Bringing to Light the Diversity and Complexity of AAPI Heritage and Culture in 4 Essays | Facing History & Ourselves
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Bringing to Light the Diversity and Complexity of AAPI Heritage and Culture in 4 Essays

 AAPI Heritage Month provides each of us an important opportunity  to take a deeper dive into the diverse experiences, perspectives, and stories of Asian American and Pacific Islander people and communities.

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In recognition and celebration of the diverse experiences, perspectives, and stories of AAPI people in the United States, we're highlighting four articles from our archives that share different viewpoints on the AAPI experience in the United States.

The first article focuses on how Asian American and Pacific Islanders are navigating their identity in an increasingly diverse America. It examines two pieces of media created by AAPI thought leaders and offers important reflection questions for educators to help them consider how to build a more culturally responsive classroom practice. 

The second article is an expert interview exploring how educators can center AAPI students in the classroom with intention.  The conversation looks at the importance of recognizing students’ cultural identities and making them feel seen and valued in their own classrooms by developing meaningful relationships between teachers and students and providing curriculum that accurately reflects the diversity of AAPI history, culture, and experiences. 

Third, our feature about Helen Zia, her activism, and the history of the Asian American movement in the US sheds light on why it is crucial to understand the roots of pervasive and deeply damaging stereotypes about AAPI people in order to disrupt anti-Asian racism and violence in our communities.

And finally, we share our essay exploring the ways people often fail to address the complicated nature of “Asian Americans” as a term and a concept, how it emerged, and what the “American” part of the phrase may obscure. 

Read together, these articles offer a nuanced examination of the history and legacy of stereotypes, highlight the need for culturally responsive teaching practices, and ask us all to commit to learning about and honoring the varying experiences, backgrounds, and ideas of AAPI people and communities.

How AAPI Thinkers are Redefining Asianness

This article explores how Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) thought leaders are challenging restrictive narratives about Asianness. It discusses Adrian de Leon and Holly Li's web-based video series "A People's History of Asian America", which addresses many ways anti-Asian bias and stereotypes show up in our culture. It also examines Jay Caspian Kang's book The Loneliest Americans, which raises questions about what binds the AAPI community together, the strategies community members use to cultivate a shared sense of identity, and how to disrupt an unjust status quo. Both works challenge single stories and invite people to define themselves.

Centering AAPI Students in the Classroom: An Expert Interview

In this interview, Facing History spoke with Dr. Guofang Li and Dr. Nicholas D. Hartlep. These leading scholars in the field of Asian-American Education talked with us about barriers to delivering quality education to Asian and Pacific Islander American (AAPI) students today. We discussed the emergence and pervasiveness of the “model minority” stereotype and its effects on AAPI and non-AAPI people. We also get their insights on how educators can actively center the needs and experiences of their AAPI students as well as partner with parents to better support AAPI children.

Helen Zia on the Asian American Movement

This article examines the rise of the Asian American Movement through the leading voice of Helen Zia, a Chinese American author and activist who worked at the intersections of racial and LGBTQ+ justice. It details her role in the 1982 campaign for justice for Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man murdered in a hate crime in Detroit. It also highlights the impact of the documentary “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” in galvanizing a Pan-Asian movement. Finally, it encourages us to challenge stereotypes and bias to better understand the consequences of anti-AAPI racism.

Complicating “Asian Americans”

This article explores the complex history behind the concept of "Asian Americans". It looks at how the concept of Asia was shaped by colonial interests, and how the term "Asian American" was first coined by two graduate students in 1968. It also examines the importance of reckoning with the impacts of US imperialism in Asia and the need to create space in education to accurately represent AAPI lives and histories. Finally, it is a reminder to engage in multidimensional learning and processing to build allyship with and among AAPI people.