Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee Statement on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
On behalf of Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, we would like to recognize and honor the start of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. This month provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and contributions of AAPI communities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Asian Americans make up approximately 6% of the U.S. population. From the Chinese laborers who built the transcontinental railroad to the Filipino farmworkers who fought for labor rights, AAPI Americans have played a significant role in shaping the history of the U.S.
Today, progress continues to be made worth celebrating. For instance, the White House hosted a reception honoring Lunar New Year, one of the most important celebrations among East and Southeast Asian cultures, for the first time earlier this year.1 The Biden presidency has also made efforts to nominate more Asian Americans, appointing 23 AAPI American leaders as commissioners to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in December 2021.2 Furthermore, multiple AAPI American judges have also been appointed to judicial positions. Cindy Chung, the highest-ranking federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2023, making history as the first Asian American judge to be appointed to the Philadelphia-based court.3 As we reflect on the many milestones and accomplishments of AAPI Americans this month, let us reaffirm our commitment to uplifting their voices and recognizing the importance of continued advocacy and activism.
This month also reminds us of the ongoing struggles and injustices that the AAPI community and its various sub-communities continue to face. From violent attacks on streets and public transport to mass shootings in Orange County and Atlanta, hate crimes and prejudice against Asian Americans have been on the rise dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic in the last few years. National security concerns and economic anxieties further drive scapegoating of Asian Americans.4 We know that fearmongering and racism have led to the mistreatment and abuse of Asian Americans in our history, such as the blatant human rights violations against Japanese Americans (the vast majority of whom were U.S. citizens) through forced internment during World War II. Such injustices should never be repeated, and it is our responsibility to stand in solidarity with the AAPI community against discrimination, racism, and violence.
In the workplace today, Asian Americans continue to face discrimination and harassment; one in three Asian and Asian American professionals report they have experienced racial prejudice.5 Asian Americans also report facing microaggressions at higher rates than other races. Furthermore, due to a lack of representation in senior roles across major industries and few support networks, Asian American employees tend to have few powerful advocates to call on in the workplace. As the first national public interest law firm with a dedicated practice group for the Asian American community, Sanford Heisler Sharp is committed to supporting and helping Asian Americans who seek recourse from workplace mistreatment. Our Asian American Litigation and Finance Practice group, led by Partner Qiaojing Ella Zheng, has helped Asian Americans of various backgrounds, ranging from tech executives to immigrant warehouse workers, navigate our legal system and obtain awards and settlements they deserve.
As we continue to work towards holding employers and corporations accountable, we encourage everyone to take a moment to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the AAPI communities and their history of resilience and perseverance weaved into the tapestry of American history. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center offers a range of resources on AAPI history, including virtual exhibitions, digital archives, and learning modules. The Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month website provides additional information on AAPI Month’s history and significance, as well as resources for celebrating and learning about AAPI heritage. By doing so, we can continue to promote and uplift the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workplaces, communities, and beyond.
- Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (https://smithsonianapa.org/)
- Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (https://www.asianpacificheritage.gov/)
- Right to Be (https://righttobe.org/upcoming-free-trainings/)
1 Brittany Gaddy and Molly Nagle, Biden Holds White House’s First-ever Lunar New Year Reception, in Mass Shootings’ Shadow, ABC News (Jan. 26, 2023, 6:47 PM), https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/biden-holds-white-houses-lunar-new-year-reception/story?id=96700563.
2 President Biden Announces Intent to Appoint Commissioners to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, The White House: Briefing Room (Dec. 20, 2021), https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/12/20/president-biden-announces-intent-to-appoint-commissioners-to-the-presidents-advisory-commission-on-asian-americans- native-hawaiians-and-pacific-islanders/.
3 Mike Scarcella, Senate Confirms Third Circuit’s First Asian American Judge, Reuters (Feb. 13, 2023, 3:43 PM PST), https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/senate-confirms-3rd-circuits-first-asian- american-judge-2023-02-13/
4 See, e.g., David Nakamura, Beyond the Pandemic, Asian American Leaders Fear U.S. Conflict with China Will Fan Racist Backlash, Washington Post (Mar. 17, 2021, 8:12 PM EDT), https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/biden-china-asian-american- racism/2021/03/17/69eb4bc6-873d-11eb-82bc-e58213caa38e_story.html (reporting Asian American leaders’ fear about geopolitical conflicts between U.S. and China being a trigger for “widespread hostility” against Asian Americans).
5 See Strangers at Home: The Asian and Asian American Professional Experience, Coqual: Press Release (last visited Apr. 26, 2023, 1:42 PM EDT), https://coqual.org/reports/strangers-at-home/.