This American state was the first to require schools to teach Asian American history. Here’s why it matters.

“We’re setting a new standard for what it means to truly consider our history. “

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States, Asian Americans still face discrimination and the hate and fear-motivated attacks sparked by the pandemic . From former US President Donald Trump calling the disease “the Chinese virus” In the face of misinformation spread online, fearful citizens were ready to choose a target for their misguided anger. The campaign to blame the Chinese for the virus has been fueled by a long history of stereotypes, otherization and ignorance.

Today, a groundbreaking Illinois law addresses the challenge of using education to help reduce the harm and discrimination caused by disinformation.

Friday, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker enacted a landmark law that will require the teaching of Asian-American history in public schools, making Illinois the first state in the United States to require that the Asian American history be included in public school curricula.

The Asian American History Fair Education Act (TEAACH) will come into effect for the next School year 2022-2023. The law comes at a time when major cities in the United States that have been hot spots for attacks on Asian Americans are struggling to find ways to keep their Asian American population safe.

The legislation aims to combat false stereotypes by educating and properly representing the Asian American experience.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian Americans have become the targets of hate crimes at an increasing rate. Asian Americans saw a 149% overall increase in hate crimes in 2020.

“We’re setting a new standard for what it really means to take our history into account. It’s a new standard that helps us understand each other and ultimately bring the nation closer to our ideals, ”Pritzker said of the landmark legislation.

The law guarantees that Illinois public elementary and secondary schools teach students about the rich cultures of Asian Americans and their significant contributions throughout history.

“This milestone provides students from all walks of life with an intercultural education and ensures that the stories and experiences of our communities are accurately reflected in the classroom,” State Senator Ram Vilivalammentionned

In May, US President Joe Biden enacted the COVID-19 Hate Crime Law, affirming his commitment to tackle the increase in hate-motivated attacks against the Asian American community. After the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in China, due to stereotypes, the blame was quickly placed on all Asian Americans, regardless of their ethnicity.

Asian Americans have experienced physical harm due to stereotypes and xenophobia while also reporting financial losses. At the start of the pandemic, businesses owned by Asian Americans experienced a 60% decrease in sales while non-American businesses of Asian origin saw a 50% drop.

TEAACH hopes to provide a curriculum that better reflects the diverse population of Illinois – where About 5% of the 12.5 million inhabitants are Asian Americans. Asian Americans have the fastest growing population of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, with the Pew Research Center recording a 81% increase in the Asian American population from 2000 to 2019.

Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition formed in response to the growing number of racist incidents, ranked seventh in Illinois on a list of top states where hate crimes have been committed against Asian Americans.

Racially motivated attacks such as a mass shooting in Georgia on March 16 that claimed the lives of eight people including six Asian Americans, have left Americans wondering what can be done to stop these hate crimes from happening.

While COVID-19 Death Rates Decline in the United States and targeted crimes against Asian Americans continue to occur, implementing the education required to combat harmful stereotypes and racism has been recognized by lawmakers and advocates as a step forward. in the right direction.

“Empathy comes from understanding,” State Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz mentionned. “We can’t do better if we don’t know better. Lack of knowledge is the root cause of discrimination and the best weapon against ignorance is education.”

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