To honor cultural heritage, Daily Kos will be celebrating diversity each month. This month Daily Kos will celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Like other commemorative months, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was introduced by officials in Congress. However, it took over a decade to establish the historical month because resolutions to honor the AAPI community continued to be rejected, despite the time frame offered.
New York Rep. Frank Horton and California Rep. Frank Mineta first introduced the idea of designating a week during the first 10 days of May to honor the AAPI community in 1977. They weren’t alone: around the same time, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye introduced a similar resolution, but neither passed.
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Despite this, the officials did not give up, Horton then pushed for House Joint Resolution 1007 the following year, which asked then-president Jimmy Carter to declare May 4-10 as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. This resolution was signed into law by Carter in 1978.
It wasn’t until 1990 that the community was given its own month, when President George H.W. Bush signed a bill passed by Congress. The fight for representation was still not over, though. More than 10 years later, President Barack Obama officially changed the name to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the signing of Proclamation 8369.
Announcing the change, Obama wrote, “The vast diversity of languages, religions, and cultural traditions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continues to strengthen the fabric of American society. … During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we remember the challenges and celebrate the achievements that define our history.”
While many associate “AAPI” with East Asian-identifying individuals, the acronym is used to describe a fast-growing population of 24 million Americans that includes about 50 ethnic groups with roots in more than 40 countries.
According to the Asian Pacific Institute for Gender-Based Violence, the federal government defines the term AAPI to include “all people of Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander ancestry who trace their origins to the countries, states, jurisdictions, and/or the diasporic communities of these geographic regions.” As of 2000, “Asian” and “Pacific Islander” became two separate racial categories on the U.S. Census, replacing “Asian Pacific Islander.”
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the contributions of Asian Americans because of its historical significance for the AAPI community. According to Texas A&M, the first Japanese people to immigrate to the U.S. arrived on May 7, 1843. May also marks the anniversary of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad, on May 10, 1869. This day was declared Golden Spike Day; the majority of workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
While AAPI Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate AAPI culture and the contributions Asian Americans have made to America, it is also important to highlight the challenges and issues the community faces.
For generations, Asian Americans have faced hate and discrimination. Stereotypes can be traced to what scholars call the “yellow peril,” an ideology where white folks claimed things from Asia were a great threat to the white world. Historians and other academics found that this ideology, amongst other xenophobia, influenced U.S. policies on the basis “that Chinese people as a race, no matter where they are, are disease carriers.” As a result, anti-Asian laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 were enacted to block Asian immigration.
Additionally, Chinese migrants have historically faced invasive and humiliating medical inspections that other immigrants were not subjected to. During the bubonic plague and severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, Chinese people faced similar xenophobia, as several were unable to go to work or considered “unclean,” as Daily Kos has reported.
This hate has only increased following the COVID-19 pandemic, which many have misattributed to being spread by AAPI community members in the U.S. An alarming rise in hate crimes and xenophobia toward Asian Americans has been reported. Hate crime data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino found that hate crimes against Asian Americans surged in 2020 in at least 15 cities, Daily Kos reported. As the cities were further reviewed, a new report indicated that crimes against Asian Americans rose by 169% when comparing the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021.
Additionally, data released by the FBI found that hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent in the U.S. rose by 70% last year when compared to the number of such incidents in 2019. The report found that more than 10,000 people reported hate crimes to law enforcement, the highest tally of reported hate crimes since 2008.
The AAPI community needs our support now more than ever. Hate is the real virus, and we cannot let it continue. Daily Kos has compiled resources
to help our community stand united against racism. Help us put an end to this hate. Starting today, we ask that you join us not only this month, but every month, in this fight to end bigotry.