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Asian Americans Are Ready for a Hero

After going from “model minority” to invisible minority to hunted minority, the community needs a generation of cultural and political leaders.

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Picture an athlete. Now a movie star. And now a politician. You probably pictured a White man. Or a Black or Latino person. I’m guessing you didn’t picture an Asian American. I know I usually don’t. And I’m an Asian-American television writer who thinks up imaginary people for a living. We Asian Americans don’t have many cultural or political figures of national stature. Or, one could argue, any. And while segments of the Asian-American community, particularly South Asians, have enjoyed economic success relative to other minority groups, few Asians overall occupy C-suite corner offices. Politically, culturally, and economically, in the positions that matter, Asian Americans are nearly invisible.

There has been no Asian-American Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Barack Obama. In California, Arizona, and a host of other states, Cesar Chavez Day is a state holiday. Who’s the national, towering Asian-American figure who would be so honored? Andrew Yang? There’s no Asian Jay-Z or Beyoncé, no Asian Bad Bunny or Selena. We’ve seen for years how Black actors have been underrepresented at the Academy Awards. Meanwhile, there has been one Asian American nominated for best actor in history, Steven Yeun, this year, for his role in Minari, directed by an Asian-American filmmaker, one of two such nominations for Asian-American directors in history.