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Letter: History keeps some out of politics

A Richmond News reader discusses the lack of Chinese-Canadian candidates running for mayor in this year's municipal election.
Voting ballot
Thousands in Richmond have opted to vote by special ballot this federal election.

Dear Editor,

With Richmond’s Chinese residents making up over 50 per cent of the population, it’s disappointing, yet not surprising, there are no Chinese-Canadian candidates running for mayor in this year’s municipal election.

It would be a difficult task for any Chinese-Canadian to become part of the political elite. This has less to do with discrimination and more about our rich history of subservience in Western society. We lack a tradition of high profile political or corporate leaders to motivate our youth.

The first influx of Chinese migrants were predominantly poor, illiterate peasants fleeing famine, civil strife and brutal regimes. To survive these turbulent times one learned to stay silent, work hard and keep a low profile. Such qualities would also serve them well in a foreign and hostile land where these lessons were passed on to successive generations to the present.

Unfortunately these compliant attributes rarely ignite our passions, inspiring us to stand up and speak out. Over the years a few “embers” have flickered but were quickly doused.

From childhood, we are psychologically browbeaten into studying industriously and succeeding quietly while western culture heap praise on the loud and proud. Our over-emphasis on academics and status is a catch-22: Asian students graduate from top universities with some of the highest grades but many lack the interpersonal skills crucial for leadership roles.

Except for a few exceptional exceptions, we are content to be in the background, loyal employees toiling diligently to make their mainly “white male” bosses look good. Recall our rich history of subservience, many of us are more comfortable taking orders than giving them. 

In big business and politics, a magnetic personality is just as important as intelligence in leading a major organization or becoming mayor in a large city.

Perhaps a lack of charisma is one reason we find it so difficult to shatter that political glass ceiling, but we sure can polish it. 

Wes Fung