Background/Context: The United States is currently undergoing a period of unprecedented immigration, with the majority of new arrivals coming from Asia and Latin America, not Europe. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APIs) represent the fastest growing racial group in the United States, and schools are again being asked to socialize newcomer students, many of whom are APIs. Yet, even as the United States becomes more racially diverse, the national mindset regarding immigrants and immigration ranges from ambivalent to increasingly (and currently) hostile, and is often contradictory. “American” typically is imagined as “White,” and perceptions of APIs and people of color as “other” remain cemented in our collective psyche. It is this sociohistorical-political context that frames the education and socialization of Asian American citizens, immigrants, and their children.
Objective/Focus: As APIs are absorbed into the fabric of society, how will they define themselves? How will they be defined? This article begins by deconstructing the social category Asian and Pacific Islander in order to reveal the immense diversity contained under this label. The discussion illuminates both the horizontal diversity of APIs—differences between ethnic groups, and vertical diversity—differences within ethnic groups, to underscore the insufficiency of the API label. Against the diverse backdrop that APIs truly (re)present, (Asian) American education framed by three curricular contexts in the United States—the major reforms of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, culturally relevant pedagogy, and the “model minority” mythology—is theorized using postcolonial theory as an analytic lens. The article concludes with thoughts on how APIs can resist domination and what might be sites of resistance in schools or society.