A Reflection on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 2024

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is observed in the United States during the month of May, and recognizes the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. 

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Williams & Connolly asked Associate Min Kyung Jeon to reflect on the importance of her identity and the importance of this heritage month being more widely observed.

“As an international student in American college and law school, I was perturbed by the mainstream media portrayals of Asians.  The Asian in the American consciousness was the racialized other, the homogenized mass of stereotypes which were fundamentally at odds with my self-concepts.  In the movies and books relished by my American peers, I saw nothing of the extraordinary diversity of Asian cultures and nations, or of the adversity and courage that marked the Asian expatriate experience.  

The dehumanization of Asians in the American media cannot stand apart from the political marginalization of Asians in American society.  There is not one among my Asian friends studying or working in the U.S. who have not been the subject of racist notions and abuses legitimized by those very American media outlets—from the mocking of our "slit" eyes and our "broken" English accents, to the clear and present threats of bodily harm that escalated for many of us at the height of the COVID pandemic.  Moreover, the myth of "the model minority," for all its purported positive connotations, has sown divisions among Asians and other communities of color, and denied the poverty and violence endured by Asians since the first wave of Asian immigration to U.S. soil.

As Toni Morrison, a favorite author of mine, wrote, "definitions belong to the definers, not the defined."  I am heartened that in recognition of Morrison's maxim, there have been ever rising tides of Asian activism in the U.S.  The spate of hate crimes against Asians over the past few years, in particular, have mobilized many of my Asian sisters and brothers to seek greater legal safeguards for the vulnerable Asian populace, and to join forces with other communities of color in issuing broader calls for racial justice and equity.

Just as much as I take immense pride in my Korean heritage, I feel profound kinship with the pan-Asian community in the U.S.  I am hopeful that with continued advocacy, we will realize for succeeding generations of Asians a more just vision of America, where we will have dismantled the definitions that previously constrained our agency and advancement.”

-Min Kyung Jeon, Associate

Williams & Connolly Receives Mansfield Certification for 2022-2023

Williams & Connolly Receives Mansfield Certification for 2022-2023
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