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The AAPI Acronym


K performs the taualuga
K performs the taualuga

I am Black and Sāmoan. AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) is a travesty of an acronym that contributes to the erasure of Pacific Islanders’ existence.

Every May, when the month rolls around for Asian American and Pacific Islander month, very little panels have Pacific Islanders.

UCSF's AAPI Senior Leadership Panel
UCSF's AAPI Senior Leadership Panel

Most have speakers that would fall under the AA part of AAPI umbrella. They often don’t have speakers that are Black.

AAPI Month by the Library of Congress
AAPI Month by the Library of Congress

Notice the lettering and imagery associated.


Most organizations, corporations, or people who are looking for speakers are looking for the AA part of AAPI, which is why hate the acronym. It also has led people to believe lots of people to believe that the AA and the PI are one and the same, that they’re same demographic of people and that could not be further from the truth.


Pasifika (Pacific Islander) leaders Joseph Seia, left, and Dakota Camacho, on Wednesday in Burien. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

There’s an amazing article on why a lot of Pacific Islanders feel the same way as I do, which was featured in Seattle Times .


Please remember that whenever you use these acronyms, or these umbrella terms, especially ones that were created decades, almost centuries ago, that they don’t fully or accurately represent the demographics under them. These very tiny boxes are expected to hold the vast amount of people being shoved into them. It just does not make sense. And I’d really encourage everyone to stop using it.


You can use some of these alternatives:

  • Pacific Islander or Pasifika people are those originating or living in Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia.

  • Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI)

Again, allowing people to use specific terms that they want use for themselves and also allowing outdated terms to be retired and no longer use help people to feel safer, safe enough to bring up issues that they’ve had with these terms, or issues that they have with generalizations being used for them and their communities. Hope this helps.

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