How the Peter Liang Verdict Could Affect Asian-American Voters
XIE: A cry fills downtown Brooklyn as thousands of Asian-Americans gather in Cadman Park Plaza.
MAN: No scapegoat.
XIE: [IN CHINESE] means “No scapegoat” in Chinese. As the crowd voices its outrage over Liang’s conviction, speakers at the rally remind them: Something can be done about it — not in the courtroom, but in the voting booth.
TREYGER: To turn this emotion, to turn this frustration, to turn this lack of
respect into a movement, we must register thousands and thousands of Asian-Americans to vote.
XIE: That was New York City Councilman Mark Treyger. His district in Brooklyn has seen an influx of Asians in the past decade. There are currently 9 million Asian-Americans eligible to vote in the United States, but only a quarter of them voted in the last congressional election. Steve Chung is the president of the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn. He’s manning a voter registration table at the rally — something he does year-round in Brooklyn.
CHUNG: We collect 10 voter registrations — it’s a very good day. Because it’s very difficult. But today, I think a lot of people understand — you gotta vote.
XIE: By the end of the day, the organization has collected 300 voter registration forms. But for Asian-Americans, registering to vote may not be enough. A study by the Center for Urban Research says less than half of Asian-Americans who are registered to vote in general elections actually do. Chung says that’s because they typically don’t get involved in politics.
CHUNG: A lot of them don’t pay attention to the candidates. A lot of them are immigrants. They are focused on how to make a better living — that’s it. Traditionally, our culture is a very subtle culture. And we tend to be a little bit quiet.
XIE: The streets are rarely quiet in Chinatown. But when you ask Asian-American residents whether they vote, their answers vary. For some, like an elderly man on Mott Street who wouldn’t give his name, one problem is the language barrier.
XIE: [IN CHINESE] Do you vote?
MAN: [IN CHINESE] Vote for what?
XIE: Vote for what, he said. Further down Mott Street, Paul Wang does vote — sometimes. But his wife, Annie, prefers not to.
XIE: Do you vote?
PAUL: Yes, yes. Not every year, not every presidential only.
XIE: Why not congressional?
PAUL: I don’t know.
ANNIE: Lazy, lazy.
XIE: And how about you? Do you vote?
ANNIE: I don’t pay attention to politics.
XIE: Back at the rally, Flushing resident Yan Sun is all about politics. She carries a white sign with the words “Asian Civil Rights Movement” scribbled in black marker. Sun teaches political science at Queens College, and she says the Liang verdict says something about how Asian-Americans are viewed in society.
SUN: Very often, when we talk about civil rights, they don’t seem to include Asian-American communities. But we want to say that we are a minority too. Our civil rights should be equally respected.
XIE: As for the verdict, Sun says she hopes it will convince Asian-Americans to earn that respect by using the ballot. This is Suzie Xie, Columbia Radio News.