11:20 AM

Exploring the History of AAPIHM and Celebrating Successes

This email is part of a series sent to employees as HE&R celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month throughout May.


Good morning, 

As we continue our exploration of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM), let’s take a look at its origin. AAPIHM was first designated a week of celebration by President Carter in 1978. Fourteen years later, President Bush declared it a month-long event to celebrate the culture and successes of this group. Here is a look at AAPI ethnicities across the country:

Long before the cultural celebrations began, the AAPI community faced significant challenges and hardships. Following the Opium Wars in the 1800s, China was left in debt. As a result, many of its citizens fled the country to find work elsewhere. Nearly 20,000 Chinese immigrated to California during the state's Gold Rush in the mid-1880s. This influx sparked mounting racial tensions, the implementation of the Foreign Miners’ Tax, and the 1854 ‘People v. Hall’ Supreme Court case ruling that stripped Chinese immigrants, as well as Native and African Americans, the opportunity to dispute white men in order to seek justice for themselves. Furthermore, as examined in this PBS video, The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 forced the suspension of immigrants from China, and those already here were deemed ineligible to become citizens. That Act, meant to be in place for 10 years, lasted 60 and was the first time one race was targeted in this way. It was repealed in 1943 when China became an ally of the U.S. during WWII.

With so many challenges, it is remarkable that the Chinese and other AAPI peoples have accomplished so much in a relatively short period of time. For many AAPI people, education became the key to move beyond the hardships faced by their ancestors. We see it in the success stories at Milton Hershey School - education often leads to a path of success. Nowhere is this more evident than in California’s Silicon Valley where it is estimated that half the workforce in tech companies are of AAPI descent. 

Four well-known tech companies are led by people of AAPI descent: Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, OpenTable CEO Debby Soo, and Care.com founder Sheila Marcelo. Notably, these four leaders spearheaded an effort to pledge $10 million to AAPI organizations and initiatives following the recent string of Asian Hate incidents. 

AAPI trailblazers continue to make their ancestors proud by making a difference across the nation. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is making waves as a leading candidate in the New York City mayoral election. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Nikki Haley made history as the first Asian-American female governor and the first Indian-American in a presidential cabinet. Tina Tchen, President and CEO of Time’s Up, focuses on gender inequity, sexual harassment, and workplace diversity issues, and served in the Obama administration. These individuals are just the tip of the AAPI success story.

Thank you.