A New Era for Asian-American Politicians
The new appointment of Edwin Lee as San Francisco’s new mayor brings new excitement to the City. Mr. Lee is the first Asian-American Mayor of San Francisco, and now has the opportunity to make concrete steps in his 30-year fight for the rights of immigrants and the Asian-American community at large.
While Asian-Americans may not have adequate representation in all levels of government, they are by no means removed from the political process. Today organizations such as the Chinatown Community Development Center help train many young Asian-American activists. In addition, the Bay Area sends many Asian-American politicians into office. Supervisors Eric Mar, Jane Kim, State Senator Leland Yee, and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting (who is running for mayor this year) are just a few local Asian-American elected officials. While this may not seem unprecedented, political access for San Francisco’s Asian-American community was not always a given thing.
Before the civil rights movements of the 1960s, Asian communities were largely concentrated in certain areas of the city, mainly around Chinatown. These new immigrants were often the victims of housing and job discrimination. But around the mid-20th Century, this all began to change. Groups such as the Asian Law Caucus (founded in 1972), and lawyers such as Mr. Lee, began to help these new Asian immigrants and the Chinese community at large gain access to both the legal and political systems. Newly elected Oakland mayor Jean Quan also organized protests in the Bay Area around justice for the Asian-American community.
Mayor Lee’s appointment brings an opportunity for the Asian-American community to make progress on issues affecting their communities. This is an important moment for the City of San Francisco, one it should be proud of. After a history of negligence by those in power, the city has been given an opportunity to help those that it once too often pushed to the side.