“Understanding the Asian American and Pacific Islander experience” panel series in May


SAN JOSE – Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian today announced a series of panel discussions titled “Understanding the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Experience,” that feature a diverse group of AAPI leaders and community members from across the country.  

The panel discussions aim to provide a foundation for understanding our diverse AAPI community, discussing its culture and history, origins of prejudice and violence, and notions of identity within the AAPI community. 

All three panels are free, open to the public and virtual on Thursdays: May 13, 20 and 27 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. PT.  To register, visit www.tinyurl.com/understandingaapi.

Simitian said the program has been in the works for many months and predates the most recent surge in anti-Asian incidents. “May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and seemed a particularly appropriate time for the series,” said Simitian. He was also motivated by the high level of interest and engagement when he and his office sponsored a series call “Understanding Islam” a few years ago. “I think most people want to understand the lives and experiences of the folks in their community, and that opportunities like this help them to do just that.”

“That said, over the last year, and in recent months, our communities – our friends, family, colleagues and neighbors – have experienced a resurgence in harassment and violence. It’s appalling and unacceptable,” said Simitian,” and makes these conversations all the more important.

“Like other elected officials, I’ve been able to participate in public rallies, and to see our community come together to speak out, and to support one another.”

“But a rally is not enough to break down long-standing prejudice, violence and exclusionary practices. Real change requires understanding – a willingness to listen, engage, and do the necessary work.  I hope that people will join AACI and me to better understand our County’s diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander communities,” Simitian continued.

“I am deeply outraged by the racially motived attacks and crimes against Asian Americans that are occurring in our community. We need to come together as a community and stand against xenophobia, hate and violence. AACI is honored to join Supervisor Simitian and provide an opportunity for discussion and understanding about the diversity of experiences that exist within the AAPI community. We hope that knowledge and empathy will empower our communities to support each other and heal together,” said Sarita Kohli, President & CEO, AACI.

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April, the vast majority (81%) of Asian adults say violence against them is increasing, citing anti-Asian rhetoric, racism and scapegoating which blames Asians for the pandemic and resulting impact. Experience with discrimination is not new, as prior studies illustrated that three in four Asian Americans say they have personally experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly due to their race or ethnicity.[1]Across the country, reports also show that Asian women are roughly twice as likely to be victims than men.

Since March 2020, nearly 3,800 hate incidents have been reported to the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center, with over 700 of those incidents reported in the Bay Area alone. 

In Santa Clara County, over half of county residents speak a language other than English, and 39% of county residents are foreign born.  The County is home to the second largest population of Vietnamese residents outside of Vietnam and the largest Hindi speaking community among all counties in the United States.

Understanding Series Details

To register, visit www.tinyurl.com/understandingaapi or www.aaci.org.

Thursday, May 13 (6:30 – 8 p.m.): Our Diverse AAPI Community

Who’s who in our AAPI community? What are their histories, stories and experiences? What are their similarities and differences?

  • Pawan Dinghra, Professor of American Studies, Amherst College; author of Managing Multicultural Lives: Asian Americans and the Challenge of Multiple Identities and co-author of Asian America.
  • Michele Lew, CEO, The Health Trust
  • Natalie Masuoka, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Chair and Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, UCLA; author of Multiracial Identity and Racial Politics in the United States and co-author of The Politics of Belonging: Race, Public Opinion and Immigration.

Thursday, May 20 (6:30 – 8 p.m.): Prejudice and Violence

Where does the prejudice come from? What causes the violence? And what can we do about it?​

  • Honorable Rob Bonta, Attorney General, State of California
  • Honorable Johnny Gogo, Judge, Santa Clara County Superior Court
  • Helen Hsu, Psy.D., Lead Outreach Specialist, Staff Psychologist, Asian American specialist, and lecturer at Stanford University

Thursday, May 27 (6:30 – 8 p.m.): Notions of Identity

How does the AAPI community see and describe itself? How is it seen and described by others?​

  • Thuy Thi Nguyen, President, Foothill College
  • Phillip Yun, CEO, World Affairs Council
  • Pawan Dinghra**, Professor of American Studies, Amherst College; author of Managing Multicultural Lives: Asian Americans and the Challenge of Multiple Identities and co-author of Asian America.

Panelist titles are for identification purposes only and are not intended to suggest organizational support or endorsement.

Founded in 1973, AACI is one of the largest community-based organizations advocating for and serving the marginalized and vulnerable ethnic communities who face barriers to accessing health and wellness services in Santa Clara County. Our many programs reached 18,000+ each year to address the health and well-being of the individual and advances our belief in providing care that goes beyond just health, but also provides people a sense of hope and new possibilities. Current programs include behavioral and primary health services, substance abuse prevention and treatment, center for survivors of torture, shelter and services for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, senior wellness, youth programs, and community advocacy.

“Understanding the Asian American and Pacific Islander Experience” has already received community support from:

  • African American Community Service Agency
  • Asian Law Alliance
  • Center for Excellence in Nonprofits
  • Islamic Networks Group
  • Korean American Community Services
  • LEAD Filipino
  • League of Women Voters Cupertino-Sunnyvale and Los Altos-Mountain View Area
  • North East Medical Services (NEMS)
  • San Jose Silicon Valley NAACP
  • Santa Clara County Library District
  • Stop AAPI Hate*
  • The Health Trust
  • Together We Will Palo Alto/Mountain View
  • University AME Zion Church