If you have been noticing more events this month at Sodexo or around your community that celebrate the heritage and contributions of Asian Pacific Americans, it’s because May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month! In 1992, Congress passed a resolution marking May as a month to remember and honor the contributions and presence of Asian Pacific Americans in the United States. But, despite our community’s growing population numbers and long history in our nation, the general public often has little information or carries misconceptions about the Asian Pacific American community.
Here is a pop quiz to test your knowledge of the Asian Pacific American community, and to check some of those misconceptions!
True or False: The states with the highest growth of Asian Americans over the past decade are Nevada, Arizona and North Carolina.
Over 18 million Asian Americans live in the United States today, making up 6% of the nation’s total population. The community is very diverse, ethnically, religiously, culturally and linguistically. The largest ethnic groups are Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese. And, while you might think that Asian Americans primarily reside in California, New York, Texas and Hawaii (and you would be right), the states with the highest growth of Asian Americans over the past decade (here’s the answer to the question) include some you might be surprised to hear about: Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia, to name a few.
True or False: Asian Americans are primarily foreign-born – that is, born in another country.
That would be true. About two-thirds of Asian Americans were born outside the U.S. My own family’s experience reflects this immigrant background. As an immigrant from India who moved to Kentucky when I was 12, I slowly grew to understand my place in the diverse fabric of our country through the lens of race, culture and gender. But, here’s what’s just as important to remember: while many think that Asians are a relatively new community in America, this is far from the truth. In fact, the first Japanese immigrants came to America in 1843, and the transcontinental railroad (constructed by many Asian laborers) was completed in May of 1869. Sikh farmers from India worked in California and Washington State in the late 1800s. Our country has been enriched by the contributions of Asian Americans for over 200 years now.
True or False: Asian Americans are a model minority, with few challenges or obstacles.
This is one of the main misperceptions that many in the American public and the media have of Asian Americans. It’s important to keep in mind that Asian Americans, like many immigrants and people of color in our country, face their share of barriers and challenges. In the work that I do at South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), we know very well that our community members are struggling in a variety of ways. For example, bias and discrimination continue to affect South Asians, and sadly, this has been on the rise since September 11, 2001. You might recall the massacre at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, last August that killed six people, or know about the ongoing complaints of workplace discrimination and school-based bullying affecting Muslims and South Asians. I feel fortunate to be part of an organization that is addressing these inequities in order to build a more just and inclusive society in the United States not just during APA Heritage Month but throughout the year through leadership development programs (such as Be the Change, a public service event supported by Sodexo), community awareness, and policy analysis.
As you go to your next APA Heritage Month event, try out the pop quiz on your colleagues and friends. Let’s mix in some education as we enjoy our samosas and red bean buns this month!