100 years to travel a mile

From AFP:  US trade chief recalls racism as Chinese American kid (there, I fixed it for you):

US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke recalled Thursday the abuse he suffered as a Chinese-American child in the 1950s and said his personal success showed how far immigrants from China have come.

“It sure feels a whole lot different to be a Chinese-American today than it did when I was growing up,” said Locke, tapped by President Barack Obama to be the next US ambassador to Beijing.

Speaking to the Committee of 100 Chinese-American business conference in New York, Locke said his school teacher in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington “believed it was her duty to literally beat the native culture out of me.”

“I got the message that I had to choose between being Chinese and American,” he said.

Born to a working-class immigrant family, Locke went on to become governor of Washington, the first Chinese-American to hold a governor’s post. The mansion he took over was “just one mile from where my grandfather swept floors and washed dishes. It took our family 100 years to travel one mile.”

Locke, 61, said pressure from his school teacher to assimilate and counter-pressure from his parents to maintain Chinese roots was “the constant tension of my youth.”

“It took almost the civil rights movement to teach me that I could be both Chinese and American — that in fact I am Chinese-American,” he said. “I could be as loyal and patriotic as anyone else and still eat with chopsticks.”

Locke quipped that there are now so many Asian Americans in Obama’s government “that we’re often confused for each other.”

However in wider political circles, Asians are heavily under-represented, he said, with only two percent of Congress Asian-American, compared to a 5.6 percent slice of the whole population.

The fault this time, said Locke, lies with Asian-Americans who shun political ambition for professional careers.

“Fifty or 60 years ago we could chalk this up to discrimination but I don’t think we can today,” he said, urging greater participation in public life.

“We’ve got to be at the table helping to set the policies that impact on us,” he said. “This is the next frontier of Chinese-American advancement.”


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