This is a submission from our Leaders 4SC Middle School Camp.
Diversity in America
Asian-Americans account for 5.6 percent of the US population according to the 2017 Census Bureau population estimate. That’s about 18.2 million Asian-Americans living in the U.S. The white, non-Hispanic or Latino population makes up 61% of the American population. Asian-Americans are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S.
Asian-Americans and their Contributions to America
It is important to create awareness about Asian-American culture and their contributions to America. Asian Americans have made major contributions to the American economy. In 2012, there were just under 486,000 Asian American-owned businesses in the U.S., which together employed more than 3.6 million workers, generating $707.6 billion in total sales, with annual payrolls of $112 billion. In 2015, Asian American and Pacific Islander households had $455.6 billion in spending power and made tax contributions of $184.0 billion. They have also made contributions to America by producing famous people of varying talents and achievements, such as Jerry Yang, a Taiwanese-American billionaire who is the co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo! Inc., and Mirai Nagasu, a Japanese-American Olympic Figure Skater who represented Team USA in 2018, a memorable year in which 7 of the 14 team members were Asian-American. Asian Americans are contributing so much to America, yet they are still facing employment discrimination, stereotyping, and many other issues.
Asian-American Diversity in Schools
A common misconception regarding Asian-Americans and education is that people seem to believe they are doing “well” academically. This stems from the stigma that Asian-Americans are all similar. In reality, Asian-Americans on the whole have the highest levels of educational attainment. However, that varies widely from ethnic subgroup to subgroup. Although 73.2 percent of Korean-Americans ages 18 to 24 are enrolled in college, only 44.3 percent of those with origins in the Philippines are. While Asian-Americans are far more likely to enroll in highly selective universities than their peers of other racial and ethnic groups regardless of economic background, 37 percent of Asian-Americans who take the GED test do not pass.
The Importance of Representation in Children’s Books
As communities continue to diversify, it’s becoming increasingly important that children learn about and understand the role of their culture and the cultures of those around them in creating safe, inclusive, and supportive neighborhoods that are respectful of differences. One of the ways that children learn about the world around them is through the stories that are shared with them. Books play a major role in this. It doesn’t help that in many libraries, diverse books are categorized as “Special Interest”. This social and identity development is integral to their development as global citizens, and helps prepare children to positively influence those whose developments they will affect as they grow. Some people might ask why is it important for students to integrate Asian-American books into their reading. It is important because learning about people from other cultures is key in a modern society. Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic or racial group in the U.S. Other people might claim that Asian-American students aren’t learning anything from those books. That isn’t true because the messages that those books contain can help children understand how society perceives their culture, as well as the cultures of those (even other Asian-Americans because not all Asian-Americans are the same) around them, and can influence their experience and how they relate with others.
Misconceptions About Reality
Not all people are in favor of diversifying books. One woman tweeted, “Can I just be controversial for a minute? I don’t want diverse books. I want realistic books.” In that tweet, she claimed that diversity wasn’t realistic. The woman has since deleted the tweet and made her account private. According to her Twitter profile, she lives in Vermont, which may influence her idea that neighborhoods of only white people are considered “realistic”. However, when kids grow up not seeing themselves in books, they grow up feeling like they don’t matter.
The opposing side doesn’t feel the need to have more Asian-American books, claiming they want realistic books instead. However, when kids grow up in the real world, they will need to interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
Written by Leaders 4SC 2020 Student, Prishaa S.