First-graders, some of Japanese ancestry, at the Weill public school, San Francisco, Calif., pledging allegiance to the U.S, flag. The evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War relocation authority centers for the duration of the war.

#MyAsianAmericanStory Is More Important Than You Think

Why #MyAsianAmericanStory will be important in the 2016 elections

I have great cab rides. My last one was no different. The Indian American driver, who’s been in Washington, D.C. for 25 years, recognized me as Indian American and struck up a friendly conversation. When I started telling him about the organization I work for, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, he asked, “East Asians? or South Asians? Because we’re very different.”

His question didn’t surprise me. I’ve heard it a lot. “Do you even have anything in common?” “Aren’t those completely different cultures?” A lot of people, both Asian and non-Asian, seem to feel that way.

But last week something amazing happened.

Thanks to one student’s response to Jeb Bush explaining that his use of “anchor babies” was “more related to Asian people,” people across the country took over Twitter with the hashtag #MyAsianAmericanStory.

People identified as Asian American.

The fact is, our community is hugely diverse. Many of us, like my cab driver, identify with our particular ethnic group—you may share a language, the spices in your kitchen, a religious tradition, and much more.

Asian Americans come from all different walks and histories, as a quick scan of the tag will show. We’re recent immigrants and we’re families who have been here for generations. Some of us are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and entertainers, and some of us are among the most disadvantaged communities in America. We are as diverse as our country.

Many people look at us and don’t see those distinctions. Instead, we’re perceived to be a monolithic group who all share the same stereotyped qualities: intelligent, submissive, quiet, successful. We’re the “model minority” and we’re doing just fine.

What we do have in common is the way that we are treated in politics, and the way we are repeatedly rendered invisible in our own country.

Which is why the rise of #MyAsianAmericanStory and its continued use is so important. We’re the fastest growing racial group in the country. We’re naturalizing in parts of the country where our vote will be critical in upcoming elections. And we’ve had to fight for our right to become citizens and cast our vote, so we know how important it is.

National Voter Registration Day is coming up this month on September 22, and it’s clearer than ever that our community is not content to be ignored.

So make sure our voice gets heard.

If you’re not registered to vote, or members of your family have been putting it off, now is the time to make your Asian American story matter. Register to vote today.

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Ameesha Sampat

Written by

Obsessively in pursuit of joy via social justice, dancing, painting, fishing. Outreach Manager @Public_Justice. Opinions my own.

Advancing Justice | AAJC

Working to empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to participate in our democracy and fighting for civil and human rights for all.