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Dear Colleagues,

We, the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) affinity group at Bank Street College of Education, stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues and students, as well as with Black communities, families, and individuals across the nation. The murder of George Floyd by police, including Hmong American officer Tou Thao, is an egregious example of how anti-Blackness complicity in the AAPI community has perpetuated the oppression of Black lives. Unfortunately, this violent and racist assault is not the first, and will likely not be the last, instance in which Asian Americans have exhibited anti-Black behavior. As AAPI members of this community, we refuse to maintain our silence and are compelled to declare our support for Black lives.

As non-Black people of color (POC), we commit ourselves to interrogating and dismantling the deep-seated anti-Black racism within our own communities, and to advancing racial reconciliation between the AAPI community and other communities of color. In this spirit, we aim to follow in the footsteps of AAPI leaders and activists who joined the struggle for Black liberation including historical champions Yuri Kochiyama, Grace Lee Boggs, Richard Aoki, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Lala Lajpat Rai, as well as current advocates Dr. Connie Wun, Claire Jean Kim, Dr. Emalani Case, Michelle Kim, Jeannie Mai, Ellen Wu, Deepa Iyer, Mia Mingus, Thenmozhi Soundarajan, Pramila Jayapal, and many others. 

Throughout our history, there have been many efforts to divide AAPI and Black communities. The 1965 Immigration Act, which passed due to the Civil Rights Movement, ended immigration-admissions policy based on race and ethnicity and permitted Asian professionals with higher education (e.g., lawyers, doctors, engineers) to immigrate to the U.S. The “model minority myth” was simultaneously established in the 1960s to discriminately elevate Asian immigrants as examples of success and assimilation, when, in fact, the influx of educated Asians into the U.S. was no accident; it was by legislative design. This narrative was used to justify the systemic oppression of Black communities and perpetuate essentialized racist views of Black people; and in many ways successfully separated AAPI and Black communities. The effect of this narrative has minimized the role racism plays in the persistent struggles of other racial/ethnic minority groups—especially Black Americans. 

We see a continuation of these divisive tactics in educational research and practice. AAPIs are the new face of the anti-affirmative action movement. They are also framed in opposition to Black children, and more often than not grouped with white children, in conversations about student achievement gaps. Such narratives contribute to the diverse and wide-ranging experiences of AAPI children, families, and communities being left out of discussions about systemic racism. Our invisibility contributes to further the division between AAPI and Black communities. The siloing of non-Black POC and Black communities is destructive and reinforces the white supremacy that our nation has clung to since its inception. AAPI must speak up and stand with and for our Black brothers and sisters in this fight against racism. 

We call on the Bank Street community to support us in undoing this legacy of division and committing to anti-racism in support of Black communities and in the fight alongside Black Lives Matter. Below are some concrete ways:

1. Include examples of Black solidarity with historical Asian immigration efforts and AAPI solidarity with Black liberation movements in your courses, work with young children and families, daily conversations, and research. We list some resources below:
2. Discussions around dismantling anti-Black racism should include opportunities for reflection on how anti-Black racism is harmful to all, including non-Black POC children, families, and communities. We list some relevant resources below: 3. Prioritize curriculum and research efforts that shed light on common historical narratives that have propelled harmful anti-Black racism, including those about AAPI in education, against Black students. For example, educators, researchers, and policymakers might generate a body of literature and resources that 1) demonstrate how the discourse surrounding AAPI in education has been used to perpetuate anti-Black racism, and 2) offer counterstories to these common historical narratives, providing a more nuanced, complicated picture of AAPI in education.

As we make these calls to action, we commit ourselves to this important work as well. 

In Solidarity,

Geeta Fleck, Family Center
Pamela Lee, Education Center
Mark Nagasawa, Straus Center
Reena Nazir, Education Center
Thao Nguyen, Education Center
Soyoung Park, Graduate School of Education
Suma Setty, National Center for Children in Poverty

 

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