Happy AANHPI Heritage Month! Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are embedded in the fabric of our country. Their contributions, cultures, and struggles have played a critical role in shaping the U.S. we know today. Especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the lack of visibility and understanding of AANHPI history directly translates into perpetual foreigner stereotypes, xenophobia, and other forms of anti-Asian hate and violence. This May, we’re recognizing AANHPI Heritage Month by sharing some historical context, amplifying organizations, and sharing resources to support the AANHPI community and stop the hate.
First, we want to acknowledge that people use and identify with different acronyms, but they all show similar complexities of trying to group different cultures into one. For this post, we will be using the term AANHPI because we feel it is more inclusive. However, at times, we use the term AAPI because we find it is used more often and is more recognizable to folks.
To get us started, let’s break down the AANHPI acronym and get a better sense of who is included in this group of people. This video breaks down the complexities of the acronym, reminds us that it encompasses 40 countries and over 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, and has its roots in political organizing. The term “Asian-American” was invented by student activists in California, in the late sixties, who were inspired by the civil-rights movement and dreamed of activating a coalition of people from immigrant backgrounds who might organize against structural inequality.
Historical Context and the Role of White Supremacy
Violence and bigotry against Asian communities isn’t a new phenomenon in the U.S., and discussing historical events is imperative in order to break the cycle that normalizes hostile behavior towards an often overlooked and under-supported minority. This timeline by Stop AAPI Hate walks us through major instances of violence against people of Asian descent since before the Plymouth pilgrims.
As the violence against AAPI communities has entered the popular discourse, Dr. Connie Wun of AAPI Women Lead advocates for an expansive definition of violence, “one that is not only focused on interpersonal violence—we need a structural analysis of it.” Many of the incidents collected by the Stop AAPI hate tracker are not hate crimes and unlikely to be brought to court. The only way to combat them is through education and public policy.
It’s also important to note the role that White Supremacy plays in relation to AAPI racism and hate. Activist and scholar Andrea Smith argues that White Supremacy is often falsely characterized as monolithic and understood in terms of the Black-White binary. Rather, she believes that White supremacy is composed of multiple fluid networks of relations and operates based on the contingent needs of the White power structure. This means that we can’t expect all racially marginalized people to be exploited in identical, or even generally homogenous ways
Dr. Wu points out that the U.S. has a long-standing history of imperialist wars in Asia and a subsequent long history of portraying AAPI folks “as animals, as uncivilized, and then rendering us expendable once they’re done with us.” We know this to be true evidenced by the laws and national policies made out of discrimination against ethnic groups in the United States, from the Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese interment to the Muslim bans in 20XX. And connects how this is all related, “when President Biden made his statement around anti-Asian hate crimes, it was that week when he deported 33 people to Vietnam, though they hadn’t been there in decades.” It’s vital that we draw these connections to better understand and combat the ways in which Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States face racism, particularly the violent uptick around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amplifying Organizations + Resources
Photo by Jessica Christian | The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
Continuing to be mindful and not fall into reflexive traps to lean on carceral solutions, Cynthia Choi, Manjusha Kulkarni, and Russell Jeung remind us that AAPIs prefer investment in their community over investment in law enforcement. Reflecting a year after the Atlanta shootings, they write, “Fear-driven policing will not stop anti-AAPI hate. Real transformation will occur when racism is met not simply with reactions but with real, effective solutions.”
Here are some notable efforts:
Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON) and Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) launched Stop AAPI Hate to allow community members to report incidents of hate. Individual information is kept confidential. In the aggregate, information is used for assistance, advocacy, and education.
#HATEISAVIRUS is a movement to combat racism & xenophobia against Asians fueled by COVID-19. Through a collaborative effort among founders of UPRISERS, BETTERBRAVE, Asian Hustle Network, their goal is to raise funds to give back to local and national community organizations and provide a platform for AAPI voices. In 2020, their fundraising efforts supported small Asian-owned businesses across the nation who were struggling to keep afloat.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) created Stand Against Hatred to capture information about the increase in hate they observed in the lead-up to the 2016 election. This information is used to “educate the public, empower others, show service providers where help is needed, and strengthen advocacy efforts for hate crimes response and prevention.
Learning for Justice (fka Teaching Tolerance), a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, created the resource How to Respond to Coronavirus Racism. They recommend a seemingly simple and effective four-step process for speaking up against bias.
In addition to a comprehensive Community Resource Map, they have community resources including a Stop Hate Action Toolkit, When Hate Groups Come to Town Resource Kit, know your rights, hold your elected officials responsible, and more.
6. Bystander Intervention
Early in 2020, AAAJ and Right to Be (fka Hollaback!) partnered to offer a free Bystander Intervention Course. Right to Be just released their first book, I’ve Got Your Back: The Indispensable Guide to Stopping Harassment When You See It by Emily May and Jorge Arteaga.
Photo by Mel Cole via The Atlantic
Check out our AAPI Rights Issue Page! You can find key issues, immediate actions to take, more organizations to support + follow, and more resources to educate yourself and keep showing up!