Culture, history, the origins of prejudice and violence and notions of identity within the Asian American Pacific Islander community will be the subjects of a three-part online series that kicks off on May 13.
The three panel discussions, "Understanding the Asian American/Pacific Islander Experience," which span the month of May, are designed to broaden the public's understanding of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and will feature a range of Asian American/Pacific Islander leaders from throughout the country. The events are hosted by the nonprofit organization Asian Americans for Community Involvement and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian.
Speakers include California Attorney General Rob Bonta; Pawan Dinghra, author of "Managing Multicultural Lives: Asian Americans and the Challenge of Multiple Identities"; Michele Lew, CEO, The Health Trust; Natalie Masuoka, chair and associate professor of Asian American Studies, UCLA; Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Johnny Gogo; Helen Hsu, staff psychologist, Asian American specialist and lecturer at Stanford University; Foothill College President Thuy Thi Nguyen and Phillip Yun, CEO, World Affairs Council.
Simitian said the program has been in the works for many months and predates the most recent surge in anti-Asian incidents. He noted that while May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and seemed a good time for the series, the rise in hate incidents and crimes against Asian Americans is also a motivating factor for opening community dialogue and building understanding.
According to an April Pew Research Center survey, 81% of Asian adults say violence against them is increasing, including anti-Asian rhetoric, racism and scapegoating that blames Asians for the pandemic and its impact, he noted. Asian Americans have had a long history of bearing abuses and discrimination in the United States, particularly in California.
Prior studies found that 3 in 4 Asian Americans say they have personally experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly due to their race or ethnicity. Asian women are roughly twice as likely to be victims than men, studies show.
The Stop AAPI Hate reporting center has catalogued nearly 3,800 reported hate incidents since March 2020. More than 700 were reported in the Bay Area.
"It’s appalling and unacceptable and makes these conversations all the more important," he said.
Rallies are not enough to break down long-standing prejudice, violence and exclusionary practices, he noted.
"Real change requires understanding — a willingness to listen, engage, and do the necessary work. I hope that people will join AACI and me to better understand our county’s diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander communities," he said.
Simitian was also motivated by a high level of interest after he and his office sponsored the "Understanding Islam" series a few years ago.
"I think most people want to understand the lives and experiences of the folks in their community, and that opportunities like this help them to do just that."
Sarita Kohli, president and CEO of Asian Americans for Community Involvement, said people need to come together as a community and stand against xenophobia, hate and violence.
"I am deeply outraged by the racially motivated attacks and crimes against Asian Americans that are occurring in our community. … We hope that knowledge and empathy will empower our communities to support each other and heal together.”
The panel discussions will be held virtually, are free and are open to all. They take place on Thursdays, May 13, 20 and 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Attendees can sign up individually for each event:
May 13: Our Diverse AAPI Community: Who's who in the AAPI community? Histories, stories and experiences, their similarities and differences.
• Pawan Dinghra, professor of American Studies, Amherst College; author of "Managing Multicultural Lives: Asian Americans and the Challenge of Multiple Identities" and co-author of "Asian America."
• Michele Lew, CEO, The Health Trust.
• Natalie Masuoka, associate professor of political science and chair and associate professor of Asian American Studies, UCLA; author of "Multiracial Identity and Racial Politics in the United States" and co-author of "The Politics of Belonging: Race, Public Opinion and Immigration."
May 20: Prejudice and Violence: Origins of prejudice and violence and how it can be addressed.
• Rob Bonta, attorney general, state of California.
• Johnny Gogo, judge, Santa Clara County Superior Court.
• Helen Hsu, Psy.D., lead outreach specialist, staff psychologist, Asian American specialist and lecturer at Stanford University.
May 27: Notions of Identity: How the AAPI community sees and describes itself. How is it seen and described by others?
• Thuy Thi Nguyen, president, Foothill College.
• Phillip Yun, CEO, World Affairs Council.
• Pawan Dinghra, professor of American Studies, Amherst College; author of "Managing Multicultural Lives: Asian American Professionals and the Challenge of Multiple Identities and co-author of "Asian America."