What do we mean when we talk about “Asian Americans”?

This story was originally published in the February 2, 2018 edition of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every Friday? Subscribe here.

The Massachusetts Asian American community turned out in strong numbers Tuesday to comment on a bill that would require the state to use more specific ethnic designations than “Asian American.”

Rep. Tackey Chan, who authored the bill, says it would allow for more meaningful data collection on a diverse population. We’ve written before about how precise data is the first step towards addressing the needs of a population.

But most of the Asian Americans at the hearing on Tuesday weren’t there to express support. The state’s Chinese American community has come out against it since its introduction last year, saying it opens the door for racial profiling.

Divide and conquer?

Privacy concerns are understandable from minority groups that have developed a mistrust of government. But national census data is already disaggregated, and this bill allows local governments to understand their own data better.

Different Asian American ethnic groups experience wildly different economic, education, and health outcomes. And as this letter from over 50 AAPI groups supporting the bill points out, we do a disservice to our own community when we fail to recognize the different barriers we face.

Some examples

After Boston began collecting disaggregated data, it allowed the city to disperse enough Chinese and Vietnamese ballots to the polling locations that needed them. And the poverty rate in Massachusetts among Vietnamese and Cambodian communities nearly double that of the general Asian American population.

Inequalities exist within our own community and disaggregated data allows us to identify them and advocate for policies to address it.

Jessica Yi, editor, who’s waiting for the super spooky fallout from the super blue blood moon

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