How can you take action for Asian American Pacific Islander Month?
The United States has celebrated the legacy and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders each May for nearly 45 years.
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month began in 1978 as a 10-day celebration with a congressional resolution. Congress extended the observance to a full month in 1992.
May is an important month for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States in early May 1843. And some 25 years later, Chinese immigrants played a key role in the painstaking construction of the transcontinental railroad. Completed in May 1869, the rail line connected the Midwest and Eastern United States to the Pacific Coast.
As with any heritage month, it is important not to overlook stories of oppression or intolerance. Unfortunately, in recent years, AAPI people have faced an increase in racist harassment and violence.
Stop AAPI Hate, a national nonprofit that tracks such incidents, said it received 10,370 reports of hate-motivated incidents between March 2020 and September 2021.
Who identifies as AAPI?
Asian American and Pacific Islander, or AAPI for short, is a broad term that includes people from across the Asian continent and about two dozen Pacific islands, including Guam, American Samoa, and Hawaii.
A diverse AAPI community
Like any group, members of the AAPI community are not monolithic, according to Angélique Geehan.
“They are as different from each other as humans can be, except for the characteristic they coincidentally share: that their ancestors came from places on earth that we either consider the same or group and recognize as part of the Asian continent or one of the many islands in the Pacific,” Geehan said. “Knowing that, I think it’s fair to say that any issue that matters to anyone can have importance to someone in the AAPI community.”
Self-described as a gay, Asian, and gender-nonconforming binary parent, Geehan founded Interchange, a counseling group that offers anti-oppression support. She is also part of several groups, including the QTPOC+ Family Circle and the Health and Healing Justice Committee of the National Queer and Trans Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance.
Here are some of his thoughts on issues at the intersection of technology and the AAPI community.
What technology issues are important to the AAPI community?
In a word: Intersectionality.
“What I perceive is that a lot of people, including AAPI members, are forgetting or actively suppressing that we can be female, male, any other gender or gender,” Geehan explained. “That we can be fat or plus-sized and of multiple skin tones. That we can be black, indigenous, of multiple different heritages. That we can be disabled in consistent ways, in ways that change over time, and even in ways that we and others may not be aware of.”
Or, to put it another way, technology organizations, colleagues, and decision makers should be aware that “AAPI people can have all kinds of identities interconnected with their existence as an AAPI person.”
Because of intersectional identities, Geehan notes, “our understanding of these issues profoundly affects how we use and create technology, how technology can support or hinder our ability to exist in recognition of all of our characteristics and identities.”
Geehan said three key issues that matter to everyone, including people who identify as AAPI, include:
- Humanized representation as technology consumers, workers or decision makers
- Inclusion in technology development
- Awareness of cultural suppression or destruction
Tech companies should take the lead in reducing harm
With great power – virtual reality, artificial intelligence and social networks that connect the world, to name a few – comes great responsibility.
Geehan encouraged those with the power to effect change and make decisions in industries to be more “rigorous and thorough” in studying the impacts of their actions – not just on consumers and competitors.
“I would like companies and leaders to take responsibility to reduce the damage they cause and help each other do it better. To be fully accountable to their communities,” she continued. “This could be something increasingly discussed as part of ‘DEI’ measures, such as recognizing and valuing all members of the AAPI community, not just those who are thin or fit, able-bodied, skinned clearer and East Asian.”
What technology gains does the AAPI community want?
Geehan defined tech industry-related wins less as an individual or industry achievement and more as a group achievement that benefits many people.
Potential opportunities and achievements include:
- Technology that enables people to identify and prevent abuse and harm inside and outside of a community
- Improvements that strengthen safety and community ties between communities
- The ability to share experiences, skills and lessons learned
How to take action beyond AAPI Heritage Month
There is always room for improvement when it comes to expanding diversity in technology.
Here are some Project Include suggestions for taking action beyond the AAPI month. The main goal of the non-profit organization is to advance the diversity of the technology industry.
Rethink your recruitment and retention practices
- Expand your recruiting sources by building relationships
- Analyze your job descriptions — think about what they look like for people from underrepresented groups
- Communicate honestly about what it’s like to work at the company
Design and implement an inclusive culture
Start with humanity and empathy to create a culture that values diversity and inclusion, not just avoiding legal risk. Consider hiring a diversity and inclusion manager and then empowering them to deliver on the company’s diversity vision.
Build a good conflict resolution framework
Conflicts are an inevitable part of our personal and professional lives. Encourage people to raise concerns by employing a third party person or organization to receive conflict reports and provide advice.
This can inspire confidence because the ombudsman does not work directly for the organization.
Social justice movements over the past two years have created an environment where people are more receptive to difficult but valuable conversations.
“We’re definitely helping people better understand what’s going on,” former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao told Axios. She helped establish and directs the Include project.
“The hardest part is getting people to actually take action,” she said. “We are at this unique point where we have an opportunity to push back against racism or allow it to continue to fester.”
Angelique Geehan works to support and repair the connections people have with themselves and their families, communities and cultural practices. A gender nonconforming queer, Asian and binary parent, Geehan founded Interchange, a counseling group that offers anti-oppression support.
She serves on several groups, including the National Perinatal Association’s Health Equity Task Force, the Health and Healing Justice Committee of the National Queer and Trans Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance, QTPOC+ Family Circle, and Batalá Houston. .
Angelique Geehan is also a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Independent Reviewers Network.