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The Importance of AAPI Heritage Month and Why It’s the Perfect Time to Learn More

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As the son of a Chinese restaurant owner in Seattle and a self-described food fanatic, I was intrigued when a friend suggested that I visit Las Vegas’ Chinatown on a recent trip. Las Vegas has a Chinatown? Expectations were moderate, as I thought I would find a half-dozen older Chinese restaurants and groceries within a two- or three-block radius. When I got to Spring Mountain Road, I was stunned to find not a small Chinatown, but a huge and vibrant international district sprawling over three miles, complete with strip malls (some brand new) packed with a huge variety of restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, boba shops and other retail establishments from countries all over Asia and the Pacific Islands. I was equally stunned to learn that Las Vegas’ Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population had increased by 250,000 over the last 10 years.[i] Given the explosive growth of the AAPI population across the U.S. (e.g., 1.9 million in Texas alone[ii]), I should not have been surprised. But as May is AAPI Heritage Month, I wondered how states with new AAPI populations would deal with difficult issues like anti-AAPI violence, the “model minority” myth and data aggregation/disaggregation. And as a longtime AAPI Washington state trial judge who just joined JAMS in February, I wondered what I could tell other neutrals about the complexity and importance of language when dealing with the growing AAPI population.

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