Letter to Senator Eldridge Against MA House Bill H3361

Protest against MA House Bill H3361 in Boston Common.

Dear Senator Eldridge,

Thank you so much for coming out yesterday to talk with us on civic engagement in Acton. Your outreach was truly greatly appreciated.

As requested, I am writing to provide you further explaination on why I am so adamantly against HB 3361.

Can we separate the concept of “data disaggregation” and requiring that “all state agencies, quasi-state agencies, entities created by state statute and sub-divisions of state agencies shall identify Asian American and Pacific Islanders as defined by the United States Census Bureau in all data collected as part any and all types of data collection, reporting or verification; provided further that, the five largest Asian American and Pacific Islander ethnic groups residing in the Commonwealth shall have individually reported data as part of the total Asian American Pacific Islander reporting.”

Lumping a bunch of diverse people into ANY group and making policy decisions on such groupings is definitely a problem, so I agree with the author of the bill on that front. We have long called that discrimination. However, singling out only Asian Americans for this kind of identification is not the solution and in fact, has negative implications for everyone in the America and further perpetuates discrimination.

Some questions to consider:

1) Who are Asian Americans? Americans with ethnic roots in Asia? Does that count Russians? (Most of Russia is in Asia) Does that count people from Israel? What about Iraq? Who decides?

2) Why only Asian Americans? Are there not diversities in ethnicities, education and languages among Europeans? Africans? Central and South Americans? If we are not having a problem tracking and addressing issues of these groups without singling them out “on all state and quasi-state agency” forms, then why would this be the only way to solve the problem for Asian Americans? If we continue to have issues in all groups, then why only identify Asian Americans?

3) Why isn’t the data dis-aggregation that happens on the whole country level across all residents during Census collection not sufficient? It’s more thorough (and perhaps may need a bit of fine tuning). It is trying to dis-aggregate EVERYONE, not just 5.4% of the population and it’s only in your face once every 10 years, so it isn’t a constant reminder that we are some sort of “other” nor is it subtly hinting that we ought to stick to our “own kind” so that we can be properly identified.

My daughter was recently asked about her social identity. You see, I am the daughter of Chinese immigrants and my husband is half Italian, 1/4 Polish and 1/4 Czechoslovakian. Genetically speaking, she’s just a melting pot of genetic heritages. Culturally speaking, she has been surrounded by the Chinese Culture (my family lives closer).

Environmentally speaking, she looks like someone with South American heritage and is often treated as such until she speaks up. She doesn’t have a problem with being South American, just that she isn’t. Why is it so important that she be neatly put into some bucket?

From a health standpoint, my daughter would identify as a Chinese American, but that threw her doctors for a loop because she is a sickle cell carrier as a result of her father’s Mediterranean heritage. In reality, they really needed to know her biological makeup, nutritional and daily habits not her cultural identity. They just thought to make those assumptions based on her cultural identity and they were wrong in a very serious way. One should really question how a voluntary, unverified answer can be used as scientific data?

So, I ask you to truly reconsider HB 3361. I question that passing any form of this Bill would help the stated issue in any significant way and worry that it would have a SEVERE impact on the way Asian Americans are viewed, treated and made to feel about themselves.


An Asian American voter in Massachusetts