When I think of Lexington, Massachusetts, I think of Paul Revere’s famous Revolutionary War warning, “The British are coming! The British are coming.” Well, the Asians are coming now. Having grown up in Western Massachusetts – 90 miles west of Boston – in a suburb of Springfield, I read with great interest these interesting statistics:
In 1990, 6 percent of the town’s residents were Asian. Now, town officials estimate that 20 percent of those who live in Lexington are Asian. In the public schools, the numbers are even higher: One-fourth of all students are Asian, and officials have expanded programs that teach English.
In high school, out of a graduating class of 273 students, there were maybe 5 Asian Americans. I had 2 cousins, an aunt and an uncle in the greater Boston area, so I knew there were more Asians there. But to think of any town in Massachusetts where 25% of the students are Asian is just mind boggling to me. I’ve blogged about California Asian American culture shock – but if I moved to Lexington, I think I’d be shocked to find so many Asians in a Massachusetts city. I wonder if there will be any backlash in the near future, like a “new white flight” and complaints about high school competitiveness.
What I found really fascinating was that Lexington was looking to get the Asian community more involved in local government to help better represent and serve the needs of its constituents. The town was even looking to West Coast cities for guidance:
Town officials plan to talk to communities on the West Coast with high Asian populations for suggestions on ways to better incorporate Asians into town government and boards… The Lexington task force has recommended creating a separate task force to increase the participation of Asian American residents in local government. Asian Americans have served as Town Meeting members and on the School Committee, and one ran unsuccessfully for selectman this year. Still, the number of Asians involved in local government doesn’t reflect the percentage of Asians in town.
I have complained and blogged often about how uninvolved Asian Americans have been politically, though there is progress being made, especially in California in the local and state elected officials, as well as in Congress. Still, relative to the population, Asian Americans are still not as active as they should be. The Boston Globe article does indicate, at least those who immigrated from mainland China, that there is not a history or tradition of public elections and being involved in local government. What I think would be an interesting study would be to see if there are different Asian American involvement in government based on different ethnicities and countries of origin.
I wonder if Taiwanese Americans are more actively politically involved because of Taiwan’s thriving democracy since the mid-1990’s – with Taiwanese Americans such as John Chiang, State Controller of California and California State Assembly member and former Attorney General candidate Ted Lieu. Indian Americans such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Republican candidate for Governor Nikki Haley are making HUGE strides. I think there is definitely a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism that as more Asian Americans run for public office or get involved, more will run for public office and more will become involved. A true democracy can only work when a government of the people is represented by the people, including the people of the very community in which they live in of all race, color, creed, gender, religion, national origin and more.