May 10, 2021 By Christina Santucci
Queens Congressmember Grace Meng announced last week that she has introduced legislation to promote education about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – in an effort to combat anti-Asian racism.
The bill, titled the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act, aims to help eliminate discrimination and prejudice by educating teachers and students about the history, contributions and experiences of 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,” Meng said in a statement.
The bill would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Education to award grants for educational programs about AAPI history in the settling and founding of America, the development of discriminatory laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the contributions of Asian Americans to American life.
“Asian Americans have always been seen as invisible or as foreigners,” Meng said in a statement. “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 break down the stereotypes and negative perceptions that sadly still exist about Asian Pacific Americans.”
The bill 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.
The bill 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 for the development of programming about Asian Pacific American history.
Meng’s bill is being co-sponsored by 58 of her colleagues – including U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks, Carolyn Maloney, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velazquez.
The Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act, which Meng had previously introduced in the House in October, is now pending before the House Committee on Education and Labor. As of Sunday, there was no cost estimate available for the bill.
A bevy of AAPI leaders said they supported the bill.
“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, in a statement.
Professional basketball player Jeremy Lin also lauded the bill.
“The history we learn informs our identity and where we see our place in society,” Lin said in a statement.
“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.”
In a statement, Meng called for better representation of all communities of color in history education. The congressmember is also an original cosponsor of the Black History is American History Act, a similar measure introduced by Rep. Joyce Beatty that focuses on the teaching of Black history in schools.