The Trifecta Solution for Asian American Participation in Politics
It’s what prohibits societies to mandate involvement and inclusion in policies; it restricts individuals to getting physically awarded in dance recitals, or in my case, “Jai Ho” performances. It’s what hinders societies to create order and justice. It was, is and always will be the imminent threat of democracy, community and unity.
Lack of Participation.
Personally, these three words were used as a complaint in my illustrating parent-teacher conferences and was the reason why I didn’t get a participation trophy in my dance recital in the first grade. Nevertheless, it seems like, unfortunately, participation is exceedingly highlighted in a negative light in the divisive realm of politics. As the “United” States of America is growing more and more divided, it seems like civic engagement is becoming the most problematic issue that Asians face in the status quo within the political arena. The low voting rate among Asian Americans is a strange paradox given that education is strongly linked to greater civic engagement (Campbell, 2009) and Asian Americans tend to be more highly educated than other ethnic groups on average (Pew Research Center, 2013). In short, Asian Americans have become invisible political giants in the arena of politics. Thus, it is, unfortunately, imperative that I must ask myself the question: What do I think our community should do in order to improve Asian Americans’ civic engagement? The answer is three-fold. First, we must educate; second, we must consolidate; lastly, we must cooperate.
Telling Asians to educate their children is like asking Trump to stay active on his Twitter account: it’s inevitable. While it is true that Asian Americans have a common trend of high levels of education, the same can not be said regarding political education. Clearly, investment in political awareness and civic engagement knowledge must be implemented into schools more profoundly to ensure adequate youth voter turnout. Moreover, Kate Crowhurst, a a financial capability specialist and author states in her Telegraph article in 2015 that “to see a dramatic change in youth voter turnout, investment needs to be made in political education in schools; not hashtags and advertising” (Crowhurst, 2015).To illustrate, the Conversation magazine explains in 2017 that research shows that campaigns that directly contact young people boost youth turnout. Turnout magically increased by 25 percent, when campaigners knocked on young people’s doors to talk about an election (Solomont, 2016). Increasing awareness of how drastic voter turnout has become and the impacts of not exercising democratic rights is vital to increasing civil engagement amongst Asian Americans. Schools could be the perfect place for children to learn about and engage with politics. That is exactly what the first step of my proposed solution will solve: destigmatizing this idea that political power can only be exercised at a certain age. Simultaneously, it would expose Asian Americans, at an early age, the importance of civil engagement and participation.
As the stigma of age and power corrupts the modern 21st century, I have made it my absolute mission to shift this misconception of age and power. As an Asian American individual active in Youth in Government, Speech and Debate, Model United Nations and Gateway to Change, I have used the platforms that I have been given to amplify my voice and others’ as well. For all my life, I have been stereotyped as a math nerd, containing only “book smarts” and a limited intellectual capability, but I have been able to not only shatter that glass of limitations, but also prove that age is simply just that- an age. As the youth are becoming the revolutionary thinkers and reformers in our nation, it is essential and of utmost importance that political leaders and Asian Americans recognize this as well. In essence, implementing clubs like those I listed above, encouraging students to enroll into history-related courses, and allowing for more civic engagement to be promoted throughout the high school level will encompass Asian Americans and other minorities who may have not realized the importance of engagement. Whether it be having annual walk-outs, aiding in political campaigns, or even watching the daily news, I have participated in actions that can lead to Asians to having a more informed perspective in politics by pushing them out of their boundaries. In fact, I have recruited almost a dozen of Asian American individuals in each of my politics-related clubs, which has led to an exponential increase in civil engagement in my school. In short, educating the youngsters of our society about politics and the importance of their voice being heard will allow for widespread impacts.
Secondly, we need to consolidate forces to target Asian American audiences through outreach programs, which is something that isn’t happening almost at all currently. The AAPI data (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) corroborates this when it explains how “only one in every three Asian Americans will be contacted by a political party when it was election time”(He, Vuong, Ta, 2017). This is utterly concerning, for less outreach from politicians understandably alienates these voters (Desai, 2018). Consequently, this behavior decreases the likelihood that Asian Americans will show up at the polls. Thus, those of Asian descent must be targeted through personalized outreach programs that takes into account the ways they are already civically engaged, such as charitable donations and interest-driven activities.
Lastly, the final step is for all individuals to understand the importance of cooperation when it comes to the foundation of our nation: the democracy. The American people recognize the importance of voting in our democracy;in a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, “74 percent of respondents ranked election participation as a very important determinant of good citizenship—above paying taxes and following the law”(Root, Kennedy, 2018). And yet, millions of eligible voters are missing from America’s political decision-making process. Thus, by political leaders conveying the message to all Asian Americans that their cooperation is vital, it will allow them to understand that their vote, voice and presence matters.
It’s what enables societies to mandate involvement and inclusion in policies. It allows for individuals to get physically awarded for this simple noun in dance recitals, or in my case, “Jai Ho” performances. It’s what enables societies to create order and justice. It’s the most simplest, yet complex notion that an individual can do in their position. It means promoting the quality of life or quantity in a community, through both political and non-political processes. It was, is and always will be the pillar of democracy, community and unity. It can be enforced through the trifecta: education, consolidation, and cooperation.