Prompt: Asian American communities throughout the U.S. have often shown lower levels of civic engagement than other immigrant communities, including lower-than-average voter turnout. How does your Asian American identity inform the way you engage with your community? What do you think our community should do in order to further Asian Americans’ civic engagement?
In 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump faced off in the presidential election. US voters were more engaged in the political process than ever before, as the number of voters was the highest in US history. The number of Asian American voters also was the highest ever. One million Asian Americans voted in the 2016 election as opposed to the mere 589,000 Asian American voters in 2008. However, while this may seem like a big jump in participation, it is measly when viewed in the context of the total Asian American population, which was 17 million in 2010. Clearly, only a small minority of Asian Americans are civically engaged in the greater community. Although many Asian Americans–especially first generation Asian Americans–may not understand why their civic engagement is important, Asian Americans who are civically engaged can benefit the greater community with their unique half Asian–half American perspective as well as benefit Asian American families and individuals. The challenge is twofold: convincing Asian Americans that their community participation will reap these benefits and motivating Asian Americans to become involved.
Being a second gen Chinese American, I represent roughly over a fifth of all Asian Americans in a pool ranging from 21 different cultures. As such, it is heavily important that I set a good example. Regarding engaging in my community, I am closely knit with my school body. I volunteer for school programs and participate heavily in school events. I also am very familiar with my Chinese community, partaking in Chinese Culture Day held at the Botanical Garden and volunteering at St. Louis Modern Chinese School. Growing up in an American culture with a Chinese background gives me two major perspectives to every situation I encounter. As such, it is easier for me as to contemplate what others believe and value to come up with potential blind-spots or new ideas to consider. Regarding Gen one-ers, it is also crucial that they play a part in community engagement. Their knowledge can not only be provided to others, but they also have a deeper understanding of the Asian perspective. That understanding can be used to integrate with other ideas to create new and better thoughts. Attending your neighborhood association or joining your child’s School PTA is a great start to engage with the outer community.
Being civically engaged is important. Not only does it provide the obvious benefit of making your community better through actions and support, but it also makes so that you can have a voice in the greater of things. Take for example candidates running for the presidential campaign. If a candidate does not see any potential in the group, he or she will completely ignore all thoughts and comments from said group. Making sure that there is a representative that voices your needs and thoughts is crucial. This can be achieved by letting the candidate recognize you by engaging and partaking in your local and civic community. The Asian American population has grown by 72% from 2000 to 2015. We have the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group, and it only keeps getting bigger. If we don’t do something now, we would lose the chance to create a voice that represents Asian Americans. By being engaged in your community and civically, you can make sure Asian Americans will have a representation for future generations.
Participating with the civic community as an Asian American can not only provide fresh new ideas from different perspective, but also be able to secure a civic voice that will be able to strongly represent us Asian Americans.