Am I Asian American Enough? 

Photo of Mia at 3-years-old, with short black hair and bangs. She sits on her foster mother's lap, looking at the end of a pen light. Her foster mother is Korean. She has a pink My Little Pony in her other hand. Sitting next to her foster mother is her adoptive mother, who is white.

By Guest Contributor: Mia Ives-Rublee

I spent my childhood hearing from white adults about the immoralities of Asians. I was told about how strict Asian parents were and that Koreans were too patriarchal. People would go out of their way to show me negative news articles that talked about Asians in a bad light. They insisted I was lucky to not have parents like that. 

The continual feed of negative attitudes rubbed me the wrong way, making me want to be less and less connected to the Asian American community. As a child, I ascribed to the colorblind philosophy that adults pushed upon me. Oftentimes, I forgot I was Asian unless someone pointed out some physical difference I had. 

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On the Continued Value of AAPI Heritage Month

Several paper cranes organized into a rainbow

May has once again arrived, and with it comes yet another Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI1AAPI is primarily used in this post to refer to AAPI Heritage Month (or more archaically, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM)), which is conventionally named for both groups. Otherwise, I use the AAPI acronym only when it is contextually appropriate to jointly refer to both Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Otherwise, I am specific about which community I am referring to, and use the appropriate term accordingly.) Heritage Month. Back when I first started my activism work, I used to mark this month in my calendar. I looked forward to May as a moment of celebration and triumph for communities otherwise too often overlooked.

When I was a student activist, I skipped weeks of classes (much to the chagrin of my parents and professors): I was on a quixotic mission to expand our school’s celebration of AAPI Heritage Month from a mere week of events to a full month’s worth of invited speakers, film screenings, and workshops. In the early days of Reappropriate, I planned a (barely-sustainable) schedule of posts to commemorate AAPI Heritage Month that included hours of research and writing each week. By May 31, I would collapse in an exhausted heap, worn out from a month of frenzied, non-stop work but convinced that I had poured my energy into a just and worthy cause.

Our community’s collective excitement over AAPI Heritage Month is understandable. For many in the AAPI communities, our politics are centrally defined by the search for visibility. We desperately yearn to be seen: whether it is to see ourselves represented in popular media; or, to see ourselves elected to public office; or, to see our most marginalized voices be better centered within the larger Asian American movement. And rightfully so: for centuries, the Asian American experience has been defined by our political invisibility. Our history – both of racial trauma and triumph – is largely unknown. Even in the modern age, we are ignored by mainstream political discourse. This invisibility is even more salient for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who are so often marginalized by both mainstream America and Asian American organizing efforts alike that they now (understandably) question the value of combining Asian American and Pacific Islander politics into a single acronym at all.

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