Hundreds gathered at Firefighters Park in Great Neck Saturday to speak out against Asian hatred and advocate for Asian-American history to be taught in schools.
The rally, hosted by state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills) and Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti (D-Port Washington), featured residents throughout the North Shore discussing the recent trend of violence against the Asian-American community and what could be done to put a stop to it.
Great Neck resident Vicky Lin and Manhasset resident Iris Liu said educating the younger generations on Asian-American history can be one of the most effective ways to prevent future acts of hatred from occurring.
“We are sick and tired of having to see our friends and family be blamed for global pandemics and watching our elderly get pushed, beaten and killed over racist misinformation,” Lin said.
During the pandemic, the Great Neck school district was the subject of a letter from nearly 40 parents reporting that younger students of Asian descent had been asked if they ate bats and were called “COVID-19 spreaders” by other students. District Superintendent Teresa Prendergast said no anti-Asian incidents had occurred on school grounds.
“We need to incorporate Asian-American historical figures, struggles, stories in our school curriculum,” Liu said. “Only then can we begin the very important work of erasing anti-Asian bias.”
Sillitti and Kaplan co-sponsered legislation sponsored by fellow Democratic state Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), who was also in attendance Saturday. The proposed legislation, which resides in the Senate’s Education Committee, would require public elementary and high schools to provide instruction in Asian-American civic impact and history.
“Teaching Asian-American history and civic impact in our public schools will help to end the harmful stereotypes, such as the model minority myth and the perpetual foreigner syndrome, which have plagued Asian Americans for generations,” Liu said.
“At a time when extremists and white supremacists are trying to tell us that diversity is a bad thing, we reject the idea that diversity shouldn’t be taught and celebrated in our schools, and we’re rallying today because more needs to be done to ensure our kids learn about the history and contributions of Asian Americans,” Kaplan said. “The more we know about our rich history, and the better we understand the journey of our neighbors, the closer we can be as a community.”
Sillitti said, “Through education we can begin to change minds, break barriers and stereotypes, and finally start to chip away at the hate and racism towards Asian Americans.”
She added, “Education may not bring about the fastest results, but it will bring about the longest lasting ones.”
Robert Zimmerman and Jon Kaiman, Democratic candidates for the state’s 3rd Congressional District, were also in attendance and backed the proposed legislation.
Statistics from the NYPD show that anti-Asian incidents throughout New York City have increaesed by more than 340% since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. A study from the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that approximately one-third of Asian Americans fear “somone might threaten or physically attack them,” while more than 80 percent say the violence against the Asian-American community is increasing.