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Standing With The Asian American Community

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    EL Education

Many parents are facing difficult choices about sending their children back to in-person classes: will the students get sick? Will other members of our household be safe? But for Asian American families, there is an additional concern: will my children be the target of racism built on slander, lies, and blame for the coronavirus? These fears are well founded: between just March and December of 2020, over 2,800 incidents of harassment or violence were reported to the group Stop AAPI Hate. Recent acts of extreme violence against members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community on both coasts make it clear that the issue is not going away. In New York City, principals report that some AAPI parents are not picking up their children’s school supplies due to fear of encountering anti-Asian violence or harassment, “even if the building is two blocks away.”

In the words of James Baldwin, “History is not the past. It is the present.” Recent derogatory aspersions have inflamed long-simmering racism that reaches back to a history of discrimination. The harm experienced by generations of Asian American students, whether being bullied based on physical features or stereotyped as a “model minority,” are rooted in past racism embodied in the Page Act of 1875, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the Chinese Massacre of 1871. (For an example of EL Education students unearthing the silenced history in their own community, check out this project from Silverton, CO)

At EL Education, we know that all students need “mirrors, windows, and sliding doors”***—the opportunity to see their own lived experience reflected in stories, both ones they read and those they create; views into the different perspectives of others, and how power and privilege look in different cultures; and doors that empower them to be changemakers in creating a better world. Through such learning experiences, students build their identity and imagine how their lives are connected to the larger human endeavor. Racism in all its forms, including anti-Asian and anti-Black, has shaped our students’ lives and our educational systems. In response, we have committed to four pillars of anti-racist education:

  1. Instruction that challenges, engages, and empowers learners
  2. Access to standards-based, content-rich, culturally affirming curriculum
  3. Explicit anti-racist discussion, practice, and action
  4. School culture that fosters positive identity, belonging, agency, and purpose

Building these pillars is very much still in progress—in the work of our organization and likewise in our own growth as individuals. As the Lunar New Year celebration comes to a close and the Year of the Ox gets underway, we look to this symbol of trustworthy patience and diligent hard work for inspiration. Please join us: together we will succeed in creating an equitable future for all.

Further resources from EL Education:

Other helpful resources:

  1. NBC News, “Amid attacks, school principals concerned over Asian Americans’ return to class,” Feb 18, 2021.
  2. James Baldwin, “I am not your Negro,” 2016.
  3. Rudine Sims Bishop, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” 2015.