Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 20, 2021

Inter-Asian Council promotes Asian American political engagement

By BONNIE JIN | February 13, 2021

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COURTESY OF CHRIS H. PARK

Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American voter turnout reached new highs in 2020.

The Inter-Asian Council (IAC) held a discussion on Asian American engagement in U.S. politics on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

The event followed record Asian American and Pacific Islander voter turnout in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election and January Senate runoff elections, which gave Democrats control of both the White House and Congress for the first time in over a decade.

IAC Liaison Estelle Yeung, a freshman, emphasized the importance of recognizing Asian Americans as a voting bloc.

“Asian Americans have a lot of power to shift where votes go. That’s sometimes overlooked. Especially this past election cycle, Asian American voter turnout has really increased, but it’s for both political parties,” she said. “There’s a lot of voting power in Asian Americans.” 

In an interview with The News-Letter, junior and IAC Events Director Paul Lam stressed the need to keep Asian American voters politically engaged.

“Last year was really a watershed moment,” Lam said. “We need to keep up that energy and hold our lawmakers accountable.” 

He expressed concern about the Biden administration’s exclusion of Asian Americans from official Cabinet positions, which marked the first time in 20 years that an Asian American was omitted from a cabinet secretary role.

Freshman Brian Min, another IAC liaison, highlighted Asian American students’ shared experiences regarding intergenerational political differences.

“For some, their politics were heavily influenced by their parents,” he said. “Their parents had a really set up mindset that came from being in their home country.” 

Freshman Emily Yao appreciated the discussion about parents’ political views. 

“It made me feel like I wasn’t alone, which is so cliche, but I genuinely felt validated,” she said. “When I talk to my parents and say that I’m against their conservative views, I am not alone in that because other students with Asian parents have also had that conversation.”

Freshman and IAC Liaison Amrita Mukunda told The News-Letter that the event compelled her to remain politically involved.

“This year, I definitely felt like I had to vote,” Mukunda said. “But just because the election is over, it doesn’t mean we stop thinking about politics.” 

Freshman Stephen Ha also hopes that more Asian Americans continue to be politically involved, noting a recent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States, including the murder of an 84-year-old Thai American in San Francisco, the assault of a 64-year-old Vietnamese American in San Jose and the slashing of a 61-year-old Filipino American on a New York subway.

“In my experience, the Asian Americans I’ve met are not really involved in politics. I’m guilty of that as well. Becoming more involved is a good message,” Ha said. “In light of recent events, Asian Americans should be more vocal.”

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