Community rallies against Asian hate and calls for better education on Asian-American History
On Saturday, May 21, government officials, Chinese-American and Asian-American community groups, students and teachers got together at Firefighters Park in Great Neck to support a bill expanding Asian-American history education in schools across New York State.
NYS Senator Anna Kaplan, Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti, Congresswoman Grace Meng and NYS Senator John Liu decided to host the rally during AAPI heritage month. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Meng was unable to attend, but the other hosts, local students and teachers were there to show support. North Hempstead town supervisor Jennifer DeSena attended the rally as well.
The Asian American History Education Bill, sponsored by Senator Liu, will require elementary and high schools to provide instruction in Asian-American history and civil impact. At the rally, fliers with QR codes were passed out for people to scan and sign petitions supporting the bill.
According to the FBI and NYPD, anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents are at an all-time high. There have been brutal cases where Anti-Asian violence took innocent lives. The rally supporting the Asian-American History Education Bill detailed the Asian-American struggle in our community and why education is necessary to combat this hate.
After New Hyde Park veteran Master Sergeant Peter Gong led the group in the pledge of allegiance, Senator Kaplan took the podium with her opening remarks for the rally.
“With the climate of hate and division being stoked by white supremacists who want to tell us that diversity is a bad thing, we’re here to tell them our diversity is our strength,” said Senator Kaplan. “Our diversity makes us the special community we are, and our diversity enriches our community. We reject the idea that diversity shouldn’t be taught in our schools.”
According to the Pew Research Center, one-third of Asian-Americans live in fear of threats, physical attacks and violence, causing them to change their behavior to keep them safe, Senator Kaplan explained.
“The more we know about our history, the better we understand the journey of our neighbors and the closer we can be as a community,” said Senator Kaplan. “It is time to empower our community with knowledge and fight hate together with education.”
Senator Kaplan has partnered with Assemblywoman Sillitti to help pass legislation that benefits our community.
“We’re trying to show people there is support for [this bill]; it’s not just politicians talking about it, it’s the community talking about it,” said Assemblywoman Sillitti. “In addition to showing support, [everyone here] shows unity and how important Senator Liu’s bill is not only to the Asian Community but to everyone in our community.”
Senator Kaplan introduced “future leaders” at the rally, who approached the podium to speak of their personal stories involving discrimination and the lack of Asian-American history being taught in school. One student from Great Neck South High School, one from Manhasset High School, and three from Herricks High School eloquently spoke to the crowd cheering them on.
“I’m here today because I have personally been affected by the absence of Asian-American history in our public school systems,” said Vicki Lin, junior at Great Neck South. “Because of this, ignorance towards my people has been excused and normalized…The fact that xenophobia increased towards Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic further proves that there isn’t enough to educate the public.”
“Supporting this legislation is a step towards promoting an equitable view of Asian-Americans in the U.S,” said Lin. “It’s an opportunity to teach the brutal history Asian-Americans have endured while also sharing our wonderful traditions and culture. Ignorance should no longer be an excuse for anti-Asian hate.”
Lin and the other students shared their experiences with racism, their acts of activism in their schools, and their reasons for supporting the Asian-American History Education Bill, while encouraging everyone in attendance to do the same.
Betty Long, a retired NYC teacher and New Hyde Park resident, Jeff Shi, a member of the Great Neck Board of Education, and Juleigh Chin, a member of the Herricks Board of Education, also spoke on the bill at the rally.
“I have a dream that we will see each other and realize we have way more similarities than we have differences,” said Chin. “We need to be intentional about including Asian-Americans in curriculum…We need to add Asian-American history and achievements into the state-mandated curriculum so that we as Asian-Americans can grow out of the category of ‘other’ and into the rightful place of American.”
Senator Liu introduced the Asian-American History Education Bill in 2021 upon seeing a rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans in New York and across the country. The crowd, students and government officials were overjoyed to have Senator Liu join the rally and discuss the bill at the podium.
“I don’t believe any human being is born with hate, but they learn to hate through a combination of fear and ignorance,” said Senator Liu. “The only way to stop this and reverse the hate is by teaching people; by teaching people about who we are, what our history has been and what our experience has led us to.”
Visit goaction.net/aapihistorybill/ to learn more about the Asian-American History Education Bill.