Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month


Caitlyn Chau, Staff Writer

The month of May celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month, which acknowledges the heritage and cultural contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Some of these contributions are to medicine, art, government, and politics. 

Asian culture has had a big influence on American history. For instance, the transcontinental railroad symbolizes an important milestone. Jeanie Jew, the great-grandchild of a man who worked on the railroad during the 18th century, suggested the idea to Rep. Frank Horton. The transcontinental railroad was a project that connected the West and East Coasts with a train that more than 20,000 Chinese workers had a major role in. This month, though, actually began as a week. In 1977, the seven days following May 4 were declared Asian American Pacific Heritage Week. In 1990, Congress changed this seven-day-long observation by passing legislation for it to extend to an entire month instead, but it was not officially approved by President George H. W. Bush until 1992.

Another example is Larry Itliong, who is Filipino-American. In 1965, Itliong began a strike for five years along with other workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, a group of Filipino farmers. This event is known as the Delano Grape Strike, which also included boycotting grapes.

There are also two important dates that signify the importance of May as AAPI Heritage Month. One of them is May 7, 1843. This day is recognized because it is “the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States.” The other is Golden Spike Day, noted as May 10, 1869 which points to the finishing of the transcontinental railroad.

While one part of AAPI Month is focused on Asian culture, “our history is also filled with incredible stories of resilience, of persistence, of determination, to fight for our basic rights,” co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate Cynthia Choi said.

Although the first Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders migrated to the United States hundreds of centuries ago, the common stereotype of “perpetual foreigners” persists. A couple of instances of discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States were lowered pay wages in the construction of the transcontinental railroad and the Chinese Exclusion Act that was put into effect in 1882. But even today, racism, discrimination, and xenophobia all continue to be an issue. There has been an increasing amount of hate crimes and violence as people push the blame for COVID-19 on AAPI people.

In regards to these situations, many different organizations such as the AAPI Equity Alliance, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University created the Stop AAPI Hate affiliation in March of 2020. This affiliation was developed with the intention of putting an end to violence and discrimination against AAPI individuals.

While there are more hate crimes now following the pandemic, it becomes more important to celebrate AAPI Month.

When asked about why AAPI Month is important, Arcadia High School freshman Annie Jiang said, “with what’s going on in our country in the past few years regarding all kinds of systemic racism and discrimination, as a country with the highest population of immigrants, [a month to celebrate AAPI] is significant as it raises the awareness of needs by those communities.” She also added that “it provides the opportunity to understand the inequality and diversity that exists within this group, which can also encourage people to participate in thinking and addressing the issues associated with certain ethnic populations.”

AAPI Month is about recognizing the influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. Consider this; what can you do to learn more about AAPI history and culture?


Photo courtesy of Jason Leung