I Don’t Belong — Does That Matter?

Jimmy - Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Entered on March 6, 2008

One way or another, America will make history this year — the first female presidential nominee, or the first African-American nominee. But I’m Asian-American. I want to believe that we Asian-Americans have been written into the historical narrative of the United States of America, like other minority groups have, with figures like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and now Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But, we haven’t yet. When will Asian-Americans be entrusted to serve and lead our country? When will Asian-Americans actively cultivate and solicit that trust? I don’t know.

I’m not even American. I lived in Washington state for nearly half of my life — 13 years — but I had felt so much like an American already that I pretty much forgot to become a citizen. And I’m temporarily working overseas right now. I’m dying to get back to Seattle. When I get back, I still have to wait five years until I can apply to become a citizen. I’m not even entrusted to live in the U.S., let alone lead it! Before I can call America my own, I still have to prove that I’m worthy of it. “But,” I say, “I love baseball! And I can name more state capitals than most people!” Doesn’t matter. I’m not worthy yet. I’m not to be trusted.

So, you see, female nominee or African-American nominee — I won’t be able to join in the celebration. I can’t vote for either Obama or Clinton. I might not get the chance to reap the benefits of their health care reforms. I might not be able to feel proud that “my” country finally has a black president or a female president. It might not be “my” country, ever.

But even if I’m not an American, even if I don’t ever get to vote for the president, even if Asian-Americans aren’t getting their place in the sun yet, the United States of America is still a place I love. I don’t have to an African American to be proud of African Americans. I don’t have to be a woman to be proud of women. I can be proud of Americans even if I’m not an American.

Go ahead, try it. Try looking beyond national borders or race or gender. I believe gender bias will gradually be something of the past. I believe we can soon be color blind.

You don’t have to be an Asian-American to be proud of Asian-Americans.