Chicago, IL

The Best Thing Chicago Did For Asian Americans and America in General

Tom Handy

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Asian American student photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels

Illinois made a move to better education for students as they passed a bill requiring Asian American history in schools.

On Wednesday, House Bill 376 was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives. The House Bill also called the Teaching Equitable Asian American History (TEAACH).

The TEAACH bill, passed in a Democrat-controlled Congress 98-13 vote at the lower chamber and headed to the Senate for a committee review before the chamber can start voting on it. Republican Avery Bourne believed education should be left up to the school board.

The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D), said Asian Americans are left out in American history.

Asian Americans are a part of the American fabric, but we are often invisible. We have been the victims of radicalized violence and exclusion throughout Asian American history.”

Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz is the granddaughter of Chinese immigrants who fought against the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese Exclusion Act suspended Chinese immigration for 10 years.

Senator Ram Villivalam also cosponsored the bill. Senator Villivalam was raised in Chicago to Indian immigrant parents.

Illinois will be the first state to require Asian American history taught in schools.

This legislation is a milestone win in the face of Asian American violence that has been created across the country. The bill requires public schools to teach Asian American history in the 2022-23 school year.

"Asian Americans are a part of the American fabric but we are often invisible. Empathy comes from understanding. We cannot do better unless we know better." State representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz

Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing population in Illinois with nearly 800,000 in 2017. Chicago’s Asian American population makes up 6.6% of the 2.6 million residents.

The Chicago branch of advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice has promoted the bill since 2020 and saw more support when the Atlanta Spa killing spree occurred in March.

Asian Americans have faced a backlash many times from complete strangers. Many believe the actions of President Trump have lead to the attacks when he used the terms "kung flu" and "China virus."

A study from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino showed that hate crimes fell in 2020 but increased to 145% against Asian Americans.

Violent crimes against Asian Americans have increased in Chicago.

Last month, a 58-year-old year old Vietnamese man was punched from behind.

Chicago police report there was a 7% increase in violent crime from 2019 to 2020, with a total of 634 victims in 2020.

Chicago schools do not have any information on Asian American history. The bill, allows students of Asian American descent to learn more about Asian American history. This helps Asian Americans understand their past better as well as non-Asian students.

Chicago Asian rally video from YouTube

"At a time when the Asian America Pacific Islander community feels under siege and vulnerable, this is a bill that enables the Senate at least, and I know followed by the House, to take a stand and say these kinds of unprovoked attacks targeting Asian Americans are totally unacceptable." Democratic Senator Mazie Hironoa

Senator Hironoa believes this is a stand for lawmakers to stand up to Asian American attacks.

Hironoa is an Asian American leading an effort with Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth to pass legislation on Asian hate crimes.

This bill is a step in the right direction to help raise awareness and educate students of all races to help the Asian American community.

A former Chicago school student, now University student, Kayla Huynh, said she didn't learn about Asian American history while in school.

Noreem Naseem Rodríguez, a professor of elementary social studies at Iowa State University who has helped create K-8 Asian American studies curriculums for public schools, said Asian Americans receive the least attention in the school curriculum and mainstream textbooks compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

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