But the coronavirus pandemic brought both of those issues to the forefront for Asian Americans, who have been subjected to racist slurs, perpetrated by former president Donald Trump and other Republicans using derogatory and stigmatizing terms to describe the virus, such as the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan flu.”
Asian workers in low-wage jobs also have been hit hardest by the economic fallout of shuttered businesses such as nail salons, dry cleaners and shopping centers. Long-term unemployment among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the first quarter of 2021 surpassed that of Blacks, Whites and Latinos, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Then, the March 16 shooting of six Chinese and Korean American women working at spas and massage parlors in Atlanta “shone a spotlight on our community like nothing before” and created a sense of urgency for a more issue-based, educational effort, said Varun Nikore, who will serve as executive director of the new entity, the AAPI Victory Alliance.
It “fills a critical gap in the AAPI community right now, and that’s because it’s focused on lifting up the AAPI political agenda which is much broader than most people realize,” said Janelle Wong, an AAPI Victory Fund board member and professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland. “The past year has made it clear to both Asian Americans and the broader population that race matters for Asian Americans and we have to think about those particularized needs in a different way than we have in the past.”
Part of the group’s mission will be to dispel the “model minority” myth that persists around the Asian population that they are well educated and successful and thus don’t require the same attention as other marginalized groups.
More than 22 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders live in the United States, making up about 7 percent of the U.S. population. Viewed together as one group, nearly 50 percent have a college degree, but when broken down by ethnicity, data show that less than 20 percent of other subgroups such as Pacific Islanders, Cambodians or native Hawaiians have bachelor’s degrees.
“You can’t understand the experience of Asian Americans through a single lens like aggregate income or educational achievement; instead, a more multifaceted understanding will help highlight areas that still remain quite challenging, like political representation,” Wong said.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders represent the fastest-growing segment of the country’s electorate. AAPI voters turned out in record numbers last year to support Democrat Joe Biden over Trump by a roughly 2-to-1 margin, and were critical to Biden’s victory in states such as Georgia, which had not swung Democratic since 1992.
In Georgia, a week before the 2020 election, more AAPI voters had cast early ballots than had voted in the 2016 presidential election, said Tom Bonier of TargetSmart, which analyzes voting data. Across 47 states and the District of Columbia that had data on Asian American and Pacific Islander voting,…