The conversation is complicated and can be uncomfortable, but Justin Hoover, the executive director of the Chinese Historical Society of America said work needs to be done.
Justin said, "You call yourself an ally, well it's got to be more than that you have to put yourself out in the conversation."
Advocates say it's important to understand why racism isn't funny. In 2012, Bay Area native and basketball star Jeremy Lin went on Saturday Night Live to address racist Linsanity jokes. Jay Leno just recently apologized for decades of Anti-Asian jokes.
"He even admitted when he did it it felt wrong internally," said May Lee of the May Lee Show, "But he did it anyway for the laugh."
The making fun of accents and food has been largely accepted through the years.
"I think we all suffered from that constant jokes," said Lee. "The Asian accent joke, those flippant comments and I think when we are growing up in this country, we know we are from here, a lot of us, or we grew up here and yet we are treated like the perpetual foreigner so therefore to try to be accepted to try to assimilate sometimes you have to swallow those insults."
Experts say history and systemic racism played a role. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 limited how many Chinese immigrants could come to the U.S. And Chinese immigrants, unlike other immigrants, had to prove that they would contribute before they were allowed to come to the U.S.
"The Chinese were largely trying to protect themselves and to be perceived as not a threat," said Hoover. "And so they could bring their families here they could have a business they could have a life here and that's where the idea of the assimilation and model minority came from a lot of it was that Chinese people just wanted to be accepted."
It wasn't until the 60s that the Chinese Exclusion Act was finally repealed and yet today the struggle to be accepted continues, often in silence with racism overlooked and left unacknowledged
"I've had that happen in the past," said Lee. "Where friends say so 'OMG I don't even look at you as a minority,' or 'OMG I forget you're a minority.' And they are saying it thinking it's a compliment and that's where it's twisted.'
Advocates say for Asian Americans the struggle is often about belonging.
"There is a perpetual foreigner stereotype that we are always battling," said Hoover.
Sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen says even well-meaning people stereotype all Asian Americans as the same.
"Then they say, 'Oh, I know someone you should totally meet.' And it's another Asian woman because somehow I will definitely connect. Nobody else does that in terms being reduced down to your gender race. Other people of color also get that, but those moments of microaggression take you out of that belonging," Wang said.
And so this conversation is about recognizing words matter and acknowledging that racism against the AAPI community has and continues to have profound and lasting impacts.
Lee said many of the people she speaks with talk about this sense of belonging.
"I had to admit I'm not sure if I have ever felt 100% accepted here. I think there's always been a time in my life where there is still something in the back of my head, wondering if that person looking at me or treating me this way because I'm Asian."