Rhode Island will now require Asian American history to be taught in public schools based on legislation passed in Congress on Tuesday.
Rep. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung (R-Dist. 15, Cranston) originally introduced the bill in February, which would require all public elementary and secondary schools in Rhode Island to teach at least one unit of AANHPI history and culture.
The legislation passed in the house with a vote of 66 in favor and one against.
Fenton-Fung cited a number of reasons for the importance of the bill, including a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, a large percentage of Asian Americans not getting a chance to learn more about their ethnic backgrounds and the dismissal of Asian American history more broadly.
“A lot of people here don’t know that the Chinese Exclusion Act … for 60 years, the Chinese weren’t allowed to immigrate [to America],” she told 12 News. “They weren’t allowed to become citizens [at the time].”
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“There’s a lot of amazing Asian Americans out there, but their stories don’t get told and they don’t become part of this big melting pot,” Fenton-Fung added. “That was the inspiration [for this bill]… it’s now becoming a national movement.”
The League of Asian Americans of New York posted a congratulatory tweet to the representative, stating the bill was “poised to pass.”
Rhode Island is the fourth state to require Asian American studies in public schools, alongside New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois.
Fenton-Fung is the wife of Republican Chinese American Congressional Candidate Allan Fung, who is also the former mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island. He is currently running to represent the state’s second congressional district.