This reflection (and I do cover my reflections upon the Chinatown community in my blog post and will do so in future reflections!) tries to capture my thoughts on what the Urban Institute program has exposed me to.
I applied to this program b/c I realize that I grew up and currently hold an immense amount of privilege, socioeconomically, and have not really interacted w/ the struggles that characterizes Chinatown CDC’s fight: affordable housing, senior living, open spaces, transportation justice, legal representation in immigration and housing, business development.
I grew up in San Ramon in the East Bay, just across the bay from San Francisco. When I was in Maryland for undergrad, I even told others that I was from San Francisco b/c that was the nearest city that other folks not from California would recognize – and I am slowly realizing the gross inaccuracy of that mischaracterization. My parents are immigrants from China – but part of a new wave of Chinese immigrants in the 80s that came from Communist China by the way of their education. My parents both went to top-tier universities in Mainland China, got PhDs overseas in Japan, and came here to take tech jobs here in the Valley, facilitating the upper-middle class upbringing that I was born into. I never worried about housing b/c my parents moved here before the dotcom bubble burst and were able to purchase a home and slowly pay off a reasonable mortgage over the course of my childhood, so the thought of eviction never even crossed my mind. San Ramon was a suburban town w/ open spaces, parks, and foothills seemingly every block – and so I had an amazing childhood, running and biking around. Although we had almost no public transportation, my parents owned cars – and also chose to live in a house a 10-minute walk away from school, so transportation was never an issue for me. My parents aggressively saved for retirement, so I never worried about how they would provide for themselves after their earning power declined.
My time at the Naval Academy in Maryland and studying engineering at Stanford has further cemented a feeling of ease and security. I went to perhaps the only undergraduate institution in the country that can boast a 100% employment rate after graduation – so I never worried about the marketability of my skills nor did I ever thinking about job training, re-skilling, etc. Stanford Engineering was all too familiar as well – it seemed as if all the head-hunters came to campus to try to scout out my cohort-mates and the only question was which offer to accept after graduation and that familiar Stanford complaint – which job would be most fulfilling – w/o even a worry about the sustainability or economic feasibility of a job b/c those were fulfilled assumptions - taken for granted.
So, it’s been emotionally challenging and intellectually stimulating to engage the Urban Institute cohort, the Chinatown CDC staff, and the Chinatown constituents. Here are some main strands of questioning that I am engaging: