To celebrate the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, Ningin asked members of the Asian American political community to blog about what this historic event means to each of them. This guest blog post is from Keith Kamisugi, director of communications at the Equal Justice Society, a San Francisco-based strategy group working on race issues in law and in popular culture. He served on the steering committee of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders for Obama Leadership Council, the campaign’s official AAPI advisory body. He blogs at equaljusticesociety.org and at hapihour.org.
Asian America Must Be Ready to Battle Injustice with President Obama
A Black man born in Hawai’i, with an Asian sister, was sworn into office Tuesday as our President. He took the oath of office on the same Bible used by Abraham Lincoln for the exact same oath 148 years ago, realizing the dreams of countless African Americans and others who previously never imagined this moment.
President Barack Obama now leads our country into uncertain and troubled times. But he begins work on our nation’s ills with unprecedented numbers of Asian Americans in substantive roles in this Administration.
Japanese American Peter Rouse is White House Senior Adviser. Chinese American Chris Lu is Cabinet Secretary. Former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki (pictured) is Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Nobel prize winner Steven Chu (pictured) is Secretary of Energy.
We now have a First Family that includes Asian Americans. The President’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, is half Indonesian. Her husband Konrad is Chinese American. Their daughter Suhaila is hapa.
This roster of Asian names is mainly significant because the halls and backrooms of power in our nation’s capitol have for too long been dominated by monochromatic men. It does not mean we have arrived. It means we’ve only just begun.
For many of us, the most urgent unresolved Asian American and Pacific Islander issues are not always those that touch our everyday lives, but reflect our belief that an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. We must reach outside of our individual realities to understand the plight and tragedy that prevents millions of Americans, Asian Pacific or not, from realizing their true potential.
Our government’s brutal treatment of undocumented immigrants is not just a Latino issue. When Sin Yen Ling and the Asian Law Caucus work to recruit more attorneys to represent victims of raids against immigrants in homes and workplaces and when Sophya Chum and Khmer Girls in Action fight against the unfair deportation of Cambodian youth, we see that immigrant rights is as much our battle.
Attempts to legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians through constitutional amendments to ban marriage are not just LGBT issues. When Amos Lim, Tawal Panyacosit, Jr. and Chinese for Affirmative Action work tirelessly in Asian American communities to replace bigotry with understanding and tolerance, we see that marriage equality must also be our goal.
An article titled “Why I Hate Blacks” - filled with blatant racism and ugly stereotypes published in a prominent Asian American newspaper was not just an African American issue. When David Chiu, now president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, attorney Dale Minami and other Asian American leaders worked immediately to have AsianWeek apologize for the column and fire the writer and the editor responsible, we saw that the elimination of racism against Blacks and all people of color must be our dream.
All of these issues and more must be part of contemplating our renewed America with Barack Obama as our President. He cannot fight injustice alone. Let’s stand with him.
Photo: President Barack Obama’s sister Maya Soetoro-Ng (left) and David Chiu, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Photo by Jerms Estrada.