(Washington, DC) -- The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is pleased to recognize May 2002 as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. "From the Chinese laborers who helped build the Transcontinental railroad to the Asian Indians who today are helping to build the internet, Asian Pacific Americans have played a vital and often overlooked part in our nation's history," said Commission Chairperson Mary Frances Berry. "Yet, like many people of color in this country, they too often have faced exclusion and prejudice. This month our nation makes a special effort to celebrate the achievements and examine the discrimination faced by Asian Pacific Americans."

The Commission has become increasingly concerned with issues related to Asian Pacific Americans. It has published numerous works focusing on Asian Pacific Americans, including Voices Across America: Roundtable Discussions of Asian Civil Rights Issues, a summary and transcript of conferences held in various U.S. cities, Recent Activities Against Citizens and Residents of Asian Descent; The Economic Status of Americans of Asian Descent: An Exploratory Investigation; and Civil Rights Issues Facing Asian Americans in the 1990s, and Reconciliation at a Crossroads: Implications of the Apology Resolution and Rice v. Cayetano for Federal and State Programs Benefiting Native Hawaians. According to the 2000 Census, America's population is 3.6 percent Asian and 0.1 percent native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander.

The Commission has frequently spoken out against discrimination faced by Asian Pacific Americans, from hate crime to more subtle forms of discrimination such as corporate "glass ceilings," the myth of the "model minority," and the relegation of Asian Pacific Americans to the status of "perpetual outsiders." Recently, the Commission issued a statement reiterating that Asian Americans must not be tainted by national disputes with the Chinese government. Dr. Berry said, "If America is to live up to its creed of full equality for all citizens, we must continue to speak out against prejudice and bigotry in all its forms."