Political Reality of Being a Minority in America

By Larry Ho, co-founder of 80-20 Political Action Committee

Having lived in the US for over 68 years since 1950, being a co-founder of 80-20 (the Asian American Political Action Organization), and participated in various past federal, state and local election campaigns, I am now at a point in life that I am retired from my job, from active civic and political activities, and professional involvement in various academic and non-profit ventures except my passion to serve in voluntary and supporting role for the good of the community and country I love and to which I am grateful. I am not and have no intention to be a threat to anybody or any organization. There are no hidden agendas in my writing this article below.

Prof. Ho (first from left) at a book release party in Lexington, Mass.

In the following, permit me to share some of my past experiences with political activism and getting what we want.

1. I have said publically many times in the past that America is the only country in the world where I want to live as a minority. She is the most open, accepting, and tolerant society I know.

2. Political power of a minority come from being united on issues and being a swing voting bloc in elections and in monetary donations. This is the whole purpose of the 80-20 organization. We can swing a election if done correctly. In Lexington, CAAL-PAC has already attained this status. Politicians seek our votes and endorsements.

3. However, it is important to remember that a majority can always out vote us. Many of you don’t remember nor know the Chinese Exclusion Act and the environment in the 1950s and early 60s. Many things/rights we take for granted today are unthinkable back then. A majority when aroused and angered can always vote down and suppress a minority.

4. Thus, don’t let your new found freedom of speech and political power go to your head. Exercise them judiciously. Pick you battle and push for things our group really want and matter. For example, it is my personal opinion that the ” Asian Data Disaggregation (ADD)” issue while sounding good like Motherhood and apple pie is mostly imagined conspiracy and not worth us spending our political capital on.

5. Okay. But you are passionate and truly believe in the “ADD” issue. I respect that. But remember that “Divide and Conquer” is the time-tested and favorite tool of the governing majority against her opposition. Speaking pragmatically, fighting among ourselves neatly falls into this trap. Let us agree to disagree on this and try to find common ground where we can be more effective and united next time on the next issue.

6. Life (and for that matter – democracy) is a two way street not “all take and no give”. You must give back for benefits you receive and freedoms you enjoy. Thus, volunteer in all sort of community service to make Lexington an even better place to live for you and your children. Believe me, your contributions will be noticed. Like a bank savings account, you always get back more than you put in. Even if you always ask “what’s in it for me?”, you will be surprised by the unexpected rewards of volunteerism.

7. Thus, shouting down a Lexington official on Lexington business in a meeting while being a resident of another town may make you feel good and powerful, but the action is actually irresponsible. You suffer no consequences but we, the residents of the town, have to live with the town official and suffer any non-favorable impression you created about Chinese-Americans.

8. Be a Chinese-American with a big A and not a big C. America is your home. Her welfare came first. Thus, don’t expect Chinese-American politicians to serve CA interest first. S/he is elected by the majority to serve the majority.

9. Understand real politics and the real world in order to get things done. Ideology and ideas are fine. But idealists rarely succeed.

10. Don’t be intoxicated by the freedoms of a democracy – trying to flex your muscle at every opportunity to demonstrate your power; crying discrimination at the first chance you don’t get your way.

11. Always try to imagine the consequence of doing what you are doing now in the country you come from. Will you be protected by the freedom you now enjoy?

12. Follow the Jewish-American example and the judicious use of political power by organization such AIPAC. They have 100 times the financial power than AA (Asian American) organizations with half the population as AAs. They put their money where they mouths are. Talk is cheap. If you are passionate about something! Then do something concrete such as donate to the cause that support your views. Volunteer for service to your town and community. Democracy is about compromises. No one gets his/her way 100% of the time.