Courtesy of Steven Saing via Flickr under CC BY-NY-ND 2.0

Asian American Pacific Islander month celebrates and represents the cultural significance that AAPI people bring to the United States, a diverse country. With the rapid increase in Asian hate crimes, however, politicians are utilizing the month of May to prompt necessary conversations regarding what will be done to respond to this change. President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law last year in an attempt to invoke harsher punishments for perpetrators. This year, lawmakers in Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey are working to require AAPI-based classes in public school curriculums. Implementing this education plan is one of the many crucial steps in preventing the ongoing cycle of AAPI hate. Furthermore, it assists in promoting the understanding of more significant efforts to help educate students across the country, particularly the controversial topic of implementing critical race theory in nationwide curriculums. 

The 2020 New Jersey hate crime statistics skyrocketed when the pandemic first impacted the U.S. population. This trend was also seen in 2020 hate crime statistics in Connecticut and Illinois. National polls point to misinformation and racist rhetoric circulating against Asian people as a cause for this sudden and violent change. In order to manage and prevent future hate crimes against AAPI people across the country, it makes sense to look at what is being taught in impressionable environments and to debunk any inaccurate depictions put forth by inaccurate sources. 

This now poses the question of whether other states with high AAPI hate crime rates will follow suit given the nature of this legislative act. Many states are already working to ban CRT, which is an academic concept that explains how race is a social construct and racism originates from laws and policies. While this proposed curriculum would specifically address AAPI people, opposing parties may argue that this would target staff and students who do not identify as AAPI. This is already seen on the list of opposing arguments against the implementation of CRT. 

The problem with this opposing argument is that representational education plans, such as CRT and AAPI-based classes, are necessary to teach students about the ongoing social issues that revolve around racial inequality in America. Students deserve to learn the true historical implications of whitewashed events, like the Vietnam War, or how Brown v. Board of Education altered the way public schools desegregated yet failed to integrate lessons on people of color. Additionally, racism is not something that someone is inherently born with. The impressionable minds of students are susceptible to learning and retaining this problematic mindset that carries into adulthood. 

California became the first state to require the completion of an ethnic studies course to earn a high school diploma, with Governor Gavin Newsom signing this into law last year. While it is too soon to determine whether these implementations have been successful given the slow progression, the primary goal is to develop an understanding of different people of color and the hate they each experience. Ultimately, these proposed policies seen across the country aren’t  placed to promote hate and failure. They are being placed to ensure that people are set up for success regardless of race. 

There are many different steps that need to be taken to ensure that Asians, Pacific Islanders and people of color are represented in a society that has shunned them for so long. While the educational step is a small one, it leads to the possibility of implementing policies that leave room for improvement. For the time being, it is imperative to educate the public about how Asians and Pacific Islanders have left a significant imprint on American history and support their efforts to be heard through movements such as Stop AAPI Hate.

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