Why Tong’s win mat­ters

The News-Times - - OPINION - Michael M. Ego is a pro­fes­sor of Hu­man De­vel­op­ment and Fam­ily Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut, Stamford, and teaches the course Asian Pa­cific Amer­i­can Fam­i­lies.

As a new­comer to Con­necti­cut from Cal­i­for­nia, I had pre­con­cep­tions about the so­cial, cul­tural and racial mi­lieu of the state in 2005. I knew that its pop­u­la­tion was pre­dom­i­nantly Cau­casian and that it had a his­tory for be­ing a Blue State.

Soon, I was able to meet the lo­cals and re­al­ized that there were not very many Asian faces in the com­mu­nity. In fact, the Cen­sus data for 2005 for Con­necti­cut in­di­cated Asians com­prised 4.1 per­cent of the state pop­u­la­tion and 2.4 per­cent of Fair­field County’s pop­u­la­tion.

Dur­ing the 2006 elec­tion cy­cle, I had a chance to meet Wil­liam Tong. He was a stranger and I knew noth­ing of his per­sonal back­ground. He in­formed me that he was a can­di­date for the Con­necti­cut State As­sem­bly, rep­re­sent­ing Stamford and New Canaan.

My first re­ac­tion was “there is no way this Asian Amer­i­can guy is go­ing to win an elec­tion in Con­necti­cut.” In fact, I told him so.

He smiled and of­fered me a coun­te­nance of con­fi­dence and self-worth. A few months later, he de­feated a multi-term in­cum­bent to be­gin his six-term ca­reer in the State As­sem­bly.

Wil­liam is a proud Amer­i­can. He un­der­stands his fam­ily his­tory. How his par­ents em­i­grated to the United States to pur­sue the Amer­i­can dream of be­ing a home­owner and busi­nessper­sons. He grew up ex­pe­ri­enc­ing per­sonal hard­ships and la­beled in­ac­cu­rately that he was a priv­i­leged Asian Amer­i­can as a mem­ber of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety’s “model mi­nor­ity.” Yet, he per­se­vered and earned ac­cep­tance to Brown Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Chicago Law School, and soon em­barked on his jour­ney to serve his pro­fes­sion, com­mu­nity, state and coun­try.

On Nov. 7, 2018, Wil­liam was of­fi­cially elected the State At­tor­ney General of the State of Con­necti­cut, be­com­ing the first Asian Amer­i­can to hold a statewide of­fice in the Nut­meg State.

One may look at this achieve­ment and ob­serve that Wil­liam is an ex­am­ple of the Ho­ra­tio Al­ger tem­plate — work hard and you will suc­ceed.

Un­for­tu­nately, for Asian Amer­i­cans it has al­ways been an up­hill strug­gle to demon­strate that it is pos­si­ble to be a “leader” and not just a good “fol­lower” — a stereo­type that has been stamped on Asian Amer­i­cans from the days of Chi­nese Ex­clu­sion Act.

In ad­di­tion, the “bam­boo ceil­ing” has im­peded the up­ward mo­bil­ity of many Asian Amer­i­cans. Wil­liam has made an im­print in the soil for Asian Amer­i­cans and other un­der­rep­re­sented groups in the po­lit­i­cal arena by achiev­ing his suc­cess­ful cam­paign based upon his leg­isla­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and mer­i­to­ri­ous per­for­mance. It will be a new chal­lenge. He will serve with pride and honor as the State At­tor­ney General.

I am pleased that I have wit­nessed an his­toric mo­ment in the State of Con­necti­cut and that I can state no­tably that Tong’s win does mat­ter.

Cathy Zu­raw / Hearst CT Me­dia

Wil­liam Tong was elected Tues­day as Con­necti­cut at­tor­ney general.

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