Today, certain Ohio Republican lawmakers are doing the bidding of a national network of extremist groups and corporate-backed lobbyists by manufacturing a controversy meant to erase our history, censor our teachers, and take resources from our public schools. The dangerous legislation proposed by these elected officials has very real and deeply negative consequences for our children and our teachers.
OPAWL member Leah Mejia, a longtime educator in Columbus, outlined what is at stake if HB 322 & HB 327 pass:
“House Bills 322 and 327, guised as bills to eliminate discrimination and the teaching of discriminatory practices, do the exact opposite for our students. With these bills, State Legislators effectively add a color-blind lens to the way we will teach history to our students. Teachers are prohibited from providing their students with a historically accurate account of our nation’s history.
The passage of these bills will do nothing for our students of color, who have constant psychological distress due to the very events we are no longer allowed to address. HB 322 and 327 are cowardly pieces of legislation. We should turn our focus in education to ensuring that our students are taught facts and the critical thinking skills needed to form their own viewpoints when given the complete picture.”
Erasure from history is a form of systemic violence, something Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color are far too familiar with. The absence of AAPI and BIPOC history in our school curriculums and textbooks leads to a whitewashed version of American history where significant historical events that have impacted minority communities are ignored in the classroom. This perpetuates and reinforces harmful misrepresentations of our AAPI communities, which has led to a stunning resurgence in anti-Asian racism, scapegoating, and tragic incidents of violence since the start of the pandemic, including at least 128 incidents here in Ohio.
Student, youth activist, and OPAWL member Isabella Guinigundo shared, “Students across the state deserve to know the story of our ancestors. We deserve to know the people and communities we come from. We deserve to understand the systems, events, and legislation that have brought us to this moment. And our schools have a responsibility to teach our history to us.
The horrific House Bills 322 and 327 would take away the fundamental right Ohio students have to a factual and historically accurate education. Such appalling legislation would prohibit teachers from tackling tough subjects that help students to develop critical thinking and prepare them for the world beyond K-12 education.”
As a grassroots organization whose members include AAPI students, parents, caretakers, and educators committed to racial justice, OPAWL strongly believes that the debate regarding our schools’ curriculum should instead be focused on how to teach our children a more complete and comprehensive history of this country. Only then can we provide our students with the knowledge and skills needed to actively participate in our democracy, to build a brighter and more equitable future while dismantling the oppressive systems that have harmed countless generations.
OPAWL Co-Director Tessa Xuan shared, “Growing up attending Ohio public schools, my peers and I were deprived of the opportunity to learn about Asian American & Pacific Islander history and the history of other communities of color, resulting in mass ignorance and an acceptance of harmful stereotypes. This ultimately leads to violence like the mass shootings targeting Asian and Sikh workers in Atlanta and Indianapolis last year, as well as systemic violence like immigration bans, surveillance, war, and deportation. Regardless of zip code or race, our children deserve to attend well-resourced public schools where they can learn about what factors led to important historical events like the Chinese Exclusion Act, nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll, and the CIA’s Secret War in Laos, which became the most heavily bombed country in world history.”
We will not stand for Ohio schools sliding backwards into a regressive state, contributing to the abuse faced by communities of color at the hands of white supremacy. The supporters of these bills in Ohio and across the country have no interest in improving public education. Their goal is to divide our communities while they line their own pockets and take resources away from public schools. We demand that Ohio legislators oppose HB 322 & HB 327 and join our communities in creating an equitable and inclusive world, where AAPIs and all students, parents, teachers, and community members can feel safe, heard, celebrated, and educated in our own histories.
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OPAWL is a grassroots community that organizes for social justice and elevates the voices, visibility, and progressive leadership of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and nonbinary people in Ohio. By co-creating an organized and intersectional feminist member-led community, we are building collective power. Our primary strategies for building power are through community building, art and storytelling, political education, and organizing campaigns.