Andrew Yang Oped, Backlash, and Follow-up – All Good News for AsAm Movement
Andrew Yang recently had a significant backlash from prominent Asian Americans on social media for his recent oped Washington Post piece, “Andrew Yang: We Asian Americans are not the virus, but we can be part of the cure” where many felt he was too apologetic and not angry enough, indignant enough, or aggressive enough to denounce the rising attacks on Asian Americans and anti-Asian American sentiment since the COVID-19 pandemic.
But this backlash and Andrew Yang’s subsequent follow-up is good news for the Asian American movement. We are in the “innovators” phrase of this awareness and movement. More controversy and disagreements within the Asian American community means more engagement. More engagement means people are talking, sharing articles, and having conversations, and getting involved. This momentum is critical to sustain a movement.
Over time, more people both within and outside the Asian American community will continue to speak out and work to prevent racism, not just affecting Asian Americans but anyone of color.
Within a week of encountering the backlash to his oped piece, Andrew had a more extensive interview where he clarified a statement many people had issue with:
We Asian Americans need to embrace and show our American-ness in ways we never have before. We need to step up, help our neighbors, donate gear, vote, wear red white and blue, volunteer, fund aid organizations, and do everything in our power to accelerate the end of this crisis. We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need.
Demonstrate that we are part of the solution. We are not the virus, but we can be part of the cure.
Watching the backlash unfold real-time on Twitter was absolutely painful. It was like watching your family having an argument over an important and substantive issue publicly for all to see. Whether Andrew Yang supporters, “the Yang Gang” or other Asian Americans I’ve followed because I was inspired by their personal and professional stories in moving our country forward, they were all out in force and sharing their perspectives.
I read Andrew’s oped. I read the critiques and disagreements on Twitter. I understood the disappointment and anger. I could see how many saw Andrew’s oped as being out of touch and tone deaf. It seemed like everyone disagreed with Andrew.
What Does Andrew Yang Believe About the Asian American Experience?
I wasn’t sure what Andrew meant was communicated as effectively as he had intended in his oped. I had spent many many hours following Andrew’s rise as a Democratic hopeful after first listening to the Freaknomics podcast in February 2019.
It was through the many hours scouring Youtube, I remembered very vividly Andrew’s very candid perspective on where Asian Americans stood when speaking to AAPI early on during the campaign. It resonated with me, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, and now the father of two children.
- One thing I suggest to Asian Americans and I’m going to suggest to you all tonight, if we wait for it to be our turn, it will never be our turn. There is never going to be a point when someone looks over and says, “oh. It’s time for that Asian American senator or governor to run for president and be president.” That’s not the way this works at all. Like we will never get there.
- The only way that we’re going to actually have a seat at that leadership table or in this case on the debate stages of the Democratic primaries next May, the only way we get there, is if we step up and say we have a vision for this country, and it is just as powerful, just as important as anyone else’s vision…
- …And I’ve been with the leaders of this country, been with President Obama, President Clinton, and President Bush and like you know a dozen senators and governors and one of the things you learn when you spend time with them is that they are certainly no better than we are. Guarantee you guys that.
- We are every bit as smart, certainly every bit as hard-working, every bit as innovative, every bit as patriotic and every bit as loving than any other American. And that is what I’m going to demonstrate on the path to the presidency in 2021.
Backlash from many Asian Americans to Andrew Yang’s oped
The backlash to the oped came quickly and often. Articles included:
Not Everyone Agreed with the Backlash to Andrew Yang’s oped
Why the Andrew Yang Oped, Backlash, and Follow-up and Open Conflict is So Important
And as painful as it was to watch all of the conflict unfold and witness many of Andrew’s supporters actively support or denounce his perspective or worse, this is a good thing to move the Asian American movement forward.
Because so many people care deeply about the situation, tweets fly early and often, Facebook is updated, articles and blog posts get written and shared, and conversations begin. Passion ignites a movement.
Nothing ever changes if there is indifference, apathy, or lack of attention.
For transformational change to happen, getting engagement early and often is vitally important. It’s through engagement and passion where change can begin and this can only help advance Asian American interests and issues. It will take everyone doing different things at every level, publicly, privately, within the existing system, outside the system, leading, or following to make this change happen. It will take a sustained effort.
Welcome these passionate discussions. Listen hard. Disagree or agree publicly or privately.
But like family, consider not disowning anyone in the group.
We have a lot more to do together amongst ourselves and with like-minded allies.
I have no idea whether Andrew meant to generate this level of controversy with his opinion piece. Like his long-shot campaign for the Democratic nomination for 2020, it does take one or two events to catapult an unknown candidate or even an “invisible” minority to the consciousness of America.
More conversation, debate and engagement.
Expect Increasing anti-Asian sentiment among the American Public.
I’ll close with Andrew’s same talk to AAPI where he talked about one of his fears. The COVID-19 novel coronavirus simply accelerated what he saw, increasing anti-Asian sentiment among the American public.
- One thing that scares the heck out of me is that this country is heading towards becoming majority minority by 2045, that’s 27 years from now. There’s a happy notion in some quarters that the country will become more tolerant as it gets more diverse. You just figure the math will take care of it. Cause if you have enough people, everyone will just have to get along.
- Unfortunately that’s not how things play out if you look at historical examples. There are very few examples in human history of a dominant racial or ethnic group giving up its dominance over time. That’s actually not normal. That’s not normal behavior.
- If you look at what’s happening now in this country, you can see an increasingly insecure white majority becoming more and more hostile. Truly. And who’s going to become the bogeyman in the next 10 to 20 years? Who’s going to be the great rival to the United States in the eyes of American society?
- What do you think the attitude is going to be over time for the shrinking, insecure white majority that’s losing their jobs for Chinese Americans or Asian Americans?
- I personally. I said to a group at Harvard. I think we are one generation away falling into the same camps as the Jews who were attacked in a synagogue in Pittsburgh a couple months ago. We’re probably on generation away from Americans shooting up a bunch of Asians saying like “Damn, Chinese” because there’s a giant cold war even more with China.
- That is the great danger that I fear that my children are going to grow up in. I have two young boys, six and three. They’re American. I’m American.
- And Asian Americans historically have not been highly politically active or energized. Asian Americans voted at lower levels, they donate at lower levels, and because of this, the dominant political parties do not care about Asian Americans. They do not regard us as a very important constituency at all. They regard us as a low level ATM. They’ll show up, take some pictures, because we love pictures, get some money, leave and not have to care about it for quite some time.
- That is our place in American politics right now…
- We don’t vote. We don’t participate. And there’s a notion that we don’t lead. You know? That we aren’t leaders.
- So that is what I’ve discovered, over this time. This was not my initial purpose in running for president but we need to change that very very quickly. Because if we sit back and think America will stay stable and organized and reward hard work and we’ll make money and like have a good time and not have to care what happens outside of our doors, that attitude is going to stop working pretty quickly, probably the next 5 to 10 years. Unfortunately.
- So we need to start getting very engaged and active and show the rest of the country that we can solve problems, we have our own vision, we have our own leadership. Some of the things that I talk about when I talk to Asian American groups. Some people find that fact that I’m running for president to be a little bit audacious or something like out of the natural order, let’s say. Part of it is, well, you know I haven’t been a senator or a governor or some other elected official.