Why We Should Applaud Pew’s Study on Asian American Accomplishments

Link to Original Article from Asian Journal


For more than 300 years, Asian Americans have been ignored and until recently, discriminated against. This includes the infamous incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese American citizens during the Second World War, frequent denials of landownership rights and until the 1960s, the official barring by many states of intermarriage between Asian Americans and whites.

By dint of hard work, often overcoming incredible obstacles including substandard public schools and confronting a glass ceiling in corporate America, the Asian American community is becoming a major force politically, economically and culturally.

The Pew study (“The Rise of Asian Americans”) portrays this in accurate and scholarly terms. It documents that our educational attainments are well above those for the nation as a whole, including white families that have been here 300 years with every possible privilege. It also celebrates that our median income is more than a third higher than the national average in America.

In June, both the Obama administration and the Romney campaign began to reach out to the Asian American community, including to the National Asian American Coalition. Never before has either party particularly reached out to Asian Americans.

Pew must be given some credit because it has documented that we are a growing and important force that can help transform America.

Some say that Pew should not be celebrating Asian American attainments because it detracts from another important mission. This is the mission of helping many underserved Asian American groups and communities, such as the Hmong and Cambodian Americans, as well as new immigrants with major language barriers.

Perhaps these critics are correct. But the National Asian American Coalition and its diverse board of directors (including leaders from the Chinese American, Korean American, Japanese American and Filipino American communities) has a somewhat different perspective.

The Pew study forces the government, our political leaders and Fortune 500 corporations to pay exquisite attention to us for the first time. During our more than two-dozen upcoming meetings with Fortune 500 corporations and our summer meetings with the Obama and Romney political campaigns, we will be expressing our concerns that many Asian Americans.

At these corporate meetings, we will be pointing out that only two percent of board members and top executives at Fortune 500 corporations are Asian American. And, we will be pointing out the disparities among the various Asian sub-ethnic groups. For example, there are only two Korean Americans, two Vietnamese Americans, one Filipino American and zero Cambodian, Laotian or Hmong Americans among the over 5,000 directors on the boards of these Fortune 500 corporations.

The best way to break through the glass ceiling is by demonstrating what Pew has stated: The Asian American community is one of the most valuable and educated markets in the U.S. (Our gross domestic product, for example, exceeds that of 90 percent of U.N. members.)

The political ramifications of the Pew study, particularly if Asian American leaders follow-up, could be even greater. No longer will we be tokens in any administration. And, because we are a crucial factor in the presidential election and swing states, such as Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and perhaps even Michigan, we will be on the future political map no matter who is president.

Equally important, far more than any other minority in the U.S., the Asian American vote is more evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. It is therefore likely that in the future we will be the most heavily courted minority group in American history.

It is our expectation that one day our nation’s 18 million Asian Americans will have as much representation in Senate and in legislatures generally, as the well educated and affluent Jewish community of five million has achieved. For example, the U.S. Senate has averaged more than a dozen Jewish U.S. senators over the last decade, including both of California’s U.S. Senators for twenty years.

Our goal is that within one generation, Asian Americans will be leading candidates in the presidential primaries of both major parties.

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