Long T. Bui

“During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I am thinking across space and time. I wonder why we call this AAPI heritage month, but then there is a Black history month. Heritage affords a language of cultural inheritance, but history asks us to study and recoup stories about the past. In learning about Asian and Pacifika people’s traditions or achievements, we must also remember common experiences with African Americans and other dispossessed groups. I grew up being taught lots of racist lies in Texas (birthplace of Juneteenth), and only learned in college that California had segregated schools for BIPOC communities. These facts framed my understanding of narratives erased and objects lost, especially in the age of disinformation. Whether I’m talking about postwar memories of Vietnamese refugees or representations of Asians as robots, my research uncovers the legacies of activism that give room for celebration. Rejoicing today seems hard with endless reports of violent hate crimes that target mostly working-class elders and women of color. Despite a sense we are out of the pandemic phase, this collective ‘we’ fails to consider perspectives of Pacific Islanders— disproportionately affected by Covid-19 health and economic issues. In such times, AAPI history gives a moment to remark upon individuals like Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask, a truth-teller who was not afraid to call out the dominant presence of Asians in her homeland of Hawai’i. Trask’s vitality never dissipated in the life-long fight against educational whitewashing, colonialism, and genocide. As a Southeast Asian American, I wish to honor the work of activists like Trask to remember my own people’s displacement—and how it affects the Tongva and Acjachemen, the original Indigenous residents of Orange County. As Trask famously said, ‘resistance is its own reward,’ and thus we must resist the tendency to forget both heritage and history.” 

Long Bui is an associate professor of global and international studies at UC Irvine. His most recent book, Model Machines: A History of the Asian as Automaton, takes a deep dive into historical and harmful stereotypes and representations of Asians and Asian Americans as robotic automatons. Bui joined the UCI faculty in 2018 after earning his Ph.D. in ethnic studies at UC San Diego. 

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