I don’t need your witness protection program

Being Asian in California is all the personal protection I need

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Source: Smithsonian Magazine

My coworker was recently telling me about a podcast she had been listening to called Relative Unknown, detailing a woman’s life in the witness protection program after her father testified against fellow Hell’s Angel gang members. Her family was uprooted and sent to a rundown town in Montana.

As a person of Asian descent, I know that this would never happen to me and my family. If we were ever to testify against a band of powerful people and then be shuttled off for our protection, we could never be dumped in a shanty-town in the middle of Nowhere, USA and expected to blend in. A family of Asian Americans showing up in middle America without explanation or legitimate paperwork would certainly arouse the suspicion of the local townsfolk and, in this day and age, would likely result in a surprise visit from ICE.

Or, if this were to play out, we would probably just do what every Asian family, new to America and forced to start from humble beginnings, would do: we’d open the first authentic Chinese restaurant in town and gradually build up our culinary empire in the region. People from surrounding towns would flock to Where-am-I, Montana to get on the 1.5 hour waitlist to eat at Mr. Powlowski’s (our family restaurant based off of our newly assigned last name).

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Lines at newly opened Din Tai Fung. Source: Orange County Register

Even though this would bring us to the forefront of the community, and potentially endanger our lives in the process, we would be able to convince the locals to be our personal security by paying them in weekly rations of dumplings. Once you’ve had authentic har gow and siu mai, you would be willing to lay down your life to ensure its continuation… which, now that I think about it, might have been what got us into witness protection in the first place — the deadly dumpling wars that ravaged Cupertino in the mid 2000s. Oh well, a leopard can’t change its spots.

But really — if the government wanted to ensure the safety of me and my family, they would just move us around to another part of California, where Asians are already the 2nd largest group in population. They’d probably move us to Rowland Heights or some other part of the San Gabriel Valley, which would really work to our advantage because the Asian food there is just so good.

The dossier detailing my new life would place me as a student at one of the University of California campuses. (And even though this would all be fictitious and done purely for personal safety, my parents would still ask me on a daily basis why I couldn’t get into Harvard.)

I would be safe, nestled amongst the other Asian students majoring in Biology or Engineering — which incidentally my parents would love as it would give them a second shot at having a doctor or engineer in the family (a feat that I failed at when I decided to major in Mass Communications the first time around).

I imagine a scene where assassins, able to crack the government’s probably-not-very-encrypted code, track me down to a chemistry lab on campus. “Who is Jennifer Lee?” they would demand, guns pointed. Hearing my new identity, I would bravely stand up. But then so would three other female Asian students in the classroom — all also named Jennifer Lee. And then even after checking our IDs against the instructions they had been given, the assassins still wouldn’t be 100% sure which one of us was the daughter of the mob rat they had been sent to kill. At that point, campus security would have already been called and the assassins would leave before the campus is placed on lockdown and the whole murderous plot is uncovered.

Yeah, it just wouldn’t work the same way. Where snitches get stitches in the outside world, witness protection in the land of Asian invasion means you just get access to increasingly delicious food and a high quality education at more affordable prices. Which really isn’t a bad deal at all.

Ok, US government: I’m ready to tell you everything I know.

As promised, this piece is dedicated to Amy Wigdahl, native of Is-That-a-Real-Place, Montana and now longtime resident of San Francisco, CA.

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