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We Can’t Exclude Black or Asian American History in Classrooms

In Florida and across the country, attacks on truth promote an education agenda driven by white supremacist ideals. But you can join the resistance to teach the truth.
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For the past two years, teachers around the country have rallied at historic sites to speak out against anti-history education bills. On June 10, 2023, teachers are rallying again for the Teach Truth Day of Action, co-organized by The Zinn Education Project, Black Lives Matter at School and The African American Policy Forum. 

The event is co-sponsored by The National Education Association, whose leadership encouraged their 3 million members to organize and participate to raise awareness about the danger of these attacks on public education. In Florida, the attacks on truth promote an education agenda driven by white supremacist ideals. Democracy and our collective civil rights depend on teaching and learning an inclusive history of this, not just a whitewashed version of it. 

image 16 - Bucks County Beacon - We Can’t Exclude Black or Asian American History in Classrooms

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed House Bill 1537 into law, which requires including Asian American and Pacific Islander history in the state’s K-12 curriculum. But while Illinois, New Jersey and other states passed similar legislation, Florida’s HB 1537 coincides with DeSantis’s ban on AP African American Studies, denying tenure to professors in state-funded institutions, the Don’t Say Gay Bill, bills banning DEI initiatives in public colleges and the investigation and firing of teachers. 

These measures are part of a larger “anti-woke” agenda to criminalize the teaching of truth. Asian Americans are not a wedge to be used to divide groups. This tactic has been used historically to create infighting among communities of color. The most notable example of this is the “model minority” myth, which has been used to create divisions between Black and Asian people. But contrary to Florida law, there is no Asian American history without African American history.  

As an Asian American woman, the Atlanta-area spa shootings in March 2021 were just one of the many tragedies in a larger wave of anti-Asian racism and misogyny. But back then, I remember how the Black community showed up in support. Prior to the #StopAsianHate rally at Liberty Plaza in Atlanta, the NAACP shared a post and hosted an Instagram Live discussion with CNN journalist Lisa Ling about how white supremacy has impacted both Black and Asian American communities. The Black Lives Matter Instagram account also issued a statement denouncing the white supremacist attacks against Asian Americans. 

While white supremacy aims to sow discord between marginalized groups, solidarity and coalition building must be our resistance. The stories of radical Asian Americans who engaged in solidarity with the Black community, such as Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama, are imperative. 

This history of resistance and activism isn’t new, but in Florida, it won’t be taught. 

In May 1968, graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley formed the Asian American Political Alliance. AAPA joined in solidarity with African American, Chicano and Native American groups in the 1969 Third World Strike at U.C. Berkeley, which helped launch the creation of ethnic studies. Today’s students must learn to make connections between civil rights violations throughout history so they are prepared to mobilize for change in the present and future.

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 gave Japanese Americans reparations and redress from the U.S. government for their incarceration during World War II. As a result, many Japanese Americans and Asian Americans support HR 40 and other reparations for Black Americans. 

An AAPI curriculum that erases the contributions and voices of Black Americans, LGBTQ+ communities and women is not AAPI history. A win for some is not a win for all. 

You can join the resistance to teach the truth. Teachers, students, parents and community members are invited to rally across the country and pledge to #TeachTruth and defend LGBTQ+ rights. Let this demonstration of solidarity, mobilization and activism be our history. 

This column was produced for Progressive Perspectives, a project of The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

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Kimi Waite

Kimi Waite, Ph.D., is yonsei/fourth-generation Japanese American and the 2021 California Council for the Social Studies Outstanding Elementary Social Studies Teacher of the Year. Her writing has appeared in The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Progressive, The Emancipator, and elsewhere.

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