By: Kristi Stephens YWCA NYC Communications Intern
May is Asian/Pacific American (AAPI) Heritage Month, a celebration and recognotion of Asians and Pacific Islanders for their contributions and influences on the United States. This month encompasses the history, culture, and achievements of AAPI. May was chosen as AAPI Heritage Month to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843. It also marks the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Most of the workers who laid these tracks were Chinese immigrants (“Asian American Heritage…”, 2021).
There are numerous ways to educate yourself on the rich history of AAPI Heritage month, whether it’s reading a book by an AAPI author, watching a movie by an AAPI director, or contributing to an AAPI non-profit organization. Official government websites and the US Department of Education also have valuable resources for both the general public and teachers for lesson planning (Davis, 2021). Listed below are links that provide abundant access to each of these categories:
AAPI books on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/aapi
HBO MAX spotlighting AAPI TV and film: https://www.adweek.com/convergent-tv/hbo-max-celebrates-aapi-heritage-month-with-a-newly-curated-platform/
AAPI nonprofit created in March 2020: https://stopaapihate.org/
Government website focusing on AAPI: https://asianpacificheritage.gov/about/
Unfortunately, the AAPI community faces multiple challenges today, including subjection to Xenophobia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, hate crimes against Asian Americans in major U.S. cities grew nearly 150 percent. A total of 3,795 reported incidents of hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been recorded since the early days of the pandemic. Most incidents take place against women, in businesses, and public areas. Asian Americans have been subjected to being coughed and spat on, as well as name-called, assaulted, and shunned (Ramachandran, 2021).
There are several ways to stand in solidarity with the AAPI community and stop the spread of hate. For example, it is important to speak out if you witness a hate crime or incident. The “Stop AAPI Hate” website provides easy and accessible ways to report incidents that occur in real-time (https://stopaapihate.org/). Some other ways to contribute include:
· Advocating for awareness in your workplace and checking in with your Asian American peers
· Reaching out to elected officials – https://www.asianamericanadvocacyfund.org/take-action
· Learning about the history of AAPI discrimination – https://www.vox.com/culture/22336712/anti-asian-racism-reading-list
· Attending bystander intervention trainings surrounding hate – https://www.ihollaback.org/bystanderintervention/
Congress, T. L. of. (2021). Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021. https://asianpacificheritage.gov/about/.
Davis, L. M. (2021, May 16). AAPI Heritage Month: What it is and what you can do today. CNET. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/aapi-heritage-month-what-it-is-and-what-you-can-do-today/.
Ramachandran, V. (2021, March 18). What you can do to fight violence and racism against Asian Americans. PBS. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/what-you-can-do-to-fight-violence-and-racism-against-asian-americans