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The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Addy’s Advice: AAPI Heritage Month


Dear Reader,

Language is hard. Words have complicated meanings, connotations and can even have horrible histories of oppression. On top of that, the meanings of words are always changing. A word that used to be widely accepted may seem derogatory now, and a word that used to be considered derogatory may now be widely accepted.

As someone who is a member of many different marginalized groups, I have often felt targeted by someone else’s language. However, I have also had moments when I didn’t know the right word. I’d find myself second-guessing the word I wanted to use, mentally crossing it out and choosing another word, only to decide that one was bad too. Then I’d just stay silent. I’d decide that no words were better than potentially hurtful ones, and then spend hours combing the internet for different opinions on what to say. All this to say, I don’t judge people who don’t know the right words all the time, as long as they’re willing to learn. So, if you’re interested in learning about some vocabulary related to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, keep reading!

Why AAPI? What does it mean?

This month celebrates all people who fall under the AAPI umbrella. The term Asian American Native Hawiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) has also recently become popular, with the term AANHPI emphasizing the importance of an often overlooked minority group, Native Hawiians. Since the Asian Pacific American Club (APAC) uses AAPI, I will also use AAPI when writing this article.

However, AAPI encompasses such a large group of people from so many different countries that some people feel it is too broad. Regardless, the most important thing is to remember to include and celebrate all groups involved in the AAPI umbrella. This includes South Asians and Southeast Asians, as well as Central Asians and Middle Easterners if they identify as AAPI. Furthermore, don’t forget the PI! Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have an incredibly rich culture and are an important part of the community.

Since AAPI encompasses such a large group, not everyone prefers to be called AAPI. Some people prefer AAHPI, Asian, Middle Eastern, Middle Eastern and North African (MENA), South Asian, or simply their native country. Asia and the Pacific Islands are such large areas with so many diverse people that it’s impossible to describe everyone perfectly with one term.

What words and phrases should I not use?

Phrases like “long time no see” and “no can do” come from mocking the speech of Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s. Although these phrases are not currently seen as offensive, it’s important to recognize their history, especially when that history is rooted in racism. Personally, I don’t use these phrases, which is especially easy for me since I rarely ever used them before I knew their history.

Another word that can come across as offensive is Oriental. It is not technically offensive when referring to an object or a location, but many people feel that it is dated. However, it is offensive if it is used to refer to a person because it exoticizes the people, refers to such a large group of people and is associated with colonialism.

What’s Next?

This is the end of my senior year, so it’s also the end of Addy’s Advice. I’ll miss writing and getting to help educate the community, but I hope this isn’t the end for all of you! Language matters, and we all need to do our part to make everyone feel welcome in our community.

That’s all my advice!

Your favorite logophile (lover of words),

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