Asian Americans in politics

Can Asian Americans determine who will become the next president this November?

We’re 18 million and rising, as of the 2010 census, yet we’re three times greater than other minority groups to swing in political beliefs.

Leaders working in the political spectrum discussed these AAPI issues at V3 Digital Media Conference on Saturday.

Los Angeles alone boasts a population of more than a million Asian Americans, but only 298,000 voted in the 2008 election. Given those ratios, we need to encourage the community to register to vote and physically get them to the polls, said Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed of the Civic Engagement Project.

But Curtis Chin of the Asian Pacific Americans for Progress said having everyone vote is still not enough.

Our main concern is not physically getting Asian-Americans to the polls, but educating them to become informed voters. Without knowing the issues that matter to them, they won’t know what they want or what they’re voting for.

Moderator Richard Lui of MSNBC asked the panelists if the Asian-American community lacks a unified voice.

Chin said a recent refugee does not share the same agenda as a fifth-generation Asian American. That doesn’t mean that the two can’t evolve to become a unified community, but until we find a unified voice, it may be difficult to identify with each other.

Christine Chen of APIA Vote said the AAPI voice has improved throughout the years. Twenty years ago, there might have been a handful of organizations advocating for API rights, whereas there are now several advocacy groups.

What are the issues the Asian Americans care about?

Chen said based on surveys, the ongoing concerns are centered around jobs and the economy. Housing prices continue to be a top priority.

Bill Wong of The Sunfire said immigration issues are still a top issue, but because the Latino population is more prevalent in that case, our voice may not be as loud. That issue is not reflected as unique to Asian Americans, Wong said.

Amy Lieu, an AAJA-LA member, asked the panelists about the imbalanced media coverage of Asians in politics and voting. Panelists agreed that Asian-Americans are not quite part of the Sunday discussion.

Ahmed said ethnic media outlets have become more politically savvy than they have in the past.

We have stories to tell and if the mainstream media is not telling those stories, you all have the power to blog about it, Ahmed said.

“You can make that difference,” she said.

Chin spoke about the hope of political action among young people.

People of Asian heritage who grew up in the United States in the 1960s had to define what it meant to be Asian-American. Young people today are living it without having to explain what it means, Chin said, which may lead to advances in the political agenda.

Holly Pablo,  V3con blogger

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