Origins of the term Asian American

Origins of the term “Asian American”

The term “Asian American” was first used when UC Berkeley students Emma Gee and Yuji Ichioka created the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) in 1968. Gee and Ichioka saw protests against the Vietnam War, the Black Power Movement, and the American Indian Movement as inspiration to unify and increase Asian involvement in society.

Before the use of the term

Before the use of the term “Asian American,” people referred to themselves as their ethnic group, such as Japanese American, Filipino American, etc. Other people would refer to East Asians as “orientals” which was, and still is, considered offensive as it is a derogatory term used to alienate Asians and fuel Anti-Asian sentiment.

The popularization of the term in Education

The Third World Liberation Front was a coalition among AAPA, the Black Power Movement, and other student-led groups to hold a strike. The purpose of the strike was to request ethnic studies and have more diversity among faculty and higher education students. This led to the establishment of the College of Ethnic Studies in San Francisco State University and gave rise to other higher education institutions forming departments for Asian American Studies, which institutionalized the term “Asian American.”

In Politics

In 2016, President Obama signed a bill that states that it would remove the term “orientals,” which referred to Asians, that was used in federal law and replace it with the term “Asian Americans”. This bill was passed in bipartisanship by the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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Edited by Karina Fathani

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