Asian American legislators and advocacy groups are calling for mandatory instruction of Asian American history in New York state public schools.
State Sen. John Liu, who has sponsored the legislation, said that education would help counter anti-Asian violence, which the group Stop AAPI Hate has estimated at 11,500 hate incidents nationally in the first two years of the pandemic. According to the Asian American Federation, New York City has experienced more anti-Asian hate crimes than any other city in the nation.
“It’s just so much easier for people to scapegoat Asian Americans, scapegoat people who they just don’t know a whole lot about,” he said in an interview with Gothamist. On Twitter Monday, he shared a racist, anti-Chinese voicemail he received from a purported constituent.
Liu added a rejoinder: “Another day at the office.”
Asian Americans comprise 11% of the state’s population, and that number has grown by 37.6% since the 2010 census, according to the Asian American Federation.
“The state’s population of Asian children increased 32.4% in the last decade compared to a 4.9% decrease in the population of all children,” said AAF.
On Friday, Asian American organizations will join the Rev. Jesse Jackson at a rally in Bayside, Queens, for the AAPI History Education bills, sponsored by Assemblymember Ron Kim and supported by Assemblymember Yuh-line Niou as well as Sen. Kevin Thomas, who is Indian American.
The legislation directs the policymaking state Board of Regents to develop a “course of study in the events of Asian American history.” It also directs the education commissioner to provide technical assistance “in the development of curricula on Asian American history and civic impact” and to provide suitable course materials. The legislation is currently in the Education Committee.
Liu argued that current textbooks are “not that different from when I was in school, using similar textbooks: a casual reference to the completion of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese immigrants, a reference to the concentration camps that Japanese Americans were forced into during World War II. Not a whole lot else.”