Home > Articles

May 1, 2021 | Devin Cook

It’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed into law a Joint Resolution of the Congress of the United States making May the commemorative month for celebrating Asian and Pacific Islanders culture and heritage. May was chosen to honor the first Japanese immigrants who arrived on American soil in May 1843 and also honors the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869. The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad was dependent on nearly 20,000 Chinese immigrants–many losing their lives to poor working conditions–and helped to modernize our country.

After only a month passing since the deadly Atlanta shooting in a spa on March 26th, targetting Asian American women–as well as a 150% rise in anti-Asian hate crime reports in the last two years–Asian Pacific Americans across this country are asking for a stop to anti-Asian racism. APA Heritage Month comes at a time where Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are facing more violence and prejudice than ever. The rhetoric surrounding the virus in national media, as well as the previous presidential administration, caused many of the racially motivated verbal and/or physical attacks against Asian Americans to be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, with Asian American women being targeted 2.3x more than Asian American men.

Stop AAPI Hate has created a website for reporting Anti-Asian hate incidents, as well as what allies can do to support the movement. One of their resources includes “Safety Tips for Those Experiencing or Witnessing Hate” and their 2020-2021 National Report covering 3,795 reported incidents from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021.

These free Bystander Intervention Virtual Trainings can help allies learn on the best strategies for de-escalating and helping our Asian American siblings when we witness xenophobic harassment. Presented by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, this organization also runs Stand Against Hatred, a website which documents reports of xenophobic harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Media representation often teaches those in less diverse communities societal stereotypes. Early child development research tells us “No child is born with prejudice…Just as love is learned when children are cherished and nurtured, hate is learned by the messages that are both verbal and nonverbal.” It is important to invest time in learning others perspectives–especially listening to the voices of people who are marginalized. Those with children should make an effort to teach them about other cultures and worldviews, so that they can grow up with better empathy skills and emotional intelligence, and reduce the risk of them falling prey to racist propaganda.

One way we can all learn another’s perspective is through reading! We recommend these titles written by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors. This list recommends new titles as well as some modern classics. Take the time to consume media created by Asian Pacific American voices this month–and year round!

Adult Fiction:

Adult Non-Fiction Titles:

Young Adult Titles:

Juvenile Titles:

Early Titles:

Movies and TV Series that center Asian American and Pacific Islander characters:

Want some music recs? Here are musicians and music groups led by Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders. Some albums are available digitally on Hoopla, while others you can pick up at the library in our music CD collection!

This year, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, authored by Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono and New York U.S. Representitve Grace Meng, was reintroduced by Asian American lawmakers to provide resources and help speed up the legislative process of reporting any racially motivated hate incidents against Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders, especially if they are motivated by COVID-19. As of April 22 of 2021, the Senate passed the COVID-10 Hate Crimes Act and put the legislation into Federal law.

If you are a person who is not of Asian descent, take the time to educate yourself, your children, your friends, your coworkers on the struggles of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in this country–and say something when you hear anti-Asian remarks.

Read on the building of the Transcontinental Raildroad mostly dependent on Chinese immigrants, that contributed to the industrialization of our country–and how the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed soon after following a rise in anti-Asian racism. Learn more about America’s cruel incarceration of innocent Japanese Americans in internment camps following Pearl Harbor.

Our country has benefited greatly from immigrants from Asia–but has a long history of their mistreatment and abuse. This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, take time to learn of the achievements, contributions, and hardships experienced by Asian Pacific Americans.