Few days ago, I was having lunch with a friend of mine at a local Chinese restaurant that specializes in dim sum. As in most restaurants in my neighborhood, it was packed with Asian-American patrons during lunch time, and it was not uncommon to be seated at a large family-styled round table among other patrons.
Being that it was just two of us, I didn’t mind squeezing into the last empty seats, and I welcomed the opportunity to listen in on conversations that I would otherwise never be privy to.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the conversation at the table was about the November election and the two presidential candidates. The proverbial jokes about the candidates, Donald Trump, and the predicament of having to choose between two of the least likeable people in America. I chuckled and laughed along enjoying the camaraderie as if I was at a distant cousin’s wedding.
Then, all of sudden, hush fell over the table and the conversation took a sharp turn as one of the patrons bluntly stated he is voting for Donald Trump in the upcoming election.
I couldn’t believe my ears, and from the silence of the fellow patrons at the table, I gathered I was not the only one who was shocked by his statement. A fellow Asian-American had not only expressed support for Donald Trump but went so far as to state his intentions to vote for him.
While I tried to grasp what was said, I heard someone at the table faintly ask, “Why are you voting for Donald Trump?” I also wanted to know.
The patron vehemently declared that he was tired of politics as usual. He thought it was time for change, time for an outsider to lead the White House and the political machine in DC. Also, he believed Donald Trump was a good businessman and that the country needed someone who will run our government like a business.
I’ve heard this argument many times before, as I’ve seen plenty of Trump supporters on TV who regurgitated the same reasons for supporting him. However, these Trump supporters who appeared on Comedy Central or late night talk show sketches were mostly white, living in homogeneous rural towns in Midwest or South, far far away from any semblance of progressivism.
Or so I thought.
On the contrast to my belief, here they were in my city, in my neighborhood, and in the bastion of liberalism, an Asian-American Trump supporter.
My first thought after the initial shock began to wear off was, how could he? How could he possibly support a man whose entire campaign is based on race-baiting and fear-mongering? Fear of Muslims, hatred towards Latinos, disparaging Afro-Americans, and turning East Asian countries like China, Japan and South Korea into an enemy or free-loaders.
Asian-Americans may not be on Trump’s racist war path (not yet), but this is a man who used xenophobic fear and hatred towards immigrants and people of color as a launching pad for his campaign. Donald Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and ignorantly argued that a federal judge who was born in America wasn’t qualified because Mexican blood flowed through his veins. He advocated forbidding Muslims from American soil and continues to court white supremacists and foreign dictators.
It was only a matter of time before Donald Trump and his croonies deem Asian-Americans as his public enemy number one.
Also, a campaign’s tactic on using fear and hatred towards immigrants and people of color isn’t a new phenomenon. At the turn of the century, Asian-Americans were the scapegoats, and the hostility toward foreigners focused especially on the Chinese immigrants. Politicians and the press denounced Chinese laborers with unvarnished contempt and advocated fervently for sealing the border to keep Chinese migrants out.
Now, we look back at those years and wonder how so many Americans could have supported such ridiculous and hateful sentiment. Sadly, it seems that history is repeating, and just because we are no longer the target of the hate filled rhetoric, it doesn’t mean we can forget that just below the surface, Trump’s racist sentiments perpetuates the same outcome.
I wonder if the man at the table would support Donald Trump if he incited hatred towards Asian-Americans; if Trump’s campaign slogan was to implement a ban on immigration from China, South Korea or India; if Trump and his pathetic band of surrogates discussed Asians as they do about Mexicans and Muslims.
It was easy to dismiss Trump supporters as ethnocentric bigots, homophobes, and racists, when I thought they existed in a completely different part of the country, an anomaly, people I never have to associate myself with.
It was devastating to learn that they are my neighbors who see Donald Trump in such a profoundly different way.