Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

AHANA- "We are More Than Just an Acronym"

The AHANA Concept

The term AHANA was coined in 1979 by two students, Alfred Feliciano and Valerie Lewis. These students, acting as ambassador for fellow student, objected to the name “Office of Minority Programs” then used by the University, citing the definition of the word minority as “less than.” They proposed instead to use the term “AHANA: which they felt celebrated the cultural differences presence in our society. AHANA is an acronym used to describe individuals of African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American descent.

After receiving overwhelming approval from the University’s Board of Trustees, the Office of Minority Student Programs became the Office of AHANA Student Programs (OASP). Today, OASP develops, implements, and contributes a variety of programs and services modeled on the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis, (care of the whole person), that support students’ social, cultural, and spiritual development.

AHANA Defined

The term AHANA is used to describe persons of African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American descent. The following briefly describes the groups that are included in the acronym. Bear in mind, however, that the Office of AHANA Student Programs welcomes all students to utilize the programs and services that we offer.

African-American: A Black American of African ancestry, which includes persons whose descent is from Africa and the African diaspora.

Hispanic: A Spanish-speaking person or a U.S. citizen or resident of Latin-American or Spanish descent.

Usage Note: Though often used interchangeably in American English, Hispanic and Latino are not identical terms, and in certain contexts the choice between them can be significant. Hispanic, from the Latin word for “Spain,” has the broader reference, potentially encompassing all Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres and emphasizing the common denominator of language among communities that sometimes have little else in common. Latino which in Spanish means "Latin" but which as an English word is probably a shortening of the Spanish word latinoamericano refers more exclusively to persons or communities of Latin American origin. Of the two, only Hispanic can be used in referring to Spain and its history and culture; a native of Spain residing in the United States is a Hispanic, not a Latino, and one cannot substitute Latino in the phrase the Hispanic influence on native Mexican cultures without garbling the meaning. In practice, however, this distinction is of little significance when referring to residents of the United States, most of whom are of Latin American origin and can theoretically be called by either word.

•A more important distinction concerns the sociopolitical rift that has opened between Latino and Hispanic in American usage. For a certain segment of the Spanish-speaking population, Latino is a term of ethnic pride and Hispanic a label that borders on the offensive. According to this view, Hispanic lacks the authenticity and cultural resonance of Latino, with its Spanish sound and its ability to show the feminine form Latina when used of women. Furthermore, Hispanic the term used by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies is said to bear the stamp of an Anglo establishment far removed from the concerns of the Spanish-speaking community. While these views are strongly held by some, they are by no means universal, and the division in usage seems as related to geography as it is to politics, with Latino widely preferred in California and Hispanic the more usual term in Florida and Texas. Even in these regions, however, usage is often mixed, and it is not uncommon to find both terms used by the same writer or speaker.

Asian: A native or inhabitant of Asia or a person of Asian descent.

Usage Note: Asia is the largest of the continents with more than half the world's population. Though strictly speaking all of its inhabitants are Asians, in practice this term is applied almost exclusively to the peoples of East, Southeast, and South Asia as opposed to those of Southwest Asia such as Arabs, Turks, Iranians, and Kurds who are more usually designated Middle or Near Easterners. Indonesians and Filipinos are properly termed Asian, since their island groups are considered part of the Asian continent, but not the Melanesians, Micronesians, and Polynesians of the central and southern Pacific, who are now often referred to collectively as Pacific Islanders.

Native American: A member of any of the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The ancestors of the Native Americans are generally considered by scientists to have entered the Americas from Asia by way of the Bering Strait sometime during the late glacial epoch.

Usage Note: Many Americans have come to prefer Native American over Indian both as a term of respect and as a corrective to the famous misnomer bestowed on the peoples of the Americas by a geographically befuddled Columbus. There are solid arguments for this preference. Native American eliminates any confusion between indigenous American peoples and the inhabitants of India, making it the clear choice in many official contexts. It is also historically accurate, despite the insistence by some that Indians are no more native to America than anyone else since their ancestors are assumed to have migrated here from Asia. But one sense of native is “being a member of the original inhabitants of a particular place,” and Native Americans' claim to being the original inhabitants of the Americas is unchallenged.

•Accuracy and precision aside, however, the choice between these two terms is often made as a matter of principle. For many, Native American is the only choice for expressing respect toward America's indigenous peoples; Indian is seen as wrong and offensive. For others, the former smacks of bureaucracy and the manipulation of language for political purposes while the latter is the natural English term, its inaptness made irrelevant by long use. Fortunately, this controversy appears to have subsided somewhat in recent years, and it is now common to find the two terms used interchangeably in the same piece of writing. Furthermore, the issue has never been particularly divisive between Indians and non-Indians. While generally welcoming the respectful tone of Native American, most Indian writers have continued to use the older name at least as often as the newer one.

Native American and Indian are not exact equivalents when referring to the aboriginal peoples of Canada and Alaska. Native American, the broader term, is properly used of all such peoples, whereas Indian is customarily used of the northern Athabaskan and Algonquian peoples in contrast to the Eskimos, Inuits, and Aleuts. Alaska Native (or less commonly Native Alaskan) is also properly used of all indigenous peoples residing in Alaska.

The above definitions include information retrieved at www.dictionary.com.