May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
It's time to celebrate the important milestones, cultural achievements, influence and history of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in the United States. It's also time to draw awareness to, and strengthen efforts to correct the prejudices, violence and social inequities these groups endure.
Be proactive! Keep scrolling to learn about the history of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM), read about current injustices, find new ways to pay tribute to the APA community, and explore other activities to help expand on your own understanding of the event and its importance toward racial equity and social impact.
A brief history of the Observance of AAPIHM
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a joint congressional resolution was established in 1978 that declared the first 10 days of May as Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Week. These dates coincide with two important events in APA history: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions and sacrifices of Chinese workers who built the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869. In 1992, Congress permanently expanded the observance from one week to an entire month-long celebration that is now known as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Manjiro: the first Japanese immigrant to arrive in the United states
In 1841 a 14-year-old fisherman and his crew were caught in a violent storm which left them stranded on a deserted island more than 300 miles away from their coastal Japanese village of Naka-no-hama. Six months later the fishermen were rescued by an American whaling ship. Unable to return home due to Japan’s exclusion law, Manjiro began a journey to America arriving in the country on May 7, 1843. So began a captivating saga about a life full of exceptional achievements including returning to Japan, where he was named a samurai and became an important political emissary between Japan and the West.
Click the button below to read the full story of Manjiro Nakahama.
Chinese Workers & America's first
Between 1865 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants played an instrumental role in the construction of America’s first Transcontinental Railroad. The workforce for the largest engineering project of the time, crucial for development of the American West, was composed of as much as 90% Chinese workers for much of the construction. Stanford University recounts their story in the context of engrossing topographic contour maps.
Click the button below for Stanford University's virtual reconstruction of the key historic sites of the railroad.
The term Asian American is a catch-all term that did not gain currency until the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was not until 1980 that the U.S. Census Bureau created the "Asian and Pacific Islander" category. According to United States 2019 Census, the American Asian population in the U.S. is 22.9 million accounting for 5.7% of the nation's population.
According to a May Asian American Heritage month report issued by the National Resources Conservation Services government office, "Asian and Pacific Islander" contains racial overtones, given that natives of Australia and New Zealand are not included, nor are whites born in the Asian region of the former Soviet Union.
From a business perspective, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a special report on Asian Americans professionals growth trend with particular focus on officials or management positions. The trend over 47 years from 1966-2013 showed only an increase from 1% to 5.53%. Despite this growth a 2017 study by the Harvard Business Review (cited below) indicated that Asian Americans are the least likely group to be promoted into management positions in the United States.
Additionally, the discriminatory practices in some academic institutions and recent hate crimes against Asian Americans are further instigating this racial equity problem.
Harvard Business Review - https://hbr.org/2018/05/asian-americans-are-the-least-likely-group-in-the-u-s-to-be-promoted-to-management
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Special Report - https://www.eeoc.gov/special-report/asian-americans-american-workforce
US Census Bureau - https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2021/asian-american-pacific-islander.html
Asian Americans Are the Least Likely Group in the U.S. to Be Promoted to Management
The Harvard Business Review examined racial diversity at management level highlighting the underrepresentation of Asian American white-collar professionals and based on a 2017 study concluded that they are the least likely group in the United States to be promoted into management despite not being considered as an underrepresented minority. The problem exists in a number of sectors, from tech and finance to law and government. The authors recommend three steps to addressing this issue which require buy in at the CEO level and implementation at the strategic level.
Why don’t we treat Asian American history the way we treat Black history?
Michael Dyson, centennial chair and university distinguished professor of African American and diaspora studies and professor of ethics and society at Vanderbilt University, made the case for what has come to be known as "hate crimes" against Asian Americans. He argued that this requires a more dedicated focus on racial tensions for this minority group similar to one that has been dedicated to Black Americans. He pointed out that in a year with thousands of anti-Asian assaults, civil rights violations and instances of verbal harassment reported, most Americans are just beginning to engage with the Asian American struggle.
Suspect charged with killing 8 in Atlanta-area shootings that targeted Asian-run spas
March 2021 - eight people were shot dead at three Asian spas in and around Atlanta in a killing rampage that sharply amplified fears among Asian Americans over a nationwide surge in hate crimes and bigoted rhetoric.
How are the Atlanta spa shootings not a hate crime?
This opinion articles argues that racial hate crimes are still not being recognized and called out by lawmakers and local authorities whether its HR or the Police. Misdirection as a distraction is presented as a standard response for cries for racial injustices.
Sikh community mourns after Fedex shooting
April 2021 - This article focuses on the tragedy facing the Sikh community, particularly in Indianapolis. According to the Sikh coalition, the local Sikh community has grown significantly in the past two decades, with an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Sikh Americans living in Indiana. The article also highlights the issue of gun violence.
America reckons with racial injustice
Brooklyn Center, Minnesota's most diverse city is in the spotlight after shootings this year. In the last 25 years, rapid demographic change has come to this city of just 30,000 people. The exodus of jobs, decline in median income, and rise in poverty that Brooklyn Center has seen in that time would be challenges for any small suburb. But residents say Brooklyn Center's problems are compounded by a city administration and police force that no longer looks like the communities that live there. The author leaves the reader with a quote from a local resident's observation that Brooklyn center is the new face of America in its population diversity, something we should reckon and learn to live with one another and come together.
Indianapolis Shooting Live Updates: Victims Are Remembered
According to the Sikh Coalition, about 10,000 Sikh Americans have made Indiana their home over the past 50 years. The exact size of the Sikh population in the United States is hard to determine, but estimates suggest that there are several hundred thousand members. The article quotes members of the Sikh community and their recall of the 2012 rampage by a white supremacist, who killed six people at a gurdwara, or Sikh temple, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. attributing these killings and racial slurs and hostility to the September 2001 terrorist attack instigations.
Stop Pointing at Asian Americans to Downplay Racism at Universities
This article highlights the Asian American gifted minority group myth and makes the case for how this myth is used to downplay racism and dismiss claims of white privilege. The article cites various statistics recognizing the diversity within the Asian population and various economic and political factors that further debunk the myth.
Civil Rights.Org - The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for laws and policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of every person in the United States.
Why The Asian American Students Lost Their Case Against Harvard (But Should Have Won)
A federal judge ruled against a group of Asian American students who claimed that Harvard discriminated against them in their admissions policy. There is much controversy about this decision and many claim that Asian American students face a disadvantage in gaining admission to Harvard. This Forbes article provides a rationale that highlights subjective evaluation on the personal qualities of Asian applicants are significantly lower than ratings for white applicants, making it harder for Asian Americans to get into Harvard in spite of high academic achievement.
Advocates, lawmakers demand end to anti-Asian hate crimes after Atlanta killings
Faced with a spike in violence against Asian Americans, lawmakers and activists from around the country have pushed for stronger anti-hate crime legislation, with mixed results. And advocates are demanding more action from the Justice Department, such as opening investigations into incidents that traumatize Asian Americans — such as yelling racial slurs — but legally cannot be categorized under hate crimes.
6 Ways to Celebrate AAPIHM
1) Explore the History of AAPI in the U.S.
In 2020, PBS released “Asian Americans,” a five-hour film series that focuses on the contributions and challenges of Asian Americans in America, including personal histories and academic research to reexamine the role Asian Americans have played in U.S. history.
2) Attend a Virtual Event
Asia Society.org lists a series of online virtual events in honor of AAPIHM that are happening throughout the month of May. From virtual performances to book discussions and family activities, there is something for everyone.
3) Patronize an Asian-owned Business
Visit a local Asian business and share your experience on social media to promote Asian entrepreneurs.
4) Learn about Asian Art and Artists
Check out the Asian Art Museum.org. Read a book by an Asian author. If you are a more hands-on type, learn about and create your own origami. This is a great way to include children in the AAPIHM celebration.
5) Participate in a Racial Equity Challenge
Looking for an ongoing challenge? Take the American Bar Association's 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge (c): Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month
6) Spread Awareness
Use social media to call attention to the achievements, influence, and history of AAPI in the United States. Encourage people to stand together against anti-Asian hate. We have a few suggestions below for ways to make a bigger impact with your posts.
Spread awareness to the masses with hashtags. Don't limit the reach of your social media posts to just your followers, add a hashtag to your content so your message will be accessible to all. Here are a few we suggest for AAPIHM:
Please feel free to download and share the following graphics. Don't forget your hashtags
Click on an image for a full-size view.