May Day, May Day: It’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

But does any one care?

I survived Vice President Joe Biden’s warning yesterday having taken a cross-country plane trip, a bus ride, and a subway ride all within  the same 24 hours.

I’m not sure what I’m incubating, but I’m proud to say I lived to see the start of another APA month.

Coincidentally, Asian Pacific Americans are competing with others who have declared May Anxiety Disorders Month, Digestive Disease Awareness Month and Better Sleep Month ( and that’s a short list among others including bike enthusaists and hug givers).

That means there’s probably no better way to celebrate  May than to find a crazy Asian American with lactose-intolerant inspired gas attacks,  then ride a bike to their place to hug and have a great nap!

But, of course, only if you really want to get into the spirit of things.

APA Month was originally a week, but expanded to a month, perhaps because it gave people more time to forget that it was a time to celebrate.

I’ve long complained during APA month that another one comes along and no one ever sends me so much as a Hallmark card.   Some public employees  groups and non-profits annually  celebrate with food and music fests (APA Month is a good excuse to have one more lumpia and dance the tinikling).  This year,  Asian Week no longer publishes but it does have its public display, the big street festival.

But generally, the month is lost in the shuffle what with seemingly everyone else claiming May, or the month is taken for granted, if not totally forgotten. That of course is the shame. APA month is a chance to spotlight the community and let others  develop their experience and appreciation of us.  If prejudice and discrimination are based on ignorance, an APA Month should be seen as our educational tool to help non-Asians  understand that their “foreign” neighbors have real American roots. Old hat? Effective education requires repetition.

But on the eve of our month, I was forced to rethink who this month was really for.

I was on a subway in Boston and bumped into an Asian American woman a Stanford grad visiting from California.  I told her about how things in Boston had changed since I went to college in the area in the 70s. Back then, the Asians were normally elites from Asia off for an American adventure.  Asian American working stiffs from Calif. were few and far between. These days, however,  Harvard’s APA population is around 30 percent. And they’re not all Asian royalty.

As I spoke, the young Stanford grad looked at me  like I was some kind of alien.  To her, race/ethnicity was no big deal today. She even admitted she doesn’t really see herself as Asian American, or identify by her ethnicity.

It was my post-racial moment, to use the term often brought up by the ascent of President Obama.  Some have wondered what  post-racial means.  I think it’s primarily a generational view. Same as the debate among many Asian Americans who split on the Hillary/Barack debate.

If you are over 45,  race is still a relevant part of your past and present. It’s in your DNA.  But sometimes it seems that no one knows or cares about the trouble you’ve seen.

If you were born during the Reagan era, you feel you belong.  Life is good and we’re all inclusive now–in theory.  So the post-racial era is  how we all adapt to each others’ ignorance and prejudices. And maybe move closer together.  But  there’s still a generational divide in there and it’s changed the purpose of APA month.

I used to say APA month was more important as a way for everyone else to understand us and the Asianness in our different cultures.

Now with the diversity within our communities, and this new generational divide, it seems like we need APA month more than ever— just to understand how we have grown and changed as Americans.