Commentary by John C. Yang
IF you could do something in ten minutes or less that would make sure we have translated materials for limited English proficient members in our Asian American community, local grocery stores that carry Asian-related products, or tell Asian-owned businesses where to build new stores, would you do it?
Right now, you can make the difference in how our communities are seen and supported if you take a few minutes to fill out the 2020 Census. We can no longer afford to let others view our communities as monolithic.
Right now, we are in a crisis. The Coronavirus pandemic has shown how little national data is available about the impact of this virus on Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Government officials scrambled to figure out where to send resources when the pandemic started.
With accurate census data, we can prove where resources need to be deployed across the country, within the states, and down into specific communities. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are missing from data on how the coronavirus impacts us. Initially, reports did not show that people in our communities were dying from this virus faster than other ethnicities. Nearly 190,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 but little to no data about the impact of the virus on Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
The death rate among Pacific Islander Americans is higher than the Asian American community, but it took months before those scant statistics were reported. We still do not have an accurate picture of the extent of the disparities.
The Asian American community is the fastest-growing population in the U.S. We learned this fact because of 2010 Census data. Without every one of us filling out the 2020 Census, we will not know if that fact continues to be true. We will not know how our communities are growing or changing. We can’t argue the need for new schools, elder care services, or debate about fair political representation in Congress, state legislatures, and even local school boards.
Within our communities, we have more than 50 detailed subgroups that differ dramatically across key social and economic indicators. The detailed data from the 2020 Census is critical to our ability to break down the stereotype of the “model minority,” which has been used to erase the history of exclusion and discrimination against Asian Americans. This stereotype is also used to obscure our concerns — failing to recognize critical differences and priorities between Asian American subgroups — and therefore to excuse the lack of government resources and investments in our communities.
Some of you may be struggling at home right now with finances, your business barely making ends meet, or concerned about your job security. It is data from the census that will tell the government where to put resources that will help your business, send healthcare supplies or workers, and tell businesses where to build or rebuild.
We must fully participate in the census to make sure the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are included in the planning and get our fair share of those resources.
But that cannot happen without you filling out your census. The deadline to respond has been extended so you have no excuse not to do the right thing for our community. Right now, you may be feeling unsure of what to do or how you can make a difference amid this pandemic and the calls for racial justice in protests and rallies.
One thing you can do right now is to change our visibility. Be seen and be counted by filling out your census form now. You have ten minutes, right?
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John C. Yang is the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, a national nonprofit founded in 1991 in Washington, D.C. with the mission to advance the civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.