It’s May, which means it’s time to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Noted individuals who have made contributions to the United States include Ang Lee, Dalip Singh Saund, Juju Chang, Ichiro Suzuki, Kal Penn, Paula Abdul, Steve Jobs and Flossie Wong-Staal.
The celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage was first established as a 10-day event during the beginning of May by Congress in 1979.
It wasn’t until Congress passed two statutes, one in 1990 and another in 1992, when the heritage week was extended to a month and then designated annually to be Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
With so many in the group and its various diasporas, there are a lot of issues its members had to face. Early on in the quest to conquer the west, the Chinese and their American descendents risked their lives to build the railroads. During World War II, at least 120,000 citizens of Japanese ancestry along the Pacific Coast were placed in internment camps — 62 percent of them were Americans.
For some Middle Eastern Americans, Arabs and South Asians, there is the constant threat for some to believe they are all terrorists. But others have faced a stereotype of model citizenship, that they are all highly intellectual but socially awkward. Everyone is different.
But the group’s contribution in technology, sports, government, music and many others have shaped American culture and life.
I make it my business to sample foreign food.
Sushi had always caught my interest as a child and I was eager to try it as I grew. My older brother, Steven, and my mom were a little wary at first, but have come around. My dad is still picky.
Just a few days ago, I was speaking to someone about traveling to other countries. I mentioned a few places in Asia and he asked, “So you’re interested in oriental food and stuff?”
The term oriental is actually an archaic and politically incorrect word when referring to someone from an eastern country and the way to determine a person’s race or ethnicity, much like the term “black” has replaced the term “colored” from the anti-war movements of the 1960s and ’70s.
But in his defense, he didn’t know.
I grew up with those who would use the racial slur “A-rab,” not knowing what it meant. Kids would call each other that word with the basic understanding that it causes emotional pain. To this day, I know a few who say it and other archaic or incorrect words not knowing their origins.
That is why I write these columns. I might not agree with or understand everything, but there are things that I do know should be said and explained to others.
Education and conversation lead to a better chance of diversity for the individuals around us, making our nation, state and Jay County more distinct.