Despite the whirlwind of social reform and activist movements in American society, Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) continue to be underrepresented and underappreciated. As change begins in the government, APIs must strive to hold a greater presence in politics.
As a minority, APIs possess a disadvantage in society. However, they are especially underrepresented in government; according to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), APIs only hold 14 positions out of 435 in the U.S. government. With such a weak presence, the struggle to be heard becomes a nearly impossible challenge.
Politics is the driving force behind any legitimate social change. Movements may become viral through social media, but they may only begin to make a true difference once activists become lobbyists and elected government officials. Through advocating for bills and new laws, lobbyists can push for change by proposing a concrete solution to legislators.
“Political representation for APIs is so pertinent because we are now a growing minority, yet we still don’t have proper representation. It leaves APIs voiceless,” said Claudia Yu, a junior at Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel, California. In March 2016, Claudia participated in the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project (APYLP), which is a leadership conference that encourages APIs to get involved in politics and embrace their culture in order to make their voices heard make their voices
In order to combat the neglected status of APIs in American society, communities today are now actively striving to increase API involvement within local, state, and federal government. Young APIs especially possess the potential and opportunity to change the course of API representation because of their firsthand knowledge of the struggles of their immigrant parents and their experience living as integrated members of American society. Many organizations and internship programs, such as APAICS and APYLP, have sought out aspiring API activists in high school and college and encouraged them to take action.
“I’ve always thought politics wasn’t interesting, but maybe it’s because I never saw people like me in office,” said Amy Kim, a junior at Valencia High School from Valencia, California. “Asians and Pacific Islanders have a lot to say and a lot to give back to the world. If we had more of a voice in government, I know that we can make a difference–not just for APIs but for society as a whole.”
Today, APIs have made some advancement in politics. Mona Pasquil, appointed on January 25, 2011, serves as the Appointments Secretary for California Governor Jerry Brown. Daniel Kahikina Akaka, another API, is a U.S. senator. The contributions of API politicians today are essential to encouraging API youth to pursue a voice in politics.
In America, APIs deserve the right to improve their condition just like any other minority in this nation’s mixing pot. Social progress comes only with active involvement in government policies, where it matters most. Rather than viewing politics as intimidating, we must realize that it is a gateway for positive change. In the future, more APIs may be the new leaders of America.