By Heidi M. Pascual
Measuring Our Power
AAPI Communities' Impact in 2020 election
In the 2020 Presidential Election, President Joe Biden carried Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes. According to an analysis by TargetSmart, voter turnout among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (“AAPIs”) surged over 62,000 votes over 2016, a clearly decisive part of Georgia’s margin of victory which was fewer than 12,000 votes. Furthermore, over 1.6 million votes were cast by Black, Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native American voters in 2020, comprising approximately 35 percent of the total votes cast. When considering the margin of victory, the ballots cast by this multi-racial coalition of non-white voters surpassed the margin of victory by over a million votes.
The electorate is changing before our eyes and the communities we serve will continue to grow more powerful in the years to come. This growth in the AAPI electorate did not happen overnight. According to Catalist, the AAPI electorate grew by 39 percent in 2020, for a total turnout of 62 percent. This growth is largely due to community organizations and their ongoing dedicated outreach and engagement over the past decade.
In addition to the direct community outreach, we collectively advocated for prioritization of the inclusion of AAPI voters in the outreach and field programs for candidates as well as promoting AAPIs to run for office. In fact, the 116th Congress has the greatest number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to date, thanks in part to the estimated 74.65 percent of Asian American voters who chose to vote by mail or vote early in-person. AAPI communities responded with historic voter turnout that played a huge role in America’s democracy.
OCA’s Work on Hate Incidents
From OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates
Founded in 1973, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates is a 501(c)(3) national non-profit, membership-driven organization based in Washington, D.C. with over 100 chapters and affiliates around the country. Like many others within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, OCA's work with hate crimes began in earnest after the murder of Vincent Chin.
In 1982, several members of the Asian Pacific American (APA) community were shocked by the news of the murder of a young Chinese American near Detroit, Michigan. Vincent Chin, 27, was attending his bachelor party at a bar when two unemployed auto workers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, thinking Chin was Japanese, directed racial and obscene comments at him. “It’s because of you little motherf****rs that we’re out of work,” witnesses recalled Ebens yelling at Chin. Nitz had been laid off from his job at an American car plant, and apparently blamed Chin for the correlation between his unemployment and rising Japanese imports into the American market.
The two men chased Chin outside, and beat him with baseball bats. He died four days later of his injuries. Equally shocking as the brutal nature of the murder was the court’s apparent lack of acknowledgment of the men’s race-motivated behavior. The county judge found Ebens and Nitz guilty of manslaughter after a plea bargain and sentenced them to three years’ probation, court fees, and a $3,780 fine. To many people, the sentence was a slap on the wrist.
Even though the word “hate crime” was a relatively new term in public conversation at the time, some people in the APA community recognized that the race-based motive underlying Chin’s murder warranted a different response than the court gave. Several APA community leaders, including those within OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, started to organize their own efforts to achieve justice for the Chin family and for the community. It was a watershed moment.
Today, one can see the legacy of the community organizing efforts arising from the Chin case. The APA community has made significant strides toward self- empowerment in the past 20 years and OCA and its chapters continue to fight for justice and fair treatment for all.
Recent advocacy includes fighting for better hazing policies within the Department of Defense to help finding justice for Pvt. Danny Chen. This ultimately led to legislation that will help protect service members from being harassed, bullied, or hazed while in the line of duty. Local chapters are also involved in efforts to stamp out school bullying by hosting workshops and rallies across the country.
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