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The Asian American Divide between First and Second Generations in Politics and Community Organizing

Here's an article about generational conflict in political races between Asian Americans.  Pictured above is PJ Kim. He's running for City Council in NYC against Margaret Chin.  The article quotes Sandy Kim,

executive director of the Korean American League for Civic Action, noted that some first-generation candidates including Jung, in the Flushing race, were looking past ethnicity as they ran for the Council. Kim said that because Jung is a longtime labor organizer, he has gained a broader perspective that reaches beyond the Korean-American community.

Nonetheless, she acknowledged that as a general trend, second-generation candidates were more prone to seeking broader support outside their ethnic bases. Kim added that Asian-American voters in the city were also increasingly looking past ethnicity, too.

“There is still something special about getting an Asian-American politician elected,” she said. “But the second generation is looking more at the big picture, and at the merits of the candidates.”

The article focuses on the different networks and political styles of Asian American candidates by generation.  However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I do believe the issues addressed in this article also speak to the general difficulties AAPIs have in working across generational lines.

Let's face it, the Left, and particularly AAPIs on the Left are TERRIBLE at letting the next generation become leaders. Sure we talk a good talk, even giving conferences titles like "Passing the Torch," but in practice... (I love my elders but, I gotta say it) our older generation SUCKS at walking the talk of empowering a next generation.  I mean, there are so called "Asian American leaders" out there who have been at it for a good 3 decades or more, and don't make a very good effort at even sharing the workload in various fields or even making an effort to have genuine dialogue with a younger generation. And by the way... I had a lengthy discussion a few months back with an "elder" who mentioned that by "next generation" he thinks of people in their 40's.  YIKES!

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JennyG on Tue, 08/25/2009 - 22:55

Interesting article. I think some of these leaders need to think more about mentorship programs, too.

Calvin Prashad on Wed, 08/26/2009 - 05:46

I have to agree with the lack of mentoring and leadership..younger activists usually feel like their stuck on an island when it comes these sort of things

Anyway, looking beyond ethnic lines is probably more important here in NYC because the "Asian-American" areas (Flushing, Chinatown, 8th Avenue Brooklyn) do not constitute a simple majority in those parts.  Thanks to creative redistricting, half of my neighborhood is located in lily-white Howard Beach and the other half is located in overwhelmingly African-American Jamacia.  As a result, the relatively large Indian and Guyanese neighborhood where I live may never see a sucessful API candidate for any office since the votes are split and overwhelmed.

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