In 2019, 18 Million Rising stopped using the acronym AAPI and shifted our language to reflect the people that we center in our work: Asian Americans. Language holds power and our word choice must be intentional. Using the term “AAPI” is erasure and harmful when there is no meaningful inclusion or leadership by Pacific Islanders.
Recognizing we are a team of Asian Americans with no Pacific Islanders on staff, we made the decision to remove the “PI.” Our intention is not to invisibilize PIs, but to be honest about who we are, and which communities we represent and organize. We are an organization still actively learning and unlearning how to move in solidarity with Pacific Islanders towards collective liberation.
Our intention is not to invisibilize PIs, but to be honest about who we are, and which communities we represent and organize.
While our struggles are connected, they are not the same. Pacific Islanders face human rights violations as Indigenous Peoples, desecration of sacred land, militarization, and heightened effects of climate change only made worse by tourism and settler colonialism – which Asian Americans also participate in.
During the pandemic, health and socioeconomic disparities continue to worsen. Using the “AAPI” label while not centering Pacific Islanders leads to the erasure of these issues. Our shift in language is connected to a larger call for data disaggregation for all Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
Our shift in language is connected to a larger call for data disaggregation for all Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
The misuse of “AAPI” is a community-wide problem. Many folks say “AAPI” when they actually only mean Asians. Asian-led organizations swallow up scarce funding for Pacific Islander communities because they label their work as “AAPI” while excluding Pacific Islanders. Using “AAPI” results in Pacific Islanders being left without a seat at the table and without enough resources to advocate for their communities.
We urge our community this month and every month to amplify the work of Pacific Islander-led organizations and further commit to the fight for decolonization, demilitarization, and self determination. Indigenous Chamoru poet and scholar Craig Santos Perez reminds us “AAPI coalitions can be useful in our struggles for racial and environmental justice, decolonization and demilitarization, self-determination and sovereignty– but we need to be careful about how it is employed and leveraged so it doesn’t cause confusion, erasure, or conflation.”
It is time we recommit to be in true community with Pacific Islanders.
We are grateful to learn from Pasifika organizations and community leaders like Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua and Presley Ke’alaanuhea Ah Mook Sang who guide and lead us on how we can be accomplices and co-conspirators.
Support these community leaders and organizations:
- Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC)
- Protect Mauna Kea
- Terisa Siagatonu
- Jamaica Osorio
- Hawaii People’s Fund
- We Are Oceania
- This Islander Reads
- ʻĀina Momona
- Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner
- Craig Santos Perez
- UTOPIA Washington
If you would like to recommend additional Pacific Islander community leaders and organizations, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us @18millionrising!