​​When Common Threads Are Unique: An AAPI Perspective



Ultimately, the experiences of being Asian or Pacific Islander in America is anything but monolithic.

As Chief Strategy Officer at talkStrategy I spend a lot of time thinking about the intersection of people and media and message. And much of that time is spent just articulating who we’re talking to—what our audience looks like demographically, psychographically, geographically—and looking for commonalities. 

Ironically, I’d probably have a hard time defining myself. Cultural identity is elusive for me. Most people don’t realize that I am Asian American (my mother Japanese, my father Eastern European Jew). 

For me, my Asian experience is defined by Japanese Americans in Hawaii, a family that really only spoke English except for random words (“bocha-bocha” meant bathtime, “shoyu” for soy sauce), and architecture, art and design that I would only recognize as Japanese as I got older. “Limited” is a fair assessment. 

Growing up in Houston, I was culturally ambiguous within the melting pot that was Houston public schools. So to join the present-day conversation about identity in America, it’s challenging to know where to even start. I have had the privilege, or naïveté, to never have to fret about it even when I did consider it.

My experience is singular, which brings me to May and AAPI Heritage Month. Asian American Pacific Islander, Asian/Pacific American, Asian Pacific Islander Desi American, Asian American Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander—we have tried to put a framework or definition around the totality of our related yet diverse cultures. But how do you do that for around 50 distinct ethnicities speaking more than 100 native languages, originating from the entire Asian continent including East, Southeast, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia? Add in mixed races and it’s staggering to consider the full spectrum of perspectives the AAPI cohort encompasses.

Ultimately, the experiences of being Asian or Pacific Islander in America is anything but monolithic. As a marketer I understand the desire and need to find common threads and similarities. As a human I understand that can sometimes be a tall order. This May I will be celebrating AAPI Heritage Month through my own unique lens. I hope you do the same, in whatever way that looks like for you. 

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