May is Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. This month is dedicated to celebrating the culture, achievements, and contributions of the AANHPI people. It’s also an opportunity for organizations to think about how they can support Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the workplace.
About the Celebration
Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, celebrated in May each year, has its roots in the rich history and contributions of these communities to the United States. The month-long observance traces its origins to the 1970s when a group of Asian American activists and leaders, including Congressman Frank Horton and Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga, advocated for the recognition and celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution designating the first week of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. Over time, this celebration expanded to May to honor the achievements, struggles, and contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to raise awareness about their diverse cultures, histories, and experiences.
One way to honor AAPI Heritage Month is by fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and respected regardless of race or ethnicity. To do this, organizations should put policies in place that promote diversity and inclusion, such as anti-discrimination policies, hiring practices that focus on recruiting a diverse pool of candidates, and creating spaces for employees to discuss their experiences with racism and discrimination. Organizations should also ensure that all employees know these policies so they are held accountable if they violate them.
Another way organizations can support AANHPI employees during this month is by validating their experiences. This means listening without judgment when employees share stories of discrimination they have faced inside and outside the office. Organizations should clarify that such behavior will not be tolerated in the workplace and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Additionally, organizations should provide resources for those needing emotional and or mental health support due to past discrimination experiences.
Finally, organizations need to initiate conversations around AANWPI issues beyond celebrating the culture during this month. This could include hosting conversations about systemic racism and bigotry and discussing how implicit bias affects decision-making within the organization so that employees can become more aware of their biases and work towards eliminating them from their everyday lives. These conversations will help create an open dialogue between AANWPI employees and other staff members so everyone can learn from each other in a safe space.
AANWPI Heritage Month allows us to come together in celebration. It will enable us to reflect on how we can better support AAPI people in our communities year-round. By fostering inclusion, validating experiences, and initiating conversations around systemic racism and bias, we can strive towards building a more equitable society for all people—not just during this month but every day going forward.
May is a time to celebrate our differences and similarities—and together, we can create real change for the future! To find more resources on celebrating diversity in the workplace, visit our Members Resource Center and our blog about culturally sensitive care.