Have you ever been to a city that has a ChinaTown? I remember visiting San Francisco for a business conference and walking through ChinaTown. I was in awe of the architectural design of the buildings, the great smells of food and that the ethnic enclave was in the heart of the city. Ethnic enclaves are composed of people typically of the same ethnicity, similar cultures and often languages living in close proximity to each other.
Initially Asian Pacific American recognition was designed for the first ten days in May. The ten-day celebration began in 1978 when President Carter signed a Joint Resolution proclaiming the days as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1992 the U.S. Congress expanded the observance of Asian-Pacific Heritage Week to the entire month of May. In 2009 President Barack Obama, signed Proclamation 8369, which changed the name to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
People of Asian or Pacific Islander lineage, as per the U.S. Census, are defined as having origins in any of the Far East, Southeast Asia, Indian subcontinent or Pacific Islands e.g. China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands and Samoa). The contributions made to America by those of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent are many. People of Chinese descent helped build the railroad system in America. With the annexation of California, Chinese immigrants helped to build the Transcontinental Railroad. Not long after Chinese immigrants arrived in America other Asians followed such as Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, and East Indians (Kim, 2014).
Those of Asian descent have contributed not only labor but food, religion, martial arts and so much more to America. While people of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent have contributed much to our country, we (America) has not always been friendly towards them. Just like other minority groups Asians have experienced discriminatory behavior and outright institutional racism. The Chinese Exclusionary Act, which was the first law of its kind, outright prohibited that ethnic group from becoming naturalized citizens and suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers. During WWII Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps. Being viewed as a potential threat Japanese Americans who were born in this country lost their homes, jobs, and livelihood due to fear. President Roosevelt through Executive Order 9066 made it policy to force people of Japanese descent into isolated internment camps from 1942-1945 (https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/japanese-american-relocation).
Currently many people refer to those in the Asian community as “Model Minorities,” which fails to take in to account any hardships they have/are experiencing. The “Model Minority” is the idea that if Asians are so successful in America, academically and economically then why can’t the “other minorities” assimilate to American values too without resorting to violent confrontations with Whites (Schaefer, R, 2020). The “Model Minority” idea basically praises the victim of racism/xenophobia/discrimination for being able to be successful in spite of all the negative policies/practices imposed upon them early on in America. The “Model Minority” puts a lot of pressure on students of Asian descent as it is expected that they will be good in math and science (stereotypes) and that they will out perform all of their classmates—that is a heavy burden to carry. As we celebrate our brothers and sisters during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I hope that we take time to reflect on their experiences and learn about their culture.
Kim, Grace Ji-Sun (5/21/2014). Remembering Our Long Legacy and Contributions to America: AAPI
Heritage Month. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/remembering-our-long-lega_b_5361954
Schaefer, Richard (2019). Race and Ethnicity in the United States 9th edition. Pearson.