Finding the Missing Minority

On-screen: [Center for MSIs. The Penn Graduate School of Education. Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions: Elevate MSIs, Increase Scholarship, Connect Leadership, Inform Practices, Advance Policies, Enhance Capacity.]

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi, Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF)

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi - Thank you very much. Also, I want to applaud (inaudible 0:04) for her work and my partnership with Robert Teranishi running the CARE commission.

To frame what I want to talk to you about today, I have to level set it to make sure we all have the same information that I utilize every day in what I do running the scholarship fund and supporting the Asian and Pacific Islander American Community. If I ask you how many ethnicities are followed by the U.S. census, what would you say that number is?

Audience - A dozen.

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi - Forty-eight. How many sub-ethnicities are there in the United States today for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans—sub-ethnicities? By the way, Mali is one of them. That’s not a country. How many?

Audience - Forty-five.

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi - Over 300, speaking over 300 languages, but over 1,000 languages. Our community is one that’s hard to describe in a sentence. You have to use multiple sentences to describe our community. As you can imagine, the word that was already said, a model minority myth. It’s this myth about when you start to aggregate all of the data that we have as an Asian and Pacific Islander American community. I will tell you, I’m always bothered by polls because polls always put us at the very top. You know what I’m talking about, because you’ve seen those polls. I’m one of those who is very cynical about what I see as numbers, because every time I drill down into the numbers themselves and I start asking questions, “Who did you ask?” since I kind of know it’s not quite right—and I’m going to give you one example, and then you’re going to understand. One happens to be Pew. You can tweet whatever you want to tweet about this, because we’ve challenged a lot of information. One was about Internet proliferation. There was an asterisk because they only polled English-speaking Asians, yet 70% of all Asian and Pacific Islander American households speak a language other than English at home, so how can you have logical data for this kind of our research? So hence one of the things I want to mention to you now is, whenever you see some data and you see some information, be like me and just ask some questions about what’s behind it, where did it come from, and is it really representative of the entire 48 ethnicities, 300 sub-ethnicities? I’m going to play a video for you, and then I’m going to come right back, because I want to elaborate on this point as it applies to minority serving institutions and AANAPISIs.

[Neil plays video.]

On-screen: [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders represent 48 ethnicities and speak over 300 languages. The Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund distributed over $10 million in scholarships last year. This represents only 5% of students who applied for financial support. Help support the next generation of leaders and share how we are #NotTheSame.]

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi - A little bit about this video. This video, in a 30-second version, is being broadcast throughout the United States right now in 38 markets by NBC Comcast Universal. We’re proud to partner with them. Very much like how the United Negro College Fund was able to do a PSA many years ago, we are now doing this to highlight the fact that we are not all the same. There are lots of ethnicities, lots of stories. All the stories are being told by our scholars. All of them are scholars. They’ve lived in poverty. They’ve been homeless. They’re immigrants. I have a question for you. The top two refugee groups to the U.S. in the past six, going on seven, years—and Syrians is not one of them; that’s the newest one coming in—top two refugee groups to the U.S. in the past six years, going on seven years. Who are they? Just so you know, I didn’t know the answer, but I wanted you to take a guess.

Audience - Hmong?

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi - Hmong? No.

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi - No, not yet.

Audience - Cambodia?

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi - Not yet. Nope.

Audience - Vietnamese?

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi - We published a paper back last year, because we stumbled across this information. It’s indicative of what’s going on in the nation today. All of us are in higher education. All of us support minority serving institutions. There are two, and the basis is Homeland Security data. They are the Burmese or Myanmar and Bhutanese. They’ve been settling not in California, New York, Hawaii, Washington State, but actually in the Midwest. It’s a changing face of America.

How does this apply to minority serving institutions and AANAPISIs? A few years ago, when we first started to look at AANAPISIs, because it’s kind of new, since 2008, 116 AANAPISIs to 153 to 165 today, the largest new AANAPISI—and some of our newest partners—happen to be in Texas of all places. In Illinois, in the Midwest, soon Arkansas. This is not the typical place where you would think that the Asian and Pacific Islander American community would be, but it’s due to immigration, a large population that happen to be the most underserved. Right now, if you look at the 48 ethnicities over a bell curve and you look at one end of it, who are the most underserved and who are the least educated, it happens to be the Burmese and Bhutanese. They’ve been living in refugee camps for the last 20–30 years in Thailand. If you go to our website at, you’ll find these papers overall.

What’s going on as it applies to what we’re trying to do in the nation today? I thought Terrell’s comment and question about the emotional aspect becomes very profound, because I was on a panel recently run by Gallup, something that Carrie was also on. I’m going to tell you, some of the data that I’m going to share, Carrie’s comment was simply, “Why aren’t the Native Americans included?”

Again, Gallup did a study. They disaggregated African American, black, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and there were a couple of questions being asked. I find it very relevant, because their hypothesis was, if you have a mentor, if you have a professor who cared on one hand, if you also had someone who provided infrastructure for you, that familiarity, familial aspect on campus, you had a two times higher propensity to succeed in life. Guess which community fell to the lowest of those two questions? The Asian community. The Asian community. I challenged you to think, if we became the latest minority serving institution and only now are debating maybe investments, and people are speaking up in forums like this across the nation to say Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, we’re no longer that small group that’s the asterisk, but we are real in that we deserve our place.

A couple of the dimensions of this dialogue and discussion. One is, when were we able to say we were Asian Pacific Islander Americans in the nation, according to the U.S. census? When were we able to say that we were Asians in the United States? Basic question, right? Is it the 1920s? Sixties? Seventies? Eighties? Nineties? Two thousand?

Audience - Yes.

Speaker: Neil Horikoshi - For some ethnicities, 1980. More today, in the most recent sets, it’s in 2000. What I’m suggesting is bad data draws a lot of bad policy. The creation of AANAPISIs, the reason why it was a fiction that turned out only in 2008, was there was a policy by the Department of Education that said Asians and Pacific Islander Americans are not included in the minority serving institution designation. I happen to be a lawyer. If you saw that kind of language in 2009, wouldn’t you be a bit upset? I got upset, which is why I’m still doing this job today. (Laughter.)

Today, I have partnerships with 18 AANAPISI campuses. There are 165. I got a long way to go. The majority of those AANAPISI campuses have no idea they are, in fact, AANAPISI campuses. Again, I only partner with 18 of them today. I’m watching this very closely, because we’re trying to create the dialogue for the Asian Pacific Islander American community in the nation. More importantly, our population in 1970 was just 1.5 million, 1970. When I was going to college, I was viewed as “other.” That’s what I was. When I got hired in corporate America, I was “other.” Again, it’s not until 1980 that there was even a designation. If you think about all the policies that have taken place since then, you’re not going to have a framework of why we are where we are today as we struggle to get onto the landscape, get onto the polls even, just like the Native American community is saying, “Why are we always not included?” That is my question for years. Today, we are 18.5 million, going to 50 million in just the next 30 years. A lot of it is because of immigration, and it’s not the typical places that you would expect the Asians to go to. Hence, the minority serving institutions across the nation, if we watch this carefully, they’re not just California; they’re across the country.

Where do I see this happening? Part of this, what I see happening in the years ahead are two things. One is we need to develop the pipeline of leaders in education, in politics, in government, in industry. I think what Marybeth is doing in partnership with Sac State to get two of the most promising young researchers and leaders to her campus is extremely important, because that deserves the pipeline. You need far more Asian leaders on campus to begin representing the interests of the Asian Pacific Islander American community. Today, there are still just 16 Asian Pacific Islander American college presidents in the U.S., considering there are well over 5,000 campuses today. Why is this? We need that voice. We need to develop what the HBCUs have done so successfully for your community, applied to all of our communities, including the Asian Pacific Islander American community. With that, I thank you, and I hope we can get there.


End of Finding the Missing Minority video.

Video duration: 12:50