To Be Asian-Pacific And American
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Politics and Activism

To Be Asian-Pacific And American

It's that time of year to recognize and celebrate the APA heritage.

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To Be Asian-Pacific And American
CBS Corporation

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month began with the passing of Public Law 102-450 by Congress that marked May as the designated month in 1992. May was not a month chosen randomly, but was chosen because it marks when the first Japanese citizens immigrated to the United States on May 7, 1843 and May 10, 1869 for the transcontinental rail road that were laid down by Chinese immigrants.

The history of the Asian/Pacific American background is not entirely pleasant. The Polynesians in Hawaii had their land taken from them by American colonists who took control of Hawaii’s economy by overthrowing the Hawaiian rulers. This made Hawaii into a territory of the United States in 1898, which was used for sugar and pineapple plantations. After the events in Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese internment camps were established in 1942. These camps relocated around 120,000 Japanese-Americans “regardless of loyalty or citizenship” to the West Coast, an order which has had no equivalent in application to other populations, based on History.com’s website.

These internment camps caused a rift between older “Issei” (immigrants) born in their native country compared to their children who were “Nisei” (American-born). The Nisei were given more authority based on their status as American-born citizens. A number of Nisei decided to try to keep to their traditional cultures by attempting to renounce their status of citizenship, but were disallowed due to a judge who declared that such acts done “behind barbed wire were void.” Three years after these internment camps were made, Japan signed its surrender in 1945, and, five years later, Hawaii was established as the 50th State in the United States.

The events previously mentioned are only a few of the Asian nationalities that were affected directly by American influence. History classes teach about the Vietnam war with its many casualties and consequences. Not to forget the United States aiding the Philippine nation, a country that I know more about since I am a Filipino-American. America has then continued to keep closer ties with the Philippines by greatly welcoming immigrants that have come to join in the health-care field. However, I do not plan to rehash any old pain or gloss over that pain with reminders of the apologies that followed. I mentioned these events because they occurred in the past and were marked in history books for a reason.

I was raised in the Philippines for a number of years, a number which has been exceeded by the length of time I have now spent in America as a citizen. The transfer from one culture to the next was not smooth, but as an Asian American, I learned to adapt and find my niche. At first, I was reluctant to relinquish the culture that I was born into, but I realized that when my genetics paints me with multiple nationalities from the ancestors that first made my family line, there was no need to choose only one culture to follow. Instead, there was a great opportunity to learn more from many others, thus establishing myself as an Asian/Pacific American.

Asian American stereotypes, including those that say we all look the same and we only work in the engineering or science field, create a model minority myth. The life of an Asian American is easily overlooked; a university study even listed the effects of being treated as a model minority. This particular experience states, “Others seem surprised when you ‘stand up for yourself’ or express dissatisfaction about a situation.” I am not saying that everybody does this, but a stereotype is established as a simplification of what is in actuality a more complex set of cultural characteristics that some find difficult to understand. As a melting pot, America has gradually begun to practice the principles tied to the country, but it is not perfect. There is a minority and a majority, but those designations should only refer to quantity rather than quality.

I am proud to be an Asian American citizen that still continues to learn more of the past heritage that paved the way for her current place in this society. However, this does not mean that I allow myself to be bogged by old pains because I believe in the philosophy that dwelling in the past offers no aid in the future. I prefer to learn from the past so that I can pave the way to a better future for myself, my family, my friends and for later generations that will live after me. This month of May is a time to celebrate and recognize the Asian-American heritage that is a part of America's story.

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