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Invisible Ink: Media representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Report finds that news coverage of Asian Americans was so sparse, that it was as if it was written in invisible ink.

During Asian Pacific Heritage Month last month, the Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) released Invisible Ink: Media Representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.


Invisible Ink explored news media coverage of AAPIs through a pre-pandemic snapshot, seeking to answer how often AAPIs are included in, or the focus of, stories related to economic inequality, and how they are portrayed.


They found that news coverage of Asian Americans was so sparse, it was as if it was written in invisible ink. Given the power of the media to shape the perceptions and decisions of philanthropy, policy makers, and other key decision makers, it is critical for news media to accurately and robustly include AAPI people in the course of covering the full spectrum of issues, including economic inequality.

“Our initial reaction to the report was one rooted in affirmation. There was a lack of surprise as the report reflects what we have heard from the AAPI community and also experienced firsthand. Traditionally tagged as the model minority group that has intentionally tried to blend into the background, it should come as no surprise that we are often not only left out of the conversation, but also the media,” said Chris Bui.


According to Jin Tsuchiya, “The AAPI community becoming visible cannot take place overnight. It will involve both immediate and steady, big and small, as well as overt and strategic approaches to erode the systemic barriers that has made us invisible. Increased opportunities to tell stories, build trust from within the AAPI community, and inject financial and social resources into the AAPI ecosystems may be a start.”


“Here in Colorado, funders, community organizations, and AAPI community members will need to unlearn ‘what has always been’ and start fresh from a place of ‘what is possible,’” said Tsuchiya.


Bui and Tsuchiya, co-founders of AAPIP Rocky Mountain, note that “support from philanthropy will require a shift in traditional and insufficient funding to AAPI communities and the organizations that serve them. While only 20 cents of every $100 philanthropy dollar has gone toward AAPI communities, an influx of financial support will not be the final answer to overcoming the inequities impacting our community.”


“AAPI are resourceful, which is maybe why we’ve been able to subsist on miniscule philanthropic support, and we are resilient. We will require building up our community capacity, social capital, advocacy skills, and recognizing how to utilize and wield our inherent power together.”


Bui is a Senior Program Officer and Tsuchiya is a Public Policy Officer for The Colorado Health Foundation.


Funders have an opportunity to invest in, leverage, and reform journalism as a core strategy to advancing equity and inclusion. Recommendations include:

See the full report at: aapip.org/what-we-do/invisible-ink.


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