Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Serve The People

First Published: Getting Together, Vol. 1, No. 1, February 1970.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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40,000 people – young and old, women and men, children and babies – live in Chinatown. Most of us work hard and long hours, often in uncomfortable quarters – a sweatshop, a laundry, or a restaurant. We pay extremely high city, state, and federal taxes; in addition, many of us dutifully give money to various organizations such as tongs, family associations as well. In fact, we pay out so much that after all these “taxes” and “dues”, hardly any of our hard-earned money is left to take care of our daily living needs.

For all this money that we pay out, our neighborhood in Chinatown remains dirty and unhealthy (because of uncollected garbage), crowded and shabby (what else do you expect when most of the buildings were built not too many years after Lincoln’s time?), and our seven elementary and junior high schools are dilapidated and so overcrowded that the schools are fire traps, and the kids there are packed like sardines. TB and other serious diseases are more widespread here than in any other neighborhood in this city. The kids from Hong King who refused to be bossed around in the schools are compelled to drop out, and find it hard to find any meaningful jobs with decent wages. So they join a gang, get into trouble, loaf and run around, or get drafted and sent across the Pacific to fight our fellow Asians (the yellow people) in Vietnam.

Where do all the taxes, dues, and money we pay out go? WHY DO THESE SHAMEFUL THINGS CONTINUE TO EXIST?

In a “democracy”, the government is supposed to serve the daily needs of the people. That’s what they tell us in social studies, and that’s why the officials are called “public SERVANTS”. But the conditions in Chinatown and the lack of even the most minimal public services tell us that as far as we Asian-Americans (Chinese, Japanese, etc.) are concerned, the government does, not serve us well. (if it did, there would be clean streets without any trash or garbage, there would be up-to-date comfortable apartments with modern facilities for everyone, all the young people would have decent, dignified jobs, etc.) As far as we know from the conditions in our neighborhood, the goverment exists, not to serve us, but to serve the needs of some big-shots living in rich, White Suburbs. And as for the so-called “public SERVANTS”, we know from our own experience that the only time they give a damn about the people in Chinatown is during the election period when they want us to vote for them. Public servants? These rich, white politicians? It must be a big joke!

It is not by mistake that these miserable conditions exist, not only in the New York Chinatown, but in Chinatowns across the country. To put it very frankly, these white politicians care only about themselves and their own kind (other well-off whites). They are so “superior” that they can’t be bothered with the daily needs of us “Orientals” (or any other non-Whites). We Asian-American people are patient and don’t complain too often or too loud. So these selfish politicians and the government take us for granted, and so far they have gotten away with a whole lot.

What is to be done? It’s not simply a question of becoming “better informed”, writing letters to the crooked or apathetic White politicians, or of getting more Chinese people to register and vote in elections. Those elections are rigged and phoney, anyway, so why bother? It takes a lot more than just becoming “interested” or “involved” to really change things.

The long history of the Asian people, and the experience of the black and brown (Puerto Rican and Mexican) peoples here in this country shows us the Way. The most important lesson of our own history and of these peoples is that nothing good, nothing really important happens unless the common, ordinary people themselves make it happen. We cannot expect basic improvements in our lives and in our community unless we have some POWER and use it to get the government to make the necessary improvements and/or to do what is necessary ourselves. For us in the Chinatown, it means that what we really need is Chinese or YELLOW POWER!

Now, we don’t control the police or fire departments; we have little say over the use of tax-money or the schools; the sanitation department doesn’t serve our needs; we pay rent all our lives to mostly non-Chinese real estate companies and landlords; and we, or our brothers, or sons, are forced to fight in a war against Asian people. All these things are controlled and decided mostly by well-off white people who live outside of our community. It’s as if we Asians (Chinese) in Chinatown are living in a colony controlled by foreigners (the rich, outside whites). In fact, Chinatown is not only a ghetto, but a colony of sorts. What we have to do is begin to gain power to run our own community. That means, for example, if the city sanitation department is unable or unwilling to do the job that we pay them for (through the taxes), then we say good-by to the largely white city sanitation department, and take back our money from the city and do it ourselves! The same with medical, welfare, educational, anti-poverty and other services that the city is supposed to provide us with the taxes that we pay. We’ve got to take back what’s ours, and serve our own needs by our own efforts. We’ll do it much better and cheaper, too. But, in order to achieve this objective of self-determination of Asian-Americans, and the total community control of all the public services in Chinese community, we must get ourselves really together and build our Chinese – YELLOW POWER.

As a first step in this long struggle for Chinese Power, a group of us have begun a series of programs that serve the needs of our people. These include: 1) regular publication of this community paper in which we would exchange ideas and experience to help us achieve Chinese people’s power; 2) free health-care program to inform and educate our people about the various health hazards common in our neighborhood, and also to meet some important health needs of the Chinese people (especially in the area of TB prevention and detection, and Vitamin deficiencies); 3) Chinatown Draft Help to inform our brothers about how they could lawfully get out of the draft and the Army so that they wouldn’t have to fight or die in this stupid, useless, racist war in Vietnam. Since most of us are young, and none of us rich, we’ll have to work really hard and use every bit of our Asian ingenuity to get these programs going. These programs can succeed and expand only if you become actively involved in them.

We are not a bunch of “do-gooders” out to save somebody else; we only know that our own freedom and happiness are tied-in with the freedom and happiness of every Chinese and every Asian person. We are not going to turn ourselves into a bureaucratic agency to hand out charity; our programs will be the beginning blocks of the movement for Chinese, YELLOW POWER. We are not out to demand this phoney reform or that, but to fight for the total self-determination of the Asian people in Chinatown. Our programs are a step on a road of thousand-li that leads to the freedom and power for all non-white (YELLOW, BROWN, BLACK) peoples of this community.