Meng Introduces Legislation to Promote the Teaching of Asian Pacific American History in Schools; Measure Seeks to Help Combat Bigotry and Discrimination Against Asian Americans

May 4, 2021
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to help combat continued bigotry and hate against Asian Americans, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) announced today that she reintroduced legislation to promote the teaching and learning of Asian Pacific American history in schools across the United States.
 
The Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act (H.R. 2283) seeks to provide an understanding of the history, contributions and experiences of Asian Pacific Americans to help eliminate the discrimination and prejudice that the Asian American community has been forced to endure not just over the past year, but for decades. These teachings include the many critical achievements and vast contributions that those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have made to the U.S., and the struggles and racism that has long been directed towards Asian Pacific Americans.
 
“For generations, Asian Pacific American history has been poorly represented or excluded from our K-12 education system and social studies textbooks, and it’s time for that to change as we work to combat the current rise in anti-Asian attacks related to COVID-19,” said Congresswoman Meng. “Asian Pacific American history is an integral part of American history, and this must be reflected in what our children learn in school. Asian Americans have always been seen as invisible or as foreigners. We have grown up with people questioning whether we’re American enough, and we’ve endured slurs and jokes about our appearance and our food. And even if we were raised or born here, many still tell us to ‘go back to our country,’ and make ignorant and xenophobic remarks such as telling us that we speak English well. These types of biases against Asian Americans need to be addressed at its roots, and teaching the future generation about our past, and how those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent helped make America the greatest country on the planet, would help breakdown the stereotypes and negative perceptions that sadly still exist about Asian Pacific Americans.”
 
“But this effort should not be limited to the Asian Pacific American community,” added Meng. “All communities of color must be better represented in the history lessons taught to our students, and with much of our nation focused on tackling the increase in anti-Asian sentiment and racial injustice, we must use this moment to put forward this long-term solution of expanding school curriculums. Whether it’s learning about the Chinese laborers who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad, the incarceration of Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor, slaves building the U.S. Capitol or the many other important chapters from our nation’s past – whether good, bad or ugly – our classrooms must include ALL of America’s history. Our nation cannot move forward in healing, until we learn from and correct the mistakes of our past. We can’t focus on tearing down the walls of biases and discrimination until our kids have a full teaching of what American history truly is.”
 
The Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act would require grant applications from Presidential and Congressional Academies to include Asian Pacific American history as part of their American history and civics programs offered to students and teachers. Every year, hundreds of teachers and students attend these academies, which are funded by the U.S. Department of Education, for an in-depth study in American history and civics. Presidential Academies are designed for teachers seeking to strengthen their knowledge of American history, and Congressional Academies for students who aim to enrich their understanding of the subject.
 
The Congresswoman’s legislation would also encourage the inclusion of Asian Pacific American history in national and state tests administered through the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and promote collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American Center to develop innovative programming regarding Asian Pacific American history. Meng’s bill is pending before the House Committee on Education and Labor.
 
Meng is also an original cosponsor of the Black History is American History Act (H.R. 1394), a similar measure introduced by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) that aims to promote the teaching of Black history in schools.
 
“The history we learn informs our identity and where we see our place in society,” said professional basketball player Jeremy Lin. “I have personally experienced how my own lack of knowledge on Asian Pacific American History had a negative impact on me growing up, and I hope for better for our future generations. When we learn all facets of our collective American history, we can build and re-imagine a more just and equitable world for all.”
 
“I applaud Congresswoman Grace Meng's Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act because we need to uncover the roots of racism against Asian Americans in order to address its many manifestations,” said Dr. Russell Jeung, Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate. “As a professor of Asian American Studies, I know how Ethnic Studies is critical to building a nation that is inclusive and equitable.”
 
"At the root of the hate directed against our Asian American communities is ignorance about our place in the American story,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation. “A long history of exclusion, of erasure, and of invisibility has led to Asian communities being seen as ‘other’ and ‘perpetual foreigners’ or not ‘American - enough.’ It is time to highlight the threads of our community's history that are woven into the warp and weft of American history. We fully support Congresswoman Grace Meng's ‘Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act,’ because we believe more readings, stories, and learning about our history as a marginalized people will result in more empathy and growth for the country, and its people as a whole."
 
“For more than a year, the toxic combination of xenophobia-stoking elected leaders and misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic across the state and country has fueled a massive increase in anti-Asian bigotry,” said Anu Joshi, Vice President of Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. “We thank Congresswoman Meng for introducing this critical bill to ensure Asian American history is honored and taught in our schools.
 
“We, the Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign, support Representative Meng’s Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act and see it as a necessity in response to the deeply-rooted Anti-Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate and racism that has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign. “This bill addresses the gaping disparity between AAPI contributions to American development and what is depicted in our history books. Classrooms shape society and as students, we hope that the incorporation of our AAPI history within the curriculum will be reflected to make an anti-racist society.”
 
"We applaud Representative Meng for the timely introduction of the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act,” said Gregg Orton, National Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans. “We know that at the root of the ongoing discrimination, hate, and violence against Asian Americans, is America's history of xenophobia and dehumanization of communities of color. We also commend the inclusion of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander history, an important part of our history that is often overlooked. This bill provides opportunity to schools and students to tackle history head-on--a necessary step towards creating a more inclusive and anti-racist education system."
 
"We endorse and thank Rep. Grace Meng's leadership in championing the ‘Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act’ which will create space for Asian American and Pacific Islander History in school curriculum, textbooks, and social studies/history programs across the country,” said Linda Ng, National President of OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates. “For far too long, Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have been viewed as perpetual foreigners which creates a vacuum where our communities are seen as absent and lost to history. OCA has worked tirelessly with our chapters, the 1882 Foundation, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), and other educational partners to create lesson plans which would be appropriate in schools. The passage of this Act would help bolster efforts that many community partners, teachers, professors, and activists have been engaged with to ensure our histories are taught and our stories are shared. With this Act, we reinforce and affirm that our erasure from history will stop here; Asian American history IS American history."
 
"The recent horrific killings of six Asian American women are a glaring example of the anti-Asian racism and misogyny that have long been a part of our country's history,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “Our first immigration law, the Page Act of 1875, barred the entry of Asian women into the U.S. But throughout that history, there have been trailblazing Asian American women who have fought back against racism and sexism, from Grace Lee Boggs to Patsy Mink. We thank Congresswoman Meng for her commitment to ensuring that our history is taught in classrooms so that Asian American women's contributions will not be forgotten as the foundation of our ongoing fight."
 
“Our community built the railroads, found cures for diseases, and even sacrificed our lives to fight for America and American values, yet we are still seen as a perpetual foreigner, our contributions and struggles deemed invisible,” said Juliet Choi, President and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF). “We applaud Congresswoman Meng for taking the necessary action to rectify this. The introduction of this bill will mean all Americans will learn about our critical role in our nation’s history, and what we’ve overcome to find a home in this country as Americans.”
 
"We thank Rep. Meng for reintroducing the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act,” said Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). “Learning about our own and each other's histories is essential to cross-racial and cross-ethnic understanding and solidarity, and it is a critical component of ending hate before it can begin. Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander history is inextricable from the history of the United States. Our country has a civic duty to ensure that all students recognize the diversity of the AANHPI community and how we have shaped and been shaped by the United States. SEARAC is proud to endorse this bill, and we hope that Congress will take even stronger steps to invest in our communities by supporting curricula that represent all students and creating opportunities for schools to embed AANHPI experiences into all levels of education."
 
“We’re grateful for Congresswoman Meng’s tireless work to showcase the rich and broad history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs),” said A.B. Cruz III, President of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. “For far too long, AAPIs have been ignored in national dialogue, and the struggles and hate our community faced have been minimized. In fact, NAPABA members have directly been affected by hate crimes and the pernicious nature of these incidents have shaped our organization. The inclusion of AAPI history in curriculum is necessary to shine a light on the significant contributions, diversity of experience, and unique voices that have shaped the fabric of our society.”
 
“National CAPACD applauds Congresswoman Meng's leadership in the introduction of the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act - addressing a critical part of recognizing the rich history of both the contributions and injustices faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” said Seema Agnani, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD). “Since the pandemic, and in recent weeks, the need for a better understanding of our diverse community has never been more clear. If we are to truly address systemic racism and move our country towards justice, then deepening our collective understanding of one another's histories in the U.S. is the only pathway."  
 
“The Indian Diaspora Council International (IDC) is pleased to again endorse the reintroduction of U.S. Congress Member Grace Meng’s ‘Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act’ for the 117th U.S. Congress,” said Ashook Ramsaran, President of the Indian Diaspora Council International. “We are convinced that teaching of Asian Pacific American history at all levels would bring more awareness and understanding of a least understood but integral part of American history. We believe that such education would provide useful information which would lead to better understanding among students and adults alike. In view of the recent spate of deadly attacks on Asian Americans, it is incumbent that our society be educated on Asian Pacific American history to dispel misrepresentations while recognizing the invaluable contributions of Asian Americans.”
 
"To create greater understanding and fully integrate the AAPI community into the United States, it has to start with education and learning in our schools,” said Dr. Abraham Kim, Executive Director of the Council of Korean Americans. “Unfortunately, there is currently a huge knowledge and teaching gap in our academic institutions. We need a national effort and active support to create curricula for our classrooms, provide resources for our educators and opportunities to celebrate AAPI members who have been vital in shaping this country and its vibrant society. We applaud Congresswoman Meng's leadership in taking the legislative steps to achieve this goal."
 
“The significant increase in overt anti-Asian hate incidents highlights the importance of teaching Asian and Pacific Islander American history,” said Soukprida Phetmisy, Senior Managing Director of Teach For America’s Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Alliances. “It is critical we understand this history of anti-Asian racism existed long before the violent attacks that are going viral today. We cannot talk about anti-Asian racism and xenophobia as if it is new and isolated because it is not. When we erase history while it is resurfacing, we silence and invisibilize multiple communities who’ve faced (and continue to face) a long tradition of being othered in this country. And while we understand the harmful systems at play, we must also uplift and amplify the long and rich history of cross-racial solidarity and resistance, which has always included AAPIs; a story that is multi-generational and cross-racial at its core, and one that often gets conveniently left out of the broader narrative.”
 
Additional organizations that have endorsed Meng’s bill include: the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and Fred T. Korematsu Institute.
 
A copy of the legislation can be viewed here