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FROM IGNORANCE TO A MORE INCLUSIVE WORLDVIEW: AAPI Heritage Month Starts Now!

Sue O'Halloran Race Equity Speaker and Story Artist

3 min read

Apr 30

33

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It's May! Time to celebrate the heritage of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Heritage months are both crazy - every month, every day, these groups should be recognized and honored just as European American heritage is - and worthwhile because these groups' history, culture, and achievements have been historically excluded and remain relatively unknown.


Having focus means it's a good time to ask ourselves: What do I know about the Asian American/Pacific Islander communities? What was I taught or, just as important, what was I not taught?


First, who are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders? It's incredible how many different groups of people we lump together under the phrase Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI). 

Let's remember that Asia is one big continent. 


You have East or Pacific Asians – Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and people from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Mongolia.


You have Southeast Asians – Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Thai, Hmong, Filipinos, Indonesian, and Balinese, plus people from Brunei, East Timor, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore (also the islands of Cocos, Andaman and Nicobar, and Christmas Island)

You have South Asians – Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, and people from Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. 


There's also North Asia, which consists of Siberia, and the Asian portion of Russia, east of the Ural Mountains. (Some call this region Russia Far East or Asian Russia.)


And there's Central Asia – what I like to call the "stans" – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. 


Finally, some people talk of West Asia. However, many of those countries also overlap with what we today more frequently call the Mideast, short for Middle East Asia—the land between the Red Sea and the Gulf from Israel in the west to Iran in the east. Mideastern countries include Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Israel. 


(The United Nations, however, does not include Israel among its listed Asian Groups. But whether you say Middle East, Near East, or Far East – some people don't like any of those terms because these directional designations all reference Europe. Indeed, the word "Orient" is used less often now because it has strong colonial connotations.)


These groupings can be geographically imprecise and change over time as national boundaries are drawn and re-drawn. Countries are often clustered together for statistical and political reasons, not because they have homogenous genetic, ethnic, or religious affiliations. For example, every world religion is represented in Asia: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, shamanism, ancestor worship, Confucianism, Taoism – to name a few. For centuries, groups have mixed through trade, war, exploration, and exploitation. All colors and facial features are present. There is no one "Asian look" or cultural norm.


So, imagine when people from all these countries and backgrounds come to the United States and get boxed into one group called "Asian American"! 


The Pacific Islands also cover a vast region. They include three ethnogeographic groupings: Polynesia—Hawaii, Tahiti, Easter Island, and New Zealand at its corner; Melanesia—Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands; and Micronesia—Guam, Kiribati, and Marshall Islands, to name a few. At least 39 different Pacific Island languages are spoken in the United States.


(Next week: Common Barriers Faced – and Overcome - by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Today)


* If you know someone who is part of an organization that wants to focus on equity issues, would you send this article to them or tell them about O’Halloran Diversity Productions? They can reach me at susan@susanohalloran.com and we will set up a short conversation to see if I can be of help to them. Thanks in advance!

 

You may reprint this article with proper credit: Written by Sue O’Halloran at www.SusanOHalloran.com

Sue O'Halloran Race Equity Speaker and Story Artist

3 min read

Apr 30

33

1

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