Opinion: An unapologetic celebration of the Lunar New Year

The opinions of the writer do not reflect the opinions of the Alhambra Source as a publication.

Alhambra’s strip malls and Chinese restaurants on Valley Boulevard were packed with people celebrating on Saturday. Lunar New Year was supposed be a joyous occasion, but all I could feel was dread this past weekend.

Before leaving home for a family lunch on January 28, I read the news about how President Donald Trump’s executive order barred people with visas and green cards from entering the country that same day because they hailed from one of seven listed Muslim-majority countries that Trump’s administration claims will pose a risk to national security. Dual citizens of a country on the list and another non-US country were also affected by the travel ban. 

I feel privileged that I do not have to worry about my immigration status, that I can walk around my neighborhood in Alhambra, celebrating my ancestors’ culture without feeling like an outsider. 

But my Muslim brothers and sisters have become targets of Trump’s administration, whose actions have been fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment. How could I enjoy my lunch, knowing that similar policies have been enacted to discriminate against my ancestors, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the National Origins Act of 1924?

I believe we should oppose every anti-immigration policy because it affects all immigrant communities. Exclusionary policies embolden individuals to commit other discriminatory acts against people of color.

“In the ten days immediately following the election, nearly 900 incidents of hate were reported around the country, including reports that were clearly anti-Muslim, anti-Asian, and anti-immigrant,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Advancing Justice – AAJC, in a Jan. 18 statement.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice launched a hate-crime tracking site, #StandAgainstHatred, to encourage people to report on hate-based incidents within the AAPI community and allow the organization to “identify incidents that have legal or policy responses,” the civil rights group wrote in a statement.

After wrestling with my conflicted thoughts for most of the day, I concluded that one way to resist these efforts to suppress our civil liberties and rights is to stay unapologetic about our celebration of Lunar New Year and our heritage cultures in the face of xenophobia.

My identity as a Chinese American is grounded in my exposure to the language, traditions, and for many who were born in the United States, the food, which many people flock to Alhambra for a taste, including LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold. I also have fond memories of attending Alhambra’s Lunar New Year Festival, now in its 26th year, in which I felt proud to celebrate my culture in public.

The city felt the need to create an opportunity for residents to visibly celebrate their Chinese heritage and promote interethnic understanding, which led to the festival's debut in 1991. Paul Talbot, three-term city councilman, realized there was a growing population of Asians since 1980 in Alhambra, Pinki Chen, lead organizer of the festival, told me over the phone. Alhambra, with Talbot's direction, hosted the second parade and festival in the area, following Los Angeles Chinatown’s Golden Dragon Parade, Chen said.

Adjacent cities, including Monterey Park, have held similar festivals that attract thousands of people. Alhambra’s festival on February 11 will feature a live rooster on display to honor the year of the rooster.

Multiple generations of Chinese immigrants have made Alhambra and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley their home, and they plan to keep their roots here.

Alhambra resident and Chinese American Emily Quach, who was born in New York but grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, said that she learned about Chinese traditions in the U.S., and did not experience Lunar New Year anywhere else. She felt it was important to pass down her knowledge to her daughter and nephews, and planned to use the tradition of red envelopes to teach them about the importance of saving money.

“We’re trying to let [the kids] learn that there is a celebration for Lunar New Year, because my parents passed away less than two years ago. They were usually the ones that did a lot of the celebrating and keeping the tradition, but we’re trying to incorporate what we can, so the next generation can enjoy [Lunar New Year] as well,” said Quach.

San Marino resident Frank Guo drove to Alhambra’s 99 Ranch Market on Main Street, a pan-Asian grocery store that replaced Ralph’s, to buy fresh fish for a party with his friends because all of his relatives are still in China. “The tradition of the new year is the reunion of your family, but here, for immigrants in many cases, my brothers and sisters cannot come here to the states. Sometimes it’s very hard to get a visa,” Guo said.

Guo, a small business owner, was able to find a welcoming community in the San Gabriel Valley through personal networking despite moving to the U.S. only four years ago. “When I first came here, I nearly had no friends. Fortunately, I met some very nice people and they helped me a lot,” Guo said.

Update: The article was edited to clarify which dual citizens were affected by the travel ban.

15 thoughts on “Opinion: An unapologetic celebration of the Lunar New Year”

  1. Critical Thinker

    There is an amusing article in the Opinion page (page A15) of yesterday’s (Feb 28, 2017) Wall Street Journal, entitled “I Can’t! I Can’t! Listen to a Boring Chant!” The author heard the “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!” chants when he drove in downtown Chicago. He felt it is so boring. Well, I wonder whether he would be bored too when he reads articles or listens to speeches filled with buzzwords such as “anti-immigrant”, “anti-Muslim”, etc. I am not defending Trump but it definitely would be more enlightening to read or listen something that has more substance. If one has to use those words, can he/she first define what he/she means by them? (Usually when one tries to think about that, he/she would find that there are better ways to express what they mean.)

    1. Community Member

      Hi, Critical Thinker.

      Anti is a preposition that means “opposed to” or “against.”

      A “buzzword” is a word or phrase, often sounding authoritative or technical, that is a vogue term in a particular profession, field of study, popular culture, etc.

      I hardly think “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Muslim” qualify as buzzwords since they are words that have been in use for centuries. Buzzwords only become buzzwords when certain people take offense to them.

      Here is a list of hundreds of buzzwords since 2003 as compiled by Macmillan Dictionary: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/buzzword/recent.html
      You won’t find “anti-immigrant” or “anti-Muslim” in there.

      Perhaps these are not buzzwords but words that irk you. There is a difference.

  2. Let me add that according to this CNN article http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/29/politics/how-the-trump-administration-chos… it was President Obama who picked these and only these seven Muslim nations to impose some travel restriction. Was Obama “anti-Muslim”? And according to this CNN article http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/07/opinions/ninth-circuit-should-rescind-mcen… “President Jimmy Carter … “instructed his administration to ‘invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today.'” Additionally, Carter required Iranian students to register with immigration officials. ” Was Carter “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Muslim”? Without defining and explaining what “anti-Muslim” and “anti-Asian” mean, these “anti” stuff is just in the eyes of the beholders. There already has been too much emotion and too less reason.

    1. Nowadays many people do not read, do not think; all they know is to take to the streets or stage a protest to express their opinion, or rather, emotion. It is easy to invoke buzzwords such as “anti-such-and-such” but usually there is no intellectual substance behind them. These buzzwords and attitude simply enlarge the divisiveness.

      1. You can thank the Tea Party for the emotion-over-reason mindset as well as the take-to-the-streets-and-townhalls-and-protest mentality. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Tea Partiers think that type of behavior is uncivilized and unreasonable. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

      2. I think we all know that those emotion-over-reason protests, marches, demonstrations, etc pre-dated Tea Party.

      3. Guys, don’t you know that schools these days do not teach critical thing and the need for laws and rules? Kids only learn how to utter politically correct buzzwords such as “anti-xxx”, “divisive”, “intolerant”. You are anti-Muslim if you hurt the interest, intentionally/justifiably or not, of a Muslim. You are anti-immigrant if you think the U S should enforce its immigration laws or you don’t agree that anyone on the earth can live and work in the U S freely as he or she pleases.

      4. Being ant-politically correct is not a free pass on ignorance and hate. Time to stop using this as an excuse for making uneducated arguments.

  3. I think this article lacks logic rigor. For one thing, I don’t see how the author links Trump’s order to “anti-immigration.” There seems to be only one explanation: “Trump’s administration[‘s] actions have been fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment.” And somehow the author also links the order to being “anti-Muslim.” Maybe it is clear to the author but I am not convinced; I simply feel that the author is jumping to conclusion. A more comparable measure to Trump’s order is Executive Order 9066, signed by FDR, which put people of Japanese, Italian, and German ancestry to internment camps during WWII. Was FDR a racist? Was 9066 anti-immigrant and anti-Asian? Is Trump’s order necessary and reasonable? I think I would prefer a more rational analysis than a rhetorical and sentimental reaction on the issue. Chanting “Not My President” 1000 times does not change anything. (BTW, Trump’s order imposes only a temporary ban for at most 120 days.)
    “The city felt the need to create an opportunity for residents to visibly celebrate their Chinese heritage and promote interethnic understanding.” — If true, I think the city should reflect on whether and how this event promotes interethnic understanding. Does putting dozens of vendors booths there help promote interethnic understanding? How much does putting on shows of lion dance or Mexican folk dance or taiko performance help promote interethnic understanding?

    1. In response to Chinese Alhambrans comment,

      The point of the article is that most Alhambrans are first or second generation immigrants of a minority ethnicity. Therefore, executive orders like Trump’s ban on Muslims is scary for them.

      You may fail to see the anti-Islamic nature of Trump’s executive order, but the author and many others across the country do not.

      I am glad you are comparing Trump’s immigration ban to FDR’s order to intern Japanese Americans. Both were mistakes and both singled out and persecuted a particular minority group of immigrants. And yes, FDR’s order to intern Japanese Americans was “anti-immigrant and anti-Asian” as was America’s ban on Chinese immigrants before that, officially known as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Furthermore, our government has admitted that interning Japanese Americans and banning Chinese immigrants was wrong. In 1983 a Congressional Commission issued a report entitled Personal Justice Denied, condemning the internment of Japanese Americans as “unjust and motivated by racism and xenophobic ideas rather than factual military necessity,” and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided $20,000 in redress to all surviving Japanese interns. Similarly, in 2012 Congress passed a resolution, submitted by Alhambra’s very own congresswoman, Judy Chu, that formally expressed regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

      History will look upon Trump’s immigration ban in a similar light.

      The author’s views are relevant and shared by many people in America.

      1. ChineseAlhambran

        The author’s view certainly is relevant but lacks logic rigor, or intellectual depth. As said in http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/universal-intellectual-standards/527 ” A statement can be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant, but superficial (that is, lack depth). For example, the statement, “Just say No!” which is often used to discourage children and teens from using drugs, is clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. Nevertheless, it lacks depth …”
        I certainly agree that the author’s view, or “argument”, that Trump’s orders are “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Muslim” is shared by many people in America, but I would say her view is not shared by many too.

      2. Community Member

        In response to Chinese Alhambran,

        I completely disagree with your argument that the author’s article is “superficial,” and lacks “logic, rigor, and intellectual depth.” This is flat out wrong if you are applying these terms as outlined in the source you invoked (criticalthinking.org).

        I went to the link you provided, Chinese Alhambran, and you seemed to have either ignored the sites written definition of the terms you have invoked, or you don’t understand how to apply them correctly. For instance, the “Logic” section, which states, “When we think, we bring a variety of thoughts together into some order. When the combination of thoughts are mutually supporting and make sense in combination, the thinking is “logical.” The author has done this. You may disagree with her opinions but her thought process is orderly and supported by her research and sources. That adheres to the “logic” definition on the link you provided.

        And by the nature of your statements, Chinese Alhambran, I would like to point out that it is import to remember that this is an “Opinion Piece” not an academic paper. If you are going to hold the author to certain academic standards of thought, citation, data, etc, then you need to hold yourself to those same standards in commenting on her article. The author has displayed a great deal of research, analysis, and citation I might add for this not being an academic paper. It is one thing to hold a different opinion than she does, but it is quite another to attack her sources and research without supplying evidence to the contrary.

        But I am happy to engage in a data war, or war of logic and reason with you on the Alhambra Source comment page about an opinion piece so that it is preserved for the record. I will let you fire the first shot and we can go from there. But I warn you, you must be prepared to back up all of your statements with data and sources–and I will hold your sources to a high standard. Additionally, it is one thing to cite CNN, but another thing to appeal to that source in an attempt to imply that it supports the argument that you are making when in fact it really does not. This is where the critical thinking comes in that you keep invoking.

  4. Karin, could you back up your claim that “President Donald Trump’s executive order barred people with … dual citizenship from entering the country”? The N Y Times article you cited explicitly stated “It does not affect naturalized United States citizens from the seven named countries.”

    1. Dear reader, thank you for your concern. I have made an update to the story to clarify which dual citizens were affected by the travel ban. 

  5. Well said, Karen! Thank you for writing this Op-Ed. Alhambra is one of the most diverse cities in Southern California. Alhambrans should be proud of that, and we should stand up to efforts that attempt to diminish our city’s cultural diversity.

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