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Part 2: “We Can All Be Lifted Up” - The Power of Belonging for the APIA Community in Schools

“My school is in the process of pushing forward with efforts to be an anti-racist school. We did an audit of our curriculum, asking ourselves where we are mentioning marginalized groups. It was, at times, less comfortable to share the emotions that came up. When I first looked at my curriculum, I found no mention of an Asian person."

Lauren Kosasa , 7th grade Teacher

Earlier this month, we shared the first in our ongoing Mukbang series. Today, we’ll share part two, in which Asian and Pacific-Islander American educators from across the EL Education network gathered to:

  • Build solidarity as Crew
  • Share perspectives on what it means to be an APIA educator, and
  • Discuss ways in which schools can help to nourish the souls of APIA students and educators during challenging times and times of joy.

We invite you to join us again at the table and engage in deeper learning around the themes that members of the APIA community continue to face daily that led to the significance and urgency of this Mukbang. While this Mukbang was originally held during May of 2021 and set against the backdrop of pandemic-fueled Anti-Asian rhetoric and violence, the themes remain relevant for students and teachers in diverse communities. The conversation was hosted by EL Education senior coach Genie Kang and participants included:

  • Arun Antonyraj: Teacher Leader, MS 839, Brooklyn, New York
  • Scill Chan: Principal, Brooklyn Collaborative Studies, Brooklyn, New York
  • Elaine Hou: Director of Literacy Grades 3-8
  • Lauren Kosasa: 7th grade Social Studies Teacher, MELS, Queens, New York
  • Priya Natarajan: Teacher Leader, Casco Bay High School, Portland, Maine
  • Ingrid Wong: School Designer, NYC Outward Bound Schools, New York City, New York

Genie: These past few years have led to a heightened awareness of who we are and our place in society, including increased awareness of systemic racism and violence toward Black people and a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. What did you experience as an educator in your school setting?

Scill: The big ideas that have formed the nexus of my work are:

  • The intersection of recent events and the ongoing anti-Blackness that our society was built on
  • The fact that the anti-Asian violence has partially stemmed from untreated (and instead stigmatized) mental illness
  • How the model minority myth has backfired

As APIA we need to come to terms with the reality that some members of our community have embraced the myth of the model minority and pitted ourselves against other minority groups. I want to take some responsibility for that. While I’ve never embraced the model minority myth, members of my family have certainly done so. It is very hard to address the issue [of anti-Asian hate] in isolation because this myth is part of the fabric of our culture.

Elaine: When we launched APIA month for the first time this past year, we created a series of Crew lessons, beginning by exploring the diversity of APIA and then digging deeper into the often untold histories of Asian Americans. Lessons included how the model minority myth came to be and how it has harmed people within the APIA community as well as other groups of color, especially Black and Brown communities.

When we debriefed the lessons, what became clear was that talking about racism toward APIA people is a new conversation. Some of our staff shared honestly, “I’m used to confronting anti-Black racism, but I’ve never thought about racism for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.” The other throughline I heard was that the Black experience is significantly different from APIA individuals because of the racial caste system established with our country’s founding.

Lauren: My school is in the process of pushing forward with efforts to be an anti-racist school. We did an audit of our curriculum, asking ourselves where we are mentioning marginalized groups. It was, at times, less comfortable to share the emotions that came up. When I first looked at my curriculum, I found no mention of an Asian person. In response, I gave students a chance this past year to choose different people to research for a project that I was really excited about but there was nothing in Britannica about Yuri Kochiyama or Grace Lee Boggs or other Asian Americans I wanted to include, so I deleted them from the lesson.

I realized I would never have done that for an Indigenous person or a Black person, but I think I’ve internalized this idea that it’s not as bad for my people, so I don’t need to make sure we are represented. I’ve recently been grappling with the idea that I might be erasing Asian people because I have internalized this hierarchy rather than thinking about how White supremacy is the problem and believing that we can all be lifted up.


*EL Education is proud to host diverse voices and offer a platform for dialogue on topics impacting educators and students. Views of guest bloggers are their own and may differ from the views of EL Education.

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    Educator Voices