Remembering the PI in AAPI | Crooked Media
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May 25, 2023
What A Day
Remembering the PI in AAPI

In This Episode

  • Every May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in the United States. The occasion was created to celebrate both Asian and Pacific diasporas — but the “PI” in “AAPI” is often erased despite the term’s intention to include them. As the month comes to an end, Kristian Fanene Schmidt, the executive director and co-founder of the Pasifika Entertainment Advancement Komiti (PEAK), joins us to talk about how Pacific Islander communities are represented in entertainment — and how their diverse cultures and identities expand far beyond Western labels.
  • And in headlines: The founder of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the January 6th riots, the Supreme Court ruled to limit the EPA’s application of the Clean Water Act, and the official Barbie Movie Soundtrack dropped just in time for summer.
  • Plus, V Spehar, host of Under The Desk News on TikTok and the podcast V Interesting, joins us to share a headline they’ve been following this week.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, May 26th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Erin Ryan: And I am Erin Ryan. And this is What A Day where with Barry and Succession ending this Sunday. Max is starting to sound a little more like minimum. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s face it, that network [laughter] is nothing without its prestige dramas about white boys with trauma. 


Erin Ryan: Enjoy your finales, everyone, because I heard The Idol sucked. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison. Plus, the official summer soundtrack has arrived. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, as Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, we want to zero in on the PI in AAPI. 


Erin Ryan: Ooh color me intrigued. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s do it. As many of you know. I’m a journalist that’s been covering the issue of diversity in Hollywood for about a decade now, and the importance of representation is a cornerstone of my work. In that spirit, when I was speaking recently with producer Raven about a conversation we could bring to the WAD squad, they mentioned how Pacific Islander stories especially often get the short end of the stick during this month, folks center on the AA and ignore and effectively erase the PI in AAPI. And so we wanted to do something different. And I called up one of my good friends, Kristian Fanene Schmidt. Kristian is the executive director and co-founder of the Pasifika Entertainment Advancement Committee, or PEAK, which is an organization dedicated to supporting and uplifting Pasifika talent. I started by asking him about who exactly are we talking about when we use the identity label of Pacific Islander? 


Kristian Fanene Schmidt: Yeah, I mean, even for me, who grew up in a Pacific Island in Aotearoa otherwise known as New Zealand, we’re not taught this in schools it wasn’t until I took Pacific Studies at University. So the Pacific is made up of three subregions. You have Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. The way that those names came about was from a white discoverer. Even though people were living in these lands for thousands of years, and basically he saw a group of islands and there were many islands. So he was like oh, many islands, Polynesia, poly many nesia islands. Same thing for Micronesia. Oh, these are a lot of small islands. So we’re going to call these the small islands, Micronesia. And then Melanesia, he goes basically like I see Black people. Melanin, Black, nesia. So problematic terms, but uh it’s not uncommon for a lot of us to have taken ownership of them and and with them as a source of pride, too. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And we can often trace a, I think, lack of knowledge about Pacific Islanders to a lack of representation in the media. There’s a 2021 report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative that found that Pacific Islanders accounted for less than 6% of speaking roles in less than 4% of leads in Hollywood films. Could you talk a little bit about those numbers, about representation, what it looks like now? Have we seen any major or pivotal improvements when it comes to Pacific Islander representation in recent years? 


Kristian Fanene Schmidt: What I’ll say about the statistics, right, we’re actually overrepresented because we make up less than 1% of the total population in the US. So basically we’re doing pretty good when it comes to representation. But what I will say is the representation that we are seeing in Hollywood, it’s often quite one dimensional. When people are like yeah representation matters. Like that’s so outdated to me because not all representation is good representation, right? And when we’re looking at stereotypes and the roles that we keep seeing over and over again, they often lack the the nuance and the authenticity and the depth that we really want to see as a community. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You’ve been very vocal about the fact that Pasifika people who live at various intersections of identities are even less visible in entertainment. You wrote an article for the publication Them, detailing how queer and trans Pasifika people in particular are invisible despite having such rich histories. Could you talk a little bit more about that? 


Kristian Fanene Schmidt: Yeah, sure I think it just comes back to and this isn’t just unique to the US. I think in general our queer or MVPFAFF+ , it’s a label that was created by a colleague of mine, Phylesha Brown-Acton, who basically sees Western labels like gay, lesbian, queer. Um. They don’t necessarily translate neatly into the terms that we use them in the Pacific, and they often lose the spiritual and cultural underpinnings when you try to you know make them fit. So due to things like colonization, uh Christianity, and religion, those roles and our diversity and gender expression and sexuality has been demonized and therefore, you know, erased when it comes to our representation in film and television especially. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s talk a little bit more about your organization, PEAK. Tell us why you started it and what work you and your fellow organizers are doing to remedy how invisible Pacific Islanders are in media. 


Kristian Fanene Schmidt: Yeah, so I started it because when people use the term AAPI. Well, first of all, AAPI is only a term that exists within the US. It’s not anywhere outside you know, internationally. It was something that was coined specifically for the US, for the census back in the 1980s. And the intention behind it was inclusivity and it was um solidarity because there were around 2 million Asians back then and only a couple hundred thousand Pacific Islanders. You fast forward to now when you have, you know, over 20 million Asian-Americans and close to 2 million Pacific Islanders. Kind of outgrown that, right? And so when you see people use the term AAPI, they only really mean Asians. And so it’s often a source of erasure, a source of pain for our communities. And so I saw that when it comes to entertainment specifically, you have a lot of organizations doing great work under the API umbrella, but there aren’t ever any Pacific Islanders or Pasifika people in their staff or board even so it’s like, who’s going to fight for our communities more than us ourselves, right? You know, especially for me coming from Aotearoa New Zealand. And I was born and raised in Pacific communities. Right. And all my life I’ve been involved in Pasifika focused organizations. And yeah, we’ve just been building relationships with the studios, streaming services, really getting out there and making people aware of what our issues are and making sure they know where to come to if ever there’s something that people aren’t sure of when it comes to consulting and things like that, we’re here for the community. We’re here to really hold others accountable, but also to give that education. And that’s why, you know, I appreciate platforms like this where I can do that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So I should say for the listeners that you and I are close friends and so I know you’ve been engaged in various conversations about disaggregating the PI from API, AAPI. And just like breaking it up all together, could you talk a little bit about the reason behind that sort of thinking? 


Kristian Fanene Schmidt: Yeah, I mean, you know, you’ve got, you know, the two largest parts of the world kind of lumped together, and it just doesn’t make sense. Right. So the ultimate goal is to separate AA’s from PI’s when it comes to that label. And, you know, give us our own month, give us our own resource groups and things like that. But the trouble is, right now, so many resources are tied to that particular grouping. And so as we try to figure out the best way to move forward to have that separation, we just have to be very intentional about what’s going to work best for our community so that we still have access to um the most resources as possible. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Is there a specific term or something that you’re looking to replace it with, or would it just be, you know, Pacific Islander and Asian-American folks? 


Kristian Fanene Schmidt: I don’t even like that term AAPI because it’s like Asian American and then PIs and it’s like, okay, so Pacific Islanders, wouldn’t you attach American onto there? So I don’t know. Just that feels funny to me. And then when when you use the term NHPI, that centers native Hawaiians. And so it’s like, okay, so what about the rest of us? You know? So even that feels a bit funny because back home in New Zealand for instance, Maori uh in a separate, the Indigenous people, Maori in a separate category from Pacific Islanders. And that makes sense because you know, Maori are the indigenous people of the land and they hold a very special place. Here in the States, there are multiple US territories in the Pacific. So there’s not just Hawaii, you look in Micronesia, you look at American Samoa, you know there are several. So it’s like for me, NHPI, as an organization at least we prefer to use Pasifika, but if we have to use one of those terms uh PI or NHPI, we go with PI. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Kristian Fanene Schmidt, co-founder and executive director of PEAK, the Pasifika Entertainment Advancement Committee. Consider donating to support their work. We’ll have the relevant links in our show notes. 


Erin Ryan: That is a great note to end AAPI Heritage Month on Tre’vell. Thank you. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Thank you. That is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yesterday marked three years since the day Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd. On May 25th, 2020, a white police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes as he gasped for air, saying, I can’t breathe. Video footage of Floyd’s death revitalized a movement to address systemic racism and the disproportionate killing of unarmed Black people at the hands of police. Folks across the world took to the streets in protest of racial violence and police brutality, calling for systemic changes. In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, the city of Minneapolis banned chokeholds and neck restraints, and Minneapolis police officers are now required to stop other officers from using improper force. The federal government continues to investigate whether police in Minneapolis and officers across the country regularly participate in unlawful policing. Derek Chauvin, the white cop that killed Floyd, was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for second degree murder. But on a federal level, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would have banned chokeholds and no knock warrants stalled out in the Senate. Tragically, echoes of Floyd’s murder continue across the country as seen this year with the fatal beating of 29 year old Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee. Still, lawmakers and activists continue to advocate for systemic change. Yesterday, President Biden once again called on Congress to enact police reform in light of the anniversary of Floyd’s death. 


Erin Ryan: Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far right militia group the Oath Keepers, was sentenced to 18 years in prison yesterday for his role in the January 6th insurrection. This is the longest prison sentence handed down to any January 6th defendant so far, couldn’t have gone to a nicer guy. And it comes after Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy in November, a rare Civil War era charge reserved for those who conspire to overthrow the federal government, which is kind of what he what he did. Yesterday’s sentencing was a big win for the Justice Department, which has long sought to hold far right extremist groups accountable for the Capitol riots. Rhodes maintains that the consequences for his actions on January 6th were unfair ahead of his sentencing, calling himself a, quote, “political prisoner.” 


Tre’vell Anderson: Interesting. 


Erin Ryan: Hmm. Wow, look at all these tears I’m not crying for him, [laughter] but the presiding judge in the case was adamant to remind Rhodes that he evidently, quote, “wanted the democracy in this country to devolve into violence.” Kelly Meggs, another oath keeper who was convicted of seditious conspiracy with Rhodes last year, was also sentenced to federal prison yesterday. He’s set to serve 12 years behind bars. Man they really love the fuck around part, but not so much the find out part. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] I bet they’re they’re regretting their actions now. 


Erin Ryan: Yes. Karma is a bitch and she never forgets. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Period. In a unanimous decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had overreached with its application of the Clean Water Act when it restricted a couple’s construction on a soggy piece of land in Idaho. But while the court agreed that the agency had overstepped in this specific case, there was a sharp division on new metrics laid out by the majority that would establish exactly where the EPA has oversight on wetlands territory. Writing for five justices, Justice Samuel Alito ruled that the Clean Water Act does not extend to wetlands near bodies of water unless they bear a, quote, “continuous surface connection to those waters.” More than half of the nation’s wetlands lack this connection to a continuous flowing body of water, leaving them now vulnerable to unregulated pollution and development. Experts say the decision will have potentially disastrous consequences for millions of acres of wetlands in the United States, as it will broadly limit the federal government’s ability to address pollution and flooding. 


Erin Ryan: At least with rising sea levels eventually, everything will be one continuous water surface? Is that a silver lining? Is that– 


Tre’vell Anderson: Perhaps? 


Erin Ryan: What is optimism? I don’t know. I don’t know. When it comes to the environment, I have no idea. Man, we need new, better laws and a new, better Supreme Court. If you’re already–


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh yes. 


Erin Ryan: –looking for the song of the summer, look no further than the official Barbie movie soundtrack, generating somehow even more buzz for the inevitable summer blockbuster. The long list of collaborators for the movie’s soundtrack dropped yesterday with a list of names that could easily be confused for people you might see in a Met gala bathroom selfie. Haim, Charli XCX, Ice Spice, Nicki Minaj, Dominic Fike, the Kid Laroi and Lizzo are just some of the featured vocal talent on the soundtrack, which was executive produced by Mark Ronson, a.k.a. the guy who famously brought us Uptown Funk and some other things besides Uptown Funk. But [laughter] that’s just one, one Ronson, John. Uh. Barbie cast members Dua Lipa and Ryan Gosling are also set to be featured on the soundtrack. You know, it’s easy to forget Tre’vell, that Ryan Gosling was a member of the Mickey Mouse Club. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Erin Ryan: Kid can sing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [stuttering flustered] 


Erin Ryan: Kid can sing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, we’re about to find out. [laugh]


Erin Ryan: Question is do we want him to? 


Tre’vell Anderson: The answer’s no. 


Erin Ryan: He he can, does that mean [laughter] he should. [laughter] And while we’re not sure what Ryan Gosling is going to be doing, Dua Lipa’s original single for the film Dance The Night dropped last night. Basically, she’s everything and he’s just Ken, if you’re like some of our team at WAD, cannot wait for this movie. You’re in luck. The soundtrack announcement debuted alongside a new full length trailer for Greta Gerwig’s upcoming film, which we could expect in theaters on July 21st. Take that Oppenheimer soundtrack. What do you got? [laughter] What are you going to come back with? [laughter] 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. 


Erin Ryan: Toby Keith? You gonna get Toby Keith on the so– [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: Toby Keith is like, now what did I do? How did I get in it? [laughter]


Erin Ryan: I’m sorry Toby. I mean, no, I’m not. He seems mean. [laughter] He seems like a mean man. I’m so excited for this movie. I have heard it is a delight. And the marketing could not be, like, more exciting to me. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I am looking forward to it. I will be seeing it opening weekend. Absolutely. 


Erin Ryan: 100%. Does it sort of evoke in you the excitement of like walking down the Barbie aisle when you were a kid? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes! 


Erin Ryan: Like how exciting it was just like that exact feeling. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s now come to life, you know– 


Erin Ryan: Uh huh uh huh. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Like it’s going to give so much nostalgia, so much like, you know, like when you were younger and you just had to like, imagine what Barbie’s life was like in that dream house. Now we get to see it. 


Erin Ryan: Can’t wait. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Can’t wait. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads. 




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, Mod Squad, and we want to congratulate you all for making it to the weekend. To help us cap things off this week, I’m joined by our new friend, V Spehar. You may know them from their Daily News updates on the tickety toks from under an actual desk and because it sometimes takes longer than a couple of minutes to explain what’s going on in our wild, wild world. They also host their own bi weekly podcast called V Interesting, from Lemonada Media. V, welcome to What A Day. 


V Spehar Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here with you. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So glad you gave us a little bit of your time. You came from under the desk to speak with us. Love that. 


V Spehar I did. I got all dressed up [laughter] and and came right on up here. A lot of air out here, but– 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] A lot of air. [laugh] So we have had one hell of a week this week in particular. The debt ceiling business is still going on. Some guy from Florida named Ron is running for president. But I want to know, what’s the headline that caught most of your attention over this past week? 


V Spehar So I think something that’s been really interesting is people batting around the fact that TikTok sued the state of Montana over their TikTok ban. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


V Spehar And folks are like, oh, TikTok sued Montana. But it’s the way they sued them. And what they sued them alleging has been violated that I think is very interesting. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, let’s break it down. 


V Spehar Okay. So, first off, Montana has enacted a ban on TikTok. Uh. That’s just for the state and it’s completely unenforceable. And I have no fear at all that this is going to be setting any kind of precedent. If anything, it’s proving how difficult it is. But TikTok is suing, saying that the state has violated their, as a companies, First Amendment rights, which is so interesting because, of course, companies are people. Have been since 1886. But they’re also saying that the ban violates the Constitution’s commerce clause, which restricts state laws that could impair the flow of business across state lines. There’s 5 million businesses on TikTok, and they’re also saying that Montana’s ban would preempt federal law by intruding upon matters of national concern. Montana is trying to say we have to ban TikTok to protect our data from foreign adversaries. And TikTok is like uh uh state of Montana. That is a concern of Congress and the president. And they also brought up this, like very old timey clause. They accused Montana of an unconstitutional bill of attainder, which is like colonial speak for when they want to ban something or get rid of somebody without giving them a trial. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Ah. 


V Spehar And here in the United States, bills of attainder are unconstitutional. So they’ve got all these really great points and they’re, they’ve spun like a very solid story. And uh all the experts say that TikTok’s probably going to win here. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, so you mean to tell me we have to be on TikTok’s side? 


V Spehar Yes we do. [laugh]


Tre’vell Anderson: Is that what you’re telling me? [laughter]


V Spehar We are now uh rooting for the corporations to have constitutional rights. Yes. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: So now how as a famous TikTok-er yourself, we have covered on the show a couple of different ways the whole TikToketty situation, the different states trying to ban it. The federal government, you know, restricting it in various ways. They worried about China and, you know, data security and all this other stuff. As a TikTok-er yourself, how are you feeling? How are you faring? What are your thoughts on the whole conversation writ large? 


V Spehar So at first, back in March before the hearing, I was really worried. I was like, Wow, they’re going to shut this down. And like all these people’s livelihoods, all the community that we built um is just going to be gone. And then I went to the hearing and I sat directly behind Shou Chew, which was a choice, and I worked really hard to get that seat. [laughter] And I made people switch seats with me and all kinds of stuff because I’m a comically recognizable part of TikTok, right? So as those congresspeople who some of them I had made TikToks with before, were looking at him, I wanted them to also see me and remember that I represent a lot of their constituents and a lot of the good times we had together on TikTok. After the hearing, I did not think we were going to get a ban and then watching the way that TikTok and even members of the media turned on the Restrict Act. The Restrict Act is the big piece of legislation that within had the TikTok ban and were calling it the Patriot Act 2.0. And they had like regular people like highlighters out, like going through line by line of the bill and saying like, this is unconstitutional. I’m not giving up my privacy this way. I’m not doing this here. And we have not heard much about the restrict act since. And I think that’s because Congress woefully underestimated the civic intelligence of the public, especially at this point in history. So we haven’t heard much about it. So I do not feel like there will be a TikTok ban any time soon. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You’re not concerned? You’re not worried? 


V Spehar I’m not concerned, no. And I’m and what I don’t want to do, and I hope other people hear too, is like some of this fear was to kind of ruin the fun. Right. So get you all scared that you’re going to lose your community, you’re going to lose your platform. Why don’t you move your whole audience over to Meta or Snapchat or one of the ones they hold stock in. I just hope people don’t feel that scared. I hope they just keep enjoying. If they love creating, if they love watching, I hope they keep doing that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Thank you V Spehar for joining us. 


V Spehar Yes, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was V Spehar, host of Under the Desk News on TikTok and the podcast V Interesting. You were wonderful. [music break]


Erin Ryan: One more thing before we go. The Crooked store is celebrating Memorial Day with 15% off sitewide now through Monday, May 29th. Plus new items and steeper markdowns in the sale section. Grab something fun to start your summer off right. And refresh your wardrobe so you’ll always have something to wear to Trump’s Jury selection. Head to to shop the sale. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [music break] That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Protect your wetlands and tell your friends to listen. 


Erin Ryan: And if you’re into reading and not just the ever expanding cast list for Barbie like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Erin Ryan. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And take us to the dream house.


Erin Ryan: Oh my God. I want to live there. I want to live in the dream house. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t want to live there. But, you know, I want to experience it. I want to see it. I want to peruse, if you will. 


Erin Ryan: I will be living there. You’re welcome to drop by whenever. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla, and Raven Yamamoto is our associate producer. We had production assistance this week from Fiona Pestana. Jocey Coffman is our head writer and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.