Sunday, November 27, 2011

A few more stories -- Pacific Islander America, California (4 of 4)

For the past few weeks, we've been blogging about California's vibrant, growing Pacific Islander American community. Even though Pacific Islanders are left out of much of our national dialogue, there have been more than enough Pacific Islander news this year to dedicate a whole month just to one state.

Closing out our California series, here are some of the other stories we wanted to highlight:

San Mateo's Tongan American community, and a study-in-progress on the county's Pacific Islanders: This San Francisco Examiner article describes the challenges and strengths of San Mateo County's Tongan American community. It is also mentioned that Sela Panapasa of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan is overseeing a comprehensive study on the needs of Pacific Islanders in the county, which could be used to validate the need for services like after-school programs for at-risk youth. LINK

Pacific Islander health "navigator" in East Palo Alto: This feature profile, from the Peninsula Press, follows East Palo Alto community health worker Tiffany 'Uhilamoelangi-Hautau, one of two health "navigators" at the Ravenswood Family Health Center. 'Uhilamoelani-Hautau also works with a nonprofit called Collective Roots, to promote healthy eating that's consistent with Tongan and Samoan culinary traditions. LINK

Californian Summits, Conferences and Organizations dedicated to Pacific Islanders: While these last links aren't to news stories, I would be remiss if I didn't mention at least a few of the summits, conferences, and education-related Pacific Islander organizations working to improve access to higher education and well-paying jobs:
  • The National Pacific Islander Educators Network recently held its tenth annual conference in Paramount. LINK
  • A few months earlier, the Santa Monica College Asian Pacific Islander Achievement Project hosted the "Pacific Islander Higher Education Summit: We Rise." LINK
  • On the training and employment front, the Pacific Islander Pipeline continues to work to help Pacific Islander Americans prepare for careers in the health care industry. LINK
(Did we miss an outstanding California-based Pacific Islander organization, or story? Let us know and we'll work to cover it in a future post!)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

California passes new law to improve data on Pacific Islanders and Asians (California news 3 of 4)

California recently passed a law that moves the state further away from the outdated practice of lumping all Pacific Islanders and Asians into a single "Asian Pacific Islander" group. It should also make it harder for unfair employers and landowners to get away with discriminating against Pacific Islanders and Asians.

The law was introduced this year as Assembly Bill 1088 by California Assembly member Mike Eng, passed by the state legislature, and on October 9th, it was signed by Governor Brown.

If I read it correctly, this law should:
  • Expand the number of Pacific Islander and Asian sub-groups that state agencies, boards, and commissions report data on, to include specific data on major Pacific Islander groups such as Samoans, Hawaiians, and Chamorro
  • Ensure that the data collection and reporting practices of the Department of Fair Employment and Housings and the Department of Industrial Relations are consistent with the U.S. Census Bureau, and also report data on Pacific Islander sub groups
  • Require that the two departments report their findings on the Internet by July of next year
This law should bring California's practices in line with long-standing federal policy on data collection, which has long since recognized Pacific Islanders as a distinct racial group. For more on that nearly 15-year-old policy, click here: LINK

Just as importantly, it reflects a slow-but-steady movement at the state and federal level to abandon lumping together Pacific Islanders and Asians, in favor of recognizing Pacific Islanders and doing a better job of understanding the diverse needs of different Asian American populations.
  • Want to learn a little more? Here's a link to a summary press release from the Asian Pacific American Legal Center: LINK
  • Want to read the law for yourself? Follow this link: LINK

Monday, November 14, 2011

California updates terminology in law to teach students about Pacific Islander American history (California news 2 of 4)

There was a lot of coverage this summer about a bill before the California state legislature, which would require the teaching of what some reporter's described as "gay history" in the state's public schools. Tucked into a few of the articles was this detail -- the bill would also require that students learn about the contributions of Pacific Islanders, or in other words "Pacific Islander American history." To quote a portion of a Christian Science Monitor article on the subject:
California already requires that when school districts adopt instructional materials, they seek to ensure that Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and European Americans are accurately portrayed. The new bill would add not only LGBT to that list, but also people with disabilities and Pacific Islanders.
I was curious, so I read the bill, and what the law was before this bill passed. Luckily, you can get all of this info online by visiting the California state senate's website.

Here's what I learned: California law already required that social science instruction is inclusive of the history and contributions of "Pacific Island people," which this bill changed to "Pacific Islanders." (The bill made similar changes to the terms used for other minorities.)

It appears that the change for Pacific Islanders is be more cosmetic than anything else, but it's a sign of progress that the bill's authors were knew enough to use more appropriate terminology.

Want to read the law for yourself? Click here: LINK

A larger question to ask: What would a course on Pacific Islander contributions to America look like? Would it include stories about the Native Hawaiians who immigrated to the Pacific Northwest to work for timber companies, or to harbors, deserts and mining towns in California? What about the Mormon Pacific Islanders who immigrated to Utah to follow their faith? Or would the focus be on big names, like King Kamehameha and Duke Kahanamoku, or modern-day entertainers like Dwayne Johnson (aka "The Rock")?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Pacific Islander America: California (1 of 4)

A number of this summer's stories about Pacific Islander Americans happened in California. And for good reason: California has long-since been home to one of the largest Pacific Islander populations of any State of the Union. In fact, preliminary Census data suggests that California may now have the largest Pacific Islander population in the country.

More Pacific Islander in California than Hawaii?
As the only U.S. State in the Pacific Islands, Hawaii is a natural place for a strong and vibrant Pacific Islander community. But 2010 Census data suggests that California may now have more Pacific Islanders.

Earlier this year, San Francisco Chronicle's Hawaii Insider columnist Jeanne Cooper penned a story referencing 2010 Census data. She wrote, correctly, that the number of "single-race" (individuals who only identify as one race on their Census form) Pacific Islanders in California is now larger than it is in Hawaii.

This is representative of the growth of the Pacific Islander population across America, especially in the continental United States. For California in particular, a growing Pacific Islander community is nothing new -- Pacific Islanders have been immigrating to California since the 19th Century. At the same time, it's important to remember that most Pacific Islanders don't show up in the "single-race" category of the Census, because they report belonging to more than one race.

When we see the Census's full state-by-state data that includes multiracial Pacific Islanders, we'll know if California has indeed overtaken Hawaii as the state with America's largest Pacific Islander community. (Let us know if you see this data before we do!)