Atlanta, GA – As the current month comes to a close, the Asian American Language Ministry Plan (AALM) and the Comprehensive Plan for Pacific Islander Methodism (PIM), celebrate and honor the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The month of May has been a time to remember, honor and commemorate the culture, traditions, and history of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in the United States. The AAPI communities are growing in numbers and achievements. According to a 2021 Pew Research Report, it is estimated that the Asian American population will increase by 143 percent by 2060, while the Pacific Islander population will double. It is obvious that the AAPI community will play an increasingly influential role in the United States in the coming decades.
Today it is more common to read about the positive achievements of AAPI people. For example, the South Asian American community recently celebrated the election of Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first Indian American and African American person to be elected to such a prominent position.
Yet even while celebrating AAPI accomplishments during the month, we must not forget that there has been a rise in Anti-AAPI violence across the country which has continued unabated throughout this year. Indeed America has a long history of depicting and treating Asian people as the “yellow peril” or the “perpetual foreigner”. In 1882 the U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred any person of Chinese ancestry from entering the country. This law was passed based upon racism. Another example would be the Filipino American laborers throughout California who were discriminated against and violently attacked during the 1920s and 1930s. During WWII, U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were unjustly incarcerated in American concentration camps. In the 1950s, the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs on, in and above the Marshall Islands, and in reparation have allowed these Pacific Islanders to immigrate but US policies continue to treat them as foreigners. And recently, Stop AAPI Hate has reported that there has been over 3,800 reports of AAPI attacks since March of 2020. Asian Americans continue to be demonized as the enemy.
“It is remarkable that given all of the challenges that the AAPI community has had to face throughout the history of the United States, we continue to be an indispensable part of the American society. We are workers, business owners, and consumers. The AAPI community also contributes to occupations and fields where this country struggles to attract enough workers, such as in health care. And slowly we are gaining clout at the voting booth”, said Monalisa Tuhitahi, Executive Director of the Pacific Islander National Caucus of United Methodists.
We also wish to applaud the recent passage of “COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act”. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act shows that the U.S. government acknowledges the distressing impact of the racism and discrimination against the AAPI community during this pandemic.
As the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a completion, the AALM and PIM would like to suggest four books to read to learn more about the challenges and the celebrations of AAPI communities. They are:
- “Yellow Peril!: An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear” edited and introduced by John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats
- “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning” by Cathy Park Hong
- “Afterland: Poems” by Mai Der Vang
- “The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America”, edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
Our AAPI stories continue, fueled by the fire of the Spirit of Pentecost. May that fire convict all of us to stand in solidarity with the AAPI communities, in remembering and honoring those stories and thereby be a witness to the ever living power of Pentecost.