Jun 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden signs bill to study creation of national AAPI history museum

Photo of Joe Biden signing a bill at a table while Congress members stand around him watching
President Biden signs a bill in the East Room of the White House June 13, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday signed into law a bill to establish a commission for studying the creation of a national museum dedicated to Asian Pacific American history and culture.

Why it matters: The move comes amid a nationwide push to teach Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history in schools as the U.S. struggles to mitigate a years-long anti-Asian hate crisis. Experts say education is key to combating the stereotypes and misconceptions that drive anti-AAPI discrimination.

  • A recent survey found that Americans across all racial groups believe the U.S. should focus on "more education and information about Asian American history and experiences" to address anti-Asian racism.

Details: Both Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have remained on the margins of American education, with little mention in classes beyond the topics of Pearl Harbor, immigration and the U.S.'s territorial interests in the Pacific.

  • The commission is charged with issuing recommendations for a "plan of action" for the museum's establishment, potentially as part of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • It will also develop a fundraising plan and an analysis of the resources necessary for maintaining museum operations.
  • The bill was led by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.).

What they're saying: The AAPI story is one "about heroes who shaped our nation for the better, from the South Asian Americans who helped transform farming up and down the Pacific coast, to the Japanese Americans who defended our freedom during World War II, to the Chinese American garment workers who marched through the streets of New York City 40 years ago to win better pay and benefits for all workers," Vice President Kamala Harris said in remarks before the signing.

  • "This is also a story about some of our country's darkest moments," she noted. "The Chinese Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese Americans, the murder of Vincent Chin, discrimination against South Asian Americans after 9/11. And today's epidemic of hate."
  • "We must teach it as it really happened so that we ... ensure they are never repeated our darkest moments by equipping people with knowledge and historical context."
  • "Today, it's clear that the battle for the soul of America continues," Biden added. "That's why a museum like this is going to matter so much. Museums of this magnitude and consequence are going to inspire and educate. More than anything else, it's going to help people see themselves in the story of America."

The big picture: The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016 after a decades-long push led to the creation of a commission in 2001.

  • Similar advocacy resulted in a 2008 law that formed a commission to study the establishment of a National Museum of the American Latino, which remains in the works.

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