AAPIs Need to be Part of the Equal Pay Conversation

A protest sign demanding equal pay. (Photo credit: Steve Rappaport / Creative Commons)

Today is AAPI Equal Pay Day, the day in 2020 when an Asian American or Pacific Islander woman would — on average — finally earn as much money as a typical white man if both worked through all of 2019.

In the aggregate, AAPI women make about 90 cents to the dollar of white men, a statistic that is both troubling and that still overlooks disaggregated data showing an even starker gender wage gap for many AAPI ethnic subgroups. Many Southeast Asian American and Pacific Islander women, for example, earn less than 70 cents to the dollar a white man earns, but this fact is lost when only aggregated income statistics about the AAPI community are reported.

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What we’re not talking about when we talk about equal pay

Screen capture of video for AAPI Equal Pay Day from 2017. (Photo credit: NAPAWF)

By Guest Contributor: Sung Yeon Choimorrow (Executive Director, NAPAWF)

The gender pay gap is the difference between what men and women earn for doing the same work, and it varies for different sub-groups of women. In 2019, Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women earned 90 cents for every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men made. Today marks the symbolic day in 2020 when we “catch up” to white men’s earnings from the previous year. The wage gap exists in every state and every occupation, regardless of education—but there’s so much more to the story hidden by the averages. 

The term AAPI includes more than 50 ethnic subgroups, some of which experience much wider pay gaps. Vietnamese American women, for example, made 67 cents for every dollar white men made last year and Cambodian American women made 57 cents. These women will have to work for several more months for their paychecks to catch up while the lost wages compound. 

Asian Americans have long been depicted as “model minorities” in this country. It’s a persistent myth that all Asians are the same and we’re all high-achieving with stable incomes. By failing to recognize our lived experiences, the myth makes it easier to dismiss our struggles and reinforces the misconception that Asian people don’t need resources or support. 

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Unsent Letters: Dear Ah Ma

The author writing at a younger age. (Photo Credit: Victoria Mai Huỳnh)

Unsent Letters is a new limited-run series at Reappropriate. Writers are invited to contribute a letter, poem, or other work that reflects on their relationship to a powerful figure who embodies or challenges them to (re)define Asian (diasporic) feminism. If you would like to contribute your own Letter, please submit here.

By Guest Contributor: Victoria Mai Huỳnh

This letter is adapted from personal diary entries written while the author traveled to Cambodia for the first time last summer. 

Dear Ah Ma,

Our family does not cry often. Today, they do. Mom and auntie hold your quaking body and tell you that you can go, “a ma muai lieu oh. my gek siem. Yuan liang oh ah um.” (Mom, you finished everything. Don’t strain your heart anymore. Forgive, Mom.) Why do they speak to you, if you cannot hear us anymore? 

I trace your heartbeat on the heart rate monitor to remember your heart still beats, but it does not tell me you are alive. Can your heart receive us, even if our words cannot reach you? 

My words are stuck in this silence. They become my unspokens: 

Ah ma, ah buoi oo gek siem. Buoi tha m thie, ah ma. (Grandma, ah Buoi (author) has “strained heart.” Su Buoi cannot speak. Ah Ma.)

I cannot speak, Ah Ma.  I do not know how. They took away the languages our people’s tongues knew, to take us away.

Ah ma, jia bue? Ah ma muoi mi gai? Tai diang si ha? Ah ma ai ku ka buoi boh? (Grandma, have you eaten? Grandma, what are you doing now? Watching TV? Grandma, do you want to go with me?)

And now, the oceans you fled guide you away. They took you before my words knew how to reach you. 

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How Chanel Miller’s Story Inspires Me To Tell Mine

Author Chanel Miller reveals her identity as Emily Doe in an interview for her book "Know My Name".

By Guest Contributor: Frankie Huang

In the summer of 2016, I was one of millions around the world to read Chanel Miller’s statement to Brock Turner, her rapist. The pain and power in her words shook me then. I was still coming into my feminism, and I was still learning that every victim is imperfect, and that this does not make their suffering any more deserved. Yet, I still struggled with the question: is dignity claimed or earned? 

Back when she was still Emily Doe, I wondered if she’s a woman of color like me. I wondered if I deserved to wield the same righteous fury that she did.

Content warning: rape, sexual assault

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One Year Later, Women of Color Still Pushing Back Against Kavanaugh

Protesters hold signs opposing Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States in New York on July 10, 2018. (Photo credit: AP / Seth Wenig)

By Guest Contributor: Sung Yeon Choimorrow (Executive Director, NAPAWF)

One year after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, women of color, our families, and our communities are still under attack. This time last year, more than 100 women and people of color from all over the country traveled to Washington, DC to voice our strong opposition to Kavanaugh at the first-ever Reproductive Justice Day of Action. We showed our collective power in the halls of Congress to fight Kavanaugh’s nomination because we knew it would exacerbate the decades-long degradation of our rights and disregard for our lives, our families, and communities.

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