By Aileen Fullchange
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and to help guide impactful and meaningful change, we offer a list of “do’s and don’ts” for celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in your workplaces, schools and communities.
Don’t refer to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as a monolith.
The AAPI community is diverse and made up of many cultures, languages, religions, foods and traditions. We are often grouped together, but we have over 45 different countries of origin, different immigration histories and different cultures.
Don’t repeat or publicize damaging stereotypes.
A common stereotype about the AAPI community is that we are a “model minority”. This narrative, created by a White man, William Petersen, in 1966, is damaging, as it ignores the challenges that the AAPI community has had to overcome in this country, and pits communities of color against each other, suggesting that there is a hierarchy to BIPOC populations.
At the same time…
Don’t only talk about resilience/strength/successes.
Focusing entirely on resilience feeds into model minority stereotypes by erasing the challenges that AAPI communities have faced and continue to face every day. Don’t ignore the fact that racism and violence against the AAPI community has been happening since this country’s inception and still happens today.
Don’t put the burden of learning on the shoulders of the AAPI community.
Your AAPI colleagues and friends are exhausted. Don’t ask or expect them to do the work of leading you/your company/organization, etc. through Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Research what’s already been made available without taxing those who may actively be struggling right now.
Don’t check a box this month and forget about it until next year.
Commit to ongoing work that continues long past May.
Talk about the diversity of the AAPI community.
Embrace the diversity within the AAPI community – in country of origin, in cultural beliefs, in religion, in access to resources, etc. Educate yourself on the different cultures and communities.
Understand the history.
Learn more about challenges the AAPI community has faced, not just the most recent news headlines, but throughout the history of this country. Educate yourself on history that shows the AAPI community as anything other than the model minority, such as the history of activism, current activism, solidarity with other communities of color, and real challenges in many sub-communities with poverty, employment, education, and access to healthcare. Check out “A Different Asian American Timeline”.
Acknowledge the role of White supremacy.
Understand how White supremacy has resulted in systemic racism against the AAPI community. Notice and name instances where White supremacy comes into play, through White cultural beliefs and values. Ensure that you are reading and relying on AAPI-authored resources, rather than White narratives. Provide resources for White allies to learn about how to support the AAPI community.
Support AAPI individuals in your circle.
Share ways for AAPI colleagues and employees to grieve and cope with systemic racial trauma. Be intentional about hiring, retaining and promoting AAPI employees (note that AAPIs face a “bamboo ceiling” such that they are less likely to be promoted into managerial and executive positions even when they are more qualified). Support AAPI-owned businesses, authors, and presenters. Check in with your AAPI friends and loved ones to say, “I care about you. I want to see you, hear you and amplify you.”
Continue the conversation.
Each of us has the opportunity to keep these conversations going in our own circles. Wherever you work, live, worship, volunteer and engage in your community, you can continue to focus on supporting the AAPI community year-round.
Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American (APISAA) Therapist Directory: https://www.asianmhc.org/therapists-us/.
DFW area AAPI-owned restaurants and food businesses: www.facebook.com/groups/asiangrubdfw/