By Wen Guan, M.A. in Sociology, George Washington University
Waving the MAGA flag and shouting that Asians support Trump, last weekend hundreds of Asian Americans headed to the Trump rally in Washington DC from different states to show ‘solidarity’ with the far-right Trump supporters. Although Trump Administration implied tough policies and discriminated against the Asian immigrant community in the last four years, more Asian Americans actually vote for Trump in the 2020 election compared to 2016. The Asian American electorate, made up of more than 11 million eligible voters, has grown significantly in recent years, ballooning by 130 percent in the past two decades.
The reason for voting for Trump varies among different Asian American groups. They are successful entrepreneurs, devout Christians, proud Americans, vocal politicians and etc. the Chinese American, 35% of them chose to vote for Trump this year even if Trump cursed China all the time and blame the whole pandemic on the “China virus”. One reason is that they seized the opportunity to get citizenship in the US or green cards, they would immediately turn against the same people back to their original countries who share the same fate and want to follow the same pathway. In their view, these people would become their competitors in the job market and even threaten their children’s education and welfare recourses.
There are several ironies or even deviance among the 2020 election, in particular among Taiwanese Americans and Hong Kong Americans, who dedicated themselves to democracy and have been reliably Democratic for years, now show some signs of slowly shifting to the right. They claim themselves fight for freedom and social justice, and especially based on what happened in Hong Kong since last year, with the police brutality and intervention from China on Hong Kong legislation process, Hong Kong Americans instead support the Trump administration who exactly acts like their enemy, Beijing government. How can you support what you condemn most? I guess Trump’s very strong anti-China rhetoric policy seems to convince Taiwanese immigrants and Hong Kong immigrants a lot. ''We don't care if the candidates are politically correct, if an administration can say no to CCP (Chinese Communist Party), it has already shown the solidarity with us.” One of Hong Kong social activists told me during an anti-CCP rally in Washington DC.
Vietnamese Americans lean pretty consistently Republican. According to a pre-election survey, Vietnamese Americans were least supportive of accepting Syrian refugees compared to other groups, even though the Vietnamese population in the U.S is a heavy refugee community. During the last four years, the Trump administration has manipulated the "good immigrant versus bad immigrant" idea, which could have affected the already conservative segment of Vietnamese American voters. 'Us versus Them'. Even among certain aspects of the immigrant and refugee population, Trump created divisions. One deviance existing in Asian culture is divisionism. Perhaps based on the dense population and lack of resources, it is hard for Asian people to conform to a sense of community solidarity as a whole. Different groups always fight against each other. Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Korean, and etc., every group cannot converge their interest together.
The hatred towards Mexican immigrants and Middle East refugees has been fanned among Asian American Trump supporters. They do not believe it is the Trump Administration that blocks a significant segment of the group from equal access to education, health care, housing and other services. They entitled themselves that their ‘American identity’ is earned by the hard and legal work. Besides standing with Trump to oppose Mexican immigrants, an increasing rejection towards low income Asian American, including Cambodian American (29% of them living under the poverty line) and Laos American (38% of them living under the poverty line), has become more apparent among the middle class ‘model Asian American’. The economic advantage plus the uplifting social status create an illusion for realizing the “American Dream” and the possibility to share the white privileges. They do not object to power and social inequality, on the contrary, they desire to have a taste of it.
Although much of the discussion on immigration has recently focused on Hispanics, comparatively little attention had been paid to the people in Asian American communities who had been detained, deported or delayed in applying for permanent residency as a result of stricter procedures. New restrictions also have hampered family reunification for immigrants with family members threatened by ethnic, political and religious persecution in Asia.
The issues that Asian Americans are increasingly concerned about are not the issues that focus on progressives, such as the environment, health care and racial justice resonate within all people of color. Even under the shift in this country of attacking immigration, as Asian Americans being targeted in racist physical and verbal attacks in general, it is still hard to unite this diverse community as a whole. Seeing this community being divided by hate are all contributing factors to how the Asian American community is responding and shifting its attitudes and beliefs. Very unfortunately, this chaos and deviance among Asian Americans are exactly what white supremacists wanted.