My Friend Arizona Legislator Quang Nguyen Is Not a White Nationalist and Neither Am I

Arizona State Rep. Quang Nguyen (Credit: Daily Independent)

I don’t think people realize just how much we 1st generation immigrants take our oath of citizenship seriously. It’s not an idle thing when we swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We who have seen what the world looks like without an America have a responsibility to tell our fellow citizens how precious that is.

Quang Nguyen

Such was the case last week when my friend Quang Nguyen spoke up about his objections to teaching Critical Race Theory in public schools. Quang Nguyen is a freshman in the Arizona House of Representatives serving District LD-1.

Quang is what journalist and war crimes investigator Hollie McKay would call a survivor. According to Quang, life before America looked like this,

“A week before Saigon fell, my father took my brother and me to a gate at the Tan Son Nhut airport, pointed to an American C-130, and told us to get on. He handed us a small bag of clothing and some photos while he explained we may never see our family again. I was 12-1/2 years old. We loaded the plane with hundreds of other people, and I found a place to sit on the cold steel floor, not knowing where I was going. We went first to Subic Bay, then to Guam, then Travis AFB, Camp Pendleton, and finally to a refugee camp at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. Four months later, by the grace of God, I was overjoyed to be reunited with my family in San Joaquin Valley, California. My American dream had begun.

I taught myself English and graduated high school. I was offered free lunches but chose to work as a janitor for $2.75 an hour to pay my own way. Despite my guidance counselor telling me that I was “not college material,” I enrolled at Long Beach State and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Arts while working a full-time job to pay my bills.”

A month ago, Quang made headlines lambasting fellow Arizona legislator Daniel Hernandez (D-LD2) for suggesting that communism isn’t as much of a threat to America as white nationalism.  Quang’s on the record response was personal, epic, and worth every American watching.

My own story is not as harrowing as my friend’s; but I also came to America at the age of 12 from the Philippines in 1972 to start life in Fountain Valley, California. One of my first jobs was janitorial work cleaning out boats being rented for hire in Newport Beach while attending college at UC Irvine.

Like Quang, I had discovered something special about America by that time. I wasn’t any different from any of the other children of the high school I attended in Westminster. We were all kids learning to find our way in a country that only rewarded us if we did our best.

Funnily, a few years after I graduated from that La Quinta high school, it became an epicenter for the refugees of Quang’s people after the end of the Vietnam War.

So, I have a very special appreciation for Quang’s passion for the United States. It’s the basis of our common connections. The pride of achieving on your own. The cherishing of the Second Amendment that means those worlds we left behind will have a far more difficult time coming here and destroying our children’s futures.  Being Asians, our belief sets are not based on anything having to do with liberal wokeness.

It’s a long way from Long Beach or Irvine to the desperate angst of the lands of the despots. Quang and I both know the prayer of the forgotten on this planet. The hope in the darkest hour when life threatens to disappear that a miracle will happen; that the Stars and Stripes will appear on the horizon. It is a prayer that goes more and more unanswered as America becomes increasingly tribal and isolated, even within our own border.

Criticizing Critical Race Theory

On July 9th, Quang posted a Tweet supporting AZ Governor Doug Ducey signing legislation banning government-sponsored or funded Critical Race Theory instruction in the state.

That tweet earned him the ire of Arizona State Senator Martin Quezada (D-LD29) in a controversial Tweet: “This is what #Whitenationalism looks like.” Quezada, who also serves as the campaign treasurer for Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, immediately found that Tweet exploded in his face on social media, “Hobbs’ Campaign Treasurer Attacks Vietnamese Refugee Turned U.S. Citizen Lawmaker”.

I don’t know about you, but this kind of animus does rather trigger one to wonder just exactly where this so-called “Asian Hate” phenomenon really comes from.

Neither Quezada nor Hobbs has yet responded to the condemnation of their accusation of an Asian refugee being a White Nationalist.  But I think an apology is the least that is in order; and that Katie Hobbs should probably find herself a more appropriate campaign treasurer.

As to the subject of teaching Critical Race Theory in the public school system, I have my own analytical bent on the subject.

First, I encourage you to read this article, “Covering critical race theory and the push to keep it out of US public schools: 4 tips for journalists“. It is an instruction manual to journalists on how to cover the Critical Race Theory debate.

The article is part of a Kennedy School influencing series that seeks to counsel journalists to not be bamboozled by activists.

However, the series has an academic bias in that it doesn’t ever bring up the question of “Main Street” which is: Were the original activists in the 70’s that made this up insightful or insane?

I remember a number of them from that time, and my recollection is that what they were was conceited. They wanted their view to become preeminent and were willing to mix in as much rhetoric as necessary to win whatever specious argument they were trying to make. Winning was everything.

Many years later, American philosopher James Q. Wilson and I had discussions lamenting the long-term effects of unchallenged tripe on society back when I was at UCLA for my MBA.

So, my analytical take on this critical race theory thing is that because academia failed to properly assess the entirety of the theory, including the argument in the alternative, which is just an irresponsible thing to omit for something that began in law schools, the court of public opinion is very right to take up the omissions standing on soapboxes and using the language of “ordinary people” to complete the research.

The theory needs to be stress-tested to see if it stands up to a proper battering of 00 buck blasts into its ground rules and assumptions. It’s not ready for K-12 until it is.

So keep up the good fight, my friend Quang. This is still what being an American supporting and defending our country from all enemies means. That oath we took stays with us for the rest of our lives.