Andrew Yang and the complexities of representation in the NYC mayor election

www.vox.com
7 min read
fairly difficult
"Representation is very important, but we need representation that actually represents our interest and not just our identity."
Andrew Yang has long been a divisive figure among Asian American voters.

First, there was his penchant for amplifying stereotypes. When he was running for president in 2020, Yang quipped in a debate about how, as an Asian person, he knows a lot of doctors. It's a comment that relies on the model minority myth, a misleading idea about Asian people's success that ignores the economic realities of many Asian Americans and renders discrimination against them invisible.

Then there was his op-ed several months later that also offered a concerning view of how Asian Americans should present themselves in response to anti-Asian incidents and sentiment related to the coronavirus. "We Asian Americans need to embrace and show our American-ness in ways we never have before," he argued in the Washington Post, calling on Asian people to "volunteer" and even wear "red, white and blue" to demonstrate their contributions to the US. Many pointed out how this played into the trope that Asian Americans are seen as "forever foreigners," and put the onus on them to conform to a made-up ideal to be viewed as Americans.

"It's this obliviousness that's not really reckoning with your own race in a way," says New York-based public defender Hana Le. "It's a perspective that seems really removed from how Asian Americans have been treated in this country, at least that's how I feel."

Broadly, too, there is the problem of his tone-deafness and a sense that he is out of touch. This has especially been in focus since he's campaigned to become New York's mayor — including an awkward meeting in which he tried to compliment LGBTQ attendees by calling them "human" and when he planned to show up for an Eid event after expressing solidarity with Israel following airstrikes against Palestine. When there is so little representation in national politics, these gaffes — by a tech entrepreneur who has never held public office — can feel personally embarrassing, as some Asian Americans have noted.

The…
Li Zhou
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