Q&A with Ryan Liu ’18, national chair of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Millennials for Hillary
Q: What was your initial reaction and your immediate takeaways as the night progressed on November 8?
A: I think everyone came to their realization between 11PM and 1AM EST. Some people didn’t accept it until a little later. For me, the results became somewhat concerning at the very beginning, since I was focused on Virginia, Nevada and Pennsylvania and when the first results came out around 8PM EST, Virginia was too close to call. The fact that [Virginia] was too close to call showed that all the models were off, and now we know that’s because of the increased white working class turnout. I think everyone needed a moment to breathe and reflect, but for me…my grieving period was short. I automatically went back to the mindset of “let’s try to motivate people and let’s try to cheer up people.” We’re going to fight — both online and offline — and we’re going to continue to work for what’s right, no matter what.
Q: Based on your direct political involvement, what are some of the strengths and challenges of the AAPI community?
A: There are 48 subgroups that compose the AAPI title, and within all these different groups and languages, there are different political preferences. For example, Vietnamese Americans tend to lean more conservative than some other groups. So I think it’s certainly difficult to get a clear picture of the political preferences of all the different groups within this title, but I think it’s something we have to try to understand, especially moving forward. No matter what happens over the next four years, we have to understand that we’re going to have to work together to make sure that our rights as minorities are not infringed upon. I grew up in California, a state that spearheaded the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and I went to school next to an area that used to be a Japanese internment camp. So we’re surrounded by relics of the past — of the discriminatory system — and we want to make sure that this never happens again. And I think we are moving in the right direction, because we have an increasing number of AAPIs in office — not only in Congress, but also in state legislatures and on the local level. I think we’re moving in the right direction.
Q: Do you think this election has mobilized or changed the way AAPIs view political engagement and public service?
A: I think after the election, everyone went through their own period of reflection, but I think everyone walked away being more interested in public service. I think the bright side is that now communities are mobilizing together, and they want to make sure all the interests of minority groups are protected against whatever sort of infringement may or may not happen in the next few years.
Q: You mentioned your grieving period was quite short, and I know some people on campus are still struggling to navigate their emotions about the election. While discussions are helpful, what are some concrete ways the AAPI community at Yale, and across the nation, can do to move forward?
I think everyone needs their own time to grieve and reflect, and they should take as long as they need. That being said, discussions are great for moving forward. I would encourage people to be civically minded in the process. In addition to doing that, maybe volunteer for a nonprofit, donate to a cause like Planned Parenthood or the ACLU or spend the summer working for a member of Congress and seeing what is possible. I do believe discussions are important and getting your voice heard is important, but let’s make sure that we also do something concrete.
As for what the AAPI community can do at Yale, I think it’s important to have discussions among AAPIs on campus. So that can mean putting on events where people can come together to talk about steps moving forward and getting people connected with organizations like the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, which pairs motivated AAPIs with AAPI members of Congress.
Q: What are some personal changes that you’re making? What are your next steps in light of this election?
A: Again, this is a good time for reflections. I think on the most basic level it is important just to be kinder and nicer to each person you meet, whether they’re a barista that’s working here [in New Haven] or someone you just met. I think that goes a long way. If we actually believe in the idea that we’re stronger together, that “love trumps hate,” then I think we have to start showing it. If other people don’t show it in return, that’s on them, not on us. We have to do something that shows that we truly believe in these ideas. So that’s what I’m going to try to do. I will try to understand the real problems and issues people are facing even if they live in a completely different zip code, pray to a different god, or have a different last name. I also want to help advocate for community college students. I think there are avenues for people to channel their energies on the local, state and national level, so I’m excited to start getting work done!