The Underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in Politics

by Jessica Joy De Jesus

Bawornluck “Lucky” Sasiphong believes that the midterm elections can change the tide of policy on Capitol Hill. The senior from Queens, New York is a registered Democrat who plans to vote for a liberal candidate this November. “I think a lot of people tend to forget that during midterms, that’s the easiest way for both the House and the Senate to potentially flip.”

Sasiphong is vocal about her support for the Democratic party, but she feels as if Asian-American issues are underrepresented and overlooked within the party.

Sasiphong notes that Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have very little representation in Congress. There are only 18 AAPI members of Congress – a record all-time high. One factor in this lack of representation is the unfortunate reality that Asians, like Sasiphong, are deterred from getting involved in politics: “I think traditionally Asian people prefer their children to pursue a career in like, business or med, or pharmacy.”

Sasiphong also spoke out against the “model minority myth” – the inaccurate stereotype that all Asian immigrants are wealthy and thriving minorities, and other minorities should follow the path of Asians. Sasiphong described that the Asian experience in America is as vast and diverse as Asian ethnicities: “Asia is such a huge continent as it is, and totally different cultures within it. And economically, there are so many disparities within it and different Asian communities. A lot of people overlook this and group us all into one demographic but if you actually zoom in on it you realize that there is a lot more at play.” According to the Pew Research Center, The U.S. Asian population grew 72% between 2000 and 2015 which is the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group and yet AAPI are underrepresented in Congress. Saisphong is hopeful for more representation in the future: “I think it would be really great to see more AAPI running for office. We need more representation.”

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