For this year’s Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month (#APAHM2014), I will be celebrating by writing multiple pieces throughout May tackling a variety of issues relevant to Asian & Pacific Islander Americana. Please continue to check back for more, and participate in the conversation in the comments, on Facebook, and through Twitter (@Reappropriate)!
As we mark the start of 2014’s Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month this May, one of the central questions we might find ourselves asking is: what is Asian & Pacific Islander Americana? Who is part of this community? Who are we?
Our communal identity crisis has plagued us since the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act sparked the massive and diverse second wave of Asian immigration, and when the idea of a pan-ethnic “Asian American Movement” first took hold. The term “Asian American” of the 1960’s eventually gave way to “Asian Pacific American” (APA) to reflect the narratives of Pacific Islanders; today, several alternative terms are also in use, including “Asian American & Pacific Islander” (AAPI, my term of preference), “Asian & Pacific Islander American” (APIA), or “Asian American, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander” (AANHPI).
This ever-evolving nomenclature reflects the seeming impossibility of ever finding a term that will be fully satisfying to the widely disparate ethnic identities that find ourselves sharing space under this pan-ethnic AAPI umbrella. When we differ so widely not just in our individual ethnic histories and heritage, but also in our very physical appearances, the languages that we speak, or the religions that we practice, it is not unreasonable to wonder how or why we should continue to find our political destinies linked together.