It’s easy but not always accurate

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month begins next week. The month celebrates such a diverse group that there’s not even one consistent name used to refer to it. Since labels such as “AAPI” are easy to reach for but can often be imprecise, we’re sharing a portion of the newsletter we sent last year to mark AAPI Heritage Month. If you’ve subscribed to this newsletter since May 2023, this will be new. And if you’ve been with us longer than that, we hope this serves as a good reminder.

When it comes to the many acronyms you might see in the month of May referring to AAPI Heritage Month, 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.

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: Do not use periods in “AAPI,” for “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.” Use “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” on first reference and “AAPI” on second reference and beyond. Follow the same rules for other acronyms, such as API (Asians and Pacific Islanders), APIA (Asian and Pacific Islander American) and AANHPI (Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander). Pay attention to the specifics of a term before using it to refer to a group. For example, “AAPI” and “API” are not always interchangeable. Also keep in mind that some people might prefer that a different term is applied to them, so be sure to ask about preferences instead of making assumptions.

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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