March 23, 2012; Source: MetroTrends Blog

The U.S. Census recently released a report that shows Asians as the fastest growing racial group in the nation. Individuals that identified as Asian, either alone or in combination with one or more other races, grew by almost 46 percent during the last decade, while those who identified as Asian alone grew by 43 percent. In contrast, the total population of the United States increased by less than 10 percent during the same period. The largest Asian American groups are those of Chinese descent (4 million), followed by Filipinos (3.4 million) and Asian Indians.

Clearly, Asians have been in the country for centuries; Filipinos built settlements in Louisiana as early as the 1750s and have been integral members of American society ever since. They have labored in Hawaii’s sugar cane plantations, picked vegetables in California, tended Washington’s strawberry fields, and worked in Alaska’s fish canneries. They now take care of the sick and elderly, educate America’s children, serve in the U.S. military, and help power commerce and industry.

Despite this long history and their considerable number, Filipinos remain largely politically invisible, particularly at the federal level. This lack of representation hinders issues relevant to the Filipino-American community from surfacing and getting addressed. This invisibility may partly be attributed to the lack of nonprofits that strive to give their constituents political voice and power. Of the over 700 identifiable Filipino-American incorporated organizations, 38 percent are classified as arts and culture nonprofits and 19 percent are faith-based. Less than one percent are classified as advocacy groups.  While other factors can help explain Filipino-American political invisibility, it is worth the community’s time to take stock of their nonprofits and consider what more they can do to get their voices heard. – Erwin de Leon