Labels! Created by white people to describe The Other since forever. That sense of entitlement, to be able to call people whatever they want, is so heavily engrained, it’s genetic. From some idiot calling me a mulatto to having an acting teacher throw around ‘retard’, drop the N bomb quite comfortably and joke about a male Iranian student looking like he was gonna kill a white female classmate in an exercise cuz “he comes from a country where you can kill women”. Now that was just May.
Absolutely over calling people on it. The justifications and policing of what I can and can’t find offensive though? “Its origins aren’t offensive”. “Words only have the power that you give them”. “I’m from a different generation”. “People are always looking to be offended”. “Sorry you found that offensive”. “My best friend is Indian and none of my ex girlfriends are white”. Whaaaaaaa?
May is known as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US. The first I had ever heard of it was in 2011 when I was studying at Lehigh. I was aware of the lumping together of Asians and Pacific Islanders from when it came to checking boxes on forms but I didn’t really pay it much mind. To celebrate a month together though – that really caught my interest. There were heaps of programmes happening everyday at Lehigh and I got involved in as many of them as I could. I didn’t hesitate to sign up and give a presentation on Aotearoa/New Zealand and Samoa.
We just don’t have the numbers in this gargantuan country to really make a dent so in that respect maybe it’s always been seen as a positive to stay linked to the Asian American community in order to have a presence, as limited as that may be.
Lack Of Knowledge/Leadership
This is more of what it is, I reckon. Why would Pacific Islanders in the US push to be recognised on their own if they don’t really have the impetus to? I attribute this to the fact that most Pacific people I come across here are ignorant of the Pacific. Sure this happens in Aotearoa where you get kids who don’t know where Niue is on a map but in the US it goes way beyond that. I mean you just gotta look at mainstream media to see you’ve got hundreds, probably thousands, of Pacific and non-Pacific people here performing hakas when they have absolutely no ties to Tangata Whenua let alone the iwi from which they originate.
And finally, our communities in the US [which tend to be Hawai’ian, Samoan and Tongan aka Polynesians as opposed to Melanesian or Micronesian] aren’t Black. The discrimination torch isn’t shining directly on us so there’s no sense of urgency to change anything. Right now, we’re exoticised, we’re non-threatening, we’re fun-loving football players and entertainers so we good.