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  3. A Message From EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows on Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021

A Message From EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows on Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021

Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month is a time to acknowledge the many contributions AANHPI persons have made to our nation.  May was chosen for AANHPI Heritage Month to commemorate the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, much of which was built by Chinese immigrant workers and the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843.[1]  These two important events are just a small part of the varied and diverse history of AANPHI persons in this country.

Over the years, AANHPI persons have positively impacted our economy and culture.  They have been successful in the business world and the arts, served in the military, and held public office, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who recently became the first person of South Asian descent to hold the Office of the Vice President of the United States.

Today, AANHPI persons are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the United States.[2]  Between 2000 and 2019, the AANHPI population grew 81%, and in a few decades AANHPI immigrants are projected to make up the largest immigrant population in the country.  It is also one of the most diverse.  Although many AANHPI persons have relatively high levels of income and education, both education and income levels vary widely among AANHPI groups. Additionally, AANHPIs in the United States speak over 100 languages, and a significant percentage have limited proficiency in English.

Unfortunately, AANHPI communities also have faced a long history of discrimination, including the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 (the first federal law that excluded an entire ethnic group from entering the country), the Japanese internment during World War II, and land seizures from Native Hawaiians.

Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked tragic violence, harassment, and discrimination against AANHPI persons, which must be rejected in the strongest possible terms. 

In March 2021,[3] the EEOC voted unanimously to issue a resolution condemning these recent acts of violence and bias, expressing sympathy to and solidarity with the victims and their families, and reaffirming the agency’s “commitment to combat racism, xenophobia, harassment, and all other forms of discrimination” against AANHPIs persons.

The EEOC will continue to vigorously combat unfair treatment against AANHPI persons by investigating charges filed with the agency; using its enforcement authority when necessary to stop and remedy unlawful discrimination; striving to improve language access for AANHPI  individuals who have limited English proficiency; and working to educate advocates, employers, and employees on their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

As Chair of the EEOC, I celebrate the achievements and contributions of AANHP persons and look forward to working with AANHPI communities to promote equal opportunity for all.

[1] https://asianpacificheritage.gov/about/.

[2] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/29/key-facts-about-asian-americans/.

[3] https://www.eeoc.gov/resolution-us-equal-employment-opportunity-commission-condemning-violence-harassment-and-bias.