“Speak Up for Ourselves or Somebody Else Will”
By Amy Wong Mok, Vice President of the Board, 80-20 Initiative
Our first board meeting this year will be in Washington D.C. on April 20-22. Armed with the 80-20 information packet, board members will proudly wear our 80-20 buttons, march up Capitol Hill to the offices of our Congress(wo)men and senators, and talk to them about two agenda items:
1. Increase the number of Asian American federal justice appointments. To represent fairly the Asian American population in adequate proportion, we should have 39 Asian American federal court judges. We now have only 6, a big gap to narrow down.
2. Increase the number of Asian American executives in public and private establishments in compliance with Executive Order 11246 that was signed by President Johnson in 1965 to ensure the number of minority and women in executive positions in colleges/universities, government agencies and private businesses. Asian Americans have been illegally left out in the enforcement of EO11246.
I remember a discussion I had with the late Governor Ann Richards of Texas in which she remarked that Asian women would sometimes defer to their husbands to speak for them instead of speaking up for themselves. Governor Richards asked me to tell my fellow Asian women friends: “Amy, you go tell them, if they do not speak up for themselves, somebody will and it will not be to their advantage.” I believe that this great Texan lady was only half correct since her advice applies to our entire Asian American community, men and women. We were made aware of the mistreatment against the members of our community only because some people had the courage to speak out, tell the victims’ stories and demand justice. Let us look at history, past and recent.
Many of the wrongs done to Asian Americans were government-sanctioned, as far back as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of the Japanese American during the Second World War. They suffered because few people spoke up for them. My own awakening to the ugliness of racism was the Vincent Chin case. In 1982, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Charles Kaufman sentenced Ron Ebens, a supervisor at Chrysler Motors and his stepson, Mike Nitz to a three-year probation and a fine of $3,000 for the crime of bludgeoning Vincent Chin to death with a baseball bat, after Ebens and Nitz mistook Chin for a Japanese whom they blamed for the loss of the auto industry jobs in the US! At the sentencing, Judge Charles Kaufman was quoted as saying, “These weren't the kind of men you send to jail ... You don't make the punishment fit the crime; you make the punishment fit the criminal.”
Speaking up for ourselves has brought results. In the last election, Senator George Allen of Virginia was defeated in his bid for reelection because of a racist remark he made to an Asian American of Indian heritage toward the end of his senatorial campaign. Mr. Allen was leading comfortably in the senatorial race until he aroused the wrath of the Asian American voters who overwhelmingly voted for his opponent and narrowly defeated him. Recently, Princeton University completely replaced the editorial board of their student paper the Daily Princetonian because of a racist article that mocked Asians. The strong action taken by Princeton was the fruition of many people who have taken the time to write to voice their displeasure, one of whom was 80-20 President, Kathleen To.
For the future of our children, we must summon our courage to act and be counted. The members of the 80-20 board are ready to do our work, but we need you to stand behind us by getting more involved. Our voice will be that much stronger to the politicians when there are more of us actively supporting 80-20. Please take at least one of the following actions:
1. Upgrade the status of your membership to the level that is comfortable to you.
2. Recruit and/or pay for the dues of at least one new member. (Basic membership is only $35 a year)
3. Come with us to visit your elected congressional representatives on the 20th of April.
I believe it will speak volumes if we can double our membership in the next month. It will give us an impressive record to show the politicians our determination to be counted. Start with our children. Get the older ones to become 80-20 members. Talk about the mission of 80-20 Initiative and get the younger ones involved. Take the young people to any precinct meeting and introduce them to the political process. Hold their hands and get their feet wet. Teach them that the simple words in our Declaration of Independence must be safeguarded by all of us:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
We will not always be there to protect the rights and assure the safety of our children and grandchildren. We can act today to create a more just and fair society for them by holding our government accountable. It is time to walk the walk. We need you more than ever to press on with our fight. Bring in a new member to show us your personal affirmation to the dedication and the many hours of voluntary service of the board and the volunteers. We are waiting for your strong message of support.
Please act now. www.80-20initiative.net
Any US citizen or permanent resident can be a member TODAY.Using a credit card, please visit http://www.80-20initiative.net/membership.html (easy to use) or
PERSONAL checks are payable to "80-20 PAC", mailed to:
Jing-Li Yu, 80-20 Treasurer
P.O. Box 527340 Flushing, NY 11352-7340
Please write down your E-MAIL address & PHONE no. on the BACK of the check.
Life membership is $1,000; Family Membership (2 voters) is $50; Basic Membership is $35; Student membership is $15.