Asian American

Who is American? A National Moment on the Question of Belonging

CaptHumayunKhanUS-Army_rev24095411925Ghazala Khan, mother to Humayun Khan, married to Khizr. Her family emigrated here from Pakistan via the United Arab Emirates.

Her words raise the question of sacrifice for, and even the responsibility to, a belief that America is a plural society. In front of the nation she and her husband recounted the painful loss of their son, Army Captain Humayun Khan who died during his military tour in Iraq. Mrs. Khan’s own legitimacy in mourning the loss of her son, and even being “allowed” to express her own opinions was challenged by a major party presidential candidate simply because she is of Muslim faith. Read her response to a major political party candidate here.

While not everyone who has sacrificed for this nation-building project called the United States of America served in the military, her words echo a larger call for the recognition of millions of contributions by everyday American people.

Students can be challenged to consider the notions of civic responsibility; of belonging to a country; citizenship; and of nationality versus ethnicity or religious beliefs.


Lost Story of “Citizen Kahn” (from the New Yorker)

Citizen Kahn
Zarif Khan, a.k.a. Hot Tamale Louie, arrived in small-town Wyoming in 1909 and eventually became a local legend.ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY

Memory is a fickle thing.

“Hot Tamale Louie was the son of nobody knows who, the grandson of nobody knows who, and the great-great-grandson of nobody knows who. He had been selling tamales in Sheridan since Buffalo Bill rode in the town parade, sold them when President Taft came to visit, was still selling them when the Russians sent Sputnik into space and the British sent the Beatles to America.

By then, Louie was a local legend, and his murder shocked everyone.”

How quickly the town forgot that he was Muslim and a cherished neighbor.

“From a Docent” Blog: Our Ed Team’s Way of Talking Off Hours

From a Docent HeaderOne might think after talking history, social studies, immigration policy and more to and thousands (and thousands) of visitors each year, the Education Team might take a break and do something else with their lives. We do– but we also obsessively help each other out.
Our internal blog connects each interpretive guide with resources, ideas, storytelling techniques as a means of peer-to-peer learning. It gives us a chance to continually expand the canvases on which we paint the nuances of history. Lately, it seems the New Yorker has had a lot of relevant articles and essays. By no means is this an endorsement of that publication– but they have been doing their part to continue discussions of race, culture, ethnicity and gender pertaining to Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.
Here’s a good example of what we share with each other… “Surrendering”


Was Bruce Lee Enough to Break Through?

When Bruce Lee spoke with Pierre Burton on Canadian Television he made one thing clear: He would show Hollywood an authentic; a true Asian. In many ways he fought that battle inside and outside of the industry. On screen and off. In the 40 years since his death, we have hashtag campaigns to call out the race issues with the 2016 Oscars, and yet the dialogue on race is still simplified to black, white and when noted– brown (Latino)

What role do pop stars and celebrities play in breaking through glass ceilings, and more importantly, in changing our society? If media depictions of different ethnic communities continually reinforce racial and gender stereotypes– then why should we rely on media to paint the whole picture? Students have an opportunity to raise thee questions and even explore analyzing the media in your classroom. Check out this lesson from our Honoring Our Journey set: Lesson 4 

Teachers will need to scale the activity for younger grades– for the record– we have had wonderful dialogues with 3rd graders on the role of media.

Email us if you want to bounce ideas off of us or talk through using the lesson in your classroom

Examining the Four Freedoms of FDR on WNYC


Quick Post: Listen to John Hockenberry in a series exploring the Four Freedoms as defined by FDR in January 1941 as:

  • Freedom of speech

    1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his State of the Union Address which includes his detailing of the Four Freedoms.
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom from want
  • Freedom from fear

Not only did this State of the Union Address create, in a way. a new foreign relations doctrine as he presented them, it was seen by  and is still seen by many as a FDR’s doctrine for life in the United States.


How and where does FDR’s speech reach Asian Americans? Has the nation lived up to the promise of being free from fear? The irony is not lost on the reader of history, nor the guests Mr. Hockenberry invites to the studio.


Fast forward to time 25:14  to hear from Japanese American ceramicist Setsuko Winchester:



For Sikhs in Canada, the Wait is Over


” More than just an isolated “incident”, The Komagata Maru story reflects a deliberate, exclusionary policy of the Canadian government to keep out ethnicities with whom it deemed unfit to enter. These justifications were couched in racist and ethnocentric views of “progress”, “civilization”, and “suitability” which all buttressed the view that Canada should remain a “White Man’s Country”.

On May 23, 1914, a crowded ship from Hong Kong carrying 376 passengers, most being immigrants from Punjab, British India, arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet on the west coast of the Dominion of Canada.” — — read more about the incident

This event has left a noticeable scar on the Sikh communities living throughout the Pacific Northwest; from British Columbia to Central California.

For others this might seem an obscure and unknown piece of Pacific Northwest History. Students can still be challenged to research the story, analyze the motivations of the Sikhs entering Canada, the Canadian government and other residents, and analyze the news reports of the day. Here are a handful of questions that might help students explore:

  • How exactly did Prime Minister Trudeau come to this decision?
  • What role did Sikh Canadians play in rectifying the legacy created by this racially charged event?
  • Why does it take a nation 102 years to formally apologize for such an action?
  • How has Canada changed since 1914 that would allow for such reconciliation?