Asian American is a relatively new phrase, coined in 1968 at the University of California, Berkeley, when colleges had just started to develop a new department of research: Ethnic Studies. The phrase is inherently radical, political, anti-racist.
“'Asian American' — rather than describing our personally felt identities or describing our family histories — expresses an idea. And that idea is that as Asian Americans, we have to work together to fight for social justice and equality, not only for ourselves, but for all of the people around us.” (Daryl Maeda, U. Colorado)
Over the past several generations, the phrase has undergone small but important changes--the addition and subtraction of hyphens and slashes; initialisms like AA and the distinctions of Pacific Islanders in API AAPI and APA (Asian Pacific Americans).