Governor declares May ‘Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month’

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SAN DIEGO (FOX 5/KUSI) — May is officially Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the state of California, following a proclamation by Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday.

“With more than six million Californians of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, California is home to dynamic AAPI communities that are an invaluable part of our state and nation,” Newsom said in the proclamation.

He added, “Since our state’s founding, AAPIs have been instrumental in writing the California story and building our state as we know it.”

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are nearly 6.1 million people of Asian descent in California and nearly 160,000 people who identify as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Newsom also mentioned a rise in anti-Asian hate, saying it echoes “dark history” seen throughout the nation’s history.

An analysis reported to the California Department of Justice from 2016 through 2020 showed the number of anti-Asian hate crime events in the state increased within those five years. It said the highest number of anti-Asian hate crime events occurred in March and April of 2020, when California declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOJ said reported anti-Asian hate crimes across California rose from 43 in 2019 to 89 in 2020, with violent crimes such as assault and intimidation being the most common types reported. Meanwhile, anti-Asian property hate crimes such as arson, burglary and vandalism increased by 55% in 2020.

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Those numbers are thought to be higher because Asian immigrants may not disclose being victims of a hate crime due to limited English proficiency or distrust of law enforcement, among other reasons, the DOJ report said.

“During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, California pays tribute to the irreplaceable legacy of our AAPI communities, their incredible strength and resilience, and their essential role in driving our state and nation forward,” Newsom continued in his proclamation. “This month and every month, let us stand up for all members of our California family and work together to achieve the promise of a California for all.”

According to a site hosted by the Library of Congress, the month of May was chosen as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month — or Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in some other parts of the U.S. — to commemorate when the first Japanese people immigrated to the country in 1843.

May also marks the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which was built mostly by Chinese immigrants in 1869.

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