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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.

洛杉矶——众议员赵美心(Judy Chu)已经习惯了政治生活中的这个事实:每当华盛顿有关于少数民族的讨论,她必然要挤进去露个面,以便人们考虑到亚裔美国人。

“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.

在围绕民主党总统候选人多元化的辩论进行了好几周后,一个政治上不同寻常的时刻正在等待着亚裔美国人:七名希望成为民主党总统候选人的人本周四晚在这里登台辩论,每个人都想把自己推销为一个专心致志地把重点放在非洲裔和拉美裔选民身上的政党的领导人。除杨安泽(Andrew Yang)外,他们都是白人。一年前,几乎没有人认为企业家出身的杨安泽是一位政治上可行的候选人。

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.

这场在美国民族多元程度最高的城市之一举行的辩论,将没有一位非洲裔或拉美裔候选人参加。但将有两名女性——参议员伊丽莎白·沃伦(Elizabeth Warren)和艾米·克劳布查(Amy Klobuchar)——和一名男同性恋者、印第安纳州南本德市市长皮特·布塔杰吉(Pete Buttigieg)参加,这个阵容让党内一些人不满,他们认为,如果民主党候选人不反映其选民的人口统计数据的话,该党会付出很大的代价。

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,新泽西州的非洲裔参议员科里·布克(Cory Booker)给民主党领袖们写了一封信,指出许多帮助民主党“多元化”的人已被“排除”在周四的辩论之外。八名其他候选人在这封信上签了名,其中包括沃伦和前住房部部长朱利安·卡斯特罗(Julián Castro),卡斯特罗是参加民主党总统候选人初选的唯一拉美裔。(布克和卡斯特罗的捐款人总数和民意测验结果都没有达到让他们获得辩论资格的门槛。)

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,人们不把亚裔视为领导者,但把他们视为称职的人,”曾任加州财政部长、参加了去年加州州长竞选的江俊辉(John Chiang)说。他为更多的亚裔和太平洋岛国后裔民主党人选入政坛创立了一个政治行动委员会。“这种看法对所有的方面都有影响,不管它是对是错,已经形成了一种印象。人们对亚裔有一种了解,在他们在集体意识中,亚裔不被视为政治领袖。”

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.

这些印象可能正在逐渐改变。在2020年总统大选前的民主党初选中,首次有三名亚裔和太平洋岛国后裔寻求一个主要政党的总统候选人提名,他们是台湾移民的儿子杨安泽,出生于萨摩亚、代表夏威夷州的众议员图尔西·加巴德(Tulsi Gabbard),以及母亲是印度人、父亲是牙买加人的参议员卡玛拉·哈里斯(Kamala Harris)。哈里斯本来获得了参加辩论的资格,但她已在本月退出竞选。

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.

尽管如此,亚裔美国人仍经常被排除在关于少数民族的讨论之外,来自加州河滨市的日裔民主党众议员马克·高野(Mark Takano)说。

“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.

“现在思考亚裔美国人的问题很重要,因为他们为理解种族关系、身份认同和特权提供了一个窗口,”马里兰大学研究亚裔美国人政治的美国研究系教授黃吉娜(Janelle Wong)说。

“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.”

“他实际上把自己的亚裔身份当做一种幽默或转移目标的起点,他可能认为这是必要的,”南加州大学(University of Southern California)教授、小说家阮清越(Viet Thanh Nguyen)说,阮清越曾在台上采访过杨安泽。“我觉得,他还没有找到一种认真对待族裔的方法,而不是只把它作为一种让许多可能不了解亚裔的美国人放下戒心的方式,这很说明问题。”

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.”

加州大学河滨分校(University of California, Riverside)的政治学教授卡拉克·拉马克里什南(Karthick Ramakrishnan)说,杨安泽“没有被人视为一名典型的少数族裔候选人,因为他没有以能吸引广大非洲裔、拉美裔和亚裔选民的方式谈论问题”。

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.

在这个有全国三分之一的亚裔和太平洋岛国后裔美国人的州里,杨安泽将成为公众关注的焦点。当然,亚裔美国人并非铁板一块,亚裔包扩了很多不同的族裔、国度、语言和政治观点。(一个例子是:周四的民主党候选人辩论将由巴基斯坦裔美国人、《新闻一小时》[NewsHour]的阿姆纳·纳瓦兹[Amna Nawaz]主持,社区活动人士表示,这将是首次由亚裔美国人主持的辩论。)亚裔的多样性在加州表现得最为明显——加州有相当数量的菲律宾裔、越南裔、韩裔、华裔、日裔,以及其他亚裔。

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.

“毫无疑问,民主党的骨干是非洲裔美国人;我们不是在说,‘关心我们,而不是他们’。我们在说,‘也关心一下我们’,”曼朱莎·P·库尔卡尼(Manjusha P. Kulkarni)说,她是亚太政策与规划委员会(Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council)的执行主任,这是一个由40多个社区组织构成的联合体,为洛杉矶县150万亚裔美国人服务,并代表他们。

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

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