Why Asian American and Pacific Islander Month Matters

Throughout my teenage years, peers from my predominantly Caucasian high school would ask, “Why do we need a month to celebrate African American history?”

And now as an adult in my late thirties I’m asked about Asian American and Pacific Islander month.

Deep down I want to believe like so many might choose too, that these months aren’t needed.

Months where our country celebrates heritages and the history of others outside of this country’s predominant race.

But the more immersed I got into my graduate studies. The more I had to acknowledge the importance of these “small details.”

We still live in a society where it’s a struggle to pronounce an ethnic name different from the ones we normally hear.

A world where news anchors are asked to change their names to more Americanized ones.

A society where when people of different cultural groups have their children. They have to carefully choose if they’re going to give their child a cultural name representing their minority status. Knowing the hardship they could encounter in grade school and applying for future jobs. Because their name is too ethnic.

We want to believe we hold no biases. But the truth is we hold stereotypes about others. And if we want to change that we first need to acknowledge the stories we tell ourselves about people different from us. Those from different social economic statuses. Different cultural groups. Different skin colors.

Only then can we begin to acknowledge our views and change our perspective. It’s when we put on a lens of pretend that we add on to what minorities are experiencing in our society. The belief that race and ethnicity doesn’t matter. But it’s the subtle treatments that stand out.

When an Asian man is isolated by his coworkers along with his African American colleague. While workers of the majority collaborate together.

The story becomes is it because they’re not good enough because of their racial background? Or what?

And not good enough.

No one should ever have to notice the subtle hints. Questioning why they are or aren’t included.

It should be based on their personality, their experience, and their merit.

Until we can acknowledge that a teenager was shot simply for knocking on the wrong door. Without having to add, “He was a good kid. Got good grades.”

These months are needed.

As a sign of recognition.

A sign that we, minorities, we matter. And we are enough.

We do belong.

Regardless of, “where we are from.”

Because we are here in America.

Our feet have planted themselves on this country’s soil.

Some by choice.

And some by force.

But we still matter.

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