A Civil Discussion

Last weekend, in the locker room, I struck up a conversation with a black guy I see at the pool at the Y a lot.  He asked me if I was Korean (I said no, Taiwanese) and if I was first generation (I said first born in the US).  I explained that my parents came to America shortly after all of the landmark civil rights work that was done in the early 1960's, and that as a result we Asian Americans owed a debt to all of the great African-American civil rights leaders, who in fighting for equality and opportunity for African-Americans also opened a door for Asians to access this wonderful land of opportunity.  He appreciated my comments, and we agreed that it made all of the Asian-black tension in big cities like Philadelphia all the more sad, since we have such a shared historical lineage and shared goals.

To be sure, there is much that is different about the African-American experience and the Asian-American experience, and for that matter a lot of variation within each set of experiences.  But the things that matter a lot to African-Americans, such as the recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, ought to matter a lot to Asian-Americans like me as well.  Shame on us if they don't, for without those historic advances, many of us wouldn't be here in America living the great lives that we have the freedom to live.

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