Van Anh B. Maryland

Asian Representation

Asian Americans should be better represented in the government.

Dear Future President,

My name is Van Anh, I’m Vietnamese, and I am here to surprisingly discuss the matters of underrepresentation of Asian Americans, because you know “we’re all so quiet.” Growing up there weren’t many choices for me. The pressures of the stereotypical occupations in the medical and law field weighing me down. I never saw Asians in the entertainment business unless they were behind the scenes or the nerdy side character. Never saw them in the athletic field unless they were in the crowd. And I rarely saw Asians in leadership positions unless they were doctors. Today, I want to discuss bringing about more opportunities for Asians to become leaders and take upon governmental positions.

When I was in second grade, I discovered politics for the first time. Keeping up with John McCain and Barack Obama’s debates, even though I had no idea what was going on, I felt a kind of motivation swept over me. Feeling inspired, I told my parents I was going to be the first woman president. Jokingly, they approved and “supported” me but deep down they knew I had no chance because they had no chance. And by “chance,” I’m not just referring to being the president, because they weren’t born citizens, but “chance” as in opportunity. In Vietnam, my father was an engineer and my mother was an assistant doctor, well on her way to become a doctor herself. This however changed when they came to America because, since they were immigrants, they weren’t given the “chance” to prove their worth. This was questionable considering America is known as the “land of opportunity.”

I truly do not understand why Asian Americans are not as involved in politics as they should be since Asian Americans are well on their way to becoming the vast majority of immigrants in America, according to CNN’s “Asians On Pace to Overtake Hispanics Among U.S. Immigrants, Study Shows.” In Emily Zheng’s article titled, “Asian American Underrepresentation: Political Consequences and Policy Reform,” she states, “Congress...numerically should have 31 Asian Americans, instead of 12.” Campaigning with Asian Americans to help them obtain these positions, like congressmen and women, could also help the community. When representation is properly illustrated, it gives more influence to other races and encourages people of similar background to agree with their views. This will play a huge role in the policy process. For example, in 2014 in California, a law for state college administrations was proposed to the State Senate. The Asian American community’s response impacted the law greatly for they were afraid that it would hurt their family and friends. Senators Ted Lieu, Leland Lee, and Carol Liu, who are all of Asian descent, saw their reaction and worked to stagnate the bill. Showing that the Asian American community can influence the government’s work. So instead of fighting against us, why not let us join forces? Why not let Asian Americans work in the government to speak for our people?

I believe a major reason why Asian Americans are not taken serious politically is because of the dishonest stereotypes we are given. In a position or environment where we are required to stand ground, we are not taken seriously. “We’re quiet, we don’t speak up, we don’t fight back when we’re made fun of, we’re nerds, etc.” says Gloria Chan, president and CEO of the Asian Pacific Institute for Congressional Studies. Politics is serious business and working for the government is hard to manage. Which is why this stereotype has ruined our “chances” because our opinions gets shut down. Assembly Member Ling-Ling Chang knows this all too well when she introduced a bill, which she authored, only to be mocked and look down upon by her colleagues. This whole idea astounds me as Zheng conveyed in her article,

“Asian American Underrepresentation: Political Consequences and Policy Reform,” she expressed, “Asians are the fastest growing immigrant population in the United States. Yet, Asian immigrants are often overlooked in politics because language and cultural barriers make communication between immigrants and political parties difficult.” I understand that from another person’s point of view, we just look like outsiders. Immigrants weren’t born here so why should they care about America, right? Because we came here to change our lives. Because we pay taxes, too. Because we actually chose to move here, as opposed to just leaving our home country. We sought out this country, we want to contribute, and we want to make America the country she has been promised to be since her founding. Immigrants come here to start a new life for themselves and they get restricted of this right when a bill or plan is passed without taking them into consideration.

Another argument could be that maybe Asians just aren’t running for office. According to CNN in 2012, “three times as many Asian-Americans have been running for Congress... than in the past two elections.” So now, diverting the attention back to the government, I propose a couple of solutions that could progress this situation in the right direction. Firstly, our school education should include lessons on other people’s culture and background. This is to make certain that all cultures and races are included when discussing matters such as our country’s diversity. By teaching this in schools, we are able to accept and acknowledge people who come from a different background and this will then rid of any stereotypes or ignorant assumptions about one’s culture. Another solution is to make immigrants feel more inclusive. Encourage immigrants to practice their new way of life by helping them to vote or supporting them if they run for office. Also, make it easier for them to vote. “Half of the States started providing bilingual voting ballots in 2011,” Zheng informed. Only half! The United States does NOT have a national language so multiple options should be available for those of whom English is not their strongest language. Although we have made progress, it has been a very slow progress and more needs to be done.

I have said what needed to be said on Asian American underrepresentation. You have seen how not only does it affect Asian Americans, but all citizens as well. Now, future President, I hope you will take what I have displayed into consideration and make adjustments to our government. Let’s resolve this country’s discrimination and really make it a land of opportunity.

Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts

Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts

A comprehensive high school, with an arts magnet program, serving 1500 students in Dundalk, Baltimore County, MD.

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