Why Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is Important

The history of racism against people of Asian American and Pacific Island descent (AAPI) runs deep in America. For as long as people have immigrated to this country, the government has fought hard to keep them from being an equal member of society.  Various laws were passed to keep them from gaining citizenship as well as keeping them low on the social chain. With the passage of laws, the mass violence against communities, and the dehumanization of entire people groups, it is important to learn and understand about the rich history of AAPI in our country.

May was chosen as the month we honor AAPI in America to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant to land on American soil on May 7, 1849. It is also the same month in which the Transcontinental Railroad was complete on May 10, 1869. The construction of the railroad was completed mostly by Chinese railway workers, many of whom were underpaid and mistreated in comparison to their white counterparts. In fact, many laws were passed to ensure immigrants were kept in submission to White Americans.

Beginning in 1790, the United States put into law discrimination against non-white people with the Naturalization Act. This act states that only free, White people would be granted naturalization in our country. This law excluded, Native people, Black people, indentured servants, women and Asian people from ever becoming naturalized citizens. Another action which systemically affected Asian people was the 1854 lawsuit of The People vs. Hall. This was based on an 1850 lawsuit in California which ruled that Native and Black people were not allowed to testify against White people. This was expanded to include Asians in 1854 and was a key lawsuit which enabled more violence and discrimination to happen against the Asian communities.

Throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s more systemic laws were put into place which made it easier to harm and displace Asian Americans. The following examples are just a handful of laws which were put into place to keep Asians out of our country:

Because of these laws, violent acts and other forms of racism were common among the Asian communities. Some of the these are well known in America (the Japanese Internment camps from 1942-1945) but many of these violent acts are never discussed in American History. Below are just a few acts of violence against various AAPI groups in American History.

As you can see, there is a deep history of systemic racism in America as well as violence against the Asian community. The American public school system has done a great disservice to our students by not discussing the various moments in history which have reinforced stereotypes and hate towards AAPI. It has also failed to teach our students the various AAPI people who have made positive impacts in history. During the month of May the goal of the NAFC blog is to draw light to the amazing contributions AAPI have brought to the United States as well as discuss in greater detail different events in history.

About NAFC

Newtown Allies For Change is a grassroots advocacy organization run by volunteers to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in Newtown. We are an unfunded organization and our mission is to center Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in Newtown.