More than 2,500 residents of New York City have come together to sign an open letter calling for the inclusion of Asian American history in public schools on Monday.
The letter, addressed to Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, argues that the surge in anti-Asian incidents has highlighted the “woefully inadequate” education of Asian American history in the school curriculum — and that instruction must start in the earliest grades.
“The future of our city and our nation depends on what our children learn in school today,” reads the letter, which was mostly signed by parents. “Asian American children must know their history in this country so they can be proud of their heritage and stand up to discrimination and hate.”
It adds that students not of Asian descent must learn the history as well, in order to “better understand and respect the racial and ethnic background and identity of their Asian American peers.”
“The stories of how Asian Americans have stood up against racism and discrimination and fought to realize their dreams must be told. Asian American history is American history.”
As of April 21, 66 cases of anti-Asian hate crimes were being investigated by the New York Police Department, according to Documented NY.
Aside from the inclusion of Asian American history, the letter calls for a formal celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, as well as instruction for Asian American children and their classmates on how to confront racism.
“We believe that by learning about the history of each member of our community— how we arrived at this land and how we helped to build this nation and city together— we will be more united, empathetic and respectful to each other; we will be better able to fight racism, discrimination and inequality,” it states.
The letter was created by Xia Li, Ting Yu and Joseph Chou, whose children attend MS158 Marie Curie School in Queens, as well as Yiatin Chu and Lulu Song, whose children attend PS184M Shuang Wen School in Chinatown.
The letter also included testimonies from testimonies of Asian American students between 12 and 15, who confirmed the lack of instruction in their schools.
“I barely know about the history of my own ethnic background, and it doesn’t seem just to talk about history without talking about the history of Asia, Asians, and what Asians have done in America,” said 14-year-old Leo, according to Bklyner. “As far as I know, during the history of Asians in America, the only things I’ve learned were the Chinese Exclusion Act.”
State Sen. John Liu and other lawmakers are working to introduce new legislation that would require Asian American history classes in schools.
“Amid the onslaught of anti-Asian hate, assault, and killings, this legislation is necessary to remove the cloak of invisibility that Asian-Americans have long endured in order to truly achieve equal opportunity, equal treatment, and equal protection,” Liu said in a statement, according to the New York Post.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education stated that it would build on existing Asian American curricular content and that it remains committed to ensuring AAPI students “see themselves and their peers in the books they read and the lessons they learn.”
Featured Image via Getty (Representation Only)