This showed up in my FB newsfeed today, regarding something that occurred earlier this week while I was in Colorado:
Things got awkward on Monday when Donald Trump asked an Asian-American college student if he was from South Korea.
A 20-year-old Harvard economics major identified by NPR as Joseph Choe had launched into a query about South Korea during a question-and-answer session at the No Labels-hosted Problem Solver Convention in New Hampshire.
“I just had a really quick question about something you said earlier this summer,” Choe said in video captured by C-SPAN. “Basically, you said that South Korea takes advantage of the United States in terms of the defense spending on the Korean peninsula. You said that they don’t have to pay anything. However, I just want to get the facts straight and say that –”
Trump interrupted to ask, “Are you from South Korea?”
“I’m not. I was born in Texas, raised in Colorado,” Choe responded.
The GOP presidential candidate shrugged as awkward laughter from the audience escalated into full-blown cheering for Choe.
“No matter where I’m from, I like to get my facts straight, and I wanted to tell you that that’s not true. South Korea paid $861 million,” Choe said before Trump cut him off again.
I don’t believe Trump’s question was totally unreasonable. Watch the video. In context, the student is defending/standing up for an Asian country. Choe looks rather Asiatic. Is it completely unwarranted to question motive and bias through possible ethnic ties? After all, people all the time do show loyalty, favoritism, connection, etc. to their ancestral country/ethnic origins.
Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Joseph Choe has spoken out on behalf of Korean interests. He seems to be involved in Korean politics and interests. Back in April, he confronted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regarding Korean comfort women:
A Korean-American Harvard University student is gaining attention in South Korea for a question he asked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regarding comfort women.
Harvard student Joseph Choe put the Prime Minister on the spot during his April 27 visit to Harvard University’s Kennedy School when he asked him to clarify his position on the Japanese government’s involvement in coercing Korean women and girls into sexual slavery during World War II.
Yes. Joseph Choe is an American, born in Texas and raised in Colorado. But he is ethnically tied by ancestry to Korea; and seems to have an interest in Korea. Whether it is relevant to the larger point or not on American military expenditure and bases in Korea, it at least provides Trump with a contextualization for where the source of Choe’s interest in the topic may be coming from.
So basically, Trump’s instincts were correct and he had Choe’s number correct.
There might be a tinge of racism- but not out of malevolence. I certainly believe that liberals especially are all too quick to perceive the world through the lens of racism and color.
If I choose to wear a Bruce Springsteen concert t-shirt, it’s not at all unreasonable to expect someone to assume I’m a Springsteen fan and also a liberal (since he is politically vocal on his views). Neither assumption may be true. But they aren’t unreasonable assumptions, but logical ones.
I am Asian. But my last name is not Asiatic; but a common European surname. It’s not unreasonable for someone to draw the conclusion that I must be adopted. Or question further as to why my last name doesn’t equate to my ethnic looks.
Trump’s question represents an all too common experience for Asian-Americans, who researchers say are stereotyped as the “perpetual foreigners.”
“[E]thnic minorities, especially Asian Americans and Latino/as, are often asked … questions like, ‘No, where are you really from?’ or ‘I meant, where are you originally from?'” a San Diego State University study explained. The implicit message, the study said, is that “they do not share the American identity or have in-group status.”
While I do understand this view (having experienced some of this kind of stereotyping, myself), I don’t completely share in the need to be offended all the time.
Trump’s question of Choe’s ethnicity, however, is a distraction. Whether or not Choe’s question is motivated by bias and interest favorable to Korea or not is irrelevant to the importance of the question itself. And the liberal obsession to mark this as an example of racism is also a distraction.
On the larger point regarding Trump’s opinion regarding our expenditure on military bases overseas and in protecting allies who can afford their own militaries, I believe that part of the reason for keeping military bases overseas and how it benefits us is that these bases provide us with logistics, reach, and influence halfway across the globe in regions of the world that have strategic interest to our national security.