April 22, 2021

Dear FCPS Board Members and Virginia Department of Education Officers:

My name is Cathy Zhang and I am a junior at McLean High School. At 6:20 pm on March 22, 2021, just a few weeks ago, out on the field of Longfellow Middle School where I was once a student, an Asian teenager was verbally harassed and spat on by four other teenagers. This incident shook me, and I wonder how easily this could have been me or my younger sister currently at Longfellow. Unfortunately, across the nation, similar Asian hate incidents and even physical attacks, have been on the rise.

The Stop AAPI Hate organization has documented around 6,603 first-hand reports of anti-Asian incidents over the last year and this is merely a fraction of the actual number, as many go unreported. And no, these are not jokes to be brushed off or cases of individuals being “sensitive”, as commonly retorted on social media.

AAPI American youth have been emotionally impacted for a long time. Many view their race as an obstacle rather than an asset. Others are confused by their identity and feel left out in society. Growing up, I have seen and heard many feel embarrassed by their physical appearance, the food they eat, and even their names.

I appreciate the public support AAPI community received from our board members and schools in the midst of anti-Asian hate. However, I hope that this support can turn into real and lasting actions. We need educational systems to be improved and make changes to the curriculums we teach out students. Bias and hatred often stems from ignorance and misinformation. Education holds the key to increase understanding and create empathy among different groups.

Therefore, I strongly advocate that Asian American history be incorporated in our K-12 required school curriculums. I specifically advocate for the inclusion of projects, deeper discussion, and entire units that cover both Asian American struggles and triumphs. Currently AAPI students make up about 20% of the Fairfax county student body. However, based on my experience, from kindergarten to junior year in high school, I have not had a single unit entirely dedicated to AAPI history or significance. Save for the Chinese Exclusion Act, US colonization of the Philippines and Japanese Internment Camps, the experiences and contributions of AAPI Americans have been absent in FCPS curriculums.

The impact of additions to the curriculum is two-fold. First, students and teachers will learn more about contributions of AAPI Americans in US history and society to aid understanding. Secondly, students of AAPI descent will become more proud of who they are and feel a greater sense of belonging.

Asian Americans have made tremendous contributions since the formation of America. Despite discriminations and exclusion many endured, countless figures overcame insurmountable difficulties and influenced this nation significantly and we are immensely proud of them. Wong Chin Foo, regarded as the Chinese “Dr. Martin Luther King”, dedicated his whole life to fighting for the equal rights of Chinese Americans; Yo Yo Ma and Seiji Ozawa are masters in American music; Salman Khan is the driving force for the world-renowned free online K-12 education; Steven Chu who served as Secretary of Energy is an American physicist and Nobel laureate. Most recently, Kamala D. Harris, of Asian and African descent, has made history of becoming the first female Vice President of the United States.

The current highly acclaimed document series Amend – Fight for America emphasizes that no matter we are black, brown, yellow or else, our struggles and triumphs are all threads of American fabric. I had the pleasure of meeting with our school board member Ms. Karen Keys-Gamara recently as a student representative. Something she said left me a strong impression: “Whether it is African American history, Asian American history or that of other groups, these are not merely the histories of these individual communities, these are all AMERICAN history.”

Thus, I urge our board and VDOE to take action and incorporate AAPI history in our FCPS and Virginia required curriculums because no student should have to experience what the teenager boy outside Longfellow experienced and no student should have to feel unrepresented in classroom learning.

Sincerely,
Cathy Zhang

Sources:
– https://stopaapihate.org/national-report-through-march-2021/
– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E4TUQ4THIE

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5 thoughts on “Diverse Cultures, One Community – AAPI History is Proudly American History”
  1. Cathy,

    On 12/3/2020, US Senator Marsha Blackburn tweeted that “China has a 5,000 year history of cheating and stealing. Some things will never change…” As of 5/11/2021, there are 17,766 likes on this tweet. I wonder what Chinese history these people learned and what they would treat people of Chinese decent. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was passed due to the fear of “Yellow Peril.” 139 years later, the same fear hasn’t disappeared and there are so many Asian hate crimes and incidents in the US.

    I admire you that you stood up and spoke up, advocating for the history curriculum change. “If we don’t know our history, then we’re doomed to repeat the same thing over and over again.” I hope that one day there is no any hate crimes and incidents, and your name, Cathy Zhang, is printed in a K-12 history textbook.

    Xi

  2. Indeed our AAPI history is proudly AMERICAN history! It is so well written and heart felt and you backed up with substantial arguments. We saw the video of you speaking in front of the Fairfax County Public School Board to advocate the inclusion of AAPI his tory to our county’s require curriculum. Thanks for your courage and for doing this for our Asian American Community!

  3. Such a touching and uplifting letter! Thanks for speaking in front of the Fairfax County Public School Board to advocate change on behalf of our community! So proud of you, Cathy!

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