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Chinese-American congressman denied entrance to Department of Energy offices
June 4, 2001 6:09 AM   Subscribe

Chinese-American congressman denied entrance to Department of Energy offices U.S. Rep David Wu (outspoken and rather instrumental in the Wen Ho Lee case) was denied entrance twice, despite having Congressional identification. "Energy Department officials told Wu's office the caution was justified because congressional IDs are easy to fake... But Capitol Police recalled only one incident of possible congressional ID forgery, 20 years ago and never proven."
posted by Dean_Paxton (40 comments total)

 
I wish this incident was on video. perception could be a factor. If wu went up looking like jerry lewis or was saying "harow, comein, comein?" but i doubt it. Capitol police seems an unlikely source for forgery stats. (perhaps the bush twins shop at the capitol police forgery booth)Intelligence services often try to breach an area as part of training. perhaps it was personal. What gets me is who are these idiots guarding the loot? All this energy talk and where is Spence? Bill Richardson was flayed alive for 14 months. An energy Sec. from Michigan? and he is nowhere to be seen. I have a feeling that this power surge could be connected to big threes emergence of the electric-gas hybrids(Escape etc.) alot more juice will be needed in the next 7-10 years. esp. in Californey. wink-wink
posted by clavdivs at 6:53 AM on June 4, 2001


As the article says, he was briefly denied entrance by a security guard. He was admitted once a supervisor found out. I really don't think there is anything to this event, especially given the recent dust-up over lax security at the DOE.
posted by CRS at 6:55 AM on June 4, 2001


I don't think it matters that he was briefly denied access; it's the principle of the thing. He was asked about his identity twice, even though he presented identification! It's quite the ridiculous circumstance.
posted by hijinx at 7:13 AM on June 4, 2001


...'are you an american'? is that what the DOE guard said ..no big deal? the detention is not the issue, everyone is detained. what is this Sears...let me call my supervisor to see if your an american underneth that skin.
posted by clavdivs at 7:15 AM on June 4, 2001


Uh, clavdivs? Can you explain this?

Wu said security guards asked him twice whether he was an American, even though he presented his congressional identification.

So, he showed them his ID, they asked him anyway.
posted by hijinx at 8:26 AM on June 4, 2001


Does anyone believe that he would have been detained at all if he weren't Chinese? That's the issue here.

And the fact that the supervisor let him in only points to the fact that, too often, the average-joe who's supposed to be protecting the public--whether in the military or on your local police force--still doesn't understand what's wrong with racial profiling.
posted by jpoulos at 8:58 AM on June 4, 2001


And, clavdivs, I have yet to meet a Chinese person who looks or sounds like that jerry lewis character.
posted by jpoulos at 9:11 AM on June 4, 2001


Hijinx, it's not always easy to tell, but I think clavdivs is saying the same thing you are. The translation from Classical Latin gets his postings a little garbled sometimes.
posted by rodii at 9:12 AM on June 4, 2001


I agree that clavdivs was intending to use sarcasm or satire to say the same thing as jpoulos.

I agree also that the real issue has to do with the ethnicity of the representative. Unfortunately, we may see more of this overt profiling of Asians with the recent spin-up of China being the big bad boogey man in order to justify Star Wars and other military programs. The red herring at work and all. It's sooo much easier to scapegoat those who appear different than accept responsibility for our own actions.

(drama)
"Look, there goes that damn red commie bastard!" (while pilfering purse)
(/drama)
posted by nofundy at 9:27 AM on June 4, 2001


Apparently, Chinese Americans can expect no better than to be (at least) briefly detained while their citizenship is questioned. Those of us with white skin, of course, are free to go about our merry business.
posted by sudama at 10:07 AM on June 4, 2001


And of course this is some institutional policy coming to pass, instead of an individual guard with his head up his posterior.
posted by Dreama at 10:10 AM on June 4, 2001


I'm not claiming its policy at all, Dreama. I'm sure this is an individual guard who doesn't have a clue. But there are far too many "individuals" who aren't being taught--or are refusing to learn--that you can't do that. Training to end racial profiling needs to be more widespread. That's all.
posted by jpoulos at 10:19 AM on June 4, 2001


Here's what I get all the time in the US: (from people of all races, btw)
Others: "So, where are you from?"
Me: "Here, the US."
Others: "No, I mean _where_ are you from?"
Me: "New York City?"
Others: "I mean where are you parents from?"
Me: "Oh, that's not what you asked is it. Japan."

And then this is what it's like in Japan:
Others: "So where're you from?"
Me: "New York City."
Others: "No, I mean where are you from?"
Me: "America. I grew up in New York City."
Others: "I mean where are you parents from?"
Me: "That's not what you asked me, was it? They're from Kobe and Tokyo."
Others: "You speak really well for a foreigner."
Me (annoyed): "Thanks."

I'm so tired of it that I almost smile when people ask me. It's not blatant or conscious, it's just subtle and unconscious. I don't consider it racism, just maybe ignorance or curiosity mixed together.

It's not just an American thing- this cultural insensitivity. On the one hand, with the multicultural society that the USA has today, it's a sad commentary. That said, those of us with mixed heritages or immigrants should have a thicker skin about this stuff, imo.

Gen
posted by gen at 10:52 AM on June 4, 2001 [1 favorite]


I think it is a tad bit too much to consider it racism, I mean he is the first Chinese congressman. As a mix- Asian/white American, I have to say that Oriental people in this country appreciate a bit less racism than most other races.

<Rant>
And since when is Oriental un-PC, that sounds like the work of a damn white-liberal. I like Oriental, it is a non-specific term for South-East Asians. I don't like to be called Chinese-American, I am not Chinese, my mother is from Singapore. I can't very well expect white people to be able to nail down my specific country of origen. Asian-American is a little suspect too, cause you never call Russians Asian-Americans.
<\Rant>
posted by dancu at 11:50 AM on June 4, 2001


I was not there. How did he present the credentials...and i'd bet my impluvium that he represented himself as a U.S. congressman. If he did not, then he is subject to questioning. period. The DOE (entity responsible for security in this case) and the guard would be at fault in questioning him solely on the basis of some I.D. question and him being of asian decent. Showing a congressional badge says one thing. Let me in.The guard could question the badge...if what, it came from a capt. crunch box?...if Senator Dan from Hawaii got this treatment heads would roll.I saw this in Asian studies class where a student asked the teacher outright "your from japan, what do you think?" His reply was that he was from Hawaii, liked surfing and chevys. Skin. all about someones perception.
posted by clavdivs at 11:58 AM on June 4, 2001


pardon moi,Asian origin...and i believe that is descent. My P.O.has my websters, said he'd get some answers one way or another.
posted by clavdivs at 12:01 PM on June 4, 2001


I have to say that Oriental people in this country appreciate a bit less racism than most other races.

The racism expressed towards Asians in America is expressed differently. While racism towards those of African or Latino descent is traditionally expressed as contempt or fear, with Asians it is expressed more as mistrust or suspicion. At least, that's my perception--I'm a white male who has never had to face racism first-hand.

Is there less (or more) racism towards Asians in the US than towards other ethnic groups, I don't know. I do know there are far fewer Asian characters on television and in movies than any other group (except the always-forgotten Native American)--for whatever that's worth.
posted by jpoulos at 12:03 PM on June 4, 2001


Discussions regarding Asians and racism are interesting. I have definitely argued both sides of the issue and have been subject to racism while in China.

Dancu - I am not with the PC brigade, but it can be argued that 'Oriental' is a term reserved for inanimate objects, like rug and vase, while 'Asian' more specifically denotes people from Asia.

Jpoulos - On the other side of the coin, I would say that Asians express racism towards Westerners as contempt, mistrust, suspicion and fear. Note that the Westerners are usually the first attacked whenever there is turmoil in China. I was in Sichuan Province in 1996 when there was a brief row with Taiwan and was more than once approached by a Chinese who thought he could teach me a lesson.

Racism is not solely a white thing. It is a worldwide thing.
posted by Stretch at 12:19 PM on June 4, 2001


I am not with the PC brigade, but it can be argued that 'Oriental' is a term reserved for inanimate objects, like rug and vase, while 'Asian' more specifically denotes people from Asia.

"Asian" is a pretty vague term. There are a good number of Russians who live on the Asian continent, for instance. Most people don't consider Indians or Pakistanis to be "Asian" either, even though they are from that continent. "Oriental" is actually far less ambiguous, but it has been decided that the word is offensive, so it must no longer be used.
posted by kindall at 12:42 PM on June 4, 2001


Aren't Indians and Pakistani's considered part of the sub-continent? Could they be termed 'Sub-Continentals'? I believe that Russians in the Eastern part of Russia are called 'Eurasians'.

I think that Oriental is ambiguous. What is the exact area of the Orient? Who does it encompass?

Again, I have argued both sides and am interested in any responses. I have a friend who uses Oriental and Occidental.
posted by Stretch at 1:03 PM on June 4, 2001


Does anyone believe that he would have been detained at all if he weren't Chinese? That's the issue here.


And, well, so what?

Let's remember here, shall we, that *DOE was suborned by a Chinese national due to lax security, just recently*.

Anyone who thinks that political correctness is a valid excuse for not exercising additional caution when someone unknown to you of the same nationality as a spy who's just recently reamed you a new asshole can take a walk, by me.

I don't think it's unreasonable at all, and specifically, I don't think it's racist.
posted by baylink at 1:10 PM on June 4, 2001


i get completely embarassed at the indignance constantly displayed by asian communities in the US, to the point that i resent being called an asian american/chinese american; here's why:
i know that as a relatively recent immigrant, i don't share the same feelings because my great grandfather wasn't tricked into crossing the pacific only to get fucked up the ass by the railroad companies. still i wish everyone would stop whining for a minute and have some pride. after all these generations, asian americans of that decent are still clueless about white america, what makes a european respect a person is self sufficiency, independence; consider the asian family which lives together from birth until death, and an anglo family, which expects a child to leave home as an adult. these asians are still looking for approval from the greater family, 'mainstream america', which is not entirely white. this seeking of approval makes the asian coomunity appear like bitches on the one hand, and weirdly eager to please. hence, what jpoulos discusses, suspision and so on toward asians instead of contempt. there are major differences between asians in america as with all populations, so please don't insult me and anyone else with this bullshit about aggregate asian rights.

as for this congressman, i really don't care. the efforts of these 'asian community leaders' may end up suppressing restrictions of access to the DOE or even the missile facility, but they'll never solve anything. asians are still this weird mass of yellow, not individual persons.


I'm a white male who has never had to face racism first-hand.

there's racism toward white people, even among white people in general, just watch mtv. i call people who aren't asian guai-lo/ guai-poh because saying the proper term in chinese sounds too formal and stiff for daily conversation. you're a guai-lo. there you've had your first first hand racist experience.
posted by elle at 1:18 PM on June 4, 2001


As I recall from reading other news articles, the guards are required to ask everyone who wants access whether they were American. I don't think it's racism either, just someone trying a bit too hard to do their job.

Being Asian-American, I don't see how "oriental" is a racist term either...
posted by gyc at 1:22 PM on June 4, 2001


I have a friend who uses Oriental and Occidental.

my chinese father uses oriental.
the term's considered racist because it was termed during the ch'ing dynasty/ meiji era when europeans began trading with the far east...

from dictionary.com:
Usage Note: Asian is now strongly preferred in place of Oriental for persons native to Asia or descended from an Asian people. The usual objection to Orientalmeaning “eastern”is that it identifies Asian countries and peoples in terms of their location relative to Europe. However, this objection is not generally made of other Eurocentric terms such as Near and Middle Eastern. The real problem with Oriental is more likely its connotations stemming from an earlier era when Europeans viewed the regions east of the Mediterranean as exotic lands full of romance and intrigue, the home of despotic empires and inscrutable customs. At the least these associations can give Oriental a dated feel, and as a noun in contemporary contexts (as in the first Oriental to be elected from the district) it is now widely taken to be offensive. However, Oriental should not be thought of as an ethnic slur to be avoided in all situations. As with Asiatic, its use other than as an ethnonym, in phrases such as Oriental cuisine or Oriental medicine, is not usually considered objectionable.

Racism is not solely a white thing. It is a worldwide thing.
exactly.
posted by elle at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2001


Let's remember here, shall we, that *DOE was suborned by a Chinese national due to lax security, just recently*.

If you're talking about Wen Ho Lee, he was a naturalized citizen. (And he was born in Taiwan, but we don't need to get into that one.)

Lemme try this one:
Let's remember here, shall we, that *DOE was suborned by a middle-aged male citizen due to lax security, just recently*.

That's the essence of the absurdity of this, although asking everyone who comes through if they are American citizens certainly is a fine (if limited) security measure.
posted by snarkout at 2:06 PM on June 4, 2001


I don't have a problem with people using the word Oriental dependent on if I know them and how they say it. The reason why Oriental can be taken so negatively is that some people use it as a derogative term. I have heard people say Oriental in such a way that it made my skin crawl. These are generally the type of people who see all Asians as submissive awaiting their command.
posted by Stretch at 2:19 PM on June 4, 2001


my chinese father uses oriental.
the term's considered racist because it was termed during the ch'ing dynasty/ meiji era when europeans began trading with the far east...


Well, that would make it an anachronism, but not necessarily racist.
posted by ljromanoff at 3:25 PM on June 4, 2001


I try not to ask people where they're "from" even when sometimes it drives me crazy with curiosity. That's the case even when I'm sure that the person was born overseas, I have to wait until that person tells me. I just think it's not a question that you should ask of someone until you know that person better.

It grates with me that in Australia, a person who migrated from England as a child (for example Olivia Newton John) can claim to be 100% Australian when say a Gold Rush era Chinese Australian still has to answer that question.

I don't think people are being overtly racist, they are just expressing a view that the default Australian is of Germanic* extraction** .

I think that they are prejudiced though.

*they're crouts in my book ;-j
**certainly not Australian Aboriginal
posted by lagado at 4:23 PM on June 4, 2001


clavdivs, thanks for your clarification up there. You're right; no one knows as of yet exactly how he identified himself. But, given his position, I'd make an only partially educated guess that he did so in a professional manner.

I'd love to hear the other side of the story. What'd the guard do, exactly? What went though his mind?

And I echo elle's comments; white males do experience racism in America. But given America's penchant for just lovin' those white males, it's often dismissed. I don't think it should be. What happens when white males are the minority? I think we'll be in the same boat we're in now.
posted by hijinx at 9:00 PM on June 4, 2001


Were the guards asian, they most certainly would have let Rep. Wu through, hardly a question asked. The guards would have seen themselves as American first, because they are and have been delegated a job to do for their country, and would have had nary a skeptical glance at a congressional ID with another asian pictured. Seems to me the guards were racist and had ordering from on high that whispered something to the effect of "Be extra special careful with the slant eyed yellers." What did they have to lose? There are but a handful of those with asian features in high office in America. What were the chances one of them would show up on the day they were working? And their supervisors (like the CIA or whoever issues these kind of alerts) obviously felt stopping and harrassing such appearing people more auspicious than letting just "any old asian" through. Look how we've forgotten about the Ehime Maru. . .

They're only asians 'ya know? Get over it. They've gotta understand it's for the good of the country.
posted by crasspastor at 9:59 PM on June 4, 2001


Were the guards asian, they most certainly would have let Rep. Wu through, hardly a question asked. ... Seems to me the guards were racist and had ordering from on high that whispered something to the effect of "Be extra special careful with the slant eyed yellers."

I'm glad you've employed your psychic abilities to determine what the guards would do had their ethnicity magically changed.
posted by ljromanoff at 6:18 AM on June 5, 2001


Ljromanoff, don't you think your response was a bit harsh to someone expressing their opinion? Take it outside dude!

I appreciate what crasspastor has to say.

US history has recent examples of racism towards Asians and I think that's what he was trying to point out.

Example: Putting all Japanese looking citizens in prison camps during WW2. No crime, no trial, no guilt, just suspicious looking.
posted by nofundy at 8:18 AM on June 5, 2001


Ljromanoff, don't you think your response was a bit harsh to someone expressing their opinion? Take it outside dude!

These accusations of racist are baseless, so no, I don't think my response was too harsh.

Example: Putting all Japanese looking citizens in prison camps during WW2. No crime, no trial, no guilt, just suspicious looking.

Well, obviously the Internment Camps were insane. I'm surprised that FDR never gets called on it. But this situation is nothing in comparison to that.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:41 AM on June 5, 2001


I'm glad you've employed your psychic abilities to determine what the guards would do had their ethnicity magically changed

Agreed it should be taken outside. But I'm going to leave one last word inside. As with most everything LJ ever writes, he strawmans every dissenting argument with nitpicks qua mitigating to "opponents" argument without ever responding to an argument on the argument's merits. He never agrees to disagree. He never allows himself to approach issues in other's shoes. Because to do so would be so. . .humpf, liberal.

Hmmm, I guess LJ would make a good security guard on the watch for the congressional yellow peril.
posted by crasspastor at 9:50 PM on June 5, 2001


Indeed LJ, check out my link on using your noodle first when it comes to race!
posted by crasspastor at 9:55 PM on June 5, 2001


LJ ever writes, he strawmans every dissenting argument with nitpicks qua mitigating to "opponents" argument without ever responding to an argument on the argument's merits.

I give your arguments exactly as much credit as they deserve, i.e. none. Can you site one shred of evidence to support your claim that if the guards were Asian-American that they "certainly" would have been more lenient with David Wu?

I thought not.
posted by ljromanoff at 6:13 AM on June 6, 2001


I give your arguments exactly as much credit as they deserve, i.e. none. Can you site one shred of evidence to support your claim that if the guards were Asian-American that they "certainly" would have been more lenient with David Wu?

I thought not.


It's now that I can rest my case.
posted by crasspastor at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2001


It's now that I can rest my case.

Ah, you just wanted to have the last post in the thread!
posted by ljromanoff at 5:04 PM on June 6, 2001


Arghhh flibildy flee!
posted by crasspastor at 5:06 PM on June 6, 2001


Arghhh flibildy flee!

How can I argue with that?
posted by ljromanoff at 5:11 PM on June 6, 2001


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