WashCo Dems Op-Ed: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in PoliticsWashCo Dems op-ed article

By Ania Ty, PCP, Washington County

This is not an endorsement of Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, or Andrew Yang; the purpose of this note is to highlight the importance of Asian-American & Pacific Islanders representation and political engagement.

Cultural norms and stereotypes often put Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in narrow, and occasionally, suffocating boxes – quiet, hardworking, the ¨model minority¨ – anything but loud, brash, and demanding attention, despite history saying otherwise. Larry Itliong, a Filipino-American labor leader, the UC Berkeley students who created the Asian American Political Alliance (APAC), and Mamie Tape, whose case (Tape V. Hurley) begun the desegregation of San Francisco public schools, are all missing from American history books.

Asian-Americans always played an important role in labor and civil rights movements. It is these leaders, who have fought without the recognition they so deserve, and their groundbreaking work who are foundational to the current success of the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

In 2017, we saw a slew of Asian-American women become members of Congress, Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla), Pramilya Jayapal (D-Wash), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif), carving out a path for their predecessors and allowing the 115th Congress to enjoy the highest number of Asian-American Representatives ever, totaling at 18 out of 535 members of Congress (3.6%).

Now 2019, Andrew Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants and a tech mogul, is a 2020 presidential candidate. Although his entrepreneurial background makes Yang an underdog in the fierce battle for the Democratic nomination, his campaign, successful or not, is another huge step forward in AAPI representation within the political sphere.

Hawaii´s Tulsi Gabbard and California´s Kamala Harris are two of the very few AAPI women in Congress, and the only women of such descent in the 2020 race. Both Gabbard and Harris have spent their lives serving the United States, as a service-woman and prosecutor, respectively. This is not Gabbard´s or Harris´ first time making history; Gabbard was the first Samoan-American and Hindu member of Congress, and as a young girl Harris was one of the children bused across the racially segregated Berkeley school districts and contributed to desegregation of the area.

Their rise to prominence sheds light on the ever-present need for diverse representation in politics and hopefully encourages members of the AAPI community to consider a career in politics or public service.

Existing and thriving in spaces never intended for individuals who are anything other than white is a radical act in itself, however mundane it must seem. We must continue to strive for progress, and as the fastest growing electorate, the Asian American community is critical to such movements. With the 2020 election becoming closer by the day and the constant debate of issues relevant to AAPIs, such as immigration, education, and healthcare, our community must continue to express our voices whatever way we can.

About Ania Ty

Ania is from Washington County and is studying political science and public policy at Oregon State University. She is passionate about politics and social justice. Ania has volunteered her time helping out at the Hattie Redmond Women & Gender Center in Corvallis and serving as the co-President of the Isang Bansang Pilipino Club. Ania is currently interning with the DPO’s Asian American & Pacific Islander Caucus

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