Most of us start out as liberals.
Not a real liberal, or a leftie, or some kind of socialist, but the ideal kind. The kind where liberals are a special group that strive together to end racism, punch Nazis, and elect a black president. And then I realize that was a crock of shit. Of course, it wasn’t liberalism’s fault. I never bothered to look up the movement, only defined it as what it was by late-night comedians, the influence of other college kids, internet posts and everything else that hyped up good ol’ wokeness. When you’re young, the world seems like a problem your amazing one-of-a-kind generation can solve.
And then real life happens.
The government didn’t help you. The gangbangers you were so righteously virtual signaling on the internet found you one night alone in a parking lot and kicked your ass. A black person called you chink. Feminists claim your XY chromosomes is the main reason you do bad things. And eventually, you’ll grow a little older, say something that’s no longer acceptable, and a mob goes overboard and doxxes your personal information and the personal information of your loved ones. I don’t blame people for running toward the arms of Conservativism.
Without being a conservative, I became a conservative’s ideal example. I swam upstream against Affirmative Action hiring, I quit my job when I was discouraged for speaking up, I build my own business, failed, succeeded, became self-sufficient and never took a handout from anyone. As an Asian person, Liberalism didn’t do a damn thing directly for me, only that I reaped off the benefits of struggles fought by other communities in the liberal realm…at least, that was always the logic that guilt-tripped me and other Asians as a minority. Without black people, they say, we’d still be in segregated bathrooms. Without white women, they say, Asian women wouldn’t be able to vote. Etc. Etc. To be Asian and liberal is to be invited to a party that let you in but didn’t care that you had left. You were constantly told that magic phrase that reminded you that Liberalism saw through the prism of Oppression Olympics: “black and brown.”
Asian-Americans have lived under the shadows of the Model Minority Myth and the functionalism that paired neatly with it. While Liberalism exploded from the bombastic rebellion of black, brown, LGBTQ, and white feminism, the subtle achievements of the Asian-American experience made for a strange fit. We were a minority without a defining moment. There wasn’t an “Asian-American” culture that was either just adapting other indigenous cultures or taking from homeland Asian cultures. Most of us made a good living, became that quiet co-worker that didn’t flamboyantly raise objection and almost always took the safe life route. We were, in most non-Asian liberals’ eyes, white people without the whiteness. Those of us who went to higher education experienced a “wokeness” but it was often white liberalism that woke us; we were merely echoing the same tired tropes of “white straight men bad”, “black people cool”, “Asians = sushi/pho/dim sum”, and “yay first insert oppressed group president/mayor/Oscar winner”. Liberalism didn’t save a seat for us, only gave us standing room.
It eventually occurs at one point or another in every Asian-American’s life that they had always, by default, lived under Conservative logic. Yes, search your feelings, you know it’s true. Lifting your own bootstraps? Check. Working harder despite impossible odds to succeed? Check. No government handouts? Check. It’s a large miracle that most second-generation Asian-Americans didn’t flock to the Right.
Our first-gen kin sure didn’t hesitate.
While Liberalism half-heartedly (that’s being kind) wooed any Asian community, Conservatives went full-speed at our Asian immigrants. Dozens of talk-radio shows filled with Korean Sean Hannities and Vietnamese Judge Jeanine Pirros, reaping away crops of willing Asian immigrants that naively embraced a materialistic American Dream, knew little or didn’t care to know American history and whose fear of Communism made them ideal, passionate obedient Republicans. The Right completely took a majority of the first-gen Asians without an inkling of opposition from the Left. And the Left to this day, still doesn’t care, because Asians had left their party (figuratively and literally) and they hardly noticed.
Second-generation Asians like myself were caught at a crossroads. I didn’t, and still don’t, share the first-generation Asian values of succeeding without speaking up. I don’t see things in color; I see Americans as a whole, and I feel for my fellow countrymen when injustice is happening to them. I value individualism over materialism, even if it means living in shittier environments just to escape the rat race and chase dreams. I see the open arms of Conservativism and the second-class standing room of Liberalism, and it’s a bitter pill to swallow staying Left.
Most liberals and conservatives alike don’t understand their respective ideologies; it’s an even bigger challenge when they do and realize their political side doesn’t care about their communities. American Liberalism had always sold itself as a side for oppressed people to come together and rise, but in reality, it’s a loose association of groups who only fight for themselves. But this alone is why I stay leaning Left. At the end of the day, the idea of rising together is a naive young person’s view of Liberalism (i.e. what I call Ideal Liberalism). What is the true power of Liberalism is its reward for the active and the vocal? Communities like African-American, LatinX, LGBTQ, white feminism, have thrived on this. Asian-America’s biggest mistake was assuming these communities would fight for us. This, however, doesn’t mean we should abandon the left. We should, instead, take their blueprint and support our own communities’ arts and small businesses, form an Asian brotherhood and sisterhood and most of all, be vocal at defending our own people when other communities are unfair to us. Liberalism is what will raise Asian-America, not Conservatism.
Yes, Conservatism is the comfortable route, but it’s the same tiring, failing rehash of the Model Minority Myth logic. There’s no future for Asians walking the Conservative path because we’ve already maximized it. A lot of Asians are financially okay. We barely raise a word about racism against us and always took the unnecessary, longer path. We tried hard to be in close proximity to white communities by being submissive, making families with them, always being their favorite smiling accountants or restaurant owners and we’re still second-class citizens, just with fancy cars and nice suburban homes. We’ve gotten as far as we can with Conservatism. It’s not the answer.
Imagine a world where Asians played identity politics on behalf of ourselves. Instead of competing against one another, we uplift each other. Black and brown have figured this out for decades and it’s silly how Asians have never understood the power of using Liberalism to bring our existence to a higher level. Yes, I know I’m speaking in divisive terms rather than uniting terms, and as Asians, we should always reach out and help other oppressed communities, but also save room for us. I don’t want to hear another Asian liberal from some white-washed university saying Asians don’t struggle with racism or that we’re “privileged”. We aren’t, and have never been, exempt from the oppressive racial institution the Left loves to tout. We need to stop eating each other. There needs to be an awakening… an Asian one. Perhaps if we sold Liberalism in this light, more Asian-Americans would embrace being Left harder.