I came across this recent tweet from Raymond Chang of the Asian American Christian Collaborative. He posted it on a visit to the Manzanar National Historical Site in the California desert.
Manzanar, of course, was one of the World War 2-era prison camps for persons of Japanese ancestry.
My reaction to Mr. Chang’s tweet? It made me think back to junior high. To be honest, when I was in the 7th grade, and I first learned of the Chinese Exclusion Acts, I was similarly stunned. How could my country do this to people like me? Unlike the couple in Mr. Chang’s tweet, I didn’t call it “fake news,” but it was indeed hard to believe at first.
It’s actually an indictment of our education system that I didn’t learn about the Chinese Exclusion Acts in history classes, but from a friend’s research as we did a group project.
It’s also an indictment that I didn’t learn of the World War 2 incarceration camps for Japanese Americans until I was in college. College!
And perhaps most egregiously, I didn’t learn until nine years ago about the horrific boarding schools, often run by Christian organizations for the government, which took thousands of Native American children by force from their families and stripped them of their names and cultures while subjecting them to abuse and sometimes death.
Yes, I didn’t learn about them until just nine years ago.
So don’t fall for politicians who are pushing conspiracy theories about a so-called “woke” “cancel culture” attempting to teach “critical race theory” to kids in elementary and secondary schools. These politicos – many claiming to be good Christian conservatives – are needlessly and recklessly fanning the flames of people’s anxieties and fears because it’s an easy way to get votes. Instead, what teachers are actually doing is presenting the fuller and more accurate story of America – a story I didn’t get growing up.
Good education tells the truth about history and society to students in age-appropriate ways, whether those facts are good, bad, or gray. Teaching such facts doesn’t create more dissension, but rather unites us in our resolve to create a “more perfect union.”
That’s not a liberal thing. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, which extended a formal apology and monetary reparations to Japanese Americans for the World War 2 prison camps.
Ensuring that “liberty and justice for all” isn’t just a platitude – that should be something for all of us!