6 Ways to Support Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities

Submitted by Mary Meade on

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have a long history in the US with major contributions to technology, science, and entrepreneurship.

Today, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the US. The vast diversity of this group of people, spanning from India to Hawaii and Korea to the Polynesian Islands, means that their businesses are informed by an array of cultures and experiences.

However, AAPI has the largest intragroup income inequality of any racial group. Because AAPI people have many different countries of origin, their reasons for immigrating can range from refugee status to work visas. And facing persistent discrimination can adversely affect their ability to accumulate wealth.

In fact, the struggles of AAPI are often invisible. Only New Jersey and Illinois require teaching Asian American history in public schools. As a result, 1/3rd of all Americans are unaware of the anti-Asian racism in the US. Additionally, the model minority myth—the false idea that certain racial groups are high-achievers and others are not—hides the systemic racism that AAPI face.

To combat systemic racism and recent acts of violence, it’s important to support AAPI people, communities, and businesses. Here are four ways to support Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in your community and beyond:

Buy from Asian- and Pacific Islander-owned Businesses 

Spending money at AAPI-owned businesses is one of the most effective ways to support economic prosperity and fight income inequality.  

At Green America, we call this tactic “voting with your dollar”—essentially, putting your money in causes and companies that align with your values. Whether that be shopping at your city’s Chinatown or Little Tokyo, or donating to AAPI-led nonprofits, your dollars will support AAPI families and communities.  

Search “AAPI businesses near me” online to find options in your town—there are many articles listing collectively hundreds of companies both big and small. Google also offers an “Asian-owned” label for business profiles, which can help in your search. 

ChowBus is a meal delivery app, much like GrubHub or UberEats, but it’s for authentic Asian-owned food and restaurants. So far it’s only available in some US cities, such as Chicago, Seattle, and Boston. 

Support AAPI Organizations 

Donating to organizations such as Stop AAPI Hate, AAPI Equity Alliance, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, is valuable to ending hate speech and crimes. These groups work to support AAPI people as well as enact legislation to protect and empower communities. For example, in 2021, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Bill to address the rise of hate crimes during the pandemic, with a particular focus on Asian American victims. 

Donating to community organizations that work to preserve culture is also important. With over 75 countries represented in the AAPI umbrella, there are hundreds of languages and dialects that may be lost over time. Cultural organizations, such as the Filipino Language and Cultural School of Jacksonville, offers conversational Tagalog and cooking classes. 

Partner with AAPI-owned Businesses 

If you are a business, try partnering with local AAPI-owned businesses. By letting your customers know that you are partnering with the AAPI-owned business, you are helping to make AAPI-owned businesses visible. For example, Ti Café in Denver, Colorado is a Vietnamese-owned coffee shop that hosts themed weeks several times a year, where all the drinks and pastries are themed around an anime show or movie. The owners—three sisters—partner with other AAPI-owned bakeries for their pastries and snacks for their themed foods. 

Additionally, partnering with AAPI-owned businesses builds equity. AAPI people are the least likely to seek help from institutions, turning to personal resources like family and friends for financing. Using your resources as a business to partner with and highlight AAPI-owned businesses is a great way to support.  

Get to Know the Different Cultures Within “AAPI” 

AAPI people come from 75 different countries, representing just as many cultures, traditions, and languages. Acknowledging diversity is important to dispel the monolith myth and invisibility problems that AAPI people face. 

One of the best ways to get to know a different culture is through food. Food can demonstrate the type of climate a people live in as well as histories of trade and colonization, but most importantly, the practice of breaking bread opens room for conversation and friendship. Whether it be through an AAPI festival in your town or visiting your local Little Seoul, seeking out food at AAPI-owned restaurants is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with a different culture. 

Other ways to learn about the diversity of AAPI people is to attend events in your town or state catered to different Asian countries. Filipino American History Month is in October and Native Hawaiian History Month is in September, for example, which can include family-friendly events like dance shows, food festivals, and language classes. 

Purchase from Companies that Care About Workers 

The majority of the world’s garments come from Asian manufacturers and  the industry employs some 60 million workers. While public pressure has helped in securing better wages, the reality is that workers are still vulnerable and experiencing poor working conditions. Long hours, lack of safety measures, and violations of rights still occur in the workplace. 

We can do our part to prevent this by shopping at companies that offer clothes that are made by workers in safe workplace conditions that are paid fairly. Find them at GreenPages.org  

Stop Anti-Asian Hate 

Beyond spending money in support of AAPI businesses and communities, speaking up against hate is crucial to ending discrimination and racism. Asians are often scapegoated in times of crisis, from the Japanese internment camps during WWII to the increase in crimes against Asian Americans during COVID-19. Developing our knowledge of historical patterns and the AAPI experience can help us collectively move away from the invisibility problem and racism that AAPI people face. 

Reading is a great way to start. Here are some books and pieces that we recommend: 

  1. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong. This book is an honest exploration of the self-hatred Asian Americans feel, neither white enough or black enough to be in conversations about racial identities, and validates the Asian American experience.  
  1. The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee. This book describes the history of Asian Americans, from the first Asians in the Americas to the 21st century experience. It helps to fill the gap of AAPI history that is lacking in educational institutions.  
  1. How White Women Can Move Towards Anti-Racism. This piece in an interview with the authors of What’s Up With White Women: Unpacking Sexism and White Privilege in the Pursuit of Racial Justice. Ilsa Govan and Tilman Smith give us a sneak peak of the lessons they’ve learned through experience in working towards anti-racism for all races in the US. 

While these tips are a place to start, don’t let it be the end of your education and support of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Celebrating AAPI joy and successes is important, too—together, we can move towards a more equitable and sustainable world for all people. 

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