Celebrating Asian American Histories
This collection from the Office of Teacher Development celebrates the histories, voices, experiences, contributions and resistance of diverse Asian American people. Knowing and teaching these histories and experiences is necessary for building educators’ cultural competence as well as for understanding and disrupting the historically rooted and ongoing patterns of violence, oppression and marginalization of Asian American communities and histories resulting from white supremacy, racism, and United States imperialism.
Elizabeth Kleinrock, a Korean American transracial adoptee and Learning for Justice award winner, shares the conversation she started with students the day after the attack in Atlanta in the article After Atlanta: Teaching About Asian American Identity and History. Read about how she began a recent lesson by surveying her students with the questions below and take a moment to answer and reflect on these questions for yourself before diving into the resources in this collection.
- I know the difference between the terms “Asian” and “Asian American.” (yes/no/maybe)
- I am knowledgeable about Asian American history. (1-5 strongly disagree-strongly agree)
- I know of and can name at least three Asian Americans, either from history or the present day. (yes/no/maybe)
- What do you think you know about Asian American history, identities or experiences?
- What questions do you have about Asian American history, identities or experiences?
Keep your reflections in mind as you explore the contents of this collection:
Honoring Asian American Identities
There are many Asian American histories, perspectives, and experiences. Over twenty million Asian Americans trace their ancestral origins to over 50 recognized and unrecognized nations in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Asian Americans differ in their immigration status, generational status, religions, home languages, and gender. Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. and the most economically divided racial group in the U.S. -- with wide disparities in income, poverty, unemployment, and educational attainment rates. Asian Americans live within the binary of Blackness and whiteness, are stereotyped as model minorities and perpetual foreigners, and hold lived experiences and mindsets that have been shaped through histories of emigration, immigration, colonization, assimilation, circumstance, resistance, solidarity, and love.
It is critical that all educators, non-Asian American and Asian American, build cultural competence toward honoring the diversity of the Asian American diaspora, and disrupting the marginalization and erasure of Asian American identities and experiences from dominant narratives. Resources in this collection center a few of the Asian American identities that remain largely hidden from mainstream narratives. As you review the texts and resources, reflect on what you already know, what is unfamiliar and new, and what more you can learn about.
Learning Asian American Histories
As expressed by Wayne Au and Moe Yonamine of Rethinking Schools, "It is clear to us that in this moment, not only do many Asian Americans not know their own history, but a lot of folks in other communities do not know our history either." Learning and teaching a complete history of Asian Americans experiences is a crucial tool for disrupting and dismantling structures and beliefs that lead to marginalization, oppression, erasure, and violence against Asian Americans. "As you learn or unlearn Asian American history, teach about the oppression from white supremacy, but also about the movements, activists, and solidarity across movements."
Celebrating Asian American Experiences in the Classroom
“As an adult who has gone through the American school system, you might feel stuck because you also realize how little you know about Asian American history and people. It is a huge challenge to teach about what we don’t know. If this is the case, I hope you’ll consider turning your research into a joint learning opportunity that you can share with your students.” -- Elizabeth Kleinrock, Learning for Justice, 2021.
This collection offers educators resources, texts, and curricular materials to inform classroom practice. As you review this collection, reflect on what you already know, what is unfamiliar and new, and how might these texts and resources inform your classroom practice.
[A note that the majority of resources in this collection link outside WeTeachNYC and cannot be downloaded. A downloadable map of resource links and descriptions can be accessed by clicking the 'Download All' button on the top left corner of this page.]
Consider this resource to support professional learning on racism and civic education.