It’s May 1st. Your social media accounts are probably brimming with posts about Asian Americans for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (#APAHM) and/or #MayDay (for labor rights).
Well, time to add a post from me into the mix.
I always talk about how when I was younger, I clung to figures like Mulan and Lucy Liu because they were the only Asian womxn I knew of. But really, my mom was my first Asian American hero. And work had always been a part of my momma’s life. Growing up, she worked two jobs, was always tired, but made it seem easy. She always reminded us that even though she worked tirelessly, her own mother worked that much more. When I think about how my grandmother must have been exploited in sweatshops and fish factories, I think…this isn’t the past. This is still happening all the time to other #AAPIs and immigrants. This isn’t the “better life” that we assume will be waiting for us.
What I’m arguing now for #APAHM, is that labor rights and celebrating the accomplishments of #AAPI folks shouldn’t be done in isolation. AAPIs have been a source of exploited labor for generations. Let’s not forget our past (eg: Chinese railroad workers) or pretend like our communities aren’t currently fighting exploitative employers in restaurants and nail salons.
The lack of representation of AAPI people in the media, in the academy, in spaces throughout the US is troubling. The exploitation of our work, whether it’s minimum wage (or lower) labor or hitting the bamboo ceiling in corporate and academic environments, isn’t going away anytime soon.
How do we feel hopeful without ignoring the constant struggles we endure?
In these times, I turn to the many amazing #AAPI folks doing incredibly important, enriching things for our community and beyond.
This month, I’m going to highlight #AsianAmericans and those in the diaspora who do some really cool things that I think y’all should know about (some related to labor rights, but some also not).
– Artist, Natalie Bui has illustrated a great post documenting the history of Vietnamese manicurists and their struggles: https://www.instagram.com/p/BucsCDihrVG/
– Ai-jen Poo’s work with the National Domestic Workers Alliance has given support and resources to domestic workers all over the country–many of whom are of Pacific Islander and South Asian descent: https://www.domesticworkers.org/
MOREOVER, Ai-jen has collaborated with incredible womxn like Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood & Alicia Garza of #BlackLivesMatter to start the Supermajority, a national membership group for womxn across the country to mobilize, run for public office, and hold public officials accountable: https://supermajority.com/about-us/
Have people to tell me about that are part of the #AAPI or Asian diasporic community? Drop me a comment!