Updated: Jun 5
It’s May and I invite you to help me celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to America's strength as a nation. These members of our society have a long and storied history in America, and their contributions are vast and varied. They’ve played a significant role in shaping the country’s economy, culture, and politics. From building the transcontinental railroad to fighting for civil rights and advocating for social justice, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made an enormous impact on America’s history and will continue to do so today and in the future.
By recognizing and celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, organizations can create opportunities for cross-cultural learning and collaboration, foster a sense of community and belonging, and walk-the-talk of commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging. All of these can lead to greater understanding, allyship, and the prevention of egregious treatment of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in our communities and workplaces.
People from various Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have experienced exclusion and marginalization in the workplace. One of the most common and pervasive assumptions that people hold, which makes their lives and thinking easier, but always diminishes and makes invisible individual people, is the assumption that lumps all Asian American and Pacific Islander communities into one huge group – “Asians” – and lets people think they are thus “all the same.”
This is a massive disservice to the cultural differences between, for example, Japanese people and Koreans, or Samoans. This type of easy grouping that people do simplifies what energy we may need to put in to understand the vast array of subcultures and nations that get lumped together into that one large category of Asians.
This may be akin to assuming that people from the Deep South are the same as people from Maine and Vermont, as well as those from Oregon and Washington. We may all be “Americans” but there are still critically important and interesting subcultural values and norms, attitudes and beliefs that distinguish us from each other. Knowing and appreciating these differences, sometimes subtle, are the keys to creating a truly inclusive environment where people feel not just seen by others, but included, as well.