Published: June 2, 2020

This year’s observance of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month was unusual, to say the least. Public health measures to defeat COVID-19 kept us from gathering together to celebrate the importance and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Racism and xenophobia related to the pandemic also contributed to spikes in hate crimes against people who present as Asian American. May ended with the tragic murder of George Floyd. 

SEIU 503 members took time to reflect not only on what it means to be Asian American or Pacific Islanders, but also what that identity feels like in this moment. 

“As a second-generation Asian American woman, who has also worked in public health, health care, and social work within state and local government for over 20 years, it is not uncommon for me to be the only Asian American or only person of color in the room— sharing different culturally-based perspectives, that may or may not be heard. Given our government’s history and contemporary actions of marginalizing Indigenous populations—the original people of this land, it is no wonder that Asian Americans and other populations of color have and continue to be marginalized as well. Coronavirus/COVID-19 discrimination against Asian Americans, like other forms of discrimination against specific groups of people, has resulted in disproportionate mental health impacts for Asian Americans across the lifespan, and inclusive of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.” – Emily Wang, Oregon Health Authority

Even in today’s environment, there’s hope for a brighter future and a brighter tomorrow, for all. There’s power in union and the collective action we can drive.

“With our shared values for dignity and respect of all workers and retirees, our union teaches me how to build power with other people statewide, not only to ensure that my Asian American voice, and other marginalized community voices are heard, but also teaches me how to hold institutions accountable to workers. I have always been committed to helping to build a better future and world for ALL of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren for generations to come, and our union helps make me a stronger, smarter, and more effective collaborative leader.” – Emily Wang