Pro Bono and Community Service Committee co-chair Karen Lin writes about why we celebrate Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month for the Historical Society of the New York Courts blog.
The Historical Society of the New York Courts was founded in 2002 by then New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye. Its mission is to preserve, protect and promote the legal history of New York, including the proud heritage of its courts and the development of the Rule of Law.
A first generation immigrant herself, Lin attempts to define what it means to be “Asian American,” noting that the term often groups a diverse collection of people into a single phrase. In actuality, she explains, there are a plethora of cultures, languages, religions, histories, and patterns of immigration within the umbrella term; perhaps what most strongly links Asian Americans to one another are the hardships they face.
“Asian Americans are often grouped together as an undifferentiated mass and many share the experience of being treated as perpetual foreigners who do not fully belong in America,” Lin writes. From the Bubonic Plague of the 1900s – when San Francisco’s Chinatown was quarantined – to the present day, when COVID-19 has propelled a new wave of anti-Asian xenophobia and racism, Asian Americans have historically faced people challenging their place in this country, Lin says.
The designation of May as Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, then, is an homage to Asian Americans who often feel invisible. Lin explains that May was chosen to celebrate Asian American history to mark the anniversary of Japanese immigrants arriving in the US, and to acknowledge the contributions of Chinese workers in building the transcontinental railroad.
Lin embeds a powerful lesson in her article: Asian Americans will no longer accept being silenced, blamed, or overlooked. This month is only the first step on the journey ahead.
Thanks to Karen Lin for sharing these important thoughts on APA Heritage Month. To read the full blog post, click here.