We Are All Cyborgs: Being Asian American and Doing Organizing Online | #APAHM2014


Guest-post by Cayden Mak (@Cayden), 18MillionRising.

I recently remarked to a longtime Twitter friend that I feel we live in a magical time, and I always wonder if young movement folks in the past felt that way, too. My friend suggested that not every generation gets to feel that way but there are definitely moments that people live through when they know they are in a magical time. I feel confident saying we live in one such time, but there’s still a question of what we’re going to do with that magic.

The internet has played no small part in the moment we’re in. More than ever, young people are connected to each other, having conversations about the things that matter to us, from pop music to police violence. We’re realizing there are more of us than there are of them, and that’s an incredibly hopeful thing. We live in a time of rapid reinvention, and at a moment when the conversations we are having online—for better or worse—are catching the attention of the mainstream.

For me, the internet always filled the gap between the community where I live and the one I long for. Growing up, finding my peers in the suburban Michigan town where my mom bought a house after she and my dad divorced was a challenge. I didn’t lack for friends, but there were conversations I wanted that I just couldn’t have with them. I was itching to define my politics, which is something I ultimately found online.

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#AAPI: A Community Strengthened by Difference | #APAHM2014

Photo credit: Deliver Magazine
Photo credit: Deliver Magazine

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.

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