The problematic terms “Asian-Pacific American” (APA) and “Asian Pacific Islander” (API) not only offer no recognition that Pacific Islanders already constitute a pan-ethnic group that is distinct from Asian Americans, they also efface Pacific political claims based on indigeneity. For example, indigenous Pacific Islanders who have ties to islands that were forcibly incorporated into the United States (Hawai`i, Guam, American Samoa) have outstanding sovereignty and land claims, based on international principles of self-determination, which get erased by the categorization with Asians. Hence the frameworks for understanding the ills affecting Pacific peoples and their political claims are shaped by imperialism and settler colonialism, not simply civil rights.
We need to uncouple “Asian” and “Pacific” in order to examine these concerns, especially in higher education, where the socio-economic profiles of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are severely distorted due to the continued problematic lumping with Asian Americans.-
One of my favorite brief explanations of the importance of not using “APA,” “AAPI,” “API” or “APIA” or any other constellation of letters when Pacific Islanders are not included in the discussion, essay, scholarly work, etc.
Dr. J. Kehaulani Kauanui - Where are Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders in Higher Education