In the United States, May is recognized as Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) History Month. The goal of this month long celebration of heritage is to acknowledge the contributions of Asian & Pacific Islander Americans to the culture and achievements of this country.
Ever since the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed in 1965–which lifted many considerably strict immigration laws especially for Asians–the number of Asian immigrants to the United States has been rising sharply. Today, there are over 18 million Asian immigrants in the United States, which account for roughly 30% of total current US immigrants and about 7% of the country’s total population.
Mass Asian immigration to the US began in the early 1800’s. The road to acceptance in the United States has been marred with challenges. Asian Americans were a crucial labor force in the completion of the transcontinental railroad system in 1869. For these Americans, working on the railroad created direct exposure to hazardous working conditions, low wages, violence and discrimination. In 1885 & 1887, Asian American coal miners were targeted in two mob attacks known as the Rock Springs Massacre and the Hells Canyon Massacre. Between the two events, over 60 Asian American men were killed and many more injured. Despite the pattern of discrimination, Asian Americans persisted in contributing to the industrialization of the United States.
After the hardships faced during the California Gold Rush and the second industrial revolution, Asian Americans were still determined to integrate and serve this country. In World War II, the 442nd Infantry Regiment was created as a segregated Japanese American unit that would go on to be the most decorated in the history of the war; while also sustaining the highest combat casualty rate of any unit proportionally. Today, there are over 300,000 living US veterans of Asian American descent.
While there is an incredible history to be remembered & learned during AAPI Month, it is equally important to celebrate the current-day achievements of Asian Americans today. Many of you are familiar with Zoom through either personal or business use; did you know that the creator & CEO of Zoom is an Asian American Entrepreneur, named Eric Yuan? Or perhaps you recently watched Tiger Woods (who is half-Thai) compete at his 24th Master’s tournament appearance. If you missed his performance, perhaps you could watch on YouTube, which happens to be co-founded by another Asian American named Steve Chen. Asian Americans can be found in the highest levels of Government as well. Kamala Harris’ mother is an Indian American biologist who studied at Berkeley for her PhD. Andy Kim is a member of the House of Representatives here in our home state of New Jersey. Whether it be in business, athletics, politics, or beyond, Asian Americans influence our culture, lives, and way of life.
At Bowman & Company LLP, we are proud to celebrate and cherish the historical and present-day contributions of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community. Recognizing the journey of this community is critical to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion. See below for references, resources, and our Diversity & Inclusion web page.
REFERENCES & MORE RESOURCES
Migration Policy Institute – Immigrants from Asia in the United States
History.com – Asian American Milestones: Timeline
The National WWII Museum – Going for Broke: The 442nd Regimental Combat Team
TED Talk (George Takei) – Why I Love a Country that Once Betrayed Me (~15 Min)