Open Letter for Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies in NJ Public Schools

To support this effort by signing the letter to Governor Murphy, click here.

May 1, 2021

Dear Governor Murphy, New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey Legislature, Garden State Coalition of Schools, and the New Jersey Education Association,

We are Make Us Visible New Jersey, a coalition of students, parents, educators, and community members. We write to you today to urge the thoughtful and comprehensive inclusion of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) studies into K-12 curriculum for New Jersey public schools. This letter is built off of our mobilization efforts across New Jersey and the recent open letter to NYC Mayor and Chancellors from NYC parents and educators.

New Jersey has the third highest population share of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the nation, lagging only behind California and Hawaii.* Meanwhile, the recent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes and violence has emphasized the fact that our collective ignorance about AAPI history is not only dangerous for AAPI students, but also a clear disservice to all students who are growing up in an increasingly diverse, interconnected, and globalized society and economy. Importantly, we know anti-Asian discrimination today is not new, but built on a long history of systemic racism and xenophobia in this country. Nor will it go away after the pandemic subsides, as ongoing geopolitical developments only point to worsening perceptions of anyone who looks Asian.

These incidents have highlighted the importance of AAPI history for students to better understand and respect the racial and ethnic identities of their AAPI peers, to better understand the systemic roots of racism and xenophobia, and to be equipped to work towards racial justice for all. Our education needs to include the ground-breaking contributions AAPIs have made to this country and our state – for all NJ students to see AAPI role models, historical figures, writers, artists, scientists, and contemporary leaders included in the school context, including but not limited to curriculum, classroom walls, library books, lesson slides, and performances. It is critical that students learn the hardships, exclusions, and violence that AAPIs have endured over the course of this country’s history, as well as the stories of how AAPIs have worked both within their communities and in collaborations with other communities to fight against racism and discrimination. We also need to teach about the ways that our interventions and geopolitical interests abroad both shape and are shaped by anti-Asian racial narratives. Many educators are already embarking on this work. We must all learn and recognize that AAPI history is American history.

To address the discrimination and prejudice that AAPI students have been subjected to for far too long, we, as students, parents, educators, and allies of AAPI students in New Jersey public schools, urge you to take immediate actions to establish and promote an antiracist curriculum that stops the erasure of AAPI histories and stories from school curricula. Specifically, we ask you to immediately implement the following:

One, teach Asian American and Pacific Islander history to students in NJ public schools.

Two, teach AAPI children how to confront racism and teach their classmates how to support AAPI classmates, and address anti-Asian racism in anti-racism education.

Three, introduce legislation that ensures every NJ student is taught AAPI studies across K-12 grade levels and subject areas.

It is not just that this education will address racism and empower AAPI children to stand up to discrimination and hate. Including AAPI history and culture in the curricula will also tangibly benefit the entire community. We believe that by learning about the history of each member of our community – how we helped to build this nation and state together – we will be able to serve all students better. We will be more united, empathetic, and respectful to each other; we will be better equipped to engage in our diverse, interconnected and globalized society and economy; we will be able to fight racism, discrimination, and inequality; and we will be better able to build a society that offers opportunity for all individuals and communities. We look forward to collaborating with you to achieve racial representation and equality in our schools for all children.

Sincerely,
Make Us Visible NJ
makeusvisiblenj@gmail.com
https://www.facebook.com/MakeUsVisibleNJ

*Joshi, K., Kelkar, M., Choi, J., Sun, R. Choi, K., Kwon, K. K., Mehrotra, R., & Chen, R. (2019). Report on the state of Asian Americans in New Jersey. Jersey Promise. Retrieved from http://jerseypromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Jersey-Promise-Report-Final-5.5.2019.pdf

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