Uncovering Asian-American apoliticism

Written by Sammy Park
Senior Staff Writer

Illustration by Kate Rogers
Staff Illustrator

Asian-American parents often push their children towards a career in medicine to the point of it being stereotyped. However, the wellbeing of the Asian-American community has, ironically, nothing to do with how many healthcare professionals we can produce: our future success as a community in America is tied to our political activeness and ability to stand in solidarity with fellow people of color.

Apoliticism is the apathy towards political affiliations. Asian-American apoliticism comes from a combination of a lack of campaigning to the Asian-American community and a cultural disconnect between other communities of color. Despite having higher education and wage levels than all other racial demographics, during the 2010 midterms, Asians only had a 31 percent turnout rate.

Looking at the numbers, it is easy to understand why political strategists would leave out Asian-Americans when campaigning. In the 2010 Census, we constituted less than 5 percent of Americans. In addition, campaigns face extra language barriers when connecting to the community. Unlike Latinx populations that are ethnically different but share Spanish as a common language, Asians do not share a common language. This means that advertisements have to be extremely specific and often times won’t be cost effective.

While the Asian-American community isn’t as large or influential as some other communities of color, Asians are rapidly moving to swing states like Nevada and North Carolina. The underestimation on the part of campaigns of the Asian-American community will ultimately backfire: as their support has the potential to swing close elections.

The difficult task of overcoming Asian-American apoliticism will take more than having political ads in Asian mother tongues. Simply having candidate bios in Korean or Tagalog isn’t enough to make people go to the polls.

Some Asian-Americans often complain about the lack of visibility in the Asian-American community. But the reason that Latinx and Black issues are at the forefront of race discussions is because of the respective communities’ ability to place political pressure on racist organizations or people.

Collective apathy in the name of preserving our reputation as the model minority is the reason why our issues are invisible.

Solving apoliticism has to start with educating Asian-American youth in the importance of being socially aware. For many Asian-American youth, even some Asian-American students who are in progressive environments like SPHS, have little to no political discussion happening at home. And the political discourse that happens is often clouded with a lens of anti-blackness and the parent’s lack of historical background.

An event that crystallizes collective Asian-American cognitive dissonance and lack of solidarity is the fight for Tommy Le’s justice. Tommy Le was an unarmed high school student in Seattle who shot by the police.

Although Le’s death catalyzed Seattle’s Asian-American community to publicly oppose police brutality, their voices were absent when the Seattle police shot and killed Charleena Lyles: a pregnant black woman.

It is important for Asian-Americans to show solidarity with other communities of color because we benefit from the systemic racism that puts Latinx-Americans and Black Americans at a direct disadvantage.

Part of the reason why Asian-Americans have remained apolitical despite typically being more privileged is because of the model minority myth. Since the settling of Asian immigrants in America, White America has directly profited off of pitting Asian-Americans against Black and Latinx-Americans. The model minority myth has also encouraged Asian-Americans to remain silent and apolitical.

In order to defeat Asian-American apoliticism, communities must first defeat the myth that Asian-Americans are more hardworking than other people of color. We must defeat anti-blackness in our community, we need to stand up for the rights of the more marginalized, and we need to be vocal opponents of racism and hatred of all types.

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