I saw this article by Durham, North Carolina’s The Hearld Sun posted on Facebook recently and was outraged by what I had read, and immediately made a small contribution to Hongbin Gu’s campaign for city council in Chapel Hill:
“She’s not US born,” [member of the Orange County Local Facebook group, Douglas] Roberts wrote. “What’s happened to us?”
Roberts, when asked in a comment whether Gu living in the U.S. for 22 years was enough for her to be considered American, said, “born in the USA works, born a North Carolinian is better.”
Gu, 49, responded to the social media criticism by posting her immigration story.
She was born during the Cultural Revolution in China, she said, and her parents were sent to labor camps when she was barely a month old.
Gu remembers seeing photos of tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square that brutally put down student protests in Beijing in June 1989. Gu said she was a student in Shanghai at the time and participated in similar marches and protests as part of the nationwide pro-democracy movement led by students.
“I think my experience, especially coming from an authoritarian state, makes me appreciate even more this democratic system we have over here,” Gu said.
Gu came to Chapel Hill two decades ago with just $50 in her pocket, and now has a family and researches autism as a faculty member in the psychiatry department at the UNC School of Medicine. Gu has a Ph.D in mathematical psychology.
“As an immigrant, I actually appreciate more about how valuable our system is, what it really means, and what kind of sacrifices people have made to actually make this system happen in this country,” Gu said.
Candidates for municipal office do not have to be born in the United States. They do need to be U.S. citizens, at least 21 years old, registered to vote, live in the municipality and not be a convicted felon, according to the Orange County Board of Elections.
Gu became a U.S. citizen in 2015, she said.
I thought Gu’s response was brilliant. I myself was the son of Taiwanese immigrant parents and I know my father came with almost nothing to the U.S. when he came for graduate school (in fact, he didn’t have enough money to fly all the way to Atlanta – he had to take the bus cross country from LA to Atlanta).
Except for Native Americans, it boggles my mind that some Americans refuse to recognize that the United States is a country of immigrants, and built by immigrants. The U.S. is a country that is built on ideas, not based on race. If Gu happened to have been a European immigrant, I wonder if she would have received this kind of criticism? I doubt it. In the age of Trump, I’m not surprised, but am disgusted, by this kind of criticism (I mean, after all, Melania, violated immigration law).