A bill that seeks to collect data from Asian-American and Pacific Islander ethnic groups in Massachusetts has been met with outrage from the concerned communities in the state, with many calling the proposal a “racist bill”.
Introduced by Democratic Rep. Tackey Chan of Massachusetts in January, the MA House Bill H3361 is set to require state agencies in Massachusetts to identify Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders through data collected from surveys, to be broken down by the state’s five largest ethnic groups in the state, including Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese.
So far, there have been three protests against the bill conducted by Asian Americans over the past ten days, according to reports. The latest one, saw more than 100 demonstrators gathered at the steps of the Massachusetts State House in Boston last Saturday, carrying placards and chanting their objection to the bill.
Most of the protesters were reportedly immigrants from China and organized their picket through the social media app WeChat. NPR reported that many of the participants held signs saying “Aggregation, not segregation” and chanted, “Stop the racist bill!”
Asian-Americans who joined the rally expressed that they preferred to be counted only as one group instead of being separated by ethnicity.
“The fear is, you know, how you can guarantee the demographic data collected will not be abused or will not be misused for other purposes,” one of the protest organizers, Andy Liu, was quoted as saying.
Liu and the group noted that the bill particularly singles out Asian-Americans while excluding other racial groups for additional data.
“They use those data in education, in college admissions and even in [the] workforce. That’s not fair,” said Wen Zhao, who traveled with her 7-year-old son all the way from Westford, Mass. to join the protest.
She added that separating Asian-American data by ethnic groups would incite division among Asian-Americans.
“This is obviously discrimination against Asian-Americans,” a protester was quoted as saying in Mandarin.
Rep. Chan noted the reaction from the community, saying his office has been receiving phone calls and emails about the bill last month.
“To be honest with you, I was rather surprised by that,” says Chan, whose constituents include Quincy, Mass., which has the second-largest Asian-American population in the state after Boston.
The bill, although widely criticized, also has its supporters. In a joint statement, two dozen member organizations and supporters of the Asian Pacific Islanders Civic Action Network expressed their support for the Massachusetts bill.
Among the groups who supported the proposal included the Chinese Progressive Association and the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center.
“Disaggregation is not segregation,” the organizations wrote. “In fact, we should be united in uplifting our community members who have been continuously calling for data disaggregation so they will not be left invisible.”