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Turkish-Americans in California

Ayşe Önal Zamboğlu - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. -
According to U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey, California’s foreign born population ranks the first among the 50 states with a population of 9,916,453. This is about 27% of the state’s whole population.
The tremendous racial and ethnic diversity of California makes it easier on alien residents, immigrants, and practically anyone who chooses to call the state home. You don’t feel alienated where everyone is an alien. Our fellow Turkish friends and Turkish-Americans in California feel the same way. 
In California there are over 10 Turkish-American non-profit/not-for-profit organizations including active sister-city organizations such as Friends of Merzifon, Turkish American Associations of California (TAAC), American Turkish Associations of Southern California (ATASC), Turkish American Business Connections (TABC), TAAF, Los Angeles Turkish American Associations (LATAA), Orange County Turkish American Associations (OCTAA), Friends of Anatolia are the first ones that come to mind, some of which are operating with active chapters in different geographic locations as well.

There are also groups for professionals to network and to exchange ideas that get together on monthly bases, but are not structured enough to be an organization.  With that many organizations around one would expect to see more synergy. Most of the organizations could be better structured and have more influence, there is no doubt about that; however, we should note there has been an improvement over the last couple years. Turkish-Americans are gaining more American friends that are active in community service.

They are getting more involved in the state’s political affairs and they are raising funds for the politicians they feel will voice their concerns.  It is not easy to do that in a state like California where the Armenian and Greek lobbies are very strong. Despite that fact, Turkish Americans have managed to get some supporters in the political arena (late Tom Lantos (D) is an example) and in my opinion it is only going to get better from now on.  

The demographics of Turkish-Americans in California is quite impressive; most of them are young professionals with advanced degrees in their area of expertise (especially in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego Metropolitan Area). Some have founded their own companies; others play an important role in their industry.

There many entrepreneurs starting new businesses in many different areas in addition to the technology companies, such as trading goods from Turkey, or opening a restaurant (the number and quality of Turkish restaurants in California have gone up remarkably in the past 5 years). These are all important facts as they all relate to Turkish-American presence in California. With many of these people becoming citizens and permanent residents of USA, most of the unfair lobbying activity will eventually reverse in the favor of Turkish Americans.

What we need to focus on next is working better together both in socio-cultural and business contexts. We should stop 'reinventing the wheel’: Everyone who wants to do something founds another non-profit organization. In some cases it may be beneficial but in most cases the amount of energy required to start a new organization is underestimated. If we focus more on what is missing in the existing set-up and focus our efforts to better it, we will get better results.

It will be a shame not to take advantage of California’s perfect climate that fosters many culturally diverse groups. We have the chance to show people form many different backgrounds what Turkey and our culture is really about. The same goes for the business aspect: Technology companies in California work on partnerships with different companies from everywhere in the world. We have chance to be that bridge between Turkey and California. We all have the good intentions and we all have the potential. It is all about commitment we should make to ourselves and our fellow Turkish American friends to work together.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07