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Friday, January 27, 2023
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Ga.’s Longtime Black-and-White Politics Complicated by Asian Boom

'We are literally taught not to speak up and not to rock the boat...'

(Ezekiel Loseke, Headline USA) Like many other states in the deep South, Georgia historically has been politically divided between black and white voting blocs.

However, another racial identity is increasingly gaining political importance in the Peach State, and throwing predictable party-line politics into turmoil.

Asian–American and Pacific-Islander electoral participation skyrocketed in Georgia with a remarkable 84% increase between the 2016 election and 2020 election, according to new research released by the firm AAPI Data.

This population currently makes up about 4% of Georgia’s population, according to the U.S. Census.

This is a marked increase over the already massive growth of Asians in America. The Pew Research Center reported that the percentage of Asians in America grew 80% from 2000 to 2019.

One consequence of this demographic explosion has been the establishment of an Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus in Georgia, said Axios.

The caucus itself is skewed heavily left, as nine of 11 voting members are Democrats.

State Rep. Sam Park, D-Ga., was the first Asian elected to the legislature in 2016. The caucus was created “to build a foundation to ensure that the Asian–American community really does have a seat at the table and an opportunity to continue to ensure that their voices are heard,” he said.

State Sen. Michelle Au, D-Ga., said her voters have long felt ignored. They “tend to be treated in a way that minimizes their presence and their impact,” she said.

The focus of the caucus may be seen as an effect of these feelings. The caucus plans to focus on identity-based problems, like “hate crime protections against Asian Americans” and a desire to “fight racial and ethnic stereotypes,” along with boosting Asian participation in in elections and printing more government documents in Asian languages.

Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, the executive director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund, said Asians were important actors in the 2022 election’s runoff.

She claimed that her organization knocked on over 84,000 doors, made over 336,000 phone calls, sent over 83,000 texts, and mailed over 486,000 campaign documents.

She also told Axios that Asian organizations are planning to support a bill that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

The loosening of immigration laws is not likely to gain much traction in the Republican-led statehouse.

But despite the best efforts of legislators to rein in fraud and tighten rules to ensure that only eligible voters are able to cast ballots, the most recent election succeeded in returning incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock to Washington, D.C., making the only Democrat to win office in Georgia a valuable asset as the 51st senator to caucus with the Democratic majority.

Several RINO candidates also got re-elected to office in Georgia with the help from influential pockets in its Asian community.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, suspected by some of being a fake Republican plant, notoriously delivered a 2015 “thank you” message to key supporters of his bid to join the state legislature while speaking in Mandarin.

The Asian–American community in blue regions like Atlanta also has become increasingly vocal in activism.

After several Asian women at an Atlanta massage parlor were shot in March 2021, Au took to the floor of the legislature to urge members of the community to “stand up” against violence.

That led many to take to the streets and others to seek solidarity with the black community, which had spent the better part of the previous year rioting in Atlanta and others cities over social injustice.

However, they struggled to have their message heard with the same forcefullness as the black community, with some complaining that their collectivist native cultures had taught them to be too respectful of their surroundings.

“We are literally taught not to speak up and not to rock the boat,” said Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y. “And so, during this past year especially, it’s been such a challenge to say to our older generation Asian immigrants—Asian Americans who might even have been here for three decades—that now is the time to be invisible no more, that they have to speak up.”

Headline USA’s Ben Sellers contributed to this report.

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