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to the 1970s, people of Asian descent in America were commonly referred to as Orientals, a term that is more vague and outdated in comparison to other terms that are now in existence.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. Campus celebrated this past April, which featured a full month of fantastic programs to celebrate and bring awareness to the APIDA community at UW–Madison. Thank you to the APIDA Heritage Month Planning Community for their hard work in organizing and hosting these events!

Upcoming Holidays & Observances:

May 1: Beltane, an ancient Celtic, Pagan, and Wiccan holiday commemorated about halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. The day is often used to celebrate love and romance.
May 3: Feasts of Saints Philip and James, a Roman Rite feast day held on the anniversary of the dedication of the Church to Saints Phillip and James in Rome.
May 5: Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican Army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861–1867). This day celebrates Mexican culture and heritage with a variety of festivities, including parades and mariachi music performances.
May 8-9: (sundown to sundown) Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday marking the day of hillula of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.