Opinion

Asian heritage is American history | Forum

We’re an important part of Mercer Island and the Eastside.

If you’re an employee at Amazon or Microsoft, you work with many of us.

Many of us take pride in the epicanthic eye folds or dark skin and hair we were born with. We embrace our American home and honor the language, culture and traditions of our ancestry.

We represent far more than kanji characters tattooed on frat boys and limiting stereotypes: Tiger Mom, bad driver, over-achiever, goody two-shoes.

After all, we’re almost 30 percent of the Eastside population, expanding the new definition of what the Pacific Northwest looks like.

So who are we? We’re okasans and otosans, makuahines and makuakanes, kapatids and pinsans, ammammaas and ammappas, YeYes and NaiNais (and if you were wondering, that’s Japanese, Hawaiian, Tagalong, Tamil and Mandarin).

We are Americans of Asian and Pacific Island descent.

May is Asian-Pacific Heritage Month in the United States, a time to recognize the peoples of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

We celebrate in May to mark May 7, 1843, when the first Japanese immigrated to the United States, and to commemorate when the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Here on the Eastside, Asian-Pacific communities have grown more than the population as a whole. We help run city programs, businesses, restaurants, schools and nonprofits.

As we’ve stirred the melting pot and mixed the salad bowl, we’ve added our own garnishes along the way: Bon Odori, Diwali and New Year celebrations, language schools and cultural offerings at schools and local shopping centers.

But like all commemorative months in the U.S., May is not simply a time for those of Asian-Pacific descent to reinvigorate their cultural pride.

A country founded by immigrants should rejoice in its collective heritage. To copy a quote from actor Morgan Freeman, Asian-Pacific history is American history.

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