Class Divide in Chinese-Americans’ Charity (NYT)


As a schoolteacher in New York’s Chinatown in the 1960s, when the government’s war on poverty seemed focused on blacks and Latinos, Virginia Kee noticed that many of her Asian pupils were too poor to pay $2 for a class trip. To connect community needs with public money, Ms. Kee helped found what is now the Chinese-American Planning Council, one of the largest social service agencies for Asians in the country.

These days, in an era of shrunken public dollars and booming philanthropy, as universities and museums showcase multimillion-dollar gifts by Chinese-Americans, Ms. Kee worries about a different kind of disconnect: a divide between the explosive growth of Chinese-American wealth and the unmet needs of a new generation of Chinese immigrants who have streamed to the city since the 1990s.

In the society pages, out of reach, Ms. Kee said, she sees figures of Chinese-American success at benefits that raise half a million dollars for the Frick Collection or $3 million for breast cancer research.

“We’re out of their orbit,” Ms. Kee observed wistfully. “We get donations from poor people that we’ve helped. We don’t get donations from the rich, who should be helping the poor.” (more…)