One concern that I’ve had for a very long time is how underrepresented the Asian American community is in the United States. Whether in the media or general community, Asian Americans don’t seem to have the same voice or opportunities as other ethnicities in the United States. Part of this has to do with Asian Americans only making up about 5% of the population, but based on the representation that this group receives in the media, it would be the equivalent of this group making up less than 1% of the population. Given the significant academic and professional achievements of Asian Americans in general, it would seem they would be able to gain a more influential voice and higher representation in this country, but it just is not the case. It is concerning that Asian American youth have very few Asian American role models in the public to look up to, because there are so few Asian Americans being represented in the media. It seems everyday that the rights and voices of other minorities are being strongly talked about and discussed in the media, but there are very few conversations revolving around Asian Americans.
However, there is progress being made with different organizations being led by strong leaders in the Asian American community who are striving for change. One of these groups is the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which is: “one of the nation’s leading experts on issues of importance to the Asian American community including: affirmative action, anti-Asian violence prevention/race relations, census, immigrant rights, immigration, language access, television diversity and voting rights. Our expertise is widely acknowledged: in the media, by the public and lawmakers at the very highest tiers of government.” They have made an impact on different policies and programs and have empowered Asian Americans to demand change in policies and programs by their presence in the election process. Furthermore, this organization is focused on: “Creating an Inclusive Society by helping Asian American and other minority groups to successfully challenge discriminatory barriers to fair and equal access to justice in the courts, jobs in the marketplace as well as government programs, benefits and forms of assistance at every level.” This is an organization that needs to be supported in order to promote the rights of Asian Americans in this country.
Another important organization is the US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce. According to their website: “We are the oldest and largest organization representing Asian American and Asian American-related groups in business, sciences, the arts, sports, education, public and community services. In 1984, there was a strong lack of organizations that traced their members’ heritage to Asia, and there was no organization that represented the interests and future of the diverse pan Asian American (includes East, South and Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) business and professional community. Few noticed the growing diversity and size of the pan Asian American (AA) population. Even fewer knew about the burgeoning growth of the AA business community—which would become the fastest-growing group with the highest job creation record, highest household income, highest education attainment (U.S. Census 2010, Pew Research in 2012, and Nielsen Report in 2013). The need for an organization that would address the aspirations, potentials and the challenges of AAs faced in the mainstream market place was essential. Thus, the US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation (USPAACC) was established.” This organization fills a dire need for Asian Americans to receive recognition of their voice in a variety of different fields, business, and in the general public.
Finally one group that supports Asian American youth is AALEAD, which: “envisions a United States in which low-income and underserved Asian Pacific American youth, and youth of all backgrounds, are equipped with the tools and opportunities to define themselves and their own futures. We are the leading community organization that provides educational enrichment and youth development programs to low-income and underserved Asian American youth in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Our highly dedicated staff and Board deliver specialized after school programs, one-on-one mentoring, academic support resources, and life skill development for students through After School, Summer, and Mentoring Programs. We also assist parents with school related issues affecting their children. Our goal is to provide a nurturing environment and culturally sensitive guidance so that each child we serve will be a contributing member of his or her community. Our programs currently serve over 350 students in the District of Columbia; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Fairfax County, Virginia, who represent more than 16 different Asian ethnicities.” This is an example of a local organization that supports and makes an impact for the youth in local communities.
Although the rights and representation of Asian Americans has a long way to go, there have been encouraging signs of progress. There have been more Asian Americans being represented in different areas such as the entertainment industry, in sports, and public policy. There is now the beginning of a presence in these public arenas, when before it was almost nonexistent. It is important that one day Asian Americans be seen on equal footing as other ethnic groups, and not just as foreigners but accepted as Americans with the same rights and opportunities that others have.