Why Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Means More This Year
by Becca Stewart
As we prepare to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month during the month of May, the holiday has a more somber and resolved tone this year. Since the spring of 2020, hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have risen more than 150%. Many experts blame the sharp increase on a fire of vitriol stoked by some of the nation’s political leaders – including the former president. This year, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month means something more. We can all celebrate the vital roles Asian Americans play in our society – and work to dismantle Asian hate across the nation.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Contributions and Culture
America has a long history of Asian influence. Since the early days of the Gold Rush, immigrants from China and Japan made their way to the New World. Throughout the 19th century, immigrants from Asia and the Pacific Islands came to America, helping to build our infrastructure, farm the fields, and build the transcontinental railroad that would be instrumental to westward expansion.
The 20th century saw another influx of people arriving from Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia, among other southern and central Asian countries. America is a country built by immigrants from all across the globe; it’s what makes our country unique and special.
Currently, there are an estimated 23 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders living in the U.S. Over many generations, the AAPI community has contributed to the national landscape in invaluable ways, from science and technology to arts, music, and civil rights.
But the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have a devastating history, too. Throughout our nation’s history, AAPIs have been targeted, mistreated, and given unfair treatment.
The Pandemic and Rising Hate Crimes
As the COVID pandemic began making its way across the nation, police departments began reporting an alarming rise in anti-Asian crimes. Some blamed China for the virus, and that blame spilt over into radical political rhetoric. While there have always been anti-Asian sentiments throughout America’s history, the pandemic seemingly brought those sentiments to the surface like never before.
Across 16 of America’s largest cities, hate crimes against AAPIs rose 150% on average. In New York City, that number surged 833% compared to 2019 statistics. In communities across the U.S., Asian Pacific Americans are feeling unsafe in their own hometowns.
The COVID pandemic only exacerbated the underlying xenophobic beliefs long-held in this country. But for those experiencing anti-Asian sentiments, the new trend is disturbing and frightening.
How You Can End Asian Hate and Support Asian Pacific Americans
The statistics and videos we’ve seen over the past year are alarming. Every May, we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – and this year, the holiday feels even more important.
People from all cultures and all backgrounds can help raise awareness about Asian Pacific American history. Working together, we can educate ourselves and our communities, erasing the ignorance that so often leads to these kinds of crimes. And we can stand up for the rights of all Americans – including AAPIs – to live a healthy and safe life here on American soil.
Organizations Supporting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
If you want to support organizations dedicated to helping Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, here are a few suggestions to get you started.
This organization serves Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders living in the state of Colorado. The Asian Pacific Development Center gives its clients access to culturally appropriate and conscientious healthcare, mental and behavioral health services, youth support, and citizenship support as needed.
By providing culturally sensitive physical, mental, and emotional support, this nonprofit is helping the AAPI community cope with today’s extraordinary challenges.
Los Angeles, CA
CPAF is committed to rooting out domestic violence by addressing the core issues facing Asian Pacific families in and around Los Angeles. The organization provides education and support for AAPI women and their families, focusing on the cultural and language needs of this population.
The organization serves more than 2500 people every year through its hotline, shelter, and wide range of counseling and support programs.
Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) serves low-income and underprivileged Asian American youth in the Washington, D.C. area. The organization provides free access to educational advancement opportunities, mentoring programs, and leadership training. AALEAD’s programs reach hundreds of students each year.
Discover more nonprofits in your area and around the globe by searching our website, GreatNonprofits.org.