A huge part of the AA story is immigration; can you tell me more about how you think this election and general trends in America reflect immigration?
We’re at this point where there is a re-stigmatization of immigration. We still alienate immigrants and we ostracize them, and it’s concerning in light of other crises in the world such as the Syria crisis we are in now. And people are opposed to letting them in, not because they know them or they know their story or about the conflict itself, but because they hold onto these prejudices that have been passed down from generations, or maybe it’s because we’ve had these opportunities we think that everyone has had, and that’s not the case at all. And we forget about how fortunate we are that we can live in a country where we have these opportunities in the first place, a country where our parents and grandparents overcame challenges to come here in order to survive. And that’s what America is all about. It’s a land of opportunity. And for us to deny [refugees] that is awful and goes against everything our country stands for.
Do you have any thoughts on taking in refugees from crises? We’re famous for having a more restrictive policy on refugees. What do you think of that?
Character isn’t who you are on an everyday basis. Character is who you are when the going gets rough. And right now it says a lot about American culture, that we claim we are very progressive and that we believe in freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but the second that something like the Syria crisis happens, we are so quick to deny people entry and to deny these people the opportunities that we try to promote in the world. And it’s so hypocritical because we need to be there for refugees just like we need to be there for one another. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in America or in other parts of the world. At the end of the day we are all human beings and the fact that the times when we need each other the most, we vanish like that – and it’s because we hold ourselves back and we limit our possibilities – that’s disheartening. We’re supposed to take in refugees, and we should take in refugees. I wholeheartedly support easing immigration restrictions to let more refugees in, and we should raise the capacity to do so. Because the crimes against humanity occurring in Syria are going against everything we’ve learned in WWII. “Never again” isn’t just for the Jews, it isn’t just for the Chinese or the Koreans or the Filipinos who suffered during the Pacific War — it’s for everyone.
What are your thoughts on the rising trend of Islamophobia in America and how that affects the American dream for many Asian Americans?
When you let a group of people represent an entire religion or an entire culture, it’s very damaging. It’s almost like a concept from Sins of the Father, where you’re punishing an entire group of people for the sins of a few. Historically we see all these racial ideologies and religious prejudices that came because we were trying to act in self interest. And when you have things like Islamophobia, part of it stems out of ignorance, but part of it is also inspired by political interests and political agendas. It’s really hard because during events like 9/11 or the Syria crisis, people take advantage of the chaos and try to spin it their own way. And it’s really concerning when you see how many opportunities are stolen from Muslim Americans, South and Southeast Asian Americans, and Middle Eastern Americans, not necessarily because they did anything but because of who they are and the culture they were born into.