Why Voting Can Change the Status Quo

Written by Arvin J. Garcia. Find him on Instagram at @arvzss or at his website, east-rhythm.com.

When you watch all of these debates, when do you ever hear politicians trying to get the Asian American vote? Asian Americans have hardly ever been a topic of interest in media coverage of the US current presidential election. One of the only broad references we could resonate with as Asian American millennials is “Hillary Clinton tries ‘Bubble Tea.’” And yes, the Democratic Party has attempted to reach out to our vote, but I mean Asian Americans still have some of the lowest turnout rate for voting. According to the Pew Research center, only 29% of Asian Americans go out to vote. That brings up the question:

Do Asian Americans going out to vote this November 8th even matter? Will they even go out to go vote?

Yes we do, and yes I’m going to repeat a lot of what people have said. According to the US Census Bureau, Asian American growth overtook the speed of the Hispanic demographic's growth, meaning the Asian American vote is coming up on its importance. Yet attitudes about voting still staggers among Asian Americans to be active in our political system. Our “perpetual foreigner” stereotype in society contributes to the stigma that we “don’t know” how the American political process works when in reality we have many first generation and onwards in positions right smack dab of the political chaos. I mean we can see how some of America sees us through the lens of Jesse Watters segment on Chinatown only a few weeks ago. The effects of the Asian American vote being invisible and the assumption that we are not being active in the political process causes our identity to be misconstrued and give us younger voters the conscious that we don’t matter as much in elections when in reality, we can flip tides.

Recently these past few weeks, I helped out with registering voters in lower-income Filipino communities as well as AAPI students at the university I’m currently studying at and the obligation and priority to vote just isn’t there. Some answers I received from my fellow students were a lot of “What difference does it make?” and “I’m not informed on politics, therefore I’m not voting.” Many Asian Americans students became complacent and silent on issues fulfilling the “model minority” that society expects us to be. How can we as Asian Americans expect to break bamboo ceilings if we can’t express the potential in our own democratic power?

If you grew up in a traditional Asian household, you know that there was a huge stigma of going against the flow of things in society. Many of us heard, “Don’t stick your head out there, we worked too hard for you,” and, yes, we listened—especially if you’re first generation, because we understood the sacrifices our parents made to get us here. That mentality continues into our young adult years if we’re not exposed to the idea that we have a say in our society.

My plea for everyone young who still is under the misconception we don’t matter, is that we won’t matter if we believe that. As Asian Americans, and people of color, the privilege to have say in the system we live in isn’t something to be taken for granted. Only 60 years ago we or someone who looked like us fought for the civil liberties we have today. YES, we matter so much as Asian Americans, but we’ll only make waves if everyone is riding that wave as well. It’s on us to politically activate our democratic power of our identity as Asian Americans by being the generation that starts letting our voices be heard through voting.