In this segment of Centric Commemorates, Isaac Truong talks about his perspective on AAPI Heritage Month and the importance of peace and equanimity.
Part of our Centric Commemorates series.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Heritage Month) is an annual celebration that recognizes the historical and cultural contributions of Asian and Pacific Islander people and communities to the United States.
The effort to recognize AAPI achievements began in the 1970s and about a decade later became a month-long celebration. Using Centric Commemorates to highlight AAPI month gives us all a chance to celebrate the diverse descendants of Asian immigrants from countries like Japan, China, India, Philippines, Korea and many more. It is also an opportunity to appreciate the contributions all immigrants have made to our culture and society.
This month is special to me because it reminds me of how lucky I am and how much of a risk Vietnamese boat people took to arrive in the US. As we celebrate AAPI month, I realize many people in my social circle are unaware of the Vietnamese boat people’s journey. After the fall of Saigon, the US pulled back and no longer supported the efforts of ending communism in Vietnam, leaving the democratic supporting Vietnamese civilians vulnerable to oppression. It was punishable by death if one was caught trying to escape Vietnam. They paid large sums of gold to rescue boats to have the chance to sneak out in the middle of the night to avoid being caught.
If someone was caught during their attempt to flee, they would be shot on the spot – like my first paternal uncle, who died at the age of 18. If by some miracle, they managed to escape Vietnam in a tiny boat that didn’t capsize during its voyage, they would need another miracle not to be assaulted, killed or captured by pirates from neighboring countries. Once they finally did arrive in the US, the boat people found themselves at the rock bottom of the economic food chain, with maybe one piece of gold to their name and knowing no more than a few words in English.
Let us remember this was only 40 to 50 years ago. In such a short period of time, they persevered and worked hard to not only provide the bare minimum of bringing food to the table but also to set up a life for children in my generation to succeed.
As a second-generation son, it is easy for me to neglect this integral journey my family endured because our generation is easily caught in the trivial aspects of our daily lives. But AAPI Month should serve as a celebration for all US residents, not just US civilians who look like me. This month encompasses compassion and gratitude for us all, no matter our creed, color or religion. We all have our own stories, struggles and hardships. The need to uphold brotherhood and sisterhood as most important is mandatory in a politically divisive society. However, ego holds brotherhood and sisterhood hostage because we are prison to our beliefs and morals – instead of practicing peace and equanimity.
I am so grateful to work at a company like Centric Consulting, where leaders care about our well-being and mental health, providing us the opportunity to share our perspectives. In preparation, writing this article gave me the opportunity to sit down with my family and learn more about their journey as boat people, for which I am grateful. I hope this article energizes our readers to reflect and express gratitude and compassion to our loved ones.
Want to learn more about AAPI Heritage Month? Check out these resources.
Through these stories, we’ll seek to learn, understand, and empathize. We’ll celebrate our differences and realize that though we have varied backgrounds and perspectives, we are one team.