By Emil Guillermo
It’s Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage month.
Go hug your brothers and sisters. There’s a lot of them.
The singer H.E.R. from Vallejo. The Congressman Bobby Scott (D.-Va.). The other half of Silk Sonic, Anderson .Paak, actress Denyce Lawton (“House of Payne”). And let’s not forget The Rock, the East Bay’s own Dwayne Johnson, and of course, Tiger Woods.
They are no doubt celebrating May as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, because they’re all part Asian. It’s in their blood.
Understand that when people talk about Asian American, the group is a whole lot more diverse and inclusive than you think.
H.E.R. a/k/a Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, half-Black and half-Filipino, is a powerful reminder of our common humanity.
She won a Grammy in 2021 for Song of the Year for the George Floyd-inspired protest song, “I Can’t Breathe.”
When singers like H.E.R. sing passionately about their lives and ours, they embody an ideal vision of what can happen when we take a love interest in one another. It’s all in the heart and soul.
Of course, not all stories sound like fairy tales.
Rapper Anderson .Paak (and yes the .Paak is correct) knows the blues. He was born in Oxnard, Calif. to a bi-racial Korean woman born during the Korean American War. Anderson never met his father. He was abandoned at age 7 and raised in an orphanage until he was adopted by a Black family in Los Angeles.
He grew his musical chops as a teen, gained the attention of Dr. Dre, and made a breakthrough hit in 2018. But it wasn’t until 2021 that he reached true superstar status when he connected with Bruno Mars, another biracial Asian (Filipino, Jewish, Puerto Rican) artist to form the duo Silk Sonic. Their single, “Leave the Door Open,” won Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 64th Grammy Awards.
Those are the Asian/Black success stories right under our noses. Pop culture examples. It’s more of a thing than you think. Just know that when you cheer Hayward-born Dwayne Johnson or Tiger Woods, Asian Americans are seeing Johnson’s Samoan mom. Or Tiger’s Thai mother, Tida. Asian Americans are cheering alongside you.
Expect it to happen more and more compared to previous generations.
The 2020 Census reports 19.9 million people (6% of all respondents) identified as Asian alone in 2020, up from 14.7 million people (4.8%) in 2010.
A big increase was in the Asian “in combination” figure. Approximately 4.1 million respondents identified as Asian in combination with another race group. Do you think there’s another H.E.R. amongst them? Or an Anderson .Paak? More than one?
The growth today is reflective of an openness in our youth-oriented culture.
But the generation before were race mixers too.
They just had to overcome racist laws like Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 that made it illegal to intermarry. In the 1920s and 1930s, the anti-mixed-marriage, or anti-miscegenation laws, spread throughout the country. Even in California.
And it didn’t just ban Blacks from intermarrying. It was for Asians, too. Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos were all forbidden from marrying whites and expected to marry “their own kind.”
Only in 1967 did the Supreme Court decide that the anti-intermarriage laws violated he Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Loving case (involving the incarceration of the Black/white couple, Mildred and Richard Loving) was later used in the legal justification for same-sex marriage.
Hard to imagine we’d ever take away our rights to marry. But given the current climate with the religious right hellbent on reversing settled law like on abortion rights, we must stay vigilant.
A good way to start is by celebrating our diversity and remembering Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.