Happy AAPI Month!
We can thank one woman for Asian- American Heritage Month: Jeanie Jew. This former Capitol Hill staffer proposed this idea to Representative Frank Norton of New York during the mid-1970s, around the time of Black History Month ( signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976) and Hispanic Heritage Week (signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968). Her commitment to bringing Asian Pacific American heritage and contributions to light was personal: Jew's great-grandfather, M.Y. Lee, emigrated to the U.S. in the 1800s to work on the transcontinental railroad. Many Chinese not only worked on the railroad but in gold mines, factories, and farms to support their families back home.
As the Chinese population increased, the anti-Chinese resentment increased. These economic and cultural tensions stemmed from establishing their communities, becoming entrepreneurs, and non-Chinese workers' fear of being replaced with cheap labor. Some non-Chinese workers resorted to violence to maintain their positionality. In 1871, Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles, California were killed, harassed, and robbed by approximately 500 Hispanic and white workers. Jew's great-grandfather eventually became a businessman and later died of the same fate.
To maintain the "integrity" of America, in 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law which provided a 10-ban against the immigration of Chinese laborers to uphold America's cultural and moral values and decrease racial mixing. The Geary Act reinforced this law by requiring Chinese immigrants to carry permits or face possible deportation. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass once stated, “It is this great right that I assert for the Chinese and Japanese, and all other varieties of men equally with yourselves, now and forever. I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity."
Between 1907-08, President Theodore Roosevelt made a compromise with Japan. The Gentleman's Agreement forced San Francisco to abolish its Japanese-American school segregation order in exchange for Japan to deny emigration passports to Japanese laborers while simultaneously allowing wives, children, and parents of current immigrants permission to emigrate to the United States. In 1977, Jew and Ruby Moy, New York Representative Frank Norton's Chief of Staff, spearheaded the efforts to gain support for this proclamation. When Norton introduced House Joint Resolution 540 in 1977, it did not pass. He and Norman Mineta, Representative of California, proposed House Joint Resolution 1007 to proclaim the first ten days of May to become Asian American Heritage Week which commemorates: the first known arrival of the first Japanese immigrant to the United States on May 7, 1843, and secondly to honor the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, constructed by almost 20,000 Chinese workers (this included the seventh and tenth of the month). After it passed in Congress on October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the resolution into law (Public Law-95-419). In 1990, President George H.W. Bush president signed a bill extending it to a month. In 2009, they renamed Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month to Asian- American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
Today, 22.9 million Asians are living in the United States. Budiman and Ruiz's Pew Research article states that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic and racial groups in the United States. These individuals represent 7.2% of the U.S. population and primarily reside in the western and southern states. They are from more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, mainly China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. From 2000 to 2019, the Asian population grew by 81 %. Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez once stated, “As we take the month of May to celebrate the Asian community, we can expect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to continue contributing to our country's achievements. This May, we should all take time to honor their commitment and sacrifices to our nation."
Asians are the Fastest Growing Racial or Ethnic Group in the U.S.
Chinese Exclusion Act
Chinese New Year!
Dragon Boat Festival
Coming of Age Day
The Chinese invented the pinata.