Friday, April 16

Asian Americans, Unite Or Divide?

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Protesters speak out against a controversial bill that expands the race portion for Asian-Americans on applications. (August 10, 2016)

“Asian-Americans from all over Northern California protesting AB1726 today. The bill would require Asian-Americans to identify themselves as Chinese, Indonesian, etc on things like college applications.” Posted by Frances Wang ABC10 on Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda of Oakland, California, introduced the bill called the AHEAD Act or AB 1726, which stands for Accounting for Health and Education in API Demographics. Many California Asian-Americans considered the bill racist and divisive, while other support the bill. Will it divide the Asian American communities or will it brings more focus on each ethnic Asian group?

California State Assembly member Rob Bonta gathered with Asian Pacific Islander (API) leaders at press conferences in Oakland and Sacramento to discuss his legislation, Assembly Bill 1726. AB 1726 also known as the Accounting for Health and Education in Asian Pacific Islander Demographics Act (the AHEAD Act), aims to bring greater accuracy to the collection of health and education data of the API population, by looking at differences in data collected for different sub-groups within the API community. Currently, much of the data collected, lumps different API communities together as one. Assembly member Bonta hopes AB 1726 will bring clarity regarding distinct issues peoples from different API subcultures face.

“Certain subgroups within the API community are falling behind on public health and education benchmarks, but these facts are hidden within the broader group statistics,” said Assembly member Bonta. “That’s why I’ve introduced the AHEAD Act, to help meet the needs of California’s most diverse communities.”

According to Frances Wang of KXTV in California, “the legislation would require state agencies, mainly those in higher education and health to add more Asian-American subgroups – such as Thai,  Tongan, Taiwanese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Hmong, Bangladeshi, etc – on forms.

Those against the  AHEAD Act say they’re concerned with the disadvantage some Asians already feel when it comes to college applications.

“Asian groups go to college and need to meet much higher standards,” Capitol rally organizer Sue Xue said. “It doesn’t talk about how we work hard.”

But many Asian-Americans are for the bill, including those who consider themselves minorities among the Asian-Pacific Islander community.

“Me being Mien, we’re a minority,” said Vincent Saephan, a supporter of the bill. “A lot of folks don’t know about Mien-Americans…so many ethnic groups’ stories go unheard.”

When it comes to stereotypes of Asians, like being high-performing students, Saephan says it’s not always the case, especially among Southeast Asians.

“I don’t know a lot of Mien community folks that graduate high school or are attending college,” Saephan said. “Many Mien, Cambodians live in poverty… haven’t gone to school.”

Saephan also points out mental health as an issue specific to some Asian-American communities, like his own. “Our family are refugees from the Vietnam war… and suffer from PTSD or depression,” he said. “Not a lot of data covers that.”

Data collection aside — those against the bill say if Asians have to do it, so should everyone else.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last October. In Brown’s veto message, he said, “Dividing people into ethnic or other subcategories may yield more information, but not necessarily greater wisdom about what actions should follow.”

AB 1726 passed the Assembly and is working its way through the Senate.”

We like to hear your comment. What do you think about this bill and if it’s approved, will the bill expand to other states? Comment below…