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Asian American, Pacific Islander students discuss limitations of ‘AAPI’ label

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Los Angeles, CA — May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, but some members of the Pacific Islander community say the AAPI label makes them uncomfortable.

AAPI is a term commonly used to describe Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. However, some Pacific Islanders feel the breadth of the term obscures Pacific Islander representation.

“It’s like a form of tokenism, if you will, because we’re kind of just thrown in there to make sure that PI criteria (is filled), or in most spaces the PI visibility is not there,” said Fatiatamai Folau, a fourth-year history student who is Samoan.

Imani Isaia, a fourth-year sociology student who is a Pacific Islander, said splitting the Asian American and Pacific Islander identities would lend more accuracy to data collection. She said labeling Pacific Islanders as Asian Americans fails to acknowledge Pacific Islander identity and incorrectly identifies their ethnicity. For example, Pacific Islanders were grouped with Asian Americans in the U.S. census in the 1990s until a 1997 directive created the Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander category according to the Census Bureau.

However, third-year public affairs student Karlinna Sanchez said doing so would fail to spotlight non-Hawaiian Pacific Islanders. Sanchez, who was born and raised in American Samoa and is Samoan, already struggles with people assuming they are Hawaiian.

Isaia added although there are high rates of Asian Americans at UCLA, only less than 1% of UCLA students identify as Pacific Islander.

“We are such a small drop in the ocean of UCLA students and UCLA numbers,” she said.

Read more at UCLA’s Daily Bruin