Every May, we celebrate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ (AAPIs) innumerable contributions to American history, culture, and society. We honor the AAPI legacy that stretches more than 400 years, to the day the first Filipinos landed on this continent in 1587. We reflect on May 10, 1869, the day this country’s transformational, transcontinental railroad was completed, thanks to the labor of 20,000 Chinese immigrants. And we think of all our AAPI heroes—both national and personal—who make a positive impact on our country and our world everywhere from our homes and neighborhoods to the chambers of the U.S. Senate and the office of the Vice President.
In order to truly celebrate and express our appreciation for our AAPI friends, family, neighbors, leaders and icons, we must acknowledge what the community has faced, endured, and triumphed over, especially during the past year.
Our country’s long and disgraceful history of anti-Asian hate and violence has heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through it all, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has persevered—as it always has—in the face of unjust adversity. Thousands of AAPIs led rallies and marches across the nation to demand justice, and were joined by people of every race and background in America. Their voices did not go unheard.
Last Thursday, our US Senators passed a bill that would provide guidance for local law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes, expand public education campaigns and combat discriminatory language in describing the pandemic. It’s a small step in the right direction. More can and must be done.
This May, we honor AAPIs’ impact on this country that extends deep into our country’s troubled past, through our present and far into the future. And, we must also reflect on what we all must do to change and improve this country’s impact on AAPIs. I invite all of us to commemorate this month by honoring the full experience of the AAPI community and examining how we can each do our part to make it better.