Early June provides clear examples of Chinese assimilation

Updated: 2014-06-03 06:34

By Chang Jun(China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Perhaps no other days than the first week of June provide a better snapshot of how well Asian Americans are assimilating into US society.

On June 1, Asian families observed International Children's Day, when children take center stage and adults reaffirm their pledge to help provide children with a high-quality and safe family, social and educational environment.

This year, national leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, visited schools and met with students. Wishing children across China a happy holiday, Xi stressed that children are the future of the country and the hope of the Chinese people.

In the Bay Area, new Chinese immigrants celebrated Children's Day. Eric Zhao, a financial analyst, took his two sons to a discovery museum and treated them to dinner at a revolving restaurant in downtown San Francisco.

Children should be regarded as the future custodians of every civilization, said Zhao, adding that it was parents' responsibility to safeguard their voyage, providing them the best environment possible and making sure they got a good education.

Duanwu jie, or the Dragon Boat Festival, fell on the fifth day of the fifth month (June) of the Chinese lunar calendar. This festival, along with its zongzi (rice dumplings), honors the loyalty, integrity, persistence and resilience of poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC).

Qu was unjustly accused of treason and committed suicide by drowning himself in a river. His followers got in boats and raced against water monsters to reach his body before it was eaten, throwing rice balls into the water to distract the scavengers. Since then, the dragon boat race and zongzi dumplings have been a national custom.

This year, Chinese immigrants shared their zongzi-making and tasting experience using social media. "My mom taught me from scratch how to use bamboo leaves to hold rice and wrap it up tight," said Hui Heng, a 30-year-old mother. "My son watched my zongzi-making and waited patiently for four hours to try it. It has now become a family tradition."

Chinese Americans are also awaiting a defining moment coming on Wednesday — primary elections. A far cry from the stereotype of being politically petrified, the 4-million-strong group of Asian Americans in the Bay Area this time around is proactive and enthusiastic over voter registration and backing their candidates.

The political awakening is the result of two incidents: the offensive remarks of "kill everyone in China" on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Show aired on Oct 16, 2013; and the proposed Senate Constitutional Amendment No 5, which passed the State senate in January and would allow public education institutions in California to use race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin as a consideration for admitting students or hiring employees.

Asian Americans attach great importance to the young generation, their wellbeing and their education, said Henry Yin, vice-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) Bay Area chapter. "Anyone who dares touch these issues runs the risk of a backfire," Yin said.

These two incidents not only inspired Asian Americans in California to take to the streets to express their views, but also fostered the formation of grassroots civic organizations such as the Silicon Valley Chinese Association and United Asian Americans for Activism.

Volunteers from these organizations in the past three months used social media, town hall meetings, street canvassing and phone banks to reverse the low turnout among Chinese-American voters.

About 30 percent of eligible Asian-American voters have cast ballots in midterm elections since 1998, a much lower turnout rate than that of whites and blacks, according to Pew Research.

Only 50 percent of Chinese Americans had registered to vote in the 2008 presidential election, significantly lower than other ethnic groups, according to Chiling Tong of the International Leaders Foundation.

With monetary strength and growing numbers of Asian Americans voters, Chinese Americans need to unite and learn how to take part in shaping social and civic issues in the US.

"Don't say you are busy and have no time to vote," said Yin. "Come out to vote. The future is in your hands."