Jieun Shin (‘23)/For Eastside
I was stuck at my desk,for about an hour,wondering what AAPI Heritage Month meant to me, and every time I tried to fol- low different thoughts and ideas, my mind turned up blank. I truly did not know.As my mind churned and I began researching, even more questions surfaced.What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to the AAPI community? What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to someone not in the community? What makes AAPI Heritage Month any different from the other 11 months in the year?
In the US, we have 31 out of the 365 days in a year dedicated to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, where we get some semblance of appreciation–that’s 8.5 percent of the whole year. 31 days to cover and appreciate the 178 years of US history where the US has stepped on the AAPI community; a community who has historically shaped the USA’s successes.A month ago, I had to Google what AAPI even stood for, and I don’t doubt that some of my classmates have too. Those four words encompass more meaning than what I can cover in one sitting.
When I think of May, I don’t think of the sacrifices and tribulations my parents made to achieve the American Dream. I think of my friends’ birthdays, flowers, and how it’s a month
before summer break. This alone was more informative to me than any of the Google searches I made in preparation of writing this.East has shown little to no effort in spreading information on how to show solidarity with the AAPI community, except via a small Instagram post saying how we celebrate with the theme “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.” However, I don’t
see this in practice during class or explicitly brought up by the teachers.
A few weeks ago, I spoke at an anti-Asian hate rally to share my experience as a second generation. Another anti-Asian hate rally is occurring on May 22 in Haddonfield, and I have the privilege to speak at that one too. However, these events are all outside of school. Without
proper education on Asian American history, we are taught to accept prejudice and intolerance.At school,these 31 days feel like any other. AAPI Heritage Month means end of year projects and tests, but I know it’s supposed to mean connecting with my roots and sharing my culture.
To the AAPI community, we could think of this month as an opportunity to share our diverse culture, or it could be our call to action to fight for the justice of our brothers and sisters
who were victims of anti-Asian hate crimes. We can’t stay performative and continue with our lives pre-tending that we live in a society where our skin color is overlooked, that the equity
has already been fought for and served. We cannot be so ignorant as to think that once the pandemic is over that so will the hatred against the AAPI community cease to exist.Social and systemic racism has existed before COVID-19 and will continue to persist if we don’t change how we teach our children.
AAPI Heritage Month means nothing if we don’t give it meaning.