Inclusive Language Series: APIDA vs. AAPI

A great example of how language, acronyms, and terminology change over time is in regards to the acronyms “AAPI” and “APIDA”. AAPI stands for Asian American Pacific Islander and started formally being used in the 1990s as a category in the U.S. Census. Since 2010 a newer term, “APIDA” has been used in order to be more inclusive of South Asians. APIDA stands for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American, with the Desi term representing South Asian identifying people.

Prior to the 1970s, people of Asian descent in America were commonly referred to as Orientals, a term that is more vague and outdated in comparison to other terms that are now in existence. The term was used to refer to anyone that originated from the eastern side of the globe. Due to the benign origin of the term, it isn’t as derogatory as racial slurs. However, the term was used as a way to differentiate and discriminate against people of the Asian diaspora living in the United States. Former President Obama even had the term Oriental eliminated from being referenced in federal law in 2016 due to the term being culturally insensitive. To create a more culturally inclusive term, Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee started using the term Asian American in 1968. They were both in graduate school and wanted to use a term that they felt represented their community. Particularly in regards to spotlighting Asian American advocacy work in the United States.

To fully understand these acronyms it’s important to remember that they reference a diverse population of more than 20 ethnic groups living in the United States. When referring to folks in the APIDA community, you should use the most specific language available. If you are referring to a large group of people of varying ethnicities within the APIDA umbrella, using the acronym is appropriate. When referring to individuals, or specific ethnic communities, you should avoid using the acronym and instead opt to use their specific ethnic identifier. For example, someone who identifies as Vietnamese or Taiwanese. Using specific terms helps emphasize the vast diversity existing within the overarching umbrella term and is a sign of respect to people within the community.

APIDA Heritage Month at UW-Madison

Nationally, APIDA Heritage month takes place in May. In order to celebrate and bring awareness to the APIDA community on campus, there is a full month of programming taking place throughout the month of April. Please click on the link below to see a full list of events that are being hosted by the APIDA Heritage Month Planning Committee.

Upcoming Holidays & Observances:

  • April 2–11: Chaitra Navaratri, a nine-day festival that starts on the first day of the Hindu Luni-Solar calendar
  • April 2–May 2 (sundown to sundown): Ramadan, an Islamic holiday marked by fasting, praise, prayer, and devotion to Islam.
  • April 10: Palm Sunday, a Christian holiday commemorating the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It takes place on the last Sunday of Lent, at the beginning of the Holy Week.
  • April 10: Ram Navami, a Hindu day of worship and celebration of the seventh avatar of Vishnu (Lord Rama). Devotees typically wear red and place extravagant flowers on the shrine of the god.
  • April 14: Mahavir Jayanti, a Jain holiday commemorating the birth of Lord Mahavira.
  • April 14: Vaisakhi, a Sikh holiday celebrating the founding of the Sikh community as the Khalsa.
  • April 15: Good Friday, a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • April 15-23: Passover, a Jewish holiday in commemoration of the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt
  • April 17: Easter, a Christian holiday recognizing Jesus’ resurrection after crucifixion.