Clinton, Trump, Birtherism and the Perpetual Foreigners

Students are taught a variety of slogans in Asian-American Studies classes. I find most to be misleading, but one that I strongly agree with is the complaint that Asian-Americans are viewed as Perpetual Foreigners. Even one whose family has been in the U.S. for four generations (two more than mine, by the way) is often viewed as “foreign,” and by implication, “disloyal.” This arose in the Wen Ho Lee spy trial, for instance, and though it must be said that Lee did not act entirely innocently, he was egregiously unfairly treated, and it is widely believed that much of the government’s actions stemmed from the Perpetual Foreigner perception.

The issue arose earlier this week in an outrageous news segment on KUOW, a Seattle NPR affiliate. The topic was fine, a look at the fact that many Chinese-Americans support Donald Trump. But KUOW acted irresponsibly by including in the piece a highly provocative quote of, not a Chinese-American, but a foreign student from China:

At the University of Washington campus in Seattle, canopies line Red Square with tables for various Asian student groups. One of them is the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, where senior Haoyu Wang is a member. He’s majoring in political science and plans to attend law school in the U.S. as well.

Wang feels some of that glee at the prospect of a Trump presidency. “We don’t like Trump as a person, but we like him as a tool to kind of bring American down,” Wang said.

He said his views aren’t necessarily typical of his peers at UW. Many students he knows, both Asian and non-Asian, are supporting Clinton, who Wang sees as tough and experienced. But Wang wants to make his career in China, and he thinks a Trump victory would be good for his home country, which is already on the rise.

“We turned the tables,” he said. “So more and more of us, international Chinese students, would like to obtain certain knowledge in the United States and try to go back and serve our country.”

Chinese-American political activists were outraged, and properly so. Not only was the reporter wrong to include an extreme quote by a non-American student from China in a piece on Chinese-Americans, but even more important, the quote furthers the Perpetual Foreigner perception.

Which brings me to Hillary Clinton, who coincidentally wrote a November 1 op-ed supporting Asian-Americans. She opens her piece with a defense of Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who was born in Thailand but later became an American war hero, yet whose heritage was mocked in a recent election debate — Perpetual Foreigner all over again.

Clinton’s comments would be reasonable if not for the fact that they are hypocritical. Clinton has been guilty of using something similar to the Perpetual Foreign notion for her own political gain, just as outrageous. This was in 2008, and the one who she implied was un-American was…Barack Obama. Here is what happened:

In the current election campaign, Donald Trump has charged that the Birther movement, which questions whether Obama was born in the U.S., was actually started by Clinton’s campaign against Obama in 2008. In fact, it had started before that, but a close Clinton adviser allegedly proposed that the campaign use it. He has denied the allegation, but what did occur was that Hillary deliberately chose a campaign strategy in which she would paint the Indonesia-raised Obama as un-American, equally outrageous and entirely contrary to the indignation she now claims to feel for Asian-Americans painted with the Perpetual Foreigner brush.

Speaking of perceptions, polls show that both Trump and Clinton are widely distrusted. In Clinton’s case, the above described two-faced behavior is a perfect example of how that negative perception of Clinton’s dishonesty arises.


11 thoughts on “Clinton, Trump, Birtherism and the Perpetual Foreigners

  1. If the politicians need you to be a foreigner, you are a foreigner.

    If the politicians need you to be a “solid American citizen”, then that’s what you are.

    Politicians change the definition of everything, just as the character in “Alice in Wonderland” who said,
    “When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean.”

    Even white multi-generation citizens of America are depicted as “un-American” if they have politically incorrect views. So *anyone* can be branded as a “perpetual foreigner” — even a citizen!!


  2. The quote from NPR is not a surprise. The real question should be why do we have media that is government sponsored favouring a particular candidate with this slant. What Wang is really afraid of is the return of capitalism here in the US and competition with his homeland of China.


  3. The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.

    I can’t stand Hillary Clinton, never could and never will. I started despising Donald Trump a bit earlier though.

    You place words into Clinton’s mouth that she never invoked. Her campaign approach of “middle America” seems much like every other political hack before her, and I never detected an anti-Obama scent to it. Oh,

    I detest Obama too, and feel that he isn’t a patriotic American at all, just another self-centered politician who rode his biracial background for what it was worth. His mother’s studies of Russian in the middle of the cold war with no obvious ties to helping the USA seem quite sketchy to me. Obama’s alliance to a Marxist father who never was around, and who had a very negative past hints that he rode that for what it was worth (which I believe is the case), or Obama’s thinking is anti-American.

    As for making the USA a true melting pot, I give Clinton, Trump and Obama all solid Failing grades. And for differing reasons.

    As for me? I voted for Bob Barr in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. I happen to know Mitt and he’s one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. I’m no Mormon, but that faith seems to be the epitome of being open arms and open minds to other cultures, while being strong “Americans all together”

    Sorry that Bernie didn’t beat Hillary, but your sting seems out of place on this particular point. We do agree on H1B and OPT almost like identical twins.


    • According to the article, the express purpose of invoking Clinton’s Middle America roots was to imply that Obama is not fully American. Read the article again.


      • I understand what the article implied.

        I believe Hillary was trying to pander to blue collar workers who received the same message from her husband, Carter, (not so much JFK who went aspirational), Truman and FDR.

        Read it as “White” if you will, but the fact is the Dem base has long been White Middle-class blue collar workers.

        Hillary is nothing but an old fashioned Democrat. Hence that message.

        Again, I wouldn’t vote for her for any reason.

        My point is that it was a stretch to try to pin this on an old fashioned 1940’s Democrat. Your perspective takes the view that treating Obama as anything other than a special snowflake is treating him as anti-mainstream American.

        My perspective is that the moocher has always played that PC view to the hilt, and it worked against Hillary in 2008. The cat never grew up near any Blacks until he was well past 18, then played the Black card for all it was worth. And there is plenty of evidence that he played the foreigner card to gain advantage in college.

        To me, he’s a White dude who grew up with an anti-establishment mother who really didn’t want to be a mother. He played the cards he was dealt for all they were worth.

        I get it, and actually don’t hold that against him. I DO hold his faux persona against him as just another self centered politician. Much like Trump trying to pitch himself as an “everyman’s man.” No Ipecac needed!


  4. It is troubling that we are wasting our educational resources on individuals from countries known to be hostile to the US who want to use what they learn to do us harm.

    I hope the FBI is keeping close tabs on them.


      • Yup, Wikipedia says the same thing under the “White Privilege” entry. Networking has a lot to do with it.

        “Asian families hold 70 cents to every white dollar of wealth, according to recent research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.” You have to factor in geography (SF more expensive than Topeka) and family size. The Asian poverty rate is 16% versus about 10.4% for whites.

        I read about a case in which a company hired a minority software engineering manager. The result was that many software workers left the company. Co-worker or customer preference is no excuse for discrimination.


  5. I can’t disagree more with the last comment. Maybe AA are having trouble getting into senior management, but they certainly dominate in mid-level IT management. In the companies I interviewed at during my 1 year interview ordeal, it was hard to find a non-AA interview panel. I was never called back from any of these panels. Meanwhile, my AA graduate peers seemed to have no problem getting these prime jobs. Certain startups were 80%+ Asian American. Even larger companies were picking Chinese international students over American students (including me). In retrospect, AA hiring teams are only looking to hire AA, so don’t get your hopes up on any of them. Mixed hiring teams also seem to prefer AA in my experience in my state. This does not even touch on the H1B situation with companies hiring entire cohorts of contractors from India.


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