Preparing for Future Generations
By ‘Inoke Hafoka – Los Angeles, California | Salt Lake City (Glendale), Utah
Chances are you’ve heard some of these names before: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson [Actor/Entertainer], Dinah Jane [Member of Fifth Harmony], Troy Polamalu [Pittsburg Steelers, Retired NFL Player], Jabari Parker [Milwaukee Bucks, NBA Player], and Jason Momoa [Actor]. While these celebrities have Pacific Island heritage in common (a fact that many of us Pacific Islanders enthusiastically proclaim), their celebrity makes them an anomaly in a relatively invisible community. The Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander (NHPI) population in the United States (U.S.) is small and unique, and as a result, there are unique challenges that are largely invisible to the mainstream.
Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islanders make up less than 1% of the U.S. population, however according to research completed by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice organization this year, within a 5-year period (2010 and 2015) the NHPI population grew by 13 percent. That’s currently the second fastest growing group in the U.S. behind Asian Americans.
With the rate of NHPIs growing in the U.S., there are issues that need to be addressed because they impact our NHPI community differently compared to other ethnic populations. Here are some examples of issues that affect NHPIs nationally and some local to Utah:
|EDUCATION||In 2010, 73% of NHPI youth in Utah graduated and 24% dropped out of high school, rates worse than the statewide average (78% and 19% respectively)|
|HEALTH||About 1 in 7 NHPIs nationally are uninsured, a rate higher than Whites (also Tongans, a NHPI ethnic subgroup, have a rate of about 1 in 4 that do not have insurance).|
|ECONOMIC JUSTICE & HOUSING||In Utah, NHPIs fare worse than average across multiple measures of income: Poverty rate (15% compared to 9%), higher proportion who are low-income (53% compared to 27%), and lower per capita income ($12, 446 compared to $24,895). NHPI have lower-than-average rates of home ownership in the Salt Lake City area (49% compared to 71%).|
|IMMIGRATION||Overall, NHPI subgroups have different relationships with the U.S. (i.e. – U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, COFA, and no U.S. association), this makes the topic of immigration complex and challenging to fully comprehend.|
There are many more issues that affect the NHPI community not listed above, but what can be done about it? What is our responsibility as a community if we want to see change?
Making change is easier said than done. We have to make time during our busy lives of work, school, religious duties, family and community responsibilities, etc., to learn about the issues facing the NHPI community. If we don’t care enough to learn about what’s going on in our own community, we can’t expect someone else to, and we can’t expect things to improve. To better understand the issues that surround the NHPI community, we have to get involved and volunteer with work already being conducted by NHPIs in their communities. We will also need to do as Fitisemanu suggested and find time to speak out so that these issues are addressed. One way to ‘speak out’ is to register to vote. In 2012, there were only 58% of NHPIs registered to vote compared to 71% of the total U.S. population. We are traditionally a resourceful and resilient people. If we want our issues to be addressed, it’s our responsibility to not be ignored or have our issues be easily forgotten.
Our parents, grandparents, and family that came before sacrificed and found ways to provide for us. We must pay it forward and remember our future generations. If we do not make the necessary changes today to better the NHPI community, we will be providing our children with challenges and struggles because of the resources (or lack of) that will be available to help them survive.
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