From Communist China to Proud U.S. Citizen: A Conversation with Author, Speaker & Entrepreneur Helen Raleigh

A Desi Woman Podcast
From Communist China to Proud U.S. Citizen: A Conversation with Author, Speaker & Entrepreneur Helen Raleigh


Soniya Gokhale (00:05):
Welcome back to another episode of A Desi Woman Podcast. I am your host Sonia Gokhale. And the voices I am seeking may have never been heard before, but their stories deserve to be told. What is a Desi woman? She’s a dynamic fearless and strong woman. She is your mother, your grandmother, your daughter, your sister. She is every one of us who is on an endless pursuit of self-empowerment and fulfillment. I am Soniya Gokhale and I am a Desi woman. Hello, and welcome to another edition of A Desi Woman Podcast. I am your host Soniya Gokhale and today we are so excited to be joined by Helen Raleigh. Helen Raleigh was born and raised in communist China. She came to the United States as a college student, knowing nobody in this country and with less than $100 in her pocket, like millions of immigrants with a craving for freedom, Helen came to the United States in search of the proverbial American dream.

Soniya Gokhale (01:15):
Through a combination of hard work and scholarships, Helen earned her master’s degree in business economics from the State University of New York, and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Wyoming. Helen is the author of several books and a senior contributor at The Federalist, her writings have also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, City Journal, Fox News, National Review, Newsweek and other national media outlets. Helen is also a highly sought after public speaker and political commentator. Her media appearances include Fox News, Newsmax, One America News Network, C-SPAN, PBS and numerous radio talk shows and podcasts.

Soniya Gokhale (02:04):
Helen is also a leader in her community. She serves as a board member of a Colorado municipal bond supervision advisory board. Previously, Helen has also served on the Colorado State Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights. Helen welcome to the show.

Helen Raleigh (02:24):
Thank you for having me Soniya.

Soniya Gokhale (02:26):
Well we are so excited to speak with you. And I actually came across your work for the first time in a Newsweek article regarding critical race theory. And I was really blown away by the perspective because it’s not one that is often covered and in media. And I think it’s one of the reasons I was actually inspired to launch this podcast series. And that is because voices like ours from our diaspora, from South Asia, immigrants are not often heard and both viewpoints. So there’s a huge contingency of those that maybe are of liberal persuasion, but I really like to have informed guests who represent all viewpoints and perspectives. Because I want to remain neutral but I’m learning throughout these interviews, and that is exactly the case in this interview. And I have pulled from various interviews that you’ve done and that’s the basis for a lot of my questions.

Soniya Gokhale (03:28):
And so you state that immigrants like yourself came to the US to escape socialism, not to encounter another round of a so-called socialist experiment. And you personally know all too well where it will lead as you only have to look at Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela to name a few. You also note that socialism has been tried too many times in different places, and the end result is pretty much guaranteed to basically not be a good outcome. So I just was wondering if you could speak to that just a bit more.

Helen Raleigh (04:05):
Sure. I actually wrote a book about it, it’s an autobiography starting with my great-grandfather’s experience. So it’s a 4th generation, so my family’s experience of living and try to surviving under socialism in China. So the book is called Confucius Never Said. So let me just give you a quick story about my own experience. I grew up in communist China and when I was a young the communist China still had the food ration system. And so every family has a number of foot stamps. So United States only poor people, people on welfare have food stamps by back then in China every household have food stamps because there was a food shortage. So the food stamp was a way for the government to control food distribution. And in my case the way food stamps and the food ration, the way how it worked was that it’s based on gender.

Helen Raleigh (04:58):
So for the same age boys and girls, a boy would receive about the four more pound rice each month than a girl. And I just had a funny story I wrote this in my book that it’s really not funny ha-ha, but it’s kind of funny now looking back. So my Chinese name happened to be a very popular boys name. And for some reason the government bureaucrats made a mistake, so for a while I was receiving the food rations that were meant for a boy for a same age of boy. But even with those four more pound rice each month, I was still hungry all the time. I dream about the food and I can tell you that my childhood dream most associated with food. I just hoped that someday I’ll be able to eat as much as I can eat whatever I wanted.

Helen Raleigh (05:43):
So that lasted for a while and then one day police, Chinese police came to our house just for random chat. In China they didn’t need a warrant, what they do is that they basically verify your household registration paperwork with everybody in the house to make sure the people who registered are the same people who registered and lived there. Anyway so in my case the police after he compared our paperwork he realized I was a girl, and it actually said on my paper that I was a girl but I did receive this food ration that meant for a little boy. So he said to me that the government made a mistake and he blamed our family for cheating the government. So basically he ordered on the spot that we have to pay the government back for the actual quote unquote actual food rations that we took.

Helen Raleigh (06:34):
So obviously we didn’t have so many food stamps to pay them back. So our family had to go on further diet in order to save enough food stamp to pay the government back. And that just tell you the illustration of life under socialism, we couldn’t even decide how much I could eat. And I will consider that personal experience was my very initial awakening because I didn’t think about ideas as lofty as liberty and freedom back then, all I could think were two questions. One was why can’t I decide how much I wanted to eat? And the second was why does a girl have to eat the less than a boy? I think it’s those questions prompt me to think about the different things as I growing up, led me to where I am intellectually and ideological today.

Soniya Gokhale (07:35):
Well, that is such an emotionally moving story and all I can say is, wow. We see this as well in India and other parts of South Asia where girls are deprived and whether from infancy or onward, it’s just being explicitly expressed in China and it’s chilling. And I think that even unto itself, that story, I wish it was taught more in our American history or rather our global history courses here in this country, because it’s so impactful. And so to your point, I think it’s difficult to remember that you just experienced this within your lifetime. And then it was interesting because I read that in Tiananmen Square while you were in middle school, you first heard the American Declaration of Independence read out loud in Chinese, which I have to say when would that happen? That is absolutely incredible. I doubt that it would ever even be occurring today.

Soniya Gokhale (08:36):
And if I’m wrong on that I would like to hear more from you on that, but also it sparked your curiosity for another way of being governed. And nine years later you came to the US as a student and you are also a business woman, author and policy advocate. And so I wanted to ask you, do you remember what it was like? It obviously left an indelible impression upon you to hear that. But I think what’s really interesting is even at that young age, you longed for something different and you innately knew there could be something more. And I think my parents and a lot of immigrants that came to this country from India share this same feeling. And it’s so enthralling but I don’t think we hear it often enough. And especially as a young woman this story is just so phenomenal. So I just want to hear more from you about that.

Helen Raleigh (09:29):
Well, thank you for that Soniya And it is very amazing, it was an amazing experience because I actually wrote about it in my book also the Confusion Never Said about that episode. I was not personally at Tiananmen Square because I was too young. But initially when the students started to occupy and protesting, and demanding for democracy on Tiananmen Square initially the government was tolerant and they actually broadcasted the movements on Tiananmen Square. That’s why I was able to watch the students, the college students reading Declaration of Independence through TV. And it did touch me deeply because the words, the idea it espoused were so different from what I’ve been taught.

Helen Raleigh (10:17):
What I’ve been taught since very young age was this the society was divided by oppressors and the oppressed, the capitalists weer the oppressors, all of us the [inaudible 00:10:31], the poor people’s we were being oppressed and we all been… The entire society in China back then was divided into different social classes based on… actually not based on what would we have, but what do our parents, or what do our grandparents have. For example, in my book I mentioned it because my great-grandfather was a land owner and land owner was considered evil social class because you owned property that was evil in terms of socialism.

Helen Raleigh (11:00):
So we actually inherited that social class from him, even though in his lifetime the government took all his land away. Our family was extremely poor, but once you were classified in a social class you can never got out of it. And I mentioned the many struggles I faced since a child and also the struggles especially my parents, my dad faced, he was thrown into a labor camp because he’s the grandson of a land owner. So we were taught about this society was always full of class struggle. And it’s always about a revolution about one oppressor against the oppressed. So I never heard those idea about all men are created equal and we actually have some inalienable rights. Rights are non-violable, it’s natural and everybody has it and it just such a refreshingly universal idea.

Helen Raleigh (11:53):
I was too young to fully grasp it back then, but ever since I heard that speech I just wanted to learn more. I never thought I wanted to come to America because as a kid from a poor family going abroad is something it’s beyond the reach, it beyond the reach that you just never dreamed about it until I heard that speech until it instilled the idea in my head. And since then all my effort I mentioned in my book, all my effort was working towards that goal. My family helped me tremendously to help launch me, put me on a plane to come to America. And so I couldn’t thank enough for the students who read that speech on Tiananmen Square.

Helen Raleigh (12:41):
And it’s really sad for me to hear today again we’re talking about convictions, it’s really sad for me to hear today that many native born Americans denounce those ideas, those values contained in the Declaration of Independence and they denounced and condemn this country. For me no matter what flaw this country has those ideas are still universal, it has universal appeals. Those were good ideas, or those are still good ideas and we should continue to strive to realize those ideas not condemning them.

Soniya Gokhale (13:20):
I think it’s such an amazing perspective to hear from you and the way that I actually stumbled upon you and your writings and your background is, pertains to some research I was doing along the lines of critical race theory. And I thought it was a very interesting perspective compelling because I had read some of your interviews as I indicated. And you assert that the political left in America is dividing Americans into groups across racial, socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious lines with the underlying concept that circumstances determine your life. And on the other hand you push back and say circumstances only influence your life with the most important factors being your mind and your actions.

Soniya Gokhale (14:08):
And sort of along those lines you believe that critical race theory is a divisive discriminatory ideology that really compels us to judge people based on their skin color and it’s really penetrated our society. It’s in federal agencies, federal contractors, bias training in school curricula and many corporations are launching diversity training, but few are really willing to speak out against it for fear of being labeled racist or white supremacist. But I was shocked to hear this viewpoint from you as a powerful voice against this ideology, so just want to hear more from you about this.

Helen Raleigh (14:48):
Yeah, by the way, I be called all kinds names all over social media since that piece, and the following piece we published by the Newsweek. I was called racist, a geisha, the B word, the white supremacist all kinds of names, that just showed you how tolerant the radical left. I have dear friends from ideologically to the left of me, so I don’t think all have to share that same view of critical theory, but I think that there is a radical left wing in America that the try to instill that critical race theory into every aspect of American society and their dividing us. And it is a divisive theory because as I mentioned earlier I grew up in socialism, the Marxist ideology was to divide the society into oppressors and those who are being oppressed.

Helen Raleigh (15:43):
And it’s always about classes struggle, I see that in critical race theory it’s really just a Marxist… It’s a reincarnation of the Marxist theory, but it will replace the classes of struggle with racial struggle. So instead of dividing people based on their social economic status, like traditional or old school Marxism now we dividing people based on their skin color. But to me it’s still, for example, as I mentioned earlier I didn’t have a choice of the socioeconomic class it was decided for me. Same thing here according to critical race theory all white people are oppressors and they’re all racist, they already are the racist. All people of color are being oppressed, so basically they divide the society based on people’s skin color.

Helen Raleigh (16:30):
None of us have a choice of our skin color. So in China people are divided based on characteristics that they have no control of and everything’s going downhill from there. So because of your skin color it would determine whether you are a oppressor or being oppressed. And then they tell you that, “The white people is the oppressor and they control everything, they control all the powers there’s nothing you can do to basically to better yourself because they are the one who control all the powers.” And I really disagree with that, again, it’s coming from my own personal experience because when I came here, I had nothing, I had less than a $100 in my pocket. And even today I still speak English with accent I’m obviously a personal of color. And so if America’s society is really described by critical race theory, that is between oppressors or the oppressed I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. And you probably would not be here to do your podcast and working for Nesta.

Helen Raleigh (17:33):
We all we wouldn’t be here doing what we’re doing if American society is such a racial oppressive society. And so that’s why in my article, I mentioned, I think that especially immigrants and Asian American immigrants are really punching a hole in this theory based on our own experiences. And that’s why actually according to the critical race theory is that the Asians are excluded from people of color category because of our own economic success, educational attainment, we are being called by CRT supporters… Asian Americans are being called white adjacent because of our economic success and education attainment, this has showed you it’s such a divisive theory, divisive ideology. It’s really try to teach you about a resentment or try to instill resentment in you, try to instill hopelessness in you, people of color and divide in the society make each one of us at others because how much they look at different from us.

Soniya Gokhale (18:37):
No, I think that absolutely resonates with me and absolutely the concept I think that white power, white privilege, I’d say that especially those from India or South Asia, we were under British rule for how many decades. And so in spite of that we still continued to thrive and absolutely succeed in this country for the most part. And I would say that my parents would never, ever, ever prefer that the United States is a racist country, quite opposite of that. And actually they might say that India is more racist or that we live in a castes based society in India.

Soniya Gokhale (19:21):
And so your comments about the United States are so absolutely relevant and true, and they really appreciate this country for all the things that you’ve indicated. And I was really shocked to hear that a lot of, and these are some of the statistics that you offer that perhaps Asian-Americans discredit critical race theory advocates assertion, that racial prejudice only goes one way from white people to people of color because we see an increase, a spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

Soniya Gokhale (20:01):
But as your article points out, a lot of these do occur in some of the most progressive cities in the United States, but the perpetrators were all non-Asian minorities. And so I have seen a plethora of articles indicating Asian hate crime is on the rise, and you feel like it’s being attributed to white supremacy but the statistics don’t indicate that. And so who is advocating for Asian Americans and saying, “Look, this is where it’s coming from. If you really want to protect us, these are the communities where we’re seeing it from and you can’t just say it’s coming from the Caucasian population in this country.” It’s a very important conversation to have and I really applaud your bravery in bringing it up. And I just want to hear more from you on this.

Helen Raleigh (20:53):
Yeah. I’m very frustrated by what’s going on about those anti-Asian hate crimes. And even though the anti-Asian hate crimes receive a lot of media attention, but we live in a very ridiculous time and even though there are so many anti-Asian hate crimes right now, but at the mainstream media the national media only focus on the kind that fit their narrative. You will only hear them talking about anti-Asian hate crimes when the perpetrators was white like the Atlanta shooting, but prior to the Atlanta shooting and after Atlanta shooting, even as recent as yesterday there are a couple of other local journalists I follow both New York and the San Francisco because those are the two most problematic areas. Those actual areas have seen most a sharp rising of anti-Asian hate crimes. And so you’d have to go follow the local journalists because they are being honest, they are reporting airy anti-Asian hate crimes came into their interior knowledge.

Helen Raleigh (21:58):
And you can see 90% of the perpetrators in those anti-Asian hate crimes they were not white, but the national media ignore those crimes because those crimes don’t fit their narrative about this whole white power, whites are all oppressors, the narrative. That’s why there’s such a low confidence of our national media credibility. I’m frustrated also with the struggle within Asian American community, because, well, first of all, I really do not like the name Asian Americans probably you either, because it’s such a hodgepodge and the CRT supporters often use this term to say, “Oh the schools needs to be more diverse… For example, the elite high schools needs to be diverse because it has too many Asian-Americans.” Oh, come on. If you look at the component of Asian-Americans, we are as diverse as it could be, this is a hodgepodge term covers more than 20 countries of origins.

Helen Raleigh (23:00):
Anytime you go to a… You probably know this, anytime you go to a so-called Asian America or AAPI gathering you probably will hear several or at least a dozen of different languages spoken, and different cultures, ethnicities this Asian-American category is a very diverse category. But the CRT has been honoring us by putting all of us in this one box, so they can say, “Oh, if the student body is made up or over 50% are Asian students then the school is not diverse enough then we must lower our bars to get more other colored students.” And it’s frustrating that some of the Asian liberals within the Asian community because again we are a very diverse community. That some of the liberal Asians actually adopted that argument.

Helen Raleigh (23:53):
So I don’t know if you hear that recently there is a new foundation established by some Asian American celebrities called The Foundation for Asian American Actions. They raised about $250 million, which was very impressive. But if you go to their website, when they talk about that they want to fight back at anti-Asian hate crimes, they very carefully left out all those hate crimes that were committed by non-white perpetrators, they only focused on the hate crimes committed by white perpetrators. So how are they going to fight hate crimes if the majority of the hate crimes were committed buy non-white perpetrators, they didn’t even want to acknowledge that. But because they are organized… But because they are all Asian-American celebrities and they’re on the left of the political spectrum, they have a much bigger platform as if their speaking for the rest of us.

Helen Raleigh (24:47):
That’s why I wrote another article in Newsweek. I said woke Asian-American liberals they cannot speak for all of us because we are a very diverse community. I don’t speak for all of the Asians, we’re a very diverse community. If we really want to prevent or reduce anti-Asian hate crimes we need to hear from the people who actually live in those neighborhood. We need to hear from small shop owners, we need to hear from the Chamber of Commerce from Chinatown, we need to hear from them. They live in those neighborhoods, we do not need to hear from elites who do not live in this neighborhood, but adopt this woke ideology because it has done nothing to help reduce the anti-Asian crimes. We continue to see more and more, even with all the media attention those things really frustrating me.

Helen Raleigh (25:39):
Another thing that really frustrated me is the woke Asian elites saying, “As Asians we have a image problem.” To me it’s like, “No, we don’t have a image problem we have an identity crisis right now,” because we’re not sure what we should follow because our own community is divided too just like the rest of America. I see there’s a class divide that the elites are thinking very differently from people, working class Asian-Americans who actually live in those neighborhood, who runs small business, who are suffering from those hate crimes firsthand so all this together really frustrates me.

Soniya Gokhale (26:16):
All of that. I can recognize that. And your article also brings up a perspective I really hadn’t heard before. But basically Bill de Blasio was attempting to eliminate the specialized high schools admissions tests, and he wanted to replace it with a new admissions process that was based on race. So that student bodies in New York City’s elite public schools and high schools could mirror the city’s overall population and a advocacy group known CACAGNY along with many Asian American families and other allies really protested against this proposal.

Soniya Gokhale (26:57):
And he recanted after his failed presidential bid, but there’s been a lot of reform and it even pertains to curriculum. And I thought this was so fascinating, and it’s so central to our identities as Asian-Americans and that pertains to less of an emphasis on math and science. And so a lot of the arguments that we hear from parents that fuel at curriculum at some of the most elite high schools and institutions across this country are implying that academic standard are suffering, because curriculum is being revised to include topics pertaining to critical race theory, and perhaps overlooking things like math and science and an activists that are advocates for CO2 indicate that that really perpetuates quote unquote white privilege.

Soniya Gokhale (27:52):
And so I will say this it’s troublesome because I interviewed a director with Microsoft. And do you know that only 4% of the workforce in Silicon Valley is comprised of Asian… I’m sorry Native Americans, blacks, or Hispanics. And so this actually is putting them even farther behind if this is indeed true. I just have to call that out because these are populations that are at risk that are not being represented right now in Silicon Valley. So they’re being hurt by this as well if it’s indeed the case. And again this is permeating all areas, even public schools and elite private schools across the country. But it was fascinating to hear that would strike a chord with Asian parents everywhere because our whole existence in this country hinges upon education. And that usually pertains to engineering, medicine, mathematics and it’s how we came to add value in these communities and in this country. So that strikes a chord in us that it may not make sense to other populations, but it’s so unique to our community so just wanting to hear from you about that.

Helen Raleigh (29:06):
Sure. I actually will invite you and your listeners to check out my latest article in the Newsweek, I actually talk about how woke racism has become a systematic issue and a lot of those relate to education. So a couple of things, my husband and I we both are huge advocate for school choice and for education. And then my husband has been mentoring inner city high risk high school students for over a decade. And we set up scholarship to help many of them are first generation of immigrant families or first to go to college. So we want to see more kids from black and brown communities to go to really good school, whether it’s a good high school and then go to college to be very successful in life. And you hit it right on the nail on the head that education is so important for this upward mobility because Asian communities prove that.

Helen Raleigh (30:05):
And also within Asian community I mentioned about economic success earlier, but within Asian community because it’s such a diverse community there’s a huge income gap with the Asian community. Above a certain subgroups within Asian communities actually they’re medium income are less than the medium income in America. So for many of those families education is the only way for their children to get out of poverty, to realize their American dream. That’s why education attainment is so important to our community. In our community 60% of the Asians are immigrants. Like me many of us came here with nothing so education I can personally testify with my own experience, that education is the launchpad for us to establish ourself in a society, to achieve economic success in a society.

Helen Raleigh (31:02):
When you were talking you keep saying if that is true it is true. In my latest article I provide a lot of links, what I think is atrocity to minority kids, black and brown kids is how the CRT theory the supporters now they calling everything is racist, two plus two equals four is racist, science and technology are racist. You’re enforcing students to get right answers or to show their effort how to reach those answers, those demands are racist. Those are not a made up you can go to search my article it has… Everything I mention in my article, I have a link to it. Those are real, real examples. And we want to see more black and brown kids in elite high schools and go to elite colleges, we really need to address the failing public schools.

Helen Raleigh (31:52):
They way you address the failing public schools is not to lower standard, that’s the thing is the CRT supporters said, “Oh, let’s just lower their standard. Let’s just a change… Get rid of a merit based admission, we just do lottery.” But how are you going to launch kids to be successful in a elite high school with such rigorous academic demands, if what they learned in elementary school or middle school did not prepare them for that, you’re setting them up for failure. So we need to address the pipeline not at the end of the education outcome, but throughout the pipeline how do we improve public school education? And to me that’s where school choice come from. Kids learn differently. We need a more choices especially for poor families, so they can choose which school that are best suited for their kids, their children can learn the most and science is not racist.

Helen Raleigh (32:50):
Two plus two is not what white supremacy, to have demand for kids economic performance is not white supremacy, those ideas actually dumb kids down, they set them up for failure. And of course they also, at the same time, they’re teaching them about resentment and the hopefulness for their future because the society is dominated by white power. So there’s nothing they can do to better themselves, all this together is really perpetuating the racial divide in the economic outcome, as well as the education attainment. That is why… It is real, it is happening so it’s not if, it is already happening. That’s why you see in California as well as in Washington State both are two very liberal states that you can see in my article, I mentioned two examples as well as in 2019.

Helen Raleigh (33:45):
There were two elections, a ballot initiative related to reintroduce the race in education in public education that the Asian parents lead that effort to defeat those bad initiatives, because Asian parents recognize immediately how harmful those perhaps bad initiatives will do to their children, and not just their children but the overall education standard. So I really invite you and your listeners I know we’re coming up short on time, but I invite you and your listeners to check out my latest article in Newsweek about how woke racism has become a systematic issue. And every example I gave in my article there’s a link to it, you can check them out.

Soniya Gokhale (34:30):
Okay. We appreciate that. I definitely will have a link to this article, the latest one you’ve mentioned as well as you’re others because as I said they’re enlightening and you do not hear this perspective enough. And I found it especially as a South-Asian and Indian-American to be invaluable. So we cannot thank you enough for joining us today Helen Raleigh and all I can say is I really hope to have you back again, because you have written an amazing book which you referenced. And I know we have so many listeners in the India area, I know that they’d be enthralled by walking through that and that journey. So thank you, Helen Raleigh.

Helen Raleigh (35:08):
Thank you for having me and I just want to close with, I send you my prayers and love to your listeners in India. I know they’re still facing the challenges with COVID, so I just want to let them know that they are not alone and we are here sending them love and the prayers.

Soniya Gokhale (35:25):
Ah, that’s beautiful. Yes, absolutely thoughts and prayers to all of India and surrounding countries that are just being inundated mercilessly really. And thank you again for joining us.



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