Simu Liu to be honored at AALDEF's 50th, and the real goal of AANHPI Heritage Month

Image for Simu Liu to be honored at AALDEF's 50th, and the real goal of AANHPI Heritage Month
Photo by Bill Chen/Independent

Simu Liu was announced this week as a Justice in Action Award recipient to be feted at the AALDEF 50th anniversary gala on May 20.

Simu, you will recall, beat the monstrous Emil Blonsky as an appetizer in “Shang Chi…” Oh, and he’s done some other things too. Like stand up for all Asian males as the Asian Ken in the Barbie movie and in that legendary Oscar night dance number.

Justice in Action!

He’s done more, of course, as an outspoken member of the community.

But here’s one thing worth noting. He was born in Toronto. He is an Asian Canadian.

Can an AsCan be an AsAm?

Of course.

I’ve always believed in a more inclusive sense of Asian American. Simu is like the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, the modern day Babe Ruth. They are Asians in America, and they are celebrities.

Celebrity is like ten-xing your Asianness.

People see a celebrity Asian, and they see every Asian they ever dealt with, liked, disliked, associated with, or read about in history. We are all raised up because of the power of celebrity stardust on others.

People see Simu and their good feelings find their way back to their interactions with the rest of us. Let’s hope that doesn’t change when Simu plays his first villain in his next movie, “Atlas,” on Netflix later this month.

Because of his schedule, Simu may be making a video appearance, but you can still attend this special AANHPI Heritage Month celebration in person. It’s AALDEF’s gala to celebrate fifty years of fighting for social justice. And if you can’t be there live, you can still be there virtually.


So here we are, almost half way through our month. Do you feel empowered? Do you feel like a full participant in America? Or do you still feel left out?

That’s one of the reasons for AANHPI, Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To empower us all. AANHPI is not a social term; it’s purely political. The name reeks of inclusion, and yet there’s so much more of us we don’t see in the name. It’s a reminder of our incredible potential as a community.

We’re more than 25 million strong. And as I mentioned in a previous column, if you include West Asians, like Arab Americans, at around 5 million, we are around 30 million plus.

How can U.S. policy makers ignore a coalition of 30 million people that have Asia as their common ground? They can’t.

Unless we don’t vote.

And this is our real power—especially in 2024.

If you’re not registered to vote, do so. And if you don’t have voting as an automatic thing like California’s permanent vote by mail, do so. That way, you don’t have to worry about long lines, or all the other reasons people don’t vote.

It’s the way to fulfill the democracy part of being an American.

That’s why after greeting people saying Happy Asian American Native Hawaiian Heritage Month, make sure they know the significance of our coalition—as a political force of voters.

The numbers are clear. Around 15 million Asian Americans are projected to be eligible to vote in 2024. This is an increase of 15 percent from 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s a larger projected increase than for Hispanics (12 percent) and Blacks (7 percent).

Asian Americans went from 3 percent of the electorate in 2000 to double that in a generation.

A lot of talk this year has centered so far on Black and Hispanic voters defecting from the Democrats in 2024. Hardly any talk about the Asian American vote. So, let’s start talking.

Seventy-two percent of English-speaking, single race, non-Hispanic Asian voters went for Biden in 2020 vs. 28 percent who voted for Donald Trump, according to Pew. Will we see Asian Americans continue to show up for Biden at the 72 percent level, or will that number erode?

Considering the efforts of Biden in the past year from day one to be inclusive about Asian Americans, I have a hard time seeing our community turning from Biden. If anything, the numbers may go higher if Republican members of our community (around 30 percent) understand what’s at stake and abandon Trump.

The list of White House accomplishments is long. I don’t think there was even a web page for Asian Americans during the Trump White House. Just think about how Donald Trump treated his lone Asian American cabinet member Elaine Chao, and see if there’s any reason for MAGA-AANHPIs to stick with their 2020 choice.

Here are some key things about Asian American eligible voters that are also worth noting.

We’re 6 percent of the electorate, which means as a bloc, it has the potential to be a real swing vote.

The demographic breakdown gender-wise is 53 percent women, 47 percent men.

By age, only 22 percent is 18-29 years old. The biggest demo is 30-49 at 36 percent. Add ages 50-65 at 23 percent and the core 30-64 working age demo is almost 60 percent of our community. The wise owl 65-plus community is at 18 percent.

The majority of us are naturalized citizens, 56 percent, vs. U.S born at 44 percent. For me this is always where I see some of the biggest fissures within our community. Who was pushing for affirmative action and who was against? Naturalized citizens, immigrants generally led the fight against affirmative action. It remains a flash point.

One other distinction about the Asian American voter is that we do like education. 74 percent of us fall in the spectrum of having two-year degrees, some college, bachelor’s or some post-graduate degrees. Compare that to all U.S. adults at just 64 percent.

So this month, have fun, celebrate us. And say the name. AANHPI Heritage Month. This is our political umbrella. We can stay dry and weather all the storms, but only if we stick together and vote.

Orlando Fringe Festival

I am back on the east coast in Florida starting May 16 for the Orlando Fringe Festival, one of the largest independent theater festivals in the U.S. “Emil Amok, Lost NPR Host, Wiley Filipino, Vegan Transdad,” my one-person show, is a comic three-generation historical piece that runs through May 25. Come see it live if you’re near an orange grove! Get tix here:


NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on