As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) made up 7.7 percent of the population of Washington state.
We previously had only three AAPI state senators—Bob Hasegawa, Steve Hobbs, and Manka Dhingra, making up 6 percent of the state senate.
After the recent election, and thanks to the victories of Joe Nguyen and Mona Das, we now have five AAPI senators… a better than 10 percent representation in our state senate.
But will the presence of more AAPI elected officials make a difference in politics and policymaking? We think the answer is yes.
The decisions made by policymakers and our representatives impacts our day-to-day lives. Now that we have the appropriate number of seats at the table, we are now in a better position to influence policy decisions—making sure that our needs and voices, ignored or forgotten in the past, are heard.
For populations historically marginalized from formal political power, seeing themselves in our state’s most powerful political institutions can induce greater trust in those institutions and might even inspire some to see political leadership as a possibility for themselves where they had seen no path before.
Senator-elect Nguyen told the Northwest Asian Weekly in May, “Systems of power tend to be a reflection of those who created them.” He said that whoever is in power decides where the money goes.
Nguyen told the Asian Weekly he was tired of waiting for somebody else to run— “Somebody transformative that represents our values, that cares, that is from the community … and there’s never been a person of color from the 34th.”
We are thankful that Nguyen, and all other AAPI candidates, decided to run, even if they didn’t win.
The growth of AAPI influence and power extends beyond the political sphere, into all aspects of American society. Census data shows that the AAPI community contributes nearly $1.1 trillion to the economy every year, and AAPI owned businesses employ 3.6 million Americans across the country. AAPIs as business owners, consumers, and active members of America’s economy have an important role in shaping the future of our collective communities.