“It’s not a secret that, in this county, South Asians don’t really vote. That’s not a secret. Most people know that,” Ali Najmi, the director of political action at the Alliance of South Asian-American Labor, said at the organization’s endorsement event for Assemblywoman Grace Meng, a candidate for congress, last Sunday.
“But in this election, we’re going to change that narrative,” he continued, arguing the June 26th election poses a unique opportunity for South Asians to establish itself politically with a sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation. “This goal is bigger than Grace Meng.”
The Jamaica Hills endorsement event itself spoke to the diversity of the 6th Congressional District that Ms. Meng is campaigning for. Despite the district’s heavy Asian population, a substantial portion of the residents are originally from countries that are culturally very distinct from one another.
Nevertheless, Ms. Meng focused on the connection between her own Chinese ancestry and that of the South Asians in the crowd.
“Something that’s important to me is there is no ‘you’ and ‘me’ [or] ‘us and them,’ we are all ‘we,'” she said. “When I look at myself, I see you. I think a lot of time in … the Asian community, we focus so much on our differences: where we came from in Asia, what our families believe in, what religion we are. But, to be honest, when the mainstream American community looks at us, we all look all the same to them. Some of them don’t even care.”
Ms. Meng then said the lack of diversity, of all kinds, at the congressional level has a tangible impact on the federal policies that get enacted.
“There are so many issues that we have to work on. In Congress right now, for example, … there are less than 27% people of color, that look like me and you, [this has] a real lasting impact and effect on a lot of the policies that we make throughout the country,” she said. “In New York City, we look at ourselves and we’re very diverse, very progressive. But we have to work, as you know, with people throughout all 50 states that don’t look like us, … many of them have never seen people who look like us.”
“So it’s very important to stand together and fight united for issues like immigration reform,” she added.
Also in the Democratic primary Ms. Meng is competing in are Assemblyman Rory Lancman and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.
Watch parts of the event below: