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May ABA-Wide 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge © AAPI Heritage Month

In my travels with Fred Korematsu, he always closed by saying:
“Don’t be afraid to speak up.” 
So let’s not be afraid to speak up. Let’s speak up. Our voices are more important now than ever.

-Donald Tamaki

The ABA Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council is proud to launch its syllabus for  another “21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge©,” and we invite ABA members and non-ABA members to participate.  The 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge © concept was conceived several years ago by diversity expert Eddie Moore, Jr. to advance deeper understandings of the intersections of race, power, privilege, supremacy, and oppression.  We are grateful to him for publicly sharing and encouraging others to use this concept as an educational tool. 

This Challenge is the second ABA-wide 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge©, following the syllabus created for the inaugural ABA-wide Challenge in February 2021 to commemorate Black History Month.  That first ABA-wide Challenge followed the 21-Day Challenge syllabus launched by the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law in June 2020. 

The Goal of the Challenge

The goal of the Challenge is to assist each of us to become more aware, compassionate, constructive, engaged people in the quest for racial equity, and specifically to learn more about the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.  It transcends our roles as lawyers.  Non-lawyers are also welcome to participate.

How it Works

It is, of course, completely voluntary to do, and participation in the Challenge shall not be construed as agreement with every word of every assignment nor a commitment by any person to a particular professional position or strategy.  Further, participants are free to opt out of participating along the way.  There is no grade at the end of the Challenge.  While it is not the intention of the Challenge to cause offense, some participants may be offended by some language or images used in the lessons.

The Challenge invites participants to complete a syllabus of 21 short assignments (typically taking 15-30 minutes), over 21 consecutive days, that includes readings, videos, or podcasts.  It has been intentionally crafted to focus on the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) experience in honor of AAPI Heritage Month.  The assignments seek to expose participants to perspectives on elements of AAPI histories, identities, and cultures, and to the AAPI community’s experiences of racism in America.  One theme the Challenge continually attempts to highlight is that the AAPI community is not monolithic.  Further, the terminology used to refer to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is varied (e.g., Asian Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, or Asian and Pacific Islander Americans).  We seek to be as inclusive as possible in our use of the terms “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” or “AAPIs.” .  Finally, this focus on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders cannot possibly highlight all of the diversity of experiences and opinions within the AAPI community itself, much less substitute for learnings about any other community of color.  This syllabus is but an introduction to what we hope will be a rewarding journey that extends far beyond the limits of this project.

Access the Syllabus

See a day-by-day breakdown of the Syllabus below, or you can access the full syllabus, including reflection/discussion questions, additional links from ABA entities, and ABA entity-recommended resources at this link. 

21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge is the registered copyright of America & Moore, LLC. 2014.  

Come back regularly to check new discussion questions and Additional Resources! Access this page quickly: 

Start Here: Opening

  • Asian American Pacific Heritage Month Mashup | Talks at Google. [12 minute video]
  • Pick 1, 60-second video about PBS's Asian American documentary trailer, PBS/KQED (February 2020): 
              Option 1
              Option 2
  • Alexandria Hien McCombs, Guest Chair's Column: Champion of Diversity and Inclusion: Tailwinds for Positive Change, ABA Health Law Section (March 2021). [9 minute read]
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • What are your goals in completing this Challenge?
    • What did you learn about Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in school or growing up?
    • Adam Liaw, an award-winning Malaysian Australian chef, states in the video from Google: “We often look at change as being a very gradual process, but changing opinions is not. Changing opinion happens extremely quickly.” Discuss how this statement is relevant to the AAPI community. 

Who are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders?

  • Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders--a FAQ, NBC News (May 1, 2019). [11 minute read]
  • Nicole Chavez and Priya Krishnakumar, We speak about Asian Americans as a single block. Here's how incredibly complex they are, CNN (May 6, 2021). [5 minute read]
  • Heather Brady, Why are American Samoans Not U.S. Citizens?, National Geographic (March 30, 2018). [5 minute read]
  • Read about 2 cases the group Equally American has advanced. "Equally American advocates for equal rights and representation for the 4 million Americans living in U.S. territories; in short, "Equal Rights, Wherever You Live."
  • AAPI National Demographics, (data spans 2011-2019 in various categories). [10 minute read]
  • Discussion Questions:
    • Discuss a statistic that surprised you in reading about national AAPI demographics. Why was it surprising? How might you approach your work differently armed with this information?
    • Consider the National Geographic article and the court cases of the two American Samoan individuals versus the United States. What role did/does colonization play in the current plight of American Samoans?
    • Go to and put in a zipcode that is familiar to you (such as current or childhood home, work, etc.). The data is collected from a sample taken as recently as 2020 as part of the American Community Survey (2020 formal Census data has not been published at the time of this Challenge’s publishing). What demographic information does it list about the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in this zip code?

AAPI Immigrant Experience and History: Pre-1965

  • Review the AAPI Historical Timeline
  • A Filipino American Story Since 1587, NextDayBetter (October 2, 2017). [7 minute video] *note: this video includes some post-1965 history also!
  • Watch 3 short videos from the PBS series "Asian Americans" (May 2020): 
  •  Discussion Questions: 
    • Pick a date from the historical timeline that is of interest to you. Which AAPI community/ies is it about? Why is it that many AAPI communities’ history is seen as only a recent phenomenon, despite their history in the U.S. dating back centuries?
    • What do the terms “The Forgotten War” and “benevolent assimilation” mean? Had you heard these terms before? How are they relevant today?
    • How was the Chinese Exclusion Act an example of xenophobia in the late 19th century?
    • Why did Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders challenge racist laws and policies through the courts?
    • What does the story of Moksad and Ella Ali tell us about race in the United States?

AAPI Immigrant Experience and History: Post-1965

Perception as Perpetual Foreigners, Part I: Pre-Present Day

  • Viet Thanh Nguyen and Janelle Wong, Anti-China rhetoric leads to anti-Asian violence like the Atlanta shooting, Washington Post (March 19, 2021). [8 minute read]
  • Learn more about Alien Land Laws: 
  • Discussion Questions:
    • In the Chinese Exclusion Act clip, Connie Young Yu shares how her mother and sisters, who were American citizens, were separated from their mother, who was detained on Angel Island. She states, “One of the harshest punishments is to separate parents from their children. It's the detention of people who are struggling to survive.” How would you respond to her statement based on your new understanding of Angel Island and past and present United States immigration policy?
    • What have been/are the consequences of U.S. foreign policy on AAPI communities? Why is this significant? How does U.S. foreign policy often inform how U.S. residents with heritage outside of Europe are treated in the U.S.?
    • What was/is the significance of the Oyama case, especially as it relates to land-owning rights for other communities of color?

Perception as Perpetual Foreigners, Part II: Current Issues

  • Ken Tanaka, Where Are You From? (May 31, 2013).  [2 minute video]
  • Mary Zerkel, Why we should rethink calling white supremacist violence “terrorism”, American Friends Service Committee (January 14, 2021). [6 minute read]
  • Laura Lim, Asian Stereotypes- Rethinking Perceptions, TEDxKids@ElCajon (April 2018).  [5 minute video]
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • Ken Tanaka Video: In the video, the man asks the woman “Where are you from?” in an attempt to learn what her heritage is; the following 3 questions are about this video: 
      • Is there an appropriate way to ask a person what their heritage is? 
      • Is this curiosity in heritage directed toward people of color more frequently than white people?
      • Why might this question of “Where are you from?” be hurtful to an American from the AAPI community?
    • Use of the term "terrorism" has historically been connected to Islamophobic backlash against predominantly-Muslim communities from multiple racial backgrounds. What are other ways to call out white supremacist violence without perpetuating a problematic term?
    • Is there an assumption in the United States that for something to be “American” culturally it must be white? (e.g., is a Korean-American less American if they prefer traditional Korean food to hamburgers, hotdogs, or “traditional” American food?)
    • Laura Lim mentioned the following terms “Weeaboo”, “Koreaboo”, and “Asiaboo.” All of the terms ultimately refer to a Western or non=Asian person who is obsessed with a facet of usually East or South East Asian culture but has a shallow understanding of the culture and history overall.
    • When does fascination and enjoyment of another culture turn from appreciation and participation to appropriation and consumption? 
    • How or why might this phenomenon of the Weeaboo, Koreaboo, or Asiaboo make a person from these cultures feel that their heritage or culture is a fad, hobby, or collector’s item? 

Anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander Violence, Part I

  • Or Option 2: 
    Screams and Silence: The anti-Asian violence that came before the Atlanta shooting, Code Switch Podcast: NPR (March 24, 2021). [33 minute listen]
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • To what extent were you taught in school the history of Anti-Asian violence and sentiment in the United States?
    • If you were taught some of this history in school, was there any focus to the fact that these victims were American or was it framed as crimes against Asians in general? Does the fact that they were American change anything in understanding this history of violence? 
    • Find one example in history (covered by any of the articles) of violence or abuse that was a consequence of stereotyping or alienating AAPI Americans. 

Anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander Violence, Part II

  • Daniel Dae Kim testifies before U.S. Congress about Anti-Asian hate in America, 88Rising (March 19, 2021). [6 minute video]
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • Take a moment to reflect on the following quote from Daniel Dae Kim’s video: “When we are erased from our history books we are made invisible. And the result, to quote Congresswoman Meng, is that we are perpetually made to feel like foreigners in our own country.”
    • What is the cost of “erasing” Americans from the AAPI community from U.S. history in our education system? 
    • Stand Together in Solidarity Video question: Why is it important for different, and sometimes seemingly unrelated communities to gather and mourn together?

Labeled as Enemy Aliens, Stripped of Property and Livelihood, Relocated, and Incarcerated U.S. Citizens of Japanese Descent

Miscarriage of Justice, Part I

Miscarriage of Justice, Part II     

  • Interpreting Justice: Progress & Challenges on Language Access Fact Sheet, NAPABA Research Institute (2017). [3 minute read]
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • In the Muslim travel ban video, Neal Kutyal drew parallels between anti-Japanese policies from the past to the Trump administration's Muslim travel ban. Is this an accurate parallel? If so, how are the two incidents similar? 
    • How did xenophobia and prejudice influence Lundy’s childhood experiences?
    • What did you know about the Cambodian genocide and its impact on Cambodian refugees before hearing Lundy’s story?
    • What role does Lundy’s green card play in her life, and how is it representative of the struggles immigrants, especially immigrants of color, face as they seek to navigate U.S. policies and systems?
    • How might barriers in the legal system hurt members of the AAPI community who cannot speak or read English fluently?

Galvanizing Moments and Communities Rising, Part I

  • Preserving California Japantowns, California Japanese American Leadership Council. [2 minute read]
  • The I-Hotel - San Francisco, International Hotel Senior Housing, Inc. [6 minute read]
  • The Impact of the Vincent Chin Case, Asian Americans Advancing Justice. [7 minute video]
  • Agnes Constante, 25 Years After LA Riots, Koreatown Finds Strength in 'Saigu' Legacy, NBC News (April 25, 2017). [9 minute read]
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • What parallels are there between Chin’s murder and how Asian Americans have been perceived and treated in other parts of history? What parallels are there to today?
    • What caused some of the rising tensions between Korean-American and Black communities that led to the LA Riots/Saigu? 

    • How did the I-Hotel and Japantowns serve their respective communities? What void were these places filling?

Galvanizing Moments and Communities Rising, Part II

Model Minority Myth/"We Will Not Be Used"/Allyship

Lack of AAPI Advancement to Leadership Roles in the Legal Profession

  • How The Model Minority Myth Keeps Asian Americans Out Of Management, CNBC News (May 3, 2021). [13 minute video]
  • Te-Ping Chen, Asian-American Professionals Push for Visibility at Work, The Wall Street Journal (April 19, 2021). [7 minute read]
  • Buck Gee and Denise Peck, Asian Americans Are the Least Likely Group in the U.S. to Be Promoted to Management, Harvard Business Review (May 31, 2018). [5 minute read]
  • Eric Chung, Samuel Dong, Xiaonan April Hu, Christine Kwon, and Goodwin Liu, A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law, The Practice: Harvard Law (November/December 2018).  [Page 1 of the article: 7 minute read; read the full article: 45 minute read]
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • In the Wall Street Journal article, the role that AAPI employee resource/affinity groups are mentioned. What are some of the benefits these groups can provide employees from minoritized/historically marginalized backgrounds? Do you have an employee resource group at your firm or organization for employees of color (or, broken down by race/ethnicity, including Asian American and Pacific Islander)? If so, how did they come about? If not, why not?
    • How does the Model Minority Myth we read about yesterday (Day 14) connect with the themes and statistics listed in the reports and articles for today about AAPI individuals in leadership roles, especially in the legal profession?

Intersectionality, Part I

Intersectionality, Part II

  • Andie Kramer, Why Asian-American Women Aren't Advancing into Senior Leadership Positions, Forbes (January 22, 2020). [4 minute read]
  • Shaila Dwan, How Racism and Sexism Intertwine to Torment Asian-American Women, The New York Times (March 18, 2021). [10 minute read]
  • This Talk Isn't Cheap: Women of Color and White Women Attorneys Find Common Ground, ABA Commission on Women in the Profession (2020). [Read pages 14-16: 5 minute read]
  • Elyse Pham, Here's how pop culture has perpetuated harmful stereotypes of Asian women, TODAY (April 1, 2021). [9 minute read]
  • Elsadig Elsheikh, Basima Sisemore, and Natalia Ramirez Lee, Legalizing Othering: The United States of Islamophobia, UC Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society (September 2017). [Read pages 7-11: 8 minute read]
  • Mia Mercado, Muslim Women Explain Comments They're Tired of Hearing & It's a Reminder of How Harmful Microaggressions Are, Bustle (February 23, 2017). [2 minute video]
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • The NY Times, Today, and Forbes articles each describe the racist stereotype of Asian American women as submissive “Lotus Flowers.” What are some of the consequences of this stereotype that the women in the articles faced? 
    • How would the stereotypes of Asian American women make them particularly vulnerable to violence? 
    • Think through your own experience in seeing Asian or Asian American women portrayed or described in media (tv, books, movies, etc). Did any of these depictions play into the stereotypes that the Forbes or NY Times cited? If so, think through why these depictions are harmful.
    • The Bustle video describes some of the microaggressions that Muslim women face. How might these questions be exoticizing? 
      • How do these ignorant assumptions affect the way we legislate (refer to the “Legalizing Othering” resource)?
      • How is the increase in anti-Muslim legislation and sentiment similar to anti-Asian legislation and sentiment of that past?
    • Refer to the “This Talk Isn’t Cheap” resource. Regardless of your gender, have you ever felt any of the sentiments listed in the Summary of Findings section? How can approaching these difficult topics relationally help both parties to build understanding between each other? 
      • Why is placing all the responsibility of having these conversations on people of color exhausting and unfair? 
      • Take time to reflect: Think through your own context in regards to your own race/ethnicity. How does it affect your own approach to these conversations? 
      • What does it mean to selflessly listen? Do you take on a listening posture in approaching these conversations (you listen to understand, not just to respond)? If not, why and what can you do to be a better listener? 

Community and Family Dynamics   

Interracial Engagement and Solidarity, Part I

Interracial Engagement and Solidarity, Part II

The Work Continues

  • Watch or read Donald Tamaki's ABA Spirit of Excellence Awards Acceptance Speech: Watch [14 minute video] (February 2020): Midyear Meeting 2020: Spirit of Excellence Award recipient Donald K. Tamaki
  • Nicole Tian, This Land Was Made for You and Me, The New York Times (June 17, 2020). [3 minute read]
  • Discussion Questions:
    • In Donald Tamaki’s speech, what did he say was the lesson we can learn from the Korematsu case? 
    •  “You and I are both Americans, featured differently, but committed equally to the well-being of our country." 
      Think through Nicole Tian’s article as well as all that you have listened, watched, and read during this challenge.
      • How has this challenge shaped your understanding of what it means to be American and what “American” looks like? How has this challenge shaped your understanding of the AAPI community? 
      • What is your major takeaway from this challenge?

AAPI Webinar Series

Explore the month long webinar series that will cover topics related to AAPI communities and social issues. Brought to you by the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and the ABA Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice. 

The webinar series can be found here. 

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