More Asian American History in Florida Schools

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After 18 months of hatred, violence and discrimination against Asian Americans and Asian immigrants, three Florida lawmakers want to incorporate the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders into the curriculum of the state.

If approved by the legislature and governor, AAPI courses and other materials would be added to the education required under Florida law, such as the History of African Americans and the History of the Holocaust.

“Asian American history is American history,” State Representative Anna Eskamani said this week in a press release. “And yet, for too long, the contributions of the AAPI community in Florida and across the country have been invisible. Instead, there has been a rise in hatred towards Asian Americans, and our hope with this legislation is to combat that hatred through education and empathy.

The bill comes at a time of mass tragedy: A mass shooting in Atlanta in March reignited the conversation about anti-Asian discrimination, when a gunman walked into Asian-owned spas and killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent. .

Eskamani is a Democrat who represents part of Orange County in central Florida and sponsors HB 281, along with fellow Democratic Representative from Orange Geraldine Thompson. Thompson was keen to ensure that required courses, such as African American history, were actually taught.

Another Orange County Democrat is sponsoring the Senate version – State Senator Linda Stewart.

“The story of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is a rich story that weaves into the fabric of our nation, but this story has not been told in many of our schools,” Stewart said in the Press release. “This bill would uplift the history of AAPI and ensure that Florida students receive a more comprehensive and inclusive education about the journey of Asian Americans and their contributions to American society.”

About 3% of Florida’s population identifies as Asian American, and Central Florida is home to a thriving AAPI community, according to U.S. Census data in the press release.

The AAPI program would deal with “the immigration, citizenship, civil rights, identity and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Pacific to American society. The educational materials must include the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to American society, ”according to the wording of the bill.

The origin of the proposed legislation comes from Mimi Chan, a central Florida martial arts teacher who started a petition on Change.org to include the teaching of Asian American history in K schools. -12 from Florida. He is part of Make Us Visible FL, a coalition that works to integrate the history of Asian Americans into the Florida education system.

As of Friday, 7,872 had signed the petition, according to change.org.

“Our children are growing up with a gap in their knowledge of history. As we have seen too often, this lack of information is dangerous, ”according to comments on the petition.

“By adding the history of Asian Americans to our curriculum, we can ensure that all students gain a better understanding of Asian Americans. Through education, present and future generations can understand the triumphs and challenges of Asian Americans and appreciate what they have done to add to that red, white and blue melting pot we call the United States.

In July, Illinois was the first state to adopt an Asian American history curriculum in its public schools, starting in the 2022-2023 school year, according to the Chicago Tribune.

There has been heightened cultural awareness and conversation around discrimination against Asian Americans, particularly with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit in Montgomery, Ala. That works for racial justice and monitors hate groups across the country, said the United States has a “long and shameful history of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans, ”according to a May article highlighting the increase in hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Events such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which restricted Chinese immigration, and the Page Act before it, which was used to ban the immigration of Chinese women, are some of the earliest examples of anti-Asian sentiment. in America, according to the SPLC article. . This continued into World War II, when Japanese Americans were, as the SPLC puts it, “unfairly incarcerated” in resettlement centers, more commonly known as Japanese internment camps.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League has also reported an increase in cases of assault and harassment against Asian Americans, as well as the emerging COVID pandemic.

These incidents include being told to ‘return to China’, being accused of ‘bringing the virus’ to the United States, being targeted by racial slurs, spitting on it or being physically assaulted. Statements by public officials calling COVID-19 a “Chinese virus,” “Kung Flu” or “Wu Flu” could exacerbate the scapegoat and targeting of the AAPI community, “according to an ADL web article in June 2020.

A California-based coalition called Stop AAPI Hate has been tracking cases of hatred and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since March 19, 2020, around the time the then-novel coronavirus began. to touch the United States.

“Of all incident reports, 4,548 hate incidents occurred in 2020 and 4,533 hate incidents occurred in 2021,” according to a June 2021 report from Stop AAPI Hate.

The incidents documented ranged from discrimination and verbal harassment to online harassment, civil rights violations and physical assaults. The victims were Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans and others of Asian descent.

The Stop AAPI Hate report notes that women accounted for 63.3% of incident reports.

–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix


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