Blog: Lawrence Almeda

Lawrence G. (L.G.) Almeda is a lawyer with Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, one of the nation's largest Intellectual Property law firms. L.G. chairs the firm’s Nanotechnology Practice Group and has recently been appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, State Advisory Committee. L.G. will be writing about Michigan's multicultural future as well as his work in IP as it relates to emerging technologies.

Lawrence Almeda - Post 2: More Work to be Done

This is America. Like many, I have kids. I have three young active curious boys and one baby girl literally a few days old. I want UNLIMITED opportunities for my children. I want their goals to be reachable so long as they work hard. I want their dreams to become a reality—The American Way.

When my parents immigrated to the U.S., their decision was mostly about economics to make a better life for their family in the new world. Today, I also want to make a better life for my family, but I'm not just concerned about economics; Asian American issues today are a little more complex.

For example, with their acclaimed work ethic, Asian Americans apparently have less issues about being employed with decent jobs. However, have you heard of the bamboo ceiling for many Asian Americans? How many Asian American corporate managers/supervisors are you aware of? Better yet, how many CEOs or members of corporate boards are Asian American? How many Asian American (Article III) federal judges do we have in Michigan?


How many Asian American federal judges are there across the nation? Nine out of more than eight hundred. I'll say it again. There are 9 out of 807 federal judges with Asian American decent. Most of them are in California and Hawaii.

Locally, how many Asian American Oakland County circuit judges—state judges—are there? As of October 2007, the first Asian American was sworn-in to the Oakland County Circuit Court. People say "This is great progress!" I say, "It's about time." Some call this discrimination, but I call it a lack of cultural awareness from both sides.

From the Asian American side, I believe it's a lack of understanding of what it takes in America to influence others. And influence leads to change. Asian American immigrant parents teach their kids an excellent work ethic, e.g., work hard, do a good job, be on time, follow the rules -- all of which are recipes for success wherever you go. But many also teach them to be quiet, be humble, don't speak up, avoid confrontations, keep a low profile -- all of which are recipes for success in Asia.

However, as we all know, components for success in America are almost direct opposites. From the mainstream, as mentioned, I believe it's a lack of Asian culture awareness, along with overlooking the potential and strength that Asian Americans have.

Today, I promote ethnic and cultural awareness through a number of organizations in which I actively participate. As a shameless plug for them, some organizations in which I serve include the Governor's Advisory Council on Asian Pacific American Affairs --a bi-partisan group of appointed Asian Americans in Michigan who serve to advise the Governor on issues that impact the Asian American community; American Citizens for Justice (AKA Asian American Center for Justice)--a Michigan-based Asian Pacific American civil rights group that was initially formed in 1983 out of reaction to the 1982 racially-motivated fatal beating of Detroit Chinese-American Vincent Chin; and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, State Advisory Committee—a group of federally appointed members who serve to assist the Commission with its fact-finding, investigative and information disseminating functions.

I encourage Asian Americans to retain and embrace their Asian identity, and not just assimilate. Most immigrant parents were concerned with establishing themselves in the new world and literally putting food on the table, so it is understandable that Asian cultural awareness may not have been emphasized in my household or in the 60's and 70's or even the 80's for that matter. Today, though, I have no excuse not to help promote Asian cultural awareness in the United States.

And it is needed today. My first grade teacher was innocently not aware of many other cultures other than mainstream American cultures. That was 30 years ago, but believe it or not, there is still a lot of awareness needed in our communities today.

Not long ago, my friend Jack—a Chinese American—was approached by a Caucasian male who innocently asked Jack whether the Chinese language was the same as Japanese or Korean languages. Before this happened, I could think of no person who may have considered this. There are many people today who could use cultural awareness, perhaps not to this magnitude, but nevertheless would greatly benefit from cultural education.

Today, there are strong incentives to learn more about Asian countries and cultures. As Asian companies continue to grow and maintain businesses in the United States, I take advantage of this wave of opportunity and advocate yet another reason to spread cultural awareness.