Daily Kos Celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, May 2023

AAPI Heritage Month: Our equity commitment at Daily Kos

“At Daily Kos, the Equity Council works to build a better organization and community by focusing on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Kos Media. The Equity Council issues this statement as a commitment to these ideals, and to encourage Daily Kos to take action internally and externally to support the movement.”

Our Equity Council began curating a page of solidarity resources in response to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. This meant focusing in part on two aspects: checking the abusive powers of law enforcement and shining a light on the disproportionately deadly impact of COVID-19 on BIPOC communities. In 2023, this vigilance is as important as ever as is the perspective that Black and brown people are entitled to live in peace and safety in this country they call home.

Today, the legacy of racism and white supremacy in the United States continues to weigh heavily on AAPI individuals, businesses, and communities. COVID itself has taken a severe toll, but the emergence of the disease offered a pretext for unleashing deeply entrenched anti-AAPI bigotry. The number of hate crimes perpetrated against AAPI individuals, including mass murder and other instances of terrorism, has grown exponentially since 2020.

For almost 200 years, AAPI community members have organized significant networks of mutual support and care, drawing upon decades of experience with building intra-community alliances of resistance to withstand racism, affirm cultural integrity, and assert the right to be considered fully American.

We hope the resources we offer here, along with content on the site, will foster awareness of the complex interplay of historical factors, cultural identity markers, and U.S. governmental policies affecting citizenship as they relate to community formation for the millions of people who are included under this very broad umbrella of Asian American and Pacific Islander. Many of these resources also suggest ways in which Daily Kos readers may participate to bring about positive change for us all.

AAPI Resources at Daily Kos

A sample of Daily Kos stories

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General resources

Defining “AAPI”

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2023
The site hosted by the Library of Congress offers the current official list of related countries and regions of origin, plus a short explanation of the history of the observance.

Asian & Pacific Islander Identities: Definitions & Groupings
The Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence provides a clear and thoughtful explanation of the category, noting that “Whilst our communities use various names to describe themselves; these groupings are ultimately political and part of a dynamic, continuing process of self-determination and self-identification.”

U.S. immigration and citizenship policies impacting AAPI communities: A historical overview

It is a worthy endeavor to honor the accomplishments and successes of many notable Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, most of which remain overlooked or tokenized in U.S. history textbooks. Yet the origin of the commemorative month itself reveals a fundamental irony.

In 1992, Congress established May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to coincide with two key milestones: the arrival of the nation’s first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843) and Chinese workers’ pivotal role in building the transcontinental railroad (completed May 10, 1869). The move expanded what had been Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week since 1978. In 2021, a presidential proclamation expanded this to include Native Hawaiians.

The Japanese and Chinese workers whose skilled labor enabled the achievement of major milestones in U.S. economic development were not thanked for their extraordinary efforts nor welcomed to this country. Instead, white Americans in positions of power harassed, persecuted, and explicitly barred Asian immigrants from obtaining U.S. citizenship even if they did manage to avoid deportation. Prior to 1965, severely restrictive immigration and naturalization policies and U.S. Supreme Court decisions directed toward people born in Asian and Pacific Island countries provided one instance after another of racist repudiation and exclusion with only occasional applications of justice.

“’What is your nationality?’ I would reply patiently, as if giving them a civics lesson, that my nationality was American because I was born in the United States but that my parents were Chinese. But no matter how often or how carefully I explained, I would be asked the question again and again, as if to say that I could not be Chinese and American at the same time. Often the questioner, having heard my explanation, would go on to say, ‘But you speak English so well’. It was said sweetly, as if I were being paid a compliment. But the message behind the sweetness was that being Chinese and speaking English well were just as incompatible as being Chinese and American.”Grace Lee Boggs, Living for Change: An Autobiography

U.S.-born citizens descended from Asian immigrants to the U.S. did not always fare well either. The internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and Japanese permanent residents who had been prevented from becoming citizens and the associated plunder of their assets implemented through FDR’s Executive Order 9066 in 1942 remains one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.

“Because so few people know that history [of the U.S. internment camps], we keep repeating it time after time-this sweeping generalization that we are somehow, because of our race, complicit in a horrible thing,” George Takei said, also pointing to the mass hysteria directed toward Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11. “We need to educate people, and for them to not see race as something that they’ve got to act on with violence.”

Immigrants to the continental U.S. have not been the only people to experience anti-Asian bias; the citizens of the Philippines, Hawaii, and Guam among others faced different difficulties due to U.S. imperialism. The circumstances of those who fled their home countries in the wake of the devastation the U.S. had unleashed there, as in the case of Vietnamese and Laotian refugees, have been painfully different still.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, called the Hart-Celler Act after its sponsors in the Senate and House, ended the restrictive national quotas that had been instituted in the early 1920s. The Immigration Act of 1924 accorded preferential treatment to Western European immigrants and completely excluded immigrants from Asia. The 1965 legislation imposed different numeric limits globally and per country, and it included a family reunification clause that gives priority to close relatives of those already in the U.S. This reform, enacted during the U.S.-Vietnam War when Cold War tensions were high, was enormously popular when enacted.

Since its passage, the law has had many positive effects; if the old formula has been retained, immigration from Asian and African nations would have remained severely curtailed. Thanks to Hart-Celler, the AAPI population in the U.S. has grown rapidly, now comprising about 5-7% of the country. In the aggregate, AAPI citizens constitute the fastest growing racial group in the United States. Still, the reforms of 1965 have had unexpected negative consequences in many dimensions, particularly for temporary or permanent migrants from Mexico and Central/South America; the status quo with regard to immigration policy is not justifiable.

“I [spent] the first 16 years of my life outside of the United States growing up in India, Indonesia, and Singapore. And then I spent 10 years when I was not yet a U.S. citizen working on international health issues. And so for me, the world is much bigger than just the United States…. [It] has changed and shaped the way I see what the policy priorities are, what the solutions are, and what our responsibility is as a country to lead in the world.”Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), interviewed by Preet Bharara on 12/8/2021.

AAPI Heritage

“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been pivotal in contributing to the growth and prosperity of our nation since its founding. We have helped make the United States the greatest country in the world, but unfortunately many remain unaware of the crucial role we’ve played throughout our history. It’s time for that to change and creating a national museum would ensure there is a physical space to commemorate and share our story with future generations.” -Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), on the unanimous passage in the House of Representatives of her bill, “Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture Act,” April 26, 2022.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
From the website’s homepage:

The Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success.

→ Includes links to the calendars of events, in-person and virtual, for the co-sponsoring organizations

Local Community Histories

“Our AAPI Community”
Articles and shows produced by KCET (a PBS affiliate based in Southern & Central CA) covering the rich, diverse history and culture of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, with an emphasis on those in California and the U.S. West Coast.

“Exiled to Motown”
This PBS NewsHour special focuses on the Japanese American community in Detroit, incorporating numerous oral histories of elders and leaders.

“The Japanese American story in Detroit actually can’t be told without thinking about its embeddedness in the city itself-thinking about the forced removal of Japanese Americans in relation to the forced removal of Indigenous peoples to build Detroit in the first place; about the ways Black bodies have been policed in terms of where they are allowed to exist and thrive in the city,” Mika Kennedy, Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Detroit chapter president, and co-curator of the “Exiled to Motown” exhibit told the PBS NewsHour. “When we take that step back, we see these same narratives-sung in a different key, but part of the same history.”

AAPI Activism

“Months like AAPI Heritage Month should ask more of us than they often do in terms of addressing racism and violence.” -Vanita Reddy

18 Million Rising
An organization formed in 2012 to represent the approximate 18 million Asian Americans in this country, 18 Million Rising works to tap untapped political opportunities “to educate, organize, and mobilize young Asian American,” according to its website.

Asian Prisoner Support Committee
The Chinese for Affirmative Action nonprofit supports this committee’s work to back immigrants and refugees in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. These immigrants are targeted and detained violently in some cases, and advocates are working to raise awareness about the effects of incarceration and to support those held in California prisons.

Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence and Chinatown Community for Equitable Development
Community members are getting together to support organizations in the thick of the fight to protect affordable housing for all. Chinatown neighborhoods throughout the country are grappling with rising housing costs threatening to push out working-class residents, and the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence and Chinatown Community for Equitable Development are seeking support to combat that displacement.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)
From their website:

Rooted in the dreams of immigrants and inspired by the promise of opportunity, Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC (Advancing Justice/AAJC) advocates for an America in which all Americans can benefit equally from, and contribute to, the American dream. Our mission is to advance the civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all….
Advancing Justice/AAJC is the voice for the Asian American community–-the fastest-growing population in the U.S.–fighting for our civil rights through education, litigation, and public policy advocacy. We serve to empower our communities by bringing local and national constituencies together and ensuring Asian Americans are able to participate fully in our democracy.

“The idea that [my Korean-born parents] traveled halfway around the world to live in a place that didn’t speak their language, didn’t have any friends and family-it was something else that drew them….I hope that Jan. 6 reminds us of what it is that drew our families here and reminds us that that is worth fighting for. That is worth trying to preserve.” -Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ)

Anti-Racism Resources for the AAPI Community, Cornell University Asian American Studies Program
Wide-ranging compilation of resources (organizations, reference documents, podcasts, hotlines, and more) intended to counter anti-Asian racism and anti-Black racism. Strong emphasis on coalition building, self-care, and solidarity politics.

Right to Be
An early leader in bystander intervention training, Right to Be was originally Hollaback! (The organization’s name change was initiated to reflect its more comprehensive mission.) In partnership with several chapters of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Right to Be will be hosting a number of sessions of the webinar, “How to Respond to Harassment for People Experiencing Anti-Asian/American Harassment,” during the spring and summer of 2023. Some sessions are offered in Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Upcoming sessions are shown on their Events page. Scroll through the display tiles to see topics, languages, dates, and times for additional information and sign-up links.

AAPI Women Lead #ImReady Movement
From its website:

AAPI Women Lead and #ImReady Movement aims to strengthen the progressive political and social platforms of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the US through the leadership of API women, girls, and gender-expansive communities. Our goal is to challenge and help end the intersections of violence against and within our communities. We do this work in solidarity with other communities of color.

Combating Anti-Asian Racism

Stop AAPI Hate
This coalition project declares:

Our communities stand united against racism. Hate against Asian American Pacific Islander communities has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we can stop it.

The site offers a portal for reporting anti-Asian hate incidents, along with suggestions for how to educate, engage, and donate financially to the cause. Their AAPI Historical Timeline is an excellent educational resource for a general audience. Their Resources/Safety Tips page provides clear and effective “Safety Tips for those witnessing or experiencing hate” in fifteen different languages (printable PDFs available for each).

MGH Center for Cross-Cultural Student Emotional Wellness
The Center’s Resources page on combating anti-AAPI racism offers a curated list of
articles, fact sheets, commentaries, webinars, and videos for students, parents, educators, mental health clinicians, and allies.
From the website:

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, discrimination, verbal assaults, and physical violence against Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders have skyrocketed, disproportionately harming vulnerable members of our community including women, youth, and elders.
In response, individuals from a wide range of Asian backgrounds are coming together to speak up, mobilize, and fight back….
Our Center is proud to join this movement with a focus on the area we know best: mental health. Racial trauma is real.

An earlier version of their resource page specifically for parents provides links to more general content. Many resources on both pages are available in multiple Asian languages. A sample of the outstanding resources:
“How to talk to teens about Asian American discrimination” (webinar recording)
“Fact Sheet: COVID-19 and Racism” (available in Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese)

Laws detailing your rights to be treated fairly at businesses
Stop AAPI Hate has compiled a resource entitled “Survey of Federal & State Laws: Understanding Your Right To Be Treated Fairly and Without Discrimination in Restaurants, Stores, and Other Businesses; Public Accommodation Laws Based on Race, Color, and/or National Origin.” The resource lists applicable laws for every state and the District of Columbia, with links to the statutes and instructions about how to file a complaint.

Asian American Health Initiative (AAHI)–Mental Health Resources
The AAHI, founded in 2005, serves a large and diverse AAPI community within Montgomery County, Maryland. Their Resource Library includes a dozen videos on various COVID-19 and mental health topics, each presented in four Asian languages.