May is Asian American Pacific Islander Month as designated by Public Law 102-45, 1992. Asia includes the Near East, Far East, and Middle East. As we acknowledge the contributions, rich history and monumental accomplishments of our community, students, neighbors, friends, and family members, it should not be excluded nor lost in any of our minds the times we continue to navigate with our AAPI colleagues.
I read in a social media post recently that AAPI people have only dealt with Anti-Asian hate for one year. That is so far from the truth. As Anna Chu (2021) shared in her article AAPI Hate Has Been Invisible Too Long:
“The National Women’s Law Center in 2017 found that 46 percent of AAPI girls report being called a racial slur. Another study by Stop AAPI Hate found that since the start of the pandemic, 12.6 percent of the hate incidents reported were made by youth.”
However, these most recent developments share a smidgen of the “American” experience that both Asian immigrants and American-born Asian American Pacific Islanders have faced - and overcome. Only 80 years ago, Japanese immigrants were sent to internment camps based on a fear that these individuals would act as Japanese spies or saboteurs during WWII. Additionally, to fully grasp the scope of this experience, it is critical to appreciate that our AAPI friends, students, colleagues and families extend beyond representative immigrant groups along the Pacific Ocean (including Korea, China, Vietnam, Japan, Hawaii, and Guam), but also includes countries along the Indian Ocean, including but not limited to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Other nations not commonly associated with being Asian are Palestine, Israel, Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Afghanistan, to name a few.
There remains warring ideologies afoot in the United States - a continuation of the proclaimed greatness of our nation vs. the acknowledgement of that greatness through the labor, sacrifice, and ultimately eradication of indigenous, enslaved and certain immigrant groups. Chinese immigrants for example played a significant role in the building of the Transatlantic Railroad in the 1800s. Between 15,000 and 20,000 Chinese immigrants “...toiled through back-breaking labor during both frigid winters and blazing summers. Hundreds died from explosions, landslides, accidents and disease” (Kennedy, 2019). This is an ignored era of history in U.S. social studies curriculum and texts. The politicizing of critical thinking is working to make it a permanent exclusion.
The argument against Critical Race Theory and the separation of Critical Race Theory from the Asian American Pacific Islander experience is an attempt to separate the marginalized experiences of minoritized groups as one of timely and dare we say “necessary” moments in history - and not a pattern of paternalistic power play. The argument against teaching about racism in the United States and its impact on immigrant groups is found in the curriculum history that is being banned in many southern states (Florida, Texas, and Georgia) in addition to Idaho, Oklahoma and others. This banning is beyond the racism that African American/Black people and Hispanic people have endured - it will include the banning of any discussion and teaching of multiple forms of oppression. In Texas, this ban includes mentioning and teaching about the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
Like other heritage months, our AAPI colleagues, communities, students and families should not be relegated to a political event nor a grandstanding opportunity to further a specific platform. AAPI Heritage is and will remain one of multiple important perspectives local and national leaders should promote as an integral part of our national narrative. As with other heritage months, this is beyond calls for curriculum change, anti-racism, and inclusivity. This is about a racial and social reckoning to answer what is core to our nation: One Nation...with Liberty and Justice for All.
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month is essential for the DSST community of students, families, staff, and stakeholder to value and appreciate as we continue our journey as a social justice organization that is culturally responsive and relevant, anti-racist, trauma informed, multi-cultural and culturally sustaining. Join us as we continue to learn about others of difference and the variety of lived experiences we each individually possess. Below are a few resources for us to leverage: