian-American voters in swing states could prove critical in a close election. (Mr. Booker, for example, has placed a special emphasis on Asian-Americans in Nevada, where Filipino immigrants could provide crucial votes, holding caucus trainings in Tagalog this month.)


Asian-Americans are also the fastest growing racial group in the United States. Many experts believe that anti-immigration rhetoric increasingly espoused by the Republican Party under President Trump has helped ensure that the voting bloc leans heavily Democrat.


“There’s no question that the backbone of the Democratic Party is African-Americans; we’re not saying ‘look at us not them.’ We’re saying ‘look at us also,’” said Manjusha P. Kulkarni, the executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council — a coalition of more than 40 community based organizations that serve and represent about 1.5 million Asian-Americans Los Angeles County.

“毫無疑問,民主黨的骨干是非洲裔美國人;我們不是在說,‘關心我們,而不是他們’。我們在說,‘也關心一下我們’,”曼朱莎·P·庫爾卡尼(Manjusha P. Kulkarni)說,她是亞太政策與規劃委員會(Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council)的執行主任,這是一個由40多個社區組織構成的聯合體,為洛杉磯縣150萬亞裔美國人服務,并代表他們。

“Candidates and parties,” she added, “would be making a mistake to ignore us.”

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