By Khudai Tanveer | May 26, 2021
What do you expect to see during API Heritage Month? Who do you expect to see during API Heritage Month?
For the last six years of my life, I have sat on every API Heritage Committee meeting that I have come across. It is not because I feel my Asian identity pulsing through my veins but because I very rarely saw anyone who looked like me. The events that get planned (if they get planned), the narratives that are brought up, and the celebrated cultures rarely look like the ones I grew up with. It is because America has a monolith problem when it comes to Asians.
The US has managed to lump 23 million people into one 3 letter acronym.
An acronym that can never do justice to the people it encompasses, the cultures it erases, and the hurt it causes. There are 48 countries and territories in the continent of Asia, within those countries, we acknowledge the following five regions: East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander. Asia is not a monolith, and Pacific Islanders should not be a secondary thought. Only when we acknowledge this can we be on the path to equity and racial solidarity.
So, how do we start our journey to equity?
We start by acknowledging the wide breadth of culture that surrounds us. We start by separating the nuance of each culture and identity. Ex. As a South Asian, I feel erased when we speak about Asian-ness. I know that when a vast majority of people say Asian, they are not thinking of me, they are thinking of the East & Southeast Asian communities.How many of the events and content that we consume during this month centers the experiences of the Pacific Islander community? - Khudai Tanveer Click To Tweet
However, holding that same nuance, it is on me that when we are speaking of South Asians, to bring in the voices of Indo- Caribbean folks who are often left out of their own culture and identity. Another way we do this is by massively erasing the PI when it comes to API Heritage Month. How many of the events and content that we consume during this month centers the experiences of the Pacific Islander community?
Navigate your bias.
When we do this, asking ourselves what + who we expect to see, we are actively calling our bias to the front of our brain. We are asking ourselves the questions that are necessary to negate that bias and work through it. When asking ourselves these questions we have the duty to learn.
Learn the different countries, learn the different cultures, understand the nuance of the regions, learn what languages they speak. Talk to them and ask them how we feel about being Asian and whether they identify with it. Make room if the answer to that question is no.
The path of equity is an individual and organizational responsibility all of us have. We can and should do the work to learn how to show up for one another.
Lastly, this path is not only for those outside of the API community but also for those of us in it. It is also our duty to interrogate the position we have been given according to society and use it to create a more equitable future. Without doing the internal work we can not show up in racial solidarity.
I bring up racial solidarity not because I feel that it is something owed to us but because I feel it is something we owe to other Black, brown, and Indigenous communities in the United States. True solidarity lies in self-interrogation and reflection of our privileges.True solidarity lies in self-interrogation and reflection of our privileges. - Khudai Tanveer Click To Tweet