Presidential Election and Freedom Ride Rally
From JoongAng
October 7, 2003

By Kim, DongSuk, from the Coalition for Korean American Voters

Candidates for the next presidential election are busy developing policies and promises to attract voters, creating opportunities to raise our voice to mainstream politicians. Many interest groups from ethnic minorities are making every effort to make the most of it; one of which is the movement among immigrants to rally for equal rights.

Freedom Ride calls for changes in discriminative policies against violations of citizen’s due rights and freedom. It is a campaign against the current policies and practices that challenge immigrants and minority groups everyday. Therefore, it is the duty of the Korean community to participate in this movement.

Freedom Ride has historic precedent. It was one method of the civil rights movement, started in the 1950s, to promote equal rights for African-Americans. Struggles in Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina successfully put an end to segregation law; however, many states maintained discriminatory practices, especially in south.

John F. Kennedy, elected by a very small margin and with 50 percent support, was comparably more favorable to African-Americans’ requests than Richard Nixon. However, it was difficult for him to radically change policy. It was then that the new president of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), James Farmer, brought up the idea of Freedom Rides.

An effective method to requesting abolition of segregation was through sit-in protests in “White-Only” areas. The participants were comprised of both whites and blacks who volunteered as protesters and moved around by buses.
Congressman John Lewis, who spoke at the Freedom Ride Rally at Flushing Meadow Corona Park, was one of the freedom riders in the 1960s, and was lynched by white gangsters and arrested by the police.

Freedom Ride became the symbol of non-violence, a form of protest regarded as a proud heritage for Americans. The current movement is parallel to this civil rights movement in that the scope now extends to all minority groups, against limitations and discriminations of current immigration policy after 9/11.

President Bush, who lost in states where immigration rates are among the highest, is making immigrant’s rights a very high priority in his agenda for re-election. Also, many Republicans are now surprisingly positioned towards more compromising immigration policies.

Still, Democrats and Republicans share a policy that defines a clear distinction between citizens and non-citizens for welfare benefits, whereas citizens and non-citizens are equally responsible for tax requirements. That is clear discrimination, violating the spirit of the American Constitution.

Whether Democrat or Republican, candidates for the 2004 election are not very different from one other in their frugality in immigration policy. For voters, it is important to approach politicians to discuss rights. Gubernatorial campaigns will be held on the east coast and the Republican Party will have one in Manhattan.

Every year there are major events and celebrations within the Korean community. However, it is often limited only to Koreans, despite the fact that we are living in a very diverse society.

Last weekend there was a “Korean parade” in Manhattan and a “Freedom Ride Rally” in Flushing. This non-cooperative attitude, shown in two different events, brings worry to the people working for connecting the Korean community with other ethnic groups to promote immigrant rights.

In a matter of ensuring our survival through uniting with minority groups and sitting against discrimination, Koreans’ participation is much less enthusiastic than other minority groups. We shouldn’t close our doors to neighbor immigrant groups.

It is wiser for the Korean community to join the presidential campaign with other immigrant communities and, through consensus with them, support a single politician. In elections the voter turnouts, amount of votes and size of funds matter, and it without cooperation with other groups united for a single purpose, electing a sympathetic representative will be difficult.

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Translated from Chinese by JooYeon Lee

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