We speak about Asian Americans as a single block. Here's how incredibly complex they are

Updated 9:08 AM ET, Sun May 1, 2022

This story was originally published in 2021.

(CNN)Asian Americans are often labeled as a singular group, but the fastest growing population in the US is far from a monolith — and their complex history and cultures are often glossed over.

While they have been in America since the nation's infancy, Asian Americans continue being harmed by stereotypes like the "model minority" as well as racial violence. Much of the recent anti-Asian bias is a result of many people being ignorant of the group's history in the country and xenophobic messaging around the Covid-19 pandemic, experts and lawmakers say.
Here's a look at how diverse Asians in America are and why we can't speak about them as a single block.

They trace their roots to dozens of countries

The term "Asian American" is an umbrella term for dozens of ethnic groups of Asian descent. It was first used in 1968 by University of California Berkeley graduate students as the name of an organization aimed at uniting Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Filipino Americans, among others to fight for political and social action.
An estimated 22 million Asian Americans live in the US, making up nearly 7% of the total population, US Census data shows. Those who self-identify as Chinese, Indian or Filipino ancestry make up the three largest Asian groups in the US, but no one ethnicity makes up a majority.
For decades, Asians were grouped together with Pacific Islanders by government officials and advocates. Currently, there's an estimated 1.6 million Pacific Islanders living in the US, including many who identify as Native Hawaiian, Samoan and Guamanian or Chamorro.

About a third of Asians in the US live in California

Most Asians live around big cities in four states -- California, New York, Texas and Hawaii -- but for the most part, these cities are not home to a single ethnic group.