In 1968, two California graduate students, Emma Gee and Yuji Ichioka, created the term “Asian American.” The term was meant to unite a population that seemed so different from one another yet shared so much experience during a tumultuous era of U.S. history. That unification had positive results, creating one strong voice out of millions of individuals.
In 2021, the term still serves the public well. It was used during the rise of hate crimes such as the #StopAAPIHate movement. And it is used when demanding representation in Hollywood and other industries. Asian American, to many of us, means “it does not matter that you are Korean or Filipino or Pakistani – we are one.” And as one, nothing is impossible. Today, this collective power is no less than a force challenging the socio-cultural narrative and underlying biases plaguing our society. It will also continue to serve as a clarion call reinforcing the potential and promise of the Asian American segment.
But with every good turn is a consequence. “Asian American” connotes a vast monolith that maintains ignorance of our diversity, lumping tens of millions into one group. Historically, it has been applied only in the context of East Asians and, although the term should include other regions, has often lacked South and Southeast Asian representation. And it sometimes claims Pacific and Hawaiian Islanders who maintain mixed feelings about this label.
To counter this umbrella term, over the years many amalgamations with their own sets of initials have been created. Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI), Asian Pacific Hawaiian (APH), and more attempt to add nuance to this discussion. But, in turn, they too carry their own burdens — hesitancy, being one of them, as to which to use. Yet, to dismiss concerns and use the default “Asian American” moniker, brands and other entities run the risk of offending its audience.
There is no clear-cut answer. Choosing the right language for the right occasion can be a daunting experience but this experience must be undertaken by those that wish to navigate this growing and evolving territory. It takes work, listening, and learning to succeed in making authentic connections.
We have prepared a peek into the market of Asians in the U.S. to communicate the vastness that it entails. However, understand that this is just the beginning. We invite you to take the first step. Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get insights broken down by different Asian ethnicities and answers to how brands can effectively engage with this segment.
Racism Is Contagious by ADMERASIA – a platform that provides consolidated, impactful tools to combat the spread of hate crimes against the Asian American community. Visit https://racismiscontagious.com/ to learn more.[R]EVOLUTION by ADMERASIA – a platform that connects brands with Asian American innovators and gamechangers rewriting the rules for social advocacy, content creation and entertainment. Visit www.admerasia.com/revolution to know more.