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  • Amelia Chuang

The Importance of Integrating AAPI History into Our Education



This past year there have been eight women murdered in a shooting, elderly shoved to the ground, innocent women stabbed, people spat on, set on fire, slashed, and businesses vandalized all because of their perceived racial identity. This is the sickening reality for Asian-Americans. Although the COVID-19 Pandemic caused a spike in Asian-targeted crimes, these events are not new; discrimination towards Asians has been ingrained in American history ever since Asian immigrants came to the United States in the 1850s, where racist ideologies such as the Yellow Peril began to circulate throughout the country. This eventually led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first federal law based on excluding someone solely for their nationality. Even a century later, we still see the same stereotypes, violence, and discrimination which push people today to acts of hate against AAPIs in ways subtle or not. From this past year, new assaults and attacks have begun protests and a call for change, from big cities like Boston and Los Angeles, to small, local communities. This past year, there have been over 6,000 Asian attacks, and this number only encompasses those which have been reported; there have been many more who have not spoken up due to intimidation, fear of making things worse, or lack of faith in law enforcement. Though the recent violence towards Asians has inspired greater awareness and activism, it has not influenced a push for greater education and importance of Asian history.


According to Stop AAPI Hate, there have been thousands of national reports for hate-crimes with 9.7% of the incidents occurring in schools and 11.0% of them targeted towards children under the age of 18. This extreme discrimination has caused parents to pull their children out of school or to continue virtual learning. Schools need to be more assertive in addressing discrimination for the millions of children affected. Yet, we see very little of American curriculum centered around important and impactful Asian history because it negatively represents the United States. To improve the American curriculum’s diversity is more necessary and critical than saving American face, or acting like the problem isn’t there, especially when it affects a huge population of our country’s citizens. Indeed, Asian Americans (according to Pew Research Center) are the fastest growing ethnic group in this country, and yet we receive very little resources in federal aid, education representation, and more due to model minority myth.


The education system has also historically turned a blind eye to non-East Asian communities, forgetting that they are also part of the Asian diaspora. When I was younger, I studied the American perspective of important East Asian historical moments such as the attack of Pearl Harbor, the Silk Road, Chinese miners and railroad workers, and the Vietnam War. Although important, this curriculum fails to include other violent and more accurate representations of how Asians and Asian-Americans live, struggle, and aspire today. Not once did we discuss historic moments like the first Filipino Americans to settle in Louisiana, Wong Kim Ark being denied citizenship despite the 14th Amendment, the first Asian woman (Patsy Mink) in the U.S. House of Representatives, Vincent Chin being beaten to death by two white men, the aftermath of the L.A. riots destroying 2,300 Koreatown shops, and many other important moments that entirely represent the hate Asians and Asian-Americans have had to endeavor in their past and present.


It is obvious that the misrepresentation in American curriculum is a direct cause of Anti-Asian sentiment that has bled into every aspect of our lives. The limited spotlight my family, friends and I receive on Chinese culture usually involves some polemic pandering of fear against the Chinese Communist Party. Very rarely do we meet Americans who understand, much less respect and do not fear, my culture. There are so many beautiful aspects of my culture, from our dedicated work ethic to our art and cuisine and dedication to providing for our family, yet it often feels as if my education tends to highlight what they view as important. Mere decades ago, my grandparents and parents were discriminated against as children and adults; eye pulling, name calling, and taunting was and still is a normalized experience for millions of Asians. Despite being a second-generation Asian American growing up in a predominantly Asian environment, I have experienced hurtful verbal comments and attacks from peers at school. Kids are either influenced by their parents, or are oblivious and have unintentional mannerisms. Schools might not be able to fix how parents bring up their children, but they can teach students about microaggressions, to be mindful, as well as holding students accountable for their actions. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, prejudice occurs everyday and everywhere. A simple “I am sorry” or a change of behavior will not solve conscious or unconscious Anti-Asian sentiment, but implementing a more representative curriculum of Asians would be a step forward. Asian Americans have always been an active, significant, and participating member in the dialogue of this country; it is due time for this country to realize the validity and Americanness of our lives.


Teaching children the past and present conflicts and including multifaceted Asian history in the academic curriculum would help current and future generations become more respectful and knowledgeable of Asian struggles and Asians in general. Education will never completely wipe out all racism and hate -- it must work in parallel with improved media representation, community-building, and increased civic engagement, but it will show that Asian-Americans should not be overlooked as they have been the past 171 years in America. Asian Americans have always been an important, contributing, and most of all American participant in this nation’s narrative; it is due time that our youth learn and acknowledge the Americanness of us all.



 

Works Cited

Brockell, Gillian. “The Long, Ugly History of Anti-Asian Racism and Violence in the U.S.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Mar. 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/03/18/history-anti-asian-violence-racism/.

Brockell, Gillian. “The Long, Ugly History of Anti-Asian Racism and Violence in the U.S.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Mar. 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/03/18/history-anti-asian-violence-racism/.

Budiman, Abby, and Neil G. Ruiz. “Key Facts about Asian Americans, a Diverse and Growing Population.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 27 May 2021, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/29/key-facts-about-asian-americans/.

Jin, Connie Hanzhang. “6 Charts That Dismantle the Trope of Asian Americans as a Model Minority.” NPR, NPR, 25 May 2021, www.npr.org/2021/05/25/999874296/6-charts-that-dismantle-the-trope-of-asian-americans-as-a-model-minority.

Kamenetz, Anya. “Why so Many Asian Americans Are Learning Remotely.” NPR, NPR, 9 Apr. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/04/09/984789341/why-so-many-asian-americans-are-learning-remotely.

Lah, Kyung. “The La Riots Were a Rude Awakening for Korean-Americans.” CNN, Cable News Network, 29 Apr. 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/04/28/us/la-riots-korean-americans/index.html.

“National Report.” Stop AAPI Hate, 20 May 2021, stopaapihate.org/national-report-through-march-2021/.

News, BBC. “Covid 'Hate Crimes' against Asian Americans on Riseiaoi.” BBC News, BBC, 21 May 2021, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56218684.

Waxman, Olivia B., and Paulina Cachero. “11 Asian American History Moments to Know for Aapi Month.” Time, Time, 30 Apr. 2021, time.com/5956943/aapi-history-milestones/.

Budiman, Abby, and Neil G. Ruiz. “Key Facts about Asian Americans, a Diverse and Growing Population.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 27 July 2021, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/29/key-facts-about-asian-americans/.


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