NC group to train Asian American high schoolers in hopes of spurring political engagement

Image: http://ncaatogether.org/

Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in North Carolina, according to the 2016 American Community Survey, far outpacing other racial minorities. According to statistics from the U.S. Census, between 2000 and 2010, North Carolina’s Asian American population grew by 85 percent, and between 2010 and 2015, it grew by 30 percent, six times more than the overall population.

Their political potential, however, is largely untapped. Voter registration and turnout for Asian Americans lags behind that of both white and Black voters in the state. According to civic engagement organization North Carolina Asian Americans Together, or NCAAT, this political participation gap has a few important causes.

According to NCAAT’s youth engagement coordinator, Danica Lee, one of the main reasons for the gap in political participation is lack of outreach to Asian Americans. “People don’t ask [Asian Americans] if they voted or if they’re interested in voting,” says Lee. The failure of other organizations to extend civic outreach efforts to Asian Americans is what attracted Lee to NCAAT, an organization which she says focuses on “targeting specifically Asian American communities for civic engagement.”

Another reason for the lack of political engagement from the Asian American community is the lack of education and resources provided to the various Asian American sub-communities. It is important to remember that Asian Americans are not a monolith. Within the Asian American community, there is great diversity of language, culture, religion, and experience, and utilizing a blanket strategy to target all Asian American voters in the same way would not be productive. “Understanding the nuances of various communities within the Asian American population should be at the forefront of developing any voter engagement strategy,” advises a 2016 report by NCAAT.

Lack of “outreach and resources available” to potential voters are the top two barriers to voter engagement in the Asian American community, according to Lee. NCAAT is trying to help erode those barriers.

The organization is committed to making sure Asian Americans have a strong political voice, and one of the ways it does this is by encouraging Asian American youth to be part of the next generation of community leaders. This July 10-12 will be NCAAT’s second annual summer Youth Leadership Institute, a three-day workshop for Asian and Asian American high school students to build their skills in leadership and advocacy.

Registration ends on June 9, and late registration is open until June 30. Interested high school students can apply here.

Aditi Kharod is a student at UNC Chapel Hill and an intern at NC Policy Watch.

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