Let's Talk Human Rights Blog - May 2018

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    In this month's "Let's Talk Human Rights" blog:

    • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month #APAHM - Behind the Data by Tina Shaw
    • Announcing our new #IowasImmigrants social media series for Immigrant Heritage Month in June

    Asian Pacific American Heritage Month #APAHM - Behind the Data

    May was chosen by Congress to acknowledge Asian & Pacific Islanders’ growing presence in the US and recognize contributions to advance intellectual capital, infrastructure and other ways APIs have brought value-adds to American society. With this annual designation, the nation sets aside a moment to reflect on a very diverse group of Americans that over time became bundled into one solitary US Census box.

    Recalling elementary and high school days spanning the 1970s into the 1980s, a scant amount of time was dedicated in the curriculum to focus on contributions or plights of immigrants or communities of color. Sure, children sang American folk songs like that about John Henry and his hammer in music class and listened to civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech; learned about Native Americans at Thanksgiving; and squeezed in time to read the book Tikki Tikki Tembo to round things out on the Asian front. But, overall, multiculturalism in the classrooms back then was not an emphasis, nor what was taught the complete picture.

    Times seem to be changing in contemporary culture as children bring home history assignments on topics that were rarely discussed, and parents often find themselves getting reacquainted with history & social studies through youthful eyes and clearer focus.

    One example of this: the Transcontinental Railroad was heralded in grade-school history books as an American triumph that connected the East with the West – advancing commerce and technology. That aspect is still being taught, but so, too, now is the employment aspect in which immigrants were subject to dangerous working environments and unfair labor and pay practices. Many Chinese immigrants worked at wages below their European-immigrant counterparts and later denied both entry into the US and a pathway to citizenship by way of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which remained in place until 1943 when China became an ally against the Japanese during World War II.

    Japanese American internment during WWII is another sensitive patch of American API history in which 117,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were placed in camps – two-thirds were US citizens – from 1942 until the war drew to a close in 1945.

    Closer to home in Iowa, many “Boat People” from Southeast Asia fleeing the controversial Vietnam War, among them Tai Dam, Hmong, Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians found refuge and began new lives and in some cases with local sponsors awaiting them.

    In more contemporary times, refugees exiled from Burma and Bhutan seek the promise and opportunities Iowa offers: a solid education and jobs, clean air to breathe and room to grow.

    During Asian & Pacific Islander Month, it may be more fitting to not only ponder API’s place in history, but how history will portray the times we currently occupy. Will the journey of APIs in America and in Iowa be one that makes the social studies lesson? Who will teach those stories? Will the next generation honor their heritage enough to pass it down?

    Written by Tina Shaw, Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs

    Announcing our new #IowasImmigrants social media series for Immigrant Heritage Month in June

    Grow opportunity picture of child with growing plant

    Iowa's immigrants are part of what makes the state of Iowa the great state that it is. Our individual stories make us unique, but also part of a broader, fuller picture of what it means to be an Iowan. Immigrants are parents, employees, leaders, entrepreneurs, neighbors, teachers, students...we want to hear everyone's story.

    Do you want to share your immigration story with us? To celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month in June in Iowa, we will post stories to our social media pages. Send your stories of 500 characters or less with a picture to kristen.corey@iowa.gov.

    Watch our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the month of June for our #IowasImmigrants series.


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