As we gear up for the 2024 election cycle, we can’t make the same mistake of ignoring the needs of diverse AAPI communities.
Since our country’s founding, immigrants from all over the world have come to the U.S. in search of a better life. With more than 13.3 million eligible Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) voters nationwide, we are the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. and a powerful voting bloc. Yet, we remain underrepresented in almost every industry, including politics.
The 2022 midterm cycle was historic for the AAPI community. There were a series of “firsts” around the country: Shir Thanedar (D) as the first Indian American representative elected in Michigan, and Aruna Miller (D) as the first immigrant and first Asian American elected to statewide office in Maryland.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the most underrepresented in elected officials. The AAPI community accounts for 6.1 percent of the U.S. population, but we make up just 0.9 percent of elected leaders. As we gear up for the 2024 election cycle, we can’t make the same mistake of ignoring the needs of diverse AAPI communities. We must increase the representation of Asian Americans at the ballot box, in elected office, and across all areas of society.
As a member of the AAPI community and the executive director of a voting rights organization fighting to build a multiracial, inclusive democracy, I know that the spike in xenophobia and violence against the AAPI community is partly a result of a lack of representation in our government and an absence of meaningful political organizing in AAPI communities.
Our country minimizes the Asian American experience, pretends as though AAPI discrimination does not exist and consistently fails to recognize our value in democracy. The same year the AAPI community had historic wins in 2022, the world saw the Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay and Laguna Woods church shootings, a year after the racially motivated Atlanta shootings that left six Asian women dead. Between 2020 and 2022, Stop AAPI Hate documented 11,467 hate incidents, a spike related to the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-Asian sentiments.
Increasing Asian American representation in politics is essential for ensuring equal representation for all and to ensure diverse perspectives on policy.
As we head into the 2024 campaign cycle, I urge political organizations at every level to commit to organizing AAPI voters early and authentically, invest in AAPI representation and prioritize transformative policies that build political leadership that is inclusive and multiracial.
We are overlooked, ignored and lazily viewed as a monolith. The AAPI community accounts for more than 50 individual ethnic groups and speaks more than 100 different languages, but there are only two AAPI senators—Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)—and 19 representatives currently serving at the federal level. There have only been six AAPI governors in the history of the U.S., none of whom are currently in office.
Without representation, we will continue to be actively ignored and overlooked. Without visibility, we are vulnerable to continued violence, rooted in white supremacy. Without inclusion, we are at risk of an America built by and for the white and wealthy few.
Follow the lead of organizations like our partners Asian American Advocacy Fund and build out year round organizing programs and targeted voter outreach. We need to invest in trusted messengers, build long-term partnerships with ethnic media outlets, ensure messaging that is culturally appropriate and accurately translated and create the resources needed to participate in elections.
Electing Asian American and Pacific Islanders isn’t just about visibility; it leads to better policies, better lives and improved livelihoods.The current electoral system, which favors incumbents and established political parties, is challenging for new and diverse candidates. Identifying, training and supporting the next generation of AAPI political talent is critical for a sustainable democracy.
Investing in AAPI organizing and representation can’t wait. Because of decades of inauthentic engagement, unchecked xenophobia and a lack of representation, AAPI voters feel ignored and overlooked by both political parties.
Defeating election deniers and protecting our fundamental freedoms will require a diverse voting bloc and the AAPI community will play a critical role in 2024. I want to build an America that is reflective of its diversity, builds community and political power year round, honors all families and believes that a government that represents all of us is a fundamental tenet of democracy.
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