I do not drink milk unless it is steamed and frothed, but I am a news junkie so the last 24 hours have been better than a double-latte. But I was feeling a bit invisible yesterday as I watched major news outlets talk about voter turnout – Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Women, Men, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, College Grads, High School Grads, etc. Um, what about Asian Americans?
Well, according to the New York Times exit polls, Asians made up 2% of the electorate Tuesday. 2%? Really? According to the Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), there were 7.2 million Asian American eligible voters. I believe Asian Americans make up about 5% of the overall population, and of those eligible to vote only about 50% actually register, and then fewer actually do.
Take a look at the NYT graph. You can click to change the size of the bars to reflect percentage or change the year to compare results between election years.
This election has got me thinking about a lot of things…race, gender, faith, economics, national security and citizenship. I’m still amazed at what happened on Tuesday. I was near tears and a bit dumbstruck by it all. One of the best quotes I read was in the Chicago Tribune yesterday from an anonymous black man on the “L” headed home after the Grant Park celebration: “Rosa Parks sat. Martin Luther King marched. Barack Obama ran. My grandchildren will fly.”
My children were quite interested in the elections, starting from the primaries. My daughter and I talked about women’s suffrage. The kids and I talked about citizenship. The five us talked about the economy, about taxes, about race and gender and class, about sound-bites and what they meant or didn’t mean.
And I’ve spent some time with friends and acquaintances talking about voting and citizenship and identity. What does it mean to be American? What does it mean when someone asks, “Where are you from?” or “Where did you learn to speak English?” And I’ve wondered for a long time about what it would take for me to want to be “American”.
I know it’s a little early to be making New Year’s resolutions, especially considering I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions. But I’ve had a copy of the N-400 form in my folder for a few months now. Maybe 2009 should be the year I finally do this.
Dear More than 2%,
I have often wondered, and have discussed with many recently, what throws the switch for someone signing the papers and going through the process. I know you have more dimension to you than just signing the papers and getting the tax status for your children’s inheritance. I tried to imagine myself in your shoes and wondered if it would be mostly my children whose opinions I valued the most in sharing the citizenship together. Probably, that would be it for me. I remember taking one with me to the voting place one time. I do value our shared experience and citizenship–never really thought about that before…well, maybe I did once when I was reading a mystery and there was the thought that the protagonist would be separated from their children because of citizenship. So, basically, I have taken it for granted until you brought it up! I do know it meant a lot to my grandmother, who was a child when women “got the vote.” It was important to her to participate.
Greetings to the family.
My 2 Cents