In a better world, the Ying family would emigrate to the sunny uplands of the United States and bask in prosperity and freedom. Emigrate they did — but without money and speaking no English, they settled in a poor neighborhood of a poor city, Oakland, Calif. And there, Ying Ma was forced to confront some of the shameful aspects of life in this country.
Though far less poor than her classmates in China, the Oakland kids felt entitled to steal. On one of her first days in an American classroom, Ying Ma was shocked by the brazen theft of a shiny mechanical pencil one of her Chinese classmates had given her as a farewell present.
Ying Ma was also a victim of racism — though not in the way Americans are comfortable dissecting and condemning. Her mostly black and Hispanic classmates and neighbors engaged in daily racist taunts and sometimes violence. They victimized Asians of every stripe, calling Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese and Filipinos “Chinaman,” “ching chong” or “chow mein.” Black high school students screamed abuse at a middle-aged Cantonese cafeteria worker, calling her a “stupid Chinaman.” Though Ying burned with fury, she could do little to respond. “Physically, we were usually no match for those who discriminated against us. Culturally, we were predisposed to be less confrontational than our non-Asian peers.”
Ying Ma herself was able to go to Cornell and then Stanford Law School.
Despite her difficult path, she loves America. Her journey has made her the very best kind of conservative — one whose love of liberty, order and self-reliance has been forged through gritty experience.