Monday, March 12, 2012

5 Things AAPIs Can Do To Be Taken Seriously...

There's a lot of anger out there in the AAPI community...either about racist comments and attitudes toward Jeremy Lin, the hazing related deaths of U.S. AAPI servicemen, the splitting of Korean Americans in Los Angeles redistricting, and the disproportionate impact of bullying experienced by AAPI youth, etc.

Unfortunately, there's this huge divide between anger and effecting change.  Pointing out the problem and expressing outrage is just the tip of the iceberg.  You don't get justice by crying foul.  Other communities (Latino, Black, LGBT) have figured it out...if AAPIs really want to right these wrongs, here are 5 things they can do...

1) Establish political action committees (PAC) that can make "real" donations to candidates.  Outside of contribution limits, any donation south of $500 doesn't even register in the world of politics.  Grown-up donations start north of $1,000.  If your PAC can't swing at least $1K in ante, don't expect any politician to give you anything more than lip service and a patronizing pat on the back.  But starting a PAC is hard, right?  "We don't have the money, etc."  Really?  AAPIs spend over $500 billion annually in consumer products and services.  AAPIs are near the top in annual income.  Crying poor just means that true political power is not a priority for AAPIs.

2) Register to vote.  Political consultants and politicians have access to unbelievable data.  When AAPIs tout their raw population numbers or Citizen Voting Age Population numbers, the consultants have a good laugh.  It doesn't matter how many AAPIs are eligible to only matters how many AAPIs are actually registered to vote and actually vote.  When I develop a strategy for a candidate, the first number I look at is how many frequent voters are in my target universe.  These are the voters that vote every election.  If things are grim, I may look at trying to get occasional voters to the polls.  I NEVER look at how many people are eligible to vote and not registered yet.  Most of the time, there simply is not enough time or money to do a decent job at registering voters.

3) Volunteer for a campaign.  This means knock on doors or make phone calls.  Licking envelopes, Facebooking, tweeting, and other passive campaign activities do not help that much.  Politicians will only take you seriously if you can turn out volunteers that are willing to do the tough tasks - walk precincts or make phone calls.  The science behind campaigns show that aggressive direct voter contact is critical to winning elections.  If you don't win, you don't get a voice in the halls of power.  Plain & simple.

4) Learn how to run a campaign.  Politics is half art form and half science.  You don't get to be strategist by watching seven seasons of the West Wing or a summer internship in a legislative office.  Work on a campaign and use it as an opportunity to learn how field campaigns are run, how to raise money, how to maintain message discipline, and how to organize.  In an era of growing viable AAPI candidates, the number of AAPI political operatives are still anemic.  If the AAPI community really wants to make their issues a top priority, then AAPIs need to earn their spot among the nation's political kingmakers.

5) Master media relations.  The news cycle is now 24-7 and the channels of information are almost limitless.  Dealing with issue advocacy relies heavily on message management.  Those who are skilled at crafting message and maintaining message discipline across platforms will prevail.  If you don't have the experience, then hire someone that does to represent you.  Media relations skills are not something you pick up over a weekend seminar.  It requires a lot of work and the rules of engagement are changing every day.  Either commit yourself to mastering the craft or hiring someone that is a master of the craft.


  1. YES! Thank you for this. Definitely one of the biggest critiques i have about our community as well. We gotta start using anger as opportunities for action, otherwise it's wasted energy! Whenever a hate crime happens at UCLA, as student organizers we take advantage of the outrage by demanding that the administration establish a diversity requirement in our curriculum. Stuff like that, you know?

    PS, I love your blog. It's definitely inspired me to remember my community and that there are strong advocates like yourself within it. For a long time I've felt disconnected, like I'm "too political" for AAPI student orgs and advocacy groups that don't recognize the importance of growing AAPI political power.