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So they named their group the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) — what is believed to be the first public use of the phrase “Asian American.”“Asian American” is everywhere now, from Asian American studies departments in universities to May’s designation as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, but this wasn’t always the case.

But “Asian American” wasn’t just a handy umbrella term: by uniting those subgroups linguistically, it also helped unite activists in their fight for greater equality.

We could extend the influence beyond ourselves, to other Asian Americans,” Ichioka later said in an interview with Yến Lê Espiritu, author of Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities.

“In the post-war era, segregation between Asian groups was lessened, and you had different Asian groups living together, and the kind of separation caused by Chinatowns and Japantowns went down ​because the ethnic enclaves started to house other Asian groups,” explains Espiritu.

And today, with the rise of pandemic-fueled racism, the term Asian American has held onto its importance.

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