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What Poor Black and Latino Families Can Learn from New OC Supervisor Andrew Do

Posted by Walter Myers III on February 12, 2015

Andrew_Do_HeadshotThis morning Andrew Do, newly elected member to District 1 of the Orange County Board of Supervisors (pending completion of a recount), told a compelling story to the Lincoln Club of Orange County of how his family was whisked out of Saigon in the dark of night back in 1975 after the fall of Vietnam to communism. Andrew related how his family was allowed to leave with the clothes on their backs and only two small bags. Just imagine having to decide what are your most prized possessions in only a couple of hours. For most people this would be very difficult, given our propensity to collect more and more things in this wealthy society. But for Andrew’s father, the choice was clear. Their most prized possessions were… four dictionaries. Yes, dictionaries. Andrew’s father reasoned that moving to a new world as an Asian immigrant required knowledge and education, and it was this example of this key priority set by his father that left an indelible impression on him. Young Andrew went on to use his knowledge to build a successful career as an attorney, and most recently was former District 1 supervisor Janet Nguyen’s Chief of Staff (whose seat he just won after she moved on to state assembly).

When Andrew’s family settled in the United States, they were given food stamps. One day when Andrew’s father used food stamps, not really knowing what they were, he noticed that people looked upon him with disrespect. Upon discovering that food stamps were a form of welfare, Andrew’s father refused to use food stamps any further, declaring that his home would work for everything they had and would not accept a victim mentality as new immigrants in America. Wow, if only illegal immigrants in America, who admittedly are hard workers, refused to accept benefits that they did not rightfully earn. Andrew’s father knew this was a trap, teaching his children to depend on themselves and to use their knowledge and hard work to move forward in their lives. Another key point Andrew made in his speech was that even though his supervisor district is over 20% Vietnamese, it was by no means a slam dunk because other Vietnamese candidates were running as well who split the vote. What he relied on was the appeal of Republican values that focus on limited government, maximum liberty, and creating a business environment where people can pursue and realize their dreams based on their own hard work and ingenuity. Indeed, that’s why his message resonated with his constituency and of course, with the Lincoln Club. That is precisely what we are about and we celebrate for all no matter your background.

And this leads me to the title of this little post. Of course it was difficult for immigrant Asian families to succeed back in the 1970s in a far less accepting society than it is now. And yes, back then blacks were accepted no better after centuries of slavery and Jim Crow. Yet in 1975, blacks did have equal access to education for the most part, as I can attest to growing up in the south in Virginia. I was only a couple of years older than Andrew, and my parents always told me that an education was my ticket to a successful life, and that the worst for blacks was behind us so with hard work and determination I could succeed at whatever I set out to do. So Andrew’s parents were right, and so were mine. And there Andrew and I sat in that meeting today whereas we both probably looked wistfully into the future back in 1975. Four decades later, a recent statistic from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the nuclear family in America at near meltdown, with one in five children living on food stamps, and only 17% of black teens living with their nuclear family. Even in white families, we see an all time low of 54%. But when it comes to minority communities, these levels represent a needless tragedy. The lack of two parent homes and a lack of emphasis on education has consigned too many minority children to poverty and a future devoid of success. My only hope is that there will be a renaissance in these downtrodden communities, and obviously a renewed emphasis on education is in order. We can learn a lot from Andrew Do’s experience, and we must carry that message of hope into minority communities who have far more opportunity than in 1975.

5 Responses to “What Poor Black and Latino Families Can Learn from New OC Supervisor Andrew Do”

  1. Candice said

    When Saigon fell and families left, they came to America with the idea of assimilating and making a new life. Andrew’s family is but one of the many success stories I’ve heard over the years like this.

  2. TheMarshallPlan said

    While I agree that Andrew Do is a great example, and understand why you mentined Black and Latinos, I ask why should his story of success should only apply as an example to poor Black and Latinos, instead of all, including poor Asians and Whites.

  3. Walter Myers III said

    MarshallPlan,

    That is a fair question, and you are correct that it would apply to all people and not just certain “groups.” I am (what is labeled) black and I lived in Mexico for some time, so I am particularly sensitive to black and Hispanic issues. The problem is that we have very high poverty and out-of-wedlock births in the black and Hispanic communities that is bordering on the epidemic, which I partially noted in the last paragraph. The education statistics are dismal in those communities. They are not dismal in the majority of white communities and certainly not in Asian communities. I hope that explains things, and thank you for your post.

  4. Paco Barragán said

    It is admirable the lessons taught by Supervisor Andrew Do’s father.

    But I think the post above perpetuates some misconceptions.

    First of all, there is a big difference in the immigrant experience of Latinos/Hispanics/Mexican-Americans vs the arrival of Vietnamese-Americans.
    A big percent of Vietnamese-Americans came as REFUGEES, and thus able to USE substantial PUBLIC assistance NOT available to other groups.

    This REFUGEE PUBLIC assistance can make a big difference in the transition of immigrants whether documented or not.

    For example, we came with my family to the USA as LEGAL residents when I was 9 yrs old (in May 1973). My mother was a single mother, with 5 kids, and I am the second to the oldest. My mom realized that public assistance would not be enough, and that it might hamper us in the long-run. Although, she was uneducated, she always emphasized education to all of us. I worked in the fields of Merced County with my brothers and sisters (from when I was 12-19 yrs old). Often, we would be my older’s brothers (at 16yrs old), his “rag-tag” crew, and he would obtain contracts for us to pick in the fields. I paid my way through college, and that of my ex-wife. I then also paid for my wife’s education up to her Master’s degree. I helped my daughter with her education, and she graduated from college last year. My son is about to graduate in about 18 months. We graduated with zero school debt.

    Secondly, Public Assistance (Welfare) is only available for US citizens or Legal Residents. Now granted there are households that consist of MIXED status households, but again, welfare is only available for US Citizens or Legal Residents.

    More importantly, there is a NEGATIVE Misconception that Latinos/Hispanics/Mexicans use the most welfare. This is a FALSE misconception.
    There are negative and false assumptions and stereotypes of the economic participation/contributions by Latinos and of our work and family values.

    Looking at California for example where the greatest majority of Latinos resides.

    For example, “in 1990 Latinos had the lowest welfare use of any group; Latinos receiving public assistance represented 29% percent of all Latinos in poverty. By contrast, in other groups, those receiving public assistance formed a much higher percentage, ranging from 61 percent for non-Hispanic Whites, to 75% for African-Americans.

    Thanks to welfare reform in the late 1990s, by 2000 the welfare rates for all groups had dropped. Still, continuing the 1990 picture, a far lower percentage of Latinos in poverty received public assistance in 2000 than non-Hispanic Whites or African-Americans.” This was 17.2% for Latinos; 36.8% for Non-Hispanic Whites, and 24.5 for African-Americans.”

    For 60 years (based on Census data), three generations, from 1940 – 2000, the data shows “that Latino males have been the most active element in the state’s labor force”.

    “Employment in the private sector generates wealth, while employment in the public sector basically redistributes wealth. From 1940 to 2000 Latino males counted in the census have been by far more likely to be employed in the PRIVATE sector than non-Hispanic whites, Asian/Pacific Islanders, or African-Americans. Again, for nearly three generations, Latino males have been the most active element in the workforce participating in the wealth-generating private sector.”
    “Also from 1940-2000, Latino households were far more likely than non-Hispanic white, African-American, or Asian/Pacific Islander households to be composed of couples with children.”

    Based on Census data…see “La Nueva California – Latinos in the Golden State” by Dr. David E. Hayes-Bautista pages 74-76.

    Again, the Census data for the last 60 years, demonstrates that as Latinos we use the lowest level of welfare/public assistance; we are primarily in the private sector creating wealth for our families and our community, and whether for better or for worse for some families, we have united families, driven by a a strong value.

    Francisco “Paco” Barragán CPA, CIA
    passed CISA Exam

    (*) Co-Founder, Board member, & Director of Operations of an organization fighting human trafficking
    (*) Commander, UMAVA (United Mexican-American Veterans Association)
    (*) Past President & current Board Governor:The Inst. of Internal Auditors – OC Chapter
    (*) Past President, ALPFA – OC Chapter (Assoc. of Latino Professionals in Finance & Accounting)
    (*) Past Chairman, Audit Committee – OC Community Housing Corp
    (*) Co-Founder & past Board member, TECMA-OC (Technology, Entrepreneurship and Culture Mexican Association). Mexican Consul in Santa Ana is an Honorary non-voting member

    (*) For identification purposes only. All of the above, all-volunteer not-for-profits.

    • Walter Myers III said

      Francisco, thank you for your reply and your compelling story. I want to respond to a couple of points, though. First, as noted in my post, the Do’s elected not to receive public assistance even though they qualified for it. Second, no one is charging here that Latinos/Mexicans/Hispanics use the most welfare. So there is no false misconception here. What is true is that even though Blacks/Hispanics do not receive the majority of public assistance, percentages within both of those groups are higher than whites or Asians. Blacks, of course, are the worst relative to the total population by percentage. So the question is why do these percentages not reflect the population as a whole? I can certainly speak to why this is a problem in the Black community, but you would have more knowledge of the Hispanic community than I do as to what are the causes. And with respect to the poverty rate, it is over 20% for both Blacks and Hispanics (27% vs. 24%, with Whites at 10% and Asians at 12%). So this is not just about welfare and I wasn’t intending to make this about welfare statistics alone, but poverty in general.

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