Amid the rise in cases of violence against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, community members have chosen to turn their  “pain into action.” Instead of staying silent as crimes continue to rise at an alarming rate, Asian Americans across the country are turning up to vote and run for office in record numbers.

According to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans are not only the fastest-growing segment of eligible voters, but they turned out in 2020 more than they had ever done before. Experts attribute the rise in voter turnout to pandemic-related violence against the Asian American community, NBC News reported.

Crimes against Asian Americans continue nationwide, with at least one incident reported on a daily basis in nearly every state. Most recently, an elderly woman was stabbed “unprovoked” in San Francisco, a city that has seen an alarming rise in anti-Asian crimes against women and the elderly as primary targets, authorities said Wednesday.

According to a national report by Stop AAPI Hate, the total number of anti-Asian incidents reported during the pandemic last year had doubled by March alone, Daily Kos reported. Meaning within the first three months of 2021, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes reported increased by 50% from 3,795 cases reported in March to December 2020 to 6,603 reported between January to March 2021.

While hate crimes against the AAPI community are not new to America’s history, spikes can be traced back to the start of the pandemic last year. COVID-19 misinformation and the use of xenophobic language like  “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” and “Kung Flu” by individuals like Donald Trump have been connected to a rapid surge in hate crimes nationwide. As a result, Asian Americans turned up in record numbers to vote in the last presidential election, a majority for Joe Biden.  

“People are starting to understand that the next step to directing your energy against anti-Asian hate is to vote and talk to elected officials,” Christine Chen, executive director of the national civic engagement organization APIAVote, told NBC News. “They’re the ones who are going to resource mental health capabilities. They’re the ones who can help incorporate Asian American history into the K-12 curriculum.”

According to NPR, while historically Asian Americans have had some of the lowest turnout levels nationwide, in 2020 voter turnout for the community was higher than it has ever been. A U.S. Current Population Survey from AAPI Data found that turnout among Asian American citizens grew from 49% in 2016 to 60% in 2020, which was the highest increase in voter turnout for any racial or ethnic group from 2016 to 2020.

According to experts, the strong turnout made an impact on swing states including Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Georgia, which turned blue for the first time since 1992. Second-generation immigrants, or those born to immigrant parents, especially showed up in increasing numbers.

“This second generation is coming of political age and especially during this moment of COVID and the increase in anti-Asian racism and hate incidents, you are seeing a kind of political consciousness that’s forming that will likely last a generation,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, the director of AAPI Data. “So I think looking ahead, we’re going to see a lot more civic engagement, political activism among the younger Asian American population, and especially given the circumstances of the past year.”

According to NBC News, more and more community members are realizing the important connection between policy and community safety. This is enabling more Asian Americans to not only vote but become directly involved in politics by running for office to enforce the policies they feel they need.  

Additionally, with more Asian candidates running, turnout is likely to be higher as representation can be seen. But while it’s great that turnout is likely to increase with Asian candidates, experts advise that candidates be looked at for more than just their background. Organizations are coming together to produce videos in different languages to address barriers that may be in place that disallow individuals’ understanding of a candidate’s platform.

“One of the key things we want to do is to make it so that Asian American turnout is not dependent on having Asian American candidates in an election,” said Howard Shih, research and policy director at the nonprofit organization Asian American Federation. “We want people to recognize they already have sway in determining the result of the election.”

Asian Americans are turning their 'pain into action' as they boost voter turnout 1