Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was created in 1992. The bill (H.R. 5572) was passed by the United States Congress and was signed into law by President George Bush. As a federal law, the month is observed throughout the country. Many federal departments and agencies host official observances during the month of May. Such events host important speakers, cultural performances, traditional foods, etc. Across the nation, local Asian Pacific American organizations host their own events to celebrate the month.
But the true celebration begins with the individual. Below are ten good things that all of us can do to learn more about ourselves and raise broad awareness of this special occasion.
10. Instead of just eating at an Asian restaurant, talk to the owners. Learn more about their stories, how they went about establishing their business, the obstacles they've faced, local issues that they care about as business-owners. It will give you a better sense of just how difficult it is to establish a business, especially if the owners are first-generation immigrants.
9. Attend an Asian Pacific American temple, mosque or church, even if it's not your own religion. There are thousands of religious establishments that were created by and for Asian Pacific Americans. By learning about a person's religion or spiritual beliefs, you can get a better sense of his or her value system and motivation.
8. Get as many members of your family together in one place and just enjoy each other's company. Put the mah jong tables away for one weekend. Talk about your family's history. How did your family come to the United States? Where did they first settle? What kinds of hardships did they face?
7. Flip through any popular magazine and carefully look at how they portray Asian Pacific Americans. Are the portrayals negative? Positive? Are the women portrayed as "exotic, sex symbols?" What other kinds of stereotypes are depicted? What kind of message do you think this sends to other readers?
6. Spend a few hours and talk to a young person. Don't talk about superficial garbage. Ask them tough, thought-provoking questions. Have you been asked to try drugs? Have you been pressured by your friends to have sex? Have you ever thought about suicide? Are you afraid of violence in your own school? Do you get picked on because you're Asian Pacific American? Hopefully, they'll give you honest, direct answers, and you'll know just the kinds of pressures facing the youth of today.
5. Chances are, you might have a friend or know of someone who was adopted. Every year, more and more children from Asia are being adopted by non-Asian families in the United States. Ask your friend about his or her experiences growing up: was it difficult growing up as an Asian Pacific American with Caucasian or African American parents? Were you exposed to your Asian culture?
4. Visit the Census Bureau's website (www.census.gov), type in your city and state, and look up the most recent demographics of your area. This is an excellent way to survey your surroundings and understand how the population is shifting. In many cases, you'll see a significant increase in the Asian Pacific American population.
3. Go to your local bookstore and pick up a book. The book doesn't even need to be specifically about Asian Pacific Americans, as long as it's written by one. Because each author writes through their unique "lens" and their perspective is reflected in their writing, the book could be about anything under the sun (i.e. popular culture, fiction, biography, etc.).
2. Do a little bit of personal reflection. Ask yourself some basic questions: Do I really identify as an Asian Pacific American? How much does my nationality or ethnic heritage affect my daily life? Do I think that members of my nationality or ethnic group are superior to others? The answers might enlighten (or scare) you.
1. Tell a non-Asian Pacific American that May is recognized as Asian Pacific American month! This is perhaps the simplest, yet most effective way to raise awareness. Tell him or her what it means to you, invite them to a local event, or share an historical fact with them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rodney Jay C. Salinas is President of the Rainmaker Political Group LLC, publishers of PoliticalCircus.com, a leading online source for political news and information for the Asian Pacific American community.
Rodney Jay C. Salinas
President, Rainmaker Political Group LLC
Direct: (703) 234-3950, ext. 5616
Fax: (703) 751-1838