May 31, 2024

The US Office of Management and Budget’s New Definition for “Asian” and

The Implications for What AACP Focuses On

By Leonard Chan

I am often asked about the books that AACP carries and promote. This is not an easy question to answer and I often have difficulties on deciding where to draw the lines.

When our organization first started in 1970, this was not long after the term Asian American was first coined by Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee in 1968.

AACP was founded by Japanese American educators whose primary goal was to teach about the Japanese American Internment and World War II experience. Since there were so few books on this subject, they started making their own educational materials. Thus our name started off as Japanese American Curriculum Project. As time went on, they saw the need to educate about all Asian American history and culture. I’m not sure when Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders began to be included in our focus, but it probably wasn’t soon enough to be included in our name when we officially made the name change.

We often get questions on whether or not we carry books in other languages, books about other countries, and books that are not written by Americans (the answer is not that many). Another question that I often ask myself is whether we should include books authored by AAPIs that have nothing to do with AAPIs (we carry some) or books authored by non-AAPIs about or for AAPIs (sure, if they’re good).

Quite a few years back, I meet a customer that came into our store and asked if we carried any books by Iranians or for Iranians. He said that Iranians were Asians too. So I began including some.

I’ve known that for the US Census and government purposes that they used to define Asians as Far East Asian, South East Asian, and people from the Indian Subcontinent. But what about Central and West Asians, like Afghani and Iranians, were they not Asians as well?

For AACP’s purposes, I generally considered Asians to include all people from the continent of Asia, but mainly focused on their American experience. Folktales, culture, and language learning materials were always considered things that AAPIs and all Americans might have an interest in and thus were included too.

So what’s the new US government’s definition for Asian and Pacific Islanders? On March 28, 2024, the US Office of Management and Budget published its findings onits Statistical Policy Directive (No. 15 or SPD 15) and issued updated standards for it. In these updated standards are new definitions that would be used by the US Census Bureau and other government agencies.

Asians are now defined as individuals with origins in any of the original peoples of Central or East Asia, Southeast Asia, or South Asia, including, for example, Chinese, Asian Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese.

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanderis defined as individuals with origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands, including, for example, Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Tongan, Fijian, and Marshallese.

Middle Eastern or North African is defined as individuals with origins in any of the original peoples of the Middle East or North Africa, including, for example, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, and Israeli.

So there you have it, Central Asians are now officially Asians and West Asians are considered Middle Eastern or North Africans.

Do you think we should still consider West Asians as Asians? And what about Russians residing in Asia?

Here are some interesting articles –

What Updates to OMB’s Race/Ethnicity Standards Mean for the Census Bureau (a good summary of the changes)

PBS News Hour’s story on the changes

Ethnicity vs. Race vs. Nationality: An Explainer

Learn the Difference Between Race and Ethnicity

Wikipedia’s article on Asian Americans

Wikipedia’s article on Pacific Islander