Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month begins on May 1. It’s also called Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and in his proclamation last year, President Biden used Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (yes, with the Oxford comma). The various names reflect the diversity of this group and serve as a reminder that broad labels should be used sparingly and always with an eye toward inclusion.
And when it comes to the many acronyms you might see in the month of May, remember that they are not all interchangeable. Not only do the letters represent different words, but the terms also describe different groups. For example, some acronyms, such as AAPI, refer to Americans explicitly, while others, such as API (Asians and Pacific Islanders) and APISA (Asian, Pacific Islander and South Asian) include people around the globe. Be precise, respect preferences and avoid these broad labels when referring to an individual.
Why is AAPI Heritage Month in May? There are two key dates: May 7 and May 10. May 7, 1843, was when the first Japanese immigrants came to the United States.
May 10 is Golden Spike Day, which marks the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Without the sacrifices of people who came to the U.S. from China, who worked under brutal conditions to build the railroad, it might not have been completed on time. However, their contributions to the historic project often went unrecognized.
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