Honoring Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

I’ve been thinking over the course of this month how to articulate an appropriate tribute to Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. I happened upon a fantastic conversation that APA President Dr. Thema Bryant recently held with Drs. Debra Kawahara and Kevin Nadal on their journey and cultural identity, about intersectionality and hope:

Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: AAPI Culture in Psychology

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During the interview, they describe several of the psychologists they have admired, including Dr. Jean Lau Chin (our 2008-09 NCSPP President), Debra’s mentor, whom she remembers as embodying the integration of “keeping your cultural identity while being a psychologist.” Dr. Nadal recognized Drs. Arpana Inman and Alvin Alvarez, psychologists and researchers who have studied communities within Asian American and Pacific Islander populations, a critical strand of socially responsive research that has long been overlooked. 

Drs. Kawahara and Nadal also describe cultural concepts meaningful to them in their cultures and instrumental in their own thinking, respectively:

  • Ganbatte: Japanese for “doing your best”, an exhortation for perseverance and determination; and,
  • Kapwa: In Tagalog, the collective sense of being, literally “you are me and I am you”, a connection of souls.

As I reflect on my own cultural identity, I’m aware of my Chinese heritage that instilled a deep sense of loyalty and respect for my elders. Filial piety has its historic roots in Confucian ethics, in which family, and particularly one’s parents, are shown special care and goodness as well as a deep-seated respectful deference for their position. Many of you attending the Mid-Winter Conference this year in Santa Fe heard me share the story of my mother, Popo—about her unwavering regard and compassion for others, her relentless forgiveness, and her hope and faith. As I’ve cared for Popo as she’s aging, this filial piety woven into my identity has offered me a precious opportunity to learn from her, by connecting as two souls, beyond mother and daughter. Of all the things she’s taught me, perhaps the most compelling, at this point in time, in the midst of swirling and confusing changes and hardships and evil, that there is hope. 

Let us give honor and appreciation to our fellow Asian and Pacific Americans among us and who have gone before us and, moreover, declare ganbatte and link arms together.

Where there is life, there is hope. 

–Chinese proverb