New Jersey is on its way to becoming the second state to require public schools to teach Asian American history as an approved bill heads to the governor’s desk.
The state legislature approved the bill on Tuesday after it passed the Senate earlier in December and the General Assembly on Monday. Governor Phil Murphy is set to sign the bill, according to NBC News. Supporters of the bill hope New Jersey follows Illinois, which signed its own bill into law earlier this year.
Kani Ilangovan, the Indian American founder of AAPI education advocacy group Make Us Visible New Jersey, said the bill affirms a sense of belonging and safety in the U.S.
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“It’s very sad, but during the pandemic, there’s been a huge rise in anti-Asian violence, and we feel education is the best antidote to hate,” he said.
Ilangovan created Make Us Visible New Jersey earlier in 2021 after the country saw an uptick in anti-Asian hate.
Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and state Sen. Vin Gopal sponsored the bill.
“What I didn’t learn was about people who look like me, those who were from the AAPI community that have had significant contributions to our great country we live in today,” Gopal said. “I am proud to sponsor legislation that can help kids who look like me know that they can be anything.”
Mukherji emphasized the importance of the bill following the increase of anti-Asian hate since the start of the pandemic.
“Hate comes from a place of ignorance, and if we can educate our young people about the Asian American immigrant experience, about our history, we will not only be teaching them, but we will be building empathy,” Mukherji said.
Murphy created the Asian American Pacific Islander Commission in the Department of State in November for “developing policies to address the social and economic needs of the growing Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in New Jersey.”
A commission will work in tandem with the New Jersey Department of Education to help apply the curriculum into schools across the state.