Now representing over 5 percent of the entire population of the United States, the Asian-American community is becoming increasingly politically active. Even with their increasing influence in elections, there is still a widespread shame in their community about voting.
A new generation of Asian-Americans are committed to changing the negative opinions around voting in their communities. Such are the motivations of those from the Middle Ground Initiative who argue it is the single civic responsibility of a citizen of the U.S. to vote.
Middle Ground Initiative is a student-organized coalition that focuses on empowering the next generation of Asian-Americans to become more involved in the political process. Since starting the initiative in late June, they have organized various conferences, webinars, workshops and panel discussions to promote this message.
Senior Jacqueline Gu, Co-President of the Asian Pacific American Club (APAC), said Asian-Americans still do not feel completely involved in American culture and society, and how that discourages them from voting.
“Just from personal experience, I think Asian-Americans have been seen as perpetual foreigners even to the point where they see themselves as foreigners. A lot of Asian-Americans are immigrants, so they may feel they are not ‘American’ enough to vote and be active in politics,” Gu said.
Gu said how many politicians do not dedicate themselves to the Asian-American community and how that can be compared to the Electoral College.
“Politicians do not really reach out to many Asian-Americans, so they do not give them a fair opportunity to participate in issues and debates. It is very comparable to the Electoral College in which swing states get much more attention that the others,” Gu said. “This makes them feel like politicians do not really care about their needs and aspirations.”
Middle Ground, said Gu, is working to first understand the stigmas around voting before combatting them.
“Through my experiences with Middle Ground, I have learned why there are apparent concerns about voting within the [Asian-American] community. Our goal is to first understand them and then brainstorm ways to eliminate them and inspire others,” Gu said.
Junior Sophie O’Connell, Creative Director for Middle Ground creates infographics and posters, all of which she uploads to the Middle Ground Instagram. With COVID-19 creating many challenges for outreach, O’Connell uses other ways to connect with their audience.
“My personal goal for the organization is to create and share meaningful posts that catch the attention of Asian-Americans in my community. Once COVID-19 is eliminated, we will focus on hosting seminars and meetings with the community but for now, it is just creating great content,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell said what she has learned about the importance of voting and how that specifically relates to the election and voter representation by ethnicity.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to help my community, especially considering the challenges coming with quarantine. I have learned more about the importance of voting through this organization and hope to spread it,” O’Connell said.
Gu said she was proud of her generation’s involvement in politics, but that there is still work to be done to empower individuals regarding participating in elections.
“It is incredibly important our generation of Asian-Americans gets the message across to others about participating in elections,” Gu said. “I believe the vast majority of us are doing a great job right now, but there is still work to be done.”
This article was updated to include a correction on 12/17/2020.