On August 26th, Americans marked the 95th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, after a long and hard-fought battle by suffragists. With its passage in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment declared it unconstitutional for any effort to disenfranchise any voter on the basis of sex. In 1971, Congress christened August 26th as National Women’s Equality Day to mark the passage of the Amendment and to celebrate the winning of the right to vote for female voters.
I think it’s extremely important to celebrate the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, without which female voters would still be denied a political voice. We should not forget America’s roots. At the founding of this country, the right to vote was limited to land-owning White men; the subsequent two centuries have seen a progressive expansion of civil rights (including voting rights) to encompass marginalized American groups, and this country has been made the better for it. The Nineteenth Amendment was — and is — a crucial victory in the larger war to establish and defend voting rights for disenfranchised groups, and fully deserves our celebration.
But, while the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment did indeed create equality for female voters, it only established ballot box access for some female voters. When we brand August 26th as “Women’s Equality Day”, we forget that voting rights were not won for all women on August 16th, 1920. For many of this nation’s women of colour, voting rights would take up to a half a century longer to be realized; and for many of today’s women of colour, equal ballot box access remains stymied.
Oh, hell no.
Less than an hour after Donald Trump ejected Univision reporter Jorge Ramos from a press conference in Iowa, the buffoonish moppet-topped businessman turned presidential hopeful adopted broken English (and possible stereotypically Asian r/l slurring) in a campaign speech (video after the jump). Trump was apparently trying to mimic Japanese or Chinese businessmen.
Earlier, in that same press conference where Ramos later went on to openly confront Trump on his anti-Latino rhetoric, Trump also suggested that undocumented immigrant gang members had sparked riots in Ferguson, referred to Asia as a “country”, demanded an apology from Megyn Kelly for asking questions relevant to feminism, and promised to immediately expel all undocumented immigrants from the American soil with an invitation for “good ones” to return.
Snoopy believes Jeb Bush — son of the country’s 41st president and brother to the country’s 43rd president — will ultimately emerge as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee next year. So it is with particular interest that I watch Bush’s statements on the crowded Republican primary campaign trail right now: what Bush says now could come back to haunt him in the fall of 2016.
Consistent with this prediction, Bush appears to be running in the Republican primary season as a middle-of-the-road conservative. For the most part, he has rejected the radical ideas of his primary opponents, and instead has issued statements designed to ensure appeal to moderate voters in the general election. When Donald Trump declared last week that he would back trade embargos against Mexico and a Constitutional amendment to reduce or eliminate the birthright citizenship standard, most of the other Republican candidates followed suit; Jeb broke from the pack with an ardent support of birthright citizenship as “a constitutional right”.
Just when I was on the verge of writing a post titled “Jeb Bush: The Voice of Reason”, however, Bush couldn’t help but remind us that he’s still running in a primary race that has become little more than a clown car of hate. Asked to clarify and defend his use of the term “anchor babies” — a term referring to the US-born children of immigrants who have American citizenship by birthright, and a phrase that is implicitly racist and derogatory when used by Republicans — Bush told a reporter yesterday that he doesn’t use the phrase in reference to Latino immigrants.
According to Bush, the problem is Asians.
Asian Americans voters are America’s fastest growing population of voters, growing from 1.6% of registered voters in 1996 to 3.4% in 2012. Not only are we a sizable share of the electorate but we often cast our ballots as a unified voting bloc: in 2008 and 2012, nearly three quarters of voters cast their ballot for President Barack Obama in the general election, and in many states, Asian American votes might well have swung the election outcome.
Despite the Asian American community’s strong turnout for a Democratic candidate in the last two general presidential elections, the Asian American electorate is also unique in that it remains uncommitted to either of this country’s two major political parties. In California, for example, one fifth of Asian American voters describe themselves as politically unaffiliated despite their typically left-leaning politics, and in Texas, Asian American voters are equally divided between Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters. These electorate characteristics have led many politicos to speculate that the Asian American vote may be a “persuadable” electorate, amenable to being wooed and won by either party.
When we were freshmen first entering Cornell, an older student told Snoopy in a dubious effort to introduce us to the realities of campus life, “expect that not everyone in your class is going to make it with you to graduation day.” By this, he meant to prepare us for the eventuality that someone we knew would die by suicide in the four years we would be students at Cornell.
To this day, my friend’s advice still strikes me as disturbing. It bothers me not necessarily because it was untrue — indeed, Cornell has a reputation (perhaps unfairly earned) of an abnormally high on-campus suicide rate, and his words did end up being prophetic for me — but because of the cavalier manner by which they were spoken. This senior student (whom I still count as a friend, by the way) issued this warning almost dismissively; as if he had become jaded on the topic of suicide; as if he believed some baseline rate of suicide deaths should be expected; as if he thought the on-campus suicide rate statistic should just be overlooked; as if he felt that losing a classmate by suicide should be unremarkable.
The loss of a person’s life should never be treated as unremarkable. Yet, too often, that is exactly the kind of treatment that Asian American student victims (as well as other student of colour victims) of suicide face in the mainstream coverage of the larger issue of on-campus suicide. Too often, the intersection of racial identity with on-campus mental health is overlooked, and so the many Asian American student victims (and other student of colour victims) of suicide are rendered invisible.