BY ELIZABETH LEE – LOS ANGELES — Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority group in the United States. But historically, mainstream political campaigns around the country have not given them much attention. With general elections just a few weeks away, two brothers are trying to use comedy to get the attention of potential voters among the Asian American youth.
David and Andrew Fung are rappers, comedians. “Together we’re The Fung Brothers,” they say.
Their YouTube video about a predominately Asian neighborhood of Los Angeles went viral. They call the neighborhood the “626,” after the telephone area code of the region.
“I think we saw this community sort of needed a face. They needed, at least on the youth portion, some leadership,” explains David Fung. “We thought that we can provide that and do it in a way that was really positive.”
The Fung Brothers also consider themselves community activists. They recently starred in a web video to encourage young Asian Americans to vote. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center funded the video. The organization’s Voter Engagement Manager, Tanzila Ahmed, says its target is the youth of the “626” community.
“In general, youth don’t go out to vote, and in general Asian Americans don’t go out to vote,” notes Ahmed, “so that intersectionality leads to Asian American youth not going out to vote.”
But in 2008, all youth, even Asian Americans, voted in surprising numbers. And Morley Winograd and Mike Hais say the youth determined the outcome of the election. The two co-authored two books on voters born between 1982 to 2003, also called the “Millennial Generation.”
“The millennial vote is going to be significant even as significant in 2012 as it was in 2008. Even if the percentage turnout isn’t as big as it was then,” Mike Hais says.
Morley Winograd says trends are slowly changing within the Asian American community.
“The Chinese American community is newly feeling its political power and is voting in greater numbers and with a turnout that more resembles other parts of the Asian American community,” Winograd says.
But there are still many Asian Americans who can vote and don’t, says Tanzila Ahmed. She blames mainstream political campaigns that don’t focus on reaching this minority group because it is more work.
“In the sense that you need bilingual materials, there’s lot of different types of languages in our community, and mainstream campaigns don’t really want to put in that effort into mobilizing our community,” Ahmed says.
Instead, campaigns are putting their focus on Hispanics and African Americans, the two largest minority voting blocks. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center is trying to fill that need with outreach efforts such as this bilingual phone bank in 11 different languages, along with its work with the Fung Brothers. Political experts say the Internet and social networks may be the most effective way of reaching millennial voters who may then encourage their parents to vote.