Some of the first Asian people in the US date back to as early as 1765 when Filipino sailors settled in the bayous of what is now known as Louisiana after jumping ship to leave indentured servitude. Since then, Asian and Pacific Islander people have left an impressive mark on American culture from advocating for workers’ and civil rights, innovations in technology, contributions to the culinary arts, and beyond!
Despite making significant contributions to American society (e.g. Chinese manual labor on the transcontinental railroad, Filipino labor leaders organizing farmers to strike for better benefits, Moanike’ala Akaka’s work to end the US military practice of dropping bombs on Kaho’olawe, etc.), it wasn’t for another 227 years that Congress passed legislation to annually designate May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. And yet somehow even then the 31 days of May hardly feel like enough time to celebrate and acknowledge the immense diversity within the umbrella of “AAPI.”
According to Pew Research, Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander populations were two of the top three fastest-growing racial/ethnic groups in America between 2000 and 2019, with a projected combined population of 35.8 million by 2060. So as this vast population continues to grow, we encourage organizations to take the time to think more broadly in their understanding of who and what make up the breadth of the AAPI community, including but not limited to:
- East Asia: China, Japan, Mongolia, etc.
- Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, etc.
- South Asia: Bangladesh, India, Nepal, etc.
- Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Uzebekistan, etc.
- West Asia: Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, etc.
- Pacific Islands: Hawaii, Fiji, French Polynesia, etc.
While there may be some shared culture between these nations and their people, AAPI Month is a great time to learn about what makes each one unique. There is no “one-size fits all” solution or approach to celebrating and recognizing the AAPI community.
When hosting an event or creating social media posts to recognize AAPI month, we encourage you to amplify the voices of some of the underrepresented people/cultures such as Samoan, Hmong, or Indian. While we don’t want to discourage you from highlighting the achievements and successes of East Asian Americans, we hope to see the expansiveness of the AAPI community and cultures celebrated.
As you think about ways that you can acknowledge and uplift the AAPI community, we urge you to:
- Think about how misinformation or misrepresentation of the AAPI community negatively impacts Asian-owned businesses, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Make authentic connections with your local AAPI communities, and show that you value them and their culture beyond the month of May
- Chicago has showcased the AAPI community through restaurant week this year,
- and New York City has celebrated the community by holding the first annual parade
- Consider how you are making space for your AAPI friends, family, co-workers, employees, neighbors, etc. as hate incidents continue to climb
If you’re interested in learning how to engage authentically and create relationships with the AAPI community, our CultureBeat team is ready when you are!