Saturday, November 24, 2012

P.I.A. project post from APIASF blog

Last week we responded to a New York Times article that erroneously labeled Pacific Islanders as Asian. In our post, I mentioned that while the P.I.A. project is opposed to misclassifying Pacific Islanders as an Asian subgroup, we appreciate that there are many  coalition groups that serve both Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are doing good work.  These groups go by different acronyms, from "AAPI" (Asian American and Pacific Islander), "API" (Asian and Pacific Islander) or "APA" (Asian and Pacific American). The acronym isn't really important -- what's important is that they serve and engage both of the groups they claim to advocate for -- both 1.) Asian Americans and 2.) Pacific Islander Americans.

One AAPI group we've enjoyed working with is the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF).

I'd heard about APIASF about a decade ago when I came to Washington as an intern, but it wasn't until a year ago that I really go to know the organization.  That change happened thanks to Phong Luu, APIASF's outreach specialist.  Phong came across our blog, and took the time to reach out to us so he could learn more about the P.I.A. project's efforts to increase higher educational opportunities for Pacific Islanders.

More recently, I was invited to be a regular contributor to APIASF's blog, re/present.  This week, I blogged about the Pacific Islander Access project's success in working with two forward thinking underrepresented minority scholarships -- the HBCU Minority Scholarship and the Actuarial Diversity Scholarship -- to include Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in their definition of "underrepresented minority."

You can read that post by clicking here: LINK


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Response to New York Times article that described Pacific Islanders as an Asian subgroup

This month, the New York Times published an article on Asian Americans and affirmative action. The author appears to have done her research in several areas, but certainly made an error in describing Pacific Islanders as an Asian American subgroup.

Here's the line:
On the other hand, Filipinos, Cambodians, Pacific Islanders and other Asian-Americans continue to benefit from policies that take ethnicity into account.
We've answered this question before, but when one of the most respected newspapers in the country gets it wrong, it's worth repeating:

Pacific Islanders are not Asian. Pacific Islanders are Pacific Islanders.

Since 1997, federal policy on racial and ethnic classification has recognized that Pacific Islanders and Asians are two distinct and separate racial groups. (That policy is OMB Directive 15, and you can read it yourself here: LINK)

And not to get technical, but the Pacific Islands and Asia are two different places. As a Native Hawaiian, my ancestral lands are over a thousand miles closer to the West Coast of North America than they are to Asia.

In addition to being wrong, the notion that Pacific Islanders are just an Asian subgroup can have real consequences. One example: access to academic programs for underrepresented minorities.  I experienced this myself as a college student, when I was told that Pacific Islanders weren't an underrepresented minority because "Pacific Islanders are Asian, and Asians aren't underrepresented."

That isn't to discount the bond between Pacific Islanders and Asians, or the good work of numerous "AAPI" (Asian American and Pacific Islander) organizations that serve both the Asian American and the Pacific Islander American community. But having a bond and working in coalitions doesn't mean that Pacific Islanders surrender their own identity.

That's not news, but it is the truth.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

2012 Elections: Pacific Islander Federally Elected Officials

This week America re-elected a President, and elected or re-elected a third of the Senate, the entire House of Representatives, and many state, local and trial officials. As part of our work to raise awareness of America's growing Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander community, the Pacific Islander Access project put together this summary of federally-elected Pacific Islander Americans:
  • Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Congresswoman, Hawaii 2nd District
  • Eni Faleomavaega, Congressional Delegate, American Samoa
  • Gregorio Klili C. Sablan, Congressional Delegate, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands 
The P.I.A. project wishes the best to each of them, especially Tulsi, who I worked with back when we were both Senate staffers, and who now represents the Congressional District I grew up in. 

We also note the departure of U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, the first Pacific Islander to vote in Congress, and the only Pacific Islander to ever serve in the U.S. Senate. Senator Akaka's life of service is an example for all Americans, because he demonstrated that even in today's polarized political environment, you don't have to choose between your values and your success. Senator Akaka chose both, and when Congress adjourns he will return to Hawaii as a successful legislator who crafted dozens of critical laws for indigenous people, wounded warriors, the federal workforce, and others. He will also take his rightful place as a respected elder in Hawaii politics, and a living treasure to the Native Hawaiian community.

Those of you who've read our blog for some time know that Senator Akaka played a role in setting me down the path that eventually led to the founding of the Pacific Islander Access project.  We know that our little nonprofit is just one of the countless many organizations and groups that the Senator inspired over his career.

So again, congrats to the winners of this year's election, and mahalo nui loa to Senator Akaka for his service to our country. 


Friday, November 02, 2012

Actuarial Diversity Scholarship changes policy, recognizes Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders as underrepresented!

I am very pleased to announce that after hearing from the Pacific Islander Access project and reviewing their policy, the Actuarial Diversity Scholarship will recognize that Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are underrepresented!

Starting next year, Pacific Islanders will be eligible to apply for this important scholarship, alongside other underrepresented groups. All of us at the P.I.A. project were excited when we found out, and impressed by the Actuarial Foundation's sincere interest in being inclusive of Pacific Islanders.

In choosing to make this important change, the Actuarial Diversity Scholarship joins the HBCU Minority Scholarship, which announced a change to its policy last month. Both scholarships were contacted by the P.I.A. project earlier this year, provided with data on Pacific Islander underrepresentation, and asked to consider adding Pacific Islanders to the list of groups eligible to apply for their scholarship.

We've thanked them already, but we'd like to publicly commend the Actuarial Foundation for its decision. Their willingness to take another look at the data and change their eligibility policy demonstrates a true commitment to giving underrepresented minorities the opportunities they need. We also hope that other underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships will look at the example being set by the Actuarial Diversity Scholarship and HBCU Minority Scholarship, and make sure they aren't wrongfully excluding Pacific Islanders from applying.

I encourage our readers to visit the Actuarial Foundation's website,, take a look at their scholarship, and share that information with peers and potential applicants.

Once again, aloha and mahalo to the Actuarial Foundation for opening up a new opportunity for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.