Generations of Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) have helped develop and defend the United States, often in the face of racial and cultural prejudice. AANHPIs have played an integral role shaping our nation’s culture, safeguarding our democracy and cultivating our civic institutions.
Each May we celebrate Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month and take this time each year to recommit ourselves to the ongoing work to ensure equity and opportunity for the AANHPI community at USDA and throughout the United States. The Asian Pacific American Network in Agriculture (APANA) recently announced their theme for this year’s Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It is Using Our Voices, and will highlight the resilience of the AANHPI community, their enduring public service for American agriculture, and the actions we all can take to move forward at USDA.
AANHPIs have a history in America that stretches back hundreds of years. This celebration date was chosen in recognition of May 7, 1843, the date the first known Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States, and in recognition of May 10, 1869, which marked the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which would not have been possible without the contributions of Chinese-Americans.
In his Proclamation recognizing Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, President Biden reminds us, “The American story as we know it would be impossible without the strength, contributions, and legacies of AANHPIs who have helped build and unite this country in each successive generation. From laying railroad tracks, tilling fields, and starting businesses, to caring for our loved ones and honorably serving our Nation in uniform, AANHPI communities are deeply rooted in the history of the United States.”
Today, 23 million Asian Americans from more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories, cultures, languages and other characteristics, call America their home and contribute to American success and culture.
As a nation, we should honor and celebrate these achievements. Unfortunately, along with other minority groups, AAHPIs continue to face significant historic barriers, racism, discrimination, bias, and at times violence—sometimes overt and sometimes through deeply embedded and implicit practices, rules, and policies—and it must end. Although some may take offense to calls for celebrating a particular culture or heritage that may not be our own, we must recognize that America is a multicultural place and always has been and that is what makes us strong.
USDA and the Biden-Harris Administration celebrate diversity in our programs, policies and personnel. With the most diverse Cabinet and team of political appointees, the Biden-Harris Administration counts among its political agency appointments approximately 15 percent who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander. As USDA moves forward, we must be intentional about centering the voices and experiences of AANHPI, Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, LGBTQI+ and other communities to build equitable systems and a work environment that celebrates our diversity. We must demonstrate openness, empathy and a commitment to learning about our diverse cultures, experiences, and backgrounds. And we must work together without bias to create a culture of belonging.
At USDA, we are recommitting ourselves to the values of equity and inclusion rooted in justice and equal opportunity for each other and those we serve and work to serve. Throughout the month, the Department will recognize and celebrate our AANHPI employees and feature AANHPI producers across our social and digital media channels. Take time this month to thank your friends and coworkers and celebrate Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.