Will Harvard continue to fail Asian Americans — or will it learn from the past?Roundup
tags: racism, education, Harvard, Asian Americans
Renee Tajima-Peña is a professor of Asian American studies at the University of California at Los Angeles and series producer of a new history of Asian Americans on PBS airing in 2020.
I was a sixth-grader in Altadena, Calif., in 1969 when my teacher called my mother and grandmother liars. As I delivered a report to the class about my family’s World War II imprisonment at the Heart Mountain, Wyo., concentration camp for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent, Mrs. Counts bellowed that my family had fabricated the whole thing — because nothing like that could ever happen in the United States.
That was the day I learned the awesome power, and danger, of who controls the truth.
I wasn’t alone. At the same time, at campuses on both coasts, Asian American students were striking alongside other students of color for ethnic studies. By the time I was a high schooler in Pasadena, I was leading a citywide student strike for ethnic studies and the hiring of teachers of color.
Even as teenagers, we were steeped in the politics of race. We understood the history of institutional racism toward Asian Americans: the Chinese Exclusion Act, segregated schools, labor exploitation, the century of wars in Asia. We were hungry to learn more.
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