Each May marks the celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage and pays tribute to the generations of AAPI people who have enriched America's history and contributed to America's success.
Looking back — A tense history
As unpleasant as it is to acknowledge, in the late 19th century, U.S. federal law openly targeted Chinese immigrants. The immigration of Chinese laborers was expressly prohibited by The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Ten years later, the Geary Act extended the exclusion act and added onerous requirements for immigrants from China to carry permits at all times or face possible deportation. Additionally, the Geary Act limited immigration to a quota of around 105 visas per year for China. It took more than 60 years for Congress to finally repeal the discriminatory exclusion laws against Chinese immigrants in 1943. Worse, for those who did immigrate to the U.S., acts of violence were all too frequent.
The history of AAPI Month.
The celebration was the idea of Jeanie Jew. She was a former staffer on Capitol Hill and a board member of the OCA (now known as the OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates.) During the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations of 1976, Jew witnessed the lack of representation of Asian Pacific Americans and was concerned that there were no similar celebrations as were already in place recognizing Black history and Hispanic heritage.
For Jew, this was a personal cause as she was the great-granddaughter of M.Y. Lee, a Chinese immigrant who was one of the thousands of Chinese migrant workers who completed the transcontinental railroad. Lee eventually became a prominent businessman. Unfortunately, despite his contributions and successes, he was killed due to anti-Chinese and anti-Asian sentiment during the unrest.
Jew realized that more people needed to know about Asian culture and contributions. She shared the idea of commemorating and creating public awareness of the contributions of Asian Americans with Rep. Frank Horton, who introduced the legislation in 1978 that would designate the week beginning on May 4 as "Asian Pacific American Heritage Week."
May was chosen as the perfect time of year to commemorate Asian American Pacific Islanders' contributions for two reasons.
- First, it marked the first-known Japanese immigrants arriving in the United States (May 7, 1843) and;
- Second, it honors the completion day of the transcontinental railroad (May 10, 1869), which up to 20,000 Asians helped bring to fruition.
Congress passed the joint resolution, and President Jimmy Carter signed the bill into Public Law 95—419 on October 5, 1978. However, the week of celebration was not recurring and had to be authorized annually. It took more than ten years of championing this celebration to finally be extended to the entire month of May by Bush's Presidential Proclamation 6130 on May 7, 1990. Then, in 1992, Horton, along with multiple co-sponsors, introduced the legislation that permanently designated May as the commemorative month, and it was officially passed into law unanimously by Congress.
Despite progress, we still have work to do in stopping anti-Asian hate.
Asian Americans have been regularly the scapegoats throughout history despite the distance we have come. Some examples include:
- Forced internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West coast during World War II ;
- Racially motivated hate murder of Vincent Chin, (a Chinese-American draftsman who was beaten and killed by two white men who mistakenly took him for a Japanese person whom they held responsible for the success of Japan's auto industry at a time when the American auto industry was laying people off;)
- Blaming Asians for the Covid-19 pandemic — calling it the "China Virus" or "Kung-Flu."
Throughout history, the scapegoating of Asians denied Asian Americans their full acceptance as Americans and fostered anti-Asian sentiment.
We have seen an alarming rise in hate incidents and crimes against AAPIs, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Typically, hate incidents involve harassment, bullying, physical injury, or property damage where the offender is motivated by discrimination against the victim. Discriminating factors include race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability. Examples of these incidents have risen dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. During this time, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders suffered taunts to outright assaults, causing them to feel unsafe and unwelcome in public spaces. According to a report produced by Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that gathered data on racially motivated attacks related to the pandemic, more than 9,000 anti-Asian incidents were reported between the beginning of the pandemic and June of 2021.
Hanzo stands with AAPI people.
Hanzo is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential ingredients for cultivating a culture of collaboration where everyone belongs, and we listen to the input from our team.
We do not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind nor unfair treatment of any person or group of people for any reason, including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or other characteristics that make a person unique. We strive as a company to serve as an ally for marginalized groups and to accelerate our diversity and inclusion efforts. We believe it is imperative to fight uncompromisingly against hate speech, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and discrimination.
Support and celebrate
This Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we acknowledge and appreciate the generations of AAPI people who have shared their knowledge, labor, and rich culture, enhancing the fabric of America.
There are many ways for us all to be an ally.
- Learn the history of the Asian-American experience. It is not uncommon for American students to not learn this in school.
- Support the AAPI business community. Here is a starter list of AAPI-owned businesses.
- Experience the AAPI culture shared by Google Arts & Culture. Alternatively, visit the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American center's curated care package featuring poems, meditations, films, and more.
- Support Stop AAPI Hate or get involved with OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates to advocate for national policy to fight against anti-AAPI hate and to promote inclusion and safety.
If we value America's promise as a place of liberty, refuge, and equal opportunity, anyone can attain success regardless of where or what class they were born. This dream inherently must apply to all, and we as Americans must acknowledge the collective contributions and celebrate the varied peoples and cultures that make up this great nation. This month it is our honor to bring greater awareness to the contributions of the AAPI community. It serves to remind each of us that if we tolerate discrimination against one, we tolerate it against us all.