Look out, Hawaii. Filipinos are EVERYWHERE!
(Btw, since I can’t link in a caption, that lovely Philippine/Hawaii flag mashup above can be found in its original form here.)
According to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week, Filipinos have surpassed Japanese as the largest Asian ancestry group in the state of Hawaii.
197,497 Hawaii residents identified themselves as Filipino in the 2010 U.S. Census–that’s 14.5% of the state’s total population of 1.36 million–as compared with 185,502 Hawaii residents (13.6%) who identified as Japanese.
10 years ago (2000 U.S. Census), Japanese residents were numbered at 201,764, made up 16.7% of Hawaii’s population, and were the largest group of Asian ancestry in Hawaii. While the number of Japanese in Hawaii declined significantly within the decade, the Filipino population grew by 15%. In terms of the total population, Filipinos only increased by 0.4%; however, Japanese declined by 3.1%.
The eventual switch of the two ethnic groups had been widely projected for years (interim census surveys indicated that the number of Filipinos had already overtaken that of Japanese as early as 2008), but apparently it happened faster than many had anticipated. The growth is attributed mainly to continued in-migration of Filipinos to the Hawaiian islands, as well as a growing birthrate among local Filipinos. The decreased number of Japanese residents has yet to be accounted for.
What does this mean? Well, Japanese Americans had been known as the largest and arguably most influential Asian group in Hawaii for a really long time (in 1920 they made up 43% of Hawaii’s entire population!). So it’s pivotal that now a new group not only outnumbers the Japanese and continues to rise without prospect of being surpassed by any other in the near future, but also potentially holds more political clout than ever before.
It’s also meaningful to me on a personal level. Hawaii is often painted as a utopian “melting pot” of cultures, Asian ones in particular, and while I think that to an extent there is truth in that I also believe that unfortunately, for a long time, Filipino Americans have been ostracized and looked down upon in Hawaii. Other Hawaii residents–Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike–may deny that this is true. However, growing up Filipino in Hawaii myself, I can definitely attest to a subtle yet hurtful stigma against my community, and it sadly often comes from other Asian American groups. Filipinos are often negatively stereotyped as “FOB,” “ghetto,” and generally less valuable than other Asians in Hawaii. In fact, some people (again both within and outside the ethnicity) don’t even consider Filipinos to be Asian; “Pacific Islander” is a common alternative label. In a rare place where Asians and Pacific Islanders are actually the majority, don’t kid yourself that we all perceive each other as equals–there are socioeconomic hierarchies (will save the institutional-level stuff for another day) as well as social hierarchies to be sure. They may be as inconspicuous as one of my Japanese American classmates asking me innocently (but seriously), “Do you eat dog?” in high school. But they’re there. So now that we’ve officially taken over the Asian population in Hawaii, will common perception of Filipinos in Hawaii (love to my peoples) change, too? I hope so.