"You can’t just single out us Asians"

A proposed bill in Massachusetts that demands more specific data about the ethnicity of Asian Americans is being coldly received.

New Boston Post reports that the bill proposed by Massachusetts lawmakers would allow state agencies to demand “more specific nation-of-origin information from Asian Americans”.

Critics of the proposed bill claim it would go against he United States Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.

State Representative Tackey Chan’s (D-Quincy) legislation calls for “all state agencies, quasi-state agencies, entities created by state statute and sub-divisions of state agencies” to “identify Asian-American and Pacific Islanders as defined by the United States Census Bureau in all data collected”.

Personal data will also be gathered on “the five largest Asian-American and Pacific Islander ethnic groups residing in the commonwealth.

Chan said that Asians “should be able to identify ourselves to you as who we are, as opposed to having other people identify for us.”

“I promise you — not an Asian person, not a Chinese person, not a Japanese person — no one created the concept of Asian, it was kind of like created around us. I never heard it before in my childhood and into adulthood,” Chan added.

However, not everyone sees the bill in the same way. George Shen, a Newton resident who specializes in data and analytics for IBM said, “I’m not a lawyer but I understand the Constitution. The bill selectively collects data from racial group, one minority group, and you can’t just single out us Asians.”

“The U.S. Census Bureau gathers data under one agency, at one given time, and once every ten years,” he added. “They use one data entry point.

“If all these agencies start collecting data from many entry points it will result in a data overlap — triple-counting, tabulation problems — this is an unscientific and imprudent way of collecting very sensitive data.”

Brookline’s Swan Lee said the proposal would create a “Southeast Asia versus East Asia narrative”, making communities more divisive. “What they [supporters of Chan’s legislation] really want is data with no privacy protection,” she said.

Angie Tso of Acton told New Boston Post that while the bill “may have good intentions, it is still unconstitutional.”

“It treats one party different from the other parties,” she said. “That’s the very definition of discrimination.

“If I am Latino, or any other non-Asian-American, how would I feel if this were happening to me?”