What does it mean to be 'Asian-American'?

Nritya Mandap dancers performing a Nepali dance (left) with the US Capitol as a backdrop at Fiesta Asia as a young participant of the Fairfax Chinese Dance troupe relaxes on its sidelines, a Captain America umbrella in hand. Some Asian-Americans are
Asian-American students at Harvard University. Reappropriate blog founder Jenn Fang says the term is popular among civic-minded college students who are taught its activist roots in their course work. PHOTO: NYTIMES
Nritya Mandap dancers performing a Nepali dance (left) with the US Capitol as a backdrop at Fiesta Asia as a young participant of the Fairfax Chinese Dance troupe relaxes on its sidelines, a Captain America umbrella in hand. Some Asian-Americans are
Nritya Mandap dancers performing a Nepali dance (above) with the US Capitol as a backdrop at Fiesta Asia as a young participant of the Fairfax Chinese Dance troupe relaxes on its sidelines, a Captain America umbrella in hand. Some Asian-Americans are cool with putting ''them all under an Asian umbrella'' but there are also those who question what it actually means to identify as Asian-American in 2018. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST
Nritya Mandap dancers performing a Nepali dance (left) with the US Capitol as a backdrop at Fiesta Asia as a young participant of the Fairfax Chinese Dance troupe relaxes on its sidelines, a Captain America umbrella in hand. Some Asian-Americans are
Nritya Mandap dancers performing a Nepali dance with the US Capitol as a backdrop at Fiesta Asia as a young participant of the Fairfax Chinese Dance troupe relaxes on its sidelines, a Captain America umbrella in hand. Some Asian-Americans are cool with putting ''them all under an Asian umbrella'' but there are also those who question what it actually means to identify as Asian-American in 2018. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

The term was meant to create a collective identity but is it still meaningful in the present label-obsessed era?

Rain pools in the seats of folding chairs arranged haphazardly near an outdoor stage. Parents, huddling under umbrellas, had pushed the chairs aside, determined to capture photographs of their children performing a traditional Philippine dance against the backdrop of the US Capitol.

An announcer thanks the families for spending their Saturday afternoon this way, despite the inclement weather. "Anyway, for Asians, this is a blessing," she says of the rain.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 05, 2018, with the headline 'What does it mean to be 'Asian-American'?'. Print Edition | Subscribe