How will you start this Year of the Rabbit?
By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang
I started this new year walking across the University of Michigan campus on the first day of classes and guest lecturing at an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history and civil rights class. There is nothing like the first day of a new semester in the new year. The air is always crisp with so much energy, so much possibility.
I showed students how to make connections between events, laws, and legal cases that happened in history to the current news of today. AAPIs are not new here, and AAPI history is a history of resistance – from the Filipinos who escaped the Spanish galleons and settled in Louisiana in the 1700s, to the Chinese railroad workers who organized one of the first labor strikes in this country in the 1800s, to the Asian American student activists who fought for voting rights and ethnic studies in the 1960s, and to all the people who came together to fight for justice for Vincent Chin in the 1980s and against Islamophobia after September 11. The COVID-inspired anti-Asian American violence of these past three years is not new. Nor is the fight at the border for asylum and immigration reform, the fight for our history to be taught, or the fight for voting rights. Our communities have been standing up for justice ever since we first arrived.
As we approach the fourth Lunar New Year’s celebration since COVID started, families are beginning to gather again and communities are beginning to hold Lunar New Year’s events again. Especially since Lunar New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday! Rare.
After the abrupt reversal of China’s zero-COVID policies, the greatest human migration on the planet is about to occur again for Chinese New Year as China opens up domestic and international travel and people rush to see their families again.
Yet with American politicians on both sides continuing to use China and COVID-19 as political talking points, I worry.
Especially after Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s first speech after finally being confirmed, in which he spoke about “the rise of the Chinese Communist Party,” bringing jobs back from China, and investigating the origins of COVID-19.
But this is the Year of the Rabbit, representing mercy, peace, and generosity. And 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope.
In contrast, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries pledged in his speech, “We will always do the right thing by the American people. So let us not grow weary of doing good, for the American people will reap the benefit of the harvest if we do not give up.”
“Throughout American history, enemies of democracy have attempted to — and sometimes succeeded in — restricting the freedom to participate in our democratic processes and silencing the will of the people. In recent decades, state legislatures passed hundreds of restrictive voting laws while the Supreme Court has routinely undermined historically bipartisan laws, like the Voting Rights Act, designed to protect the right to vote,” said Rep. Judy Chu of California as she called on Congress to re-introduce and pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. For all of us.
So I hang a fresh new “fu” (Chinese word for good fortune) on my front door – upside down for a little Chinese wordplay on “has arrived” – and I am ready to make things happen this new year.