May marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Across Texas and the country, Asian Americans are pulling up seats for themselves at tables that have historically excluded them from the conversation.
By Joanne Xu, Illustrations by Jessica Wetterer
Though some may only associate Southeastern Asian ethnicities with the identifier of “Asian American,” there are actually 19 dominant ethnic groups that fall under the Asian American umbrella, representing more than 40 countries.
Until 2018’s release of Crazy Rich Asians, it had been 25 years since Hollywood produced a blockbuster production featuring an all-Asian cast. The romantic comedy—which racked up a whopping $238 million worldwide—follows the love story between a Columbia University professor and a Singaporean heir to a family of tycoons. This year also marked the beginning of what many in the community consider to be a developing movement for true Asian American representation in entertainment and beyond.
At least 13 Hollywood projects featuring Asian-centric narratives and casts have been greenlit for production following Crazy Rich Asians’ 2018 success. Showstoppers include Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe, starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, and A24’s Oscar-nominated The Farewell, starring Awkwafina. Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan is also slated for release in 2020.
Since 1900, when the first Asian Pacific American delegate was elected to Congress, 63 Asian Americans have served as United States legislators. In this year’s presidential election, there were a record-breaking three presidential candidates hailing from Asian Pacific American descent, including Andrew Yang, Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard.
Asian Americans make up the fastest-growing minority group in Austin, with close to 115,000 residents self-identifying as Asian Pacific American. According to the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce, Asian American businesses in Austin are growing by 7.5 percent annually and there will be a projected 22,000 Asian American owned businesses by 2022 in Central Texas.