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May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This month we celebrate Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. This special month originated with the United States Congress in 1977 as a ten-day celebration and in 1992 became a month-long commemoration. In inaugurating this month as one to celebrate, the Congress recognized that persons of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are important members of our community whose contributions must be recognized and valued.

This year, it is especially important that we celebrate and respect Asian and Pacific Islander members of our community. Recent attacks and xenophobia directed towards persons of Asian descent in the United States show that racism and hate remain a problem in our communities. Tragically, many seniors of Asian descent, including Bay Area residents, have been the targets of racist attacks. At Contra Costa Senior Legal Services, we believe that the community must stand up for the right of all persons to be free from discrimination and to feel safe.

The United States has a long and pernicious history of discriminating against persons of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. From the internment of persons of Japanese descent in camps during World War II, to the nineteenth century laws limiting the rights of persons of Chinese descent in both California and the United States, persons of Asian descent have been oppressed because of their race. We suggest using this month to educate ourselves about the history of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia in this country and about the important contributions that persons of Asian and Pacific Islander descent make to American society. By learning about this history, we can arm ourselves with the knowledge that this prejudice is a longstanding problem which deserves to be addressed head on.

Physical and verbal attacks on seniors constitute elder abuse. Contra Costa Senior Legal Services supports seniors who have been victims of elder abuse. Senior citizens aged 60 and older who live in Contra Costa County who feel that they have been the victim of elder abuse can call us at (925) 609-7900 for help.