My name is Yu Lin. For the past twenty years, I have been a resident in District 38 – decades spanning from childhood, through the local school systems, to a career as an entrepreneur, and now to having a family with a beloved wife, a son and a daughter. Many friends, having observed my seemingly comfortable life, asked, “Why involve yourself with dirty politics when you’ve got a good life going? There’s no money to be made here, and you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. People will hate you regardless.”
Except for, I wasn’t raised this way. And the idea of a “good life” has been gravely challenged this year. When anti-Asian racism shot through the roof because we first chose to protect everyone by wearing masks. When we are attacked for making such a choice–which almost a year later became a law–I see there remains a long journey to “a good life”.
If the larger Chinese American demographic is hated for choosing to protect everyone, does seeking justice and speaking up for our neighbors mean that I will also be hated? For me, it’s worth it. I was raised with a strong sense of justice, moral fortitude, and principles, all passed down from my father. I am not fearful of hate, because I have faith in He who is far more powerful, and dare to write history so that not just myself, but all of us together, can live a better life. This mindset is also inherited from my father.
My father traveled across the globe from China to the United States when I was two months. The journey was propelled by the possibilities of a better life for his family. With diligence, my father provided for us a quality life in our hometown of Fujian. When I turned eight, I followed my father’s footsteps with my mother and sister, and our family reunited.
Upon arrival, language was only one of the barriers. Cultural shock was distressing. In all the overwhelming difficulties, I found comfort in reading Chinese literature – a gift, I consider today, as it kept my home language sharp. It kept me connected to my roots, and allowed me to maintain amiable relationships with many of the Chinese American communities here. Slowly but steadily, I adapted to life in the U.S. School became too easy and boring, and I started skipping classes altogether. I was desperately searching for a cause, for a sense of purpose, for my place in the world. And because of this period of rebellion, my place in the world, at the time, wasn’t within the walls of an Ivy League school. But I did get into College, and I studied something I loved – biology and computer science at Brooklyn College.
Back then I idolized scientists, great thinkers, and pioneers who led our world forward. I wanted to be among these history makers. But during a lab internship, I experienced firsthand, bleak realities and limitations that are ever present in our workplace. I developed a deeper understanding of our society, which enabled me to look at the realities of Chinese Americans from different perspectives – every perspective, with its own set of assumptions, narratives, and challenges. There is much that divides us. But just imagine, as I often do, how powerful we would become, if we are willing to unite.
Asian American is a model minority myth. Model, because yes, somehow etched in our DNA, is a drive to succeed. But “myth”, because true success stories remain rare. The more common story is often one of struggle and exclusion. Asian Americans in leadership roles remain rare. I’m both young and passionate enough to devote my life to change this.
Gradually, I understood the very basic definition of politics – it’s how power and goods get allocated. To whom, how much, when, and where. This is why we have to speak up. Obedience isn’t a virtue here. This is a place where the squeaky wheel gets the oil. This is a place where we have much to learn from our neighbors who are making their voices heard.
The desire to be heard and to be respected is universal. We need to be seen. But we are responsible to rise up. We have to show everyone that we exist, not just physically, but politically. Through ballots, through votes, through exercising the power that we, too, have.
If we are able to be a true student of life, then every step we take is a lesson, a direction or redirection; no step is wasted. My journey as an entrepreneur has given me the opportunity to work with people from all paths of life – a rich and diverse demographic across many cultures and age-groups. From over two decades of constant observing and learning, I feel compelled to take the steps I’m taking today, because it’s becoming increasingly evident that acts of service are what I’m called to do. Every step of my journey has sculpted who I am, one who can traverse the great chasms of culture, and build a bridge where only gaps exist. I want to devote my life to building these bridges, to lead, to serve, to give back, and to pay it forward.
We can’t talk about Asian American politics or Latinx American politics or Black American politics without talking about racism. Why is this the case? Why is this our reality? Why is it, that even in our very own neighborhood, where we are not the minority, that racism towards us is still a reality?
This suggests that what we have been doing is not enough. That staying silent and minding our own business is far from enough. That the qualities that are considered virtues in China, are not so virtuous here. Because minding our own business has diminished us as a whole. Our virtues have made us an easy target, because our tolerance has held us back from contributing. We are not doing anyone any favors by staying quiet and staying out of politics, so it’s time to change this. Let us change this.
We have to be seen and be heard. In the U.S., this is done by exercising our political power. Together we can flip a state. As the largest group that others label, “undecided”, we are the ones who hold the power to decide which way an election can go. This is tremendous power, but only if we exercise it. And when we do, is when they’ll know we exist. Respect isn’t always given, so we must command for it.
Reflecting back to the difficulties that my father had faced when he first arrived in this country, the ones we face today are incomparable. But as a father myself, I can deeply relate to where this courage came from. Some say that to garden is to believe in tomorrow, but I say, to father children and to run for politics is a real pledge for a better future. I have children, which means I have skin in the game. And that’s what keeps me up at night every day, and what drives me to be here, to be on this path, fighting for a better future for all of us. Because a truly good life can only happen when all of us rise up.