By Elaine Dunn | January 2022

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It took three decades from legislation being introduced in Congress to the completed African American museum opening its doors to the public on the National Mall in Wash., D.C.

So Asian American leaders who are pushing for an Asian American museum know not to expect miracles overnight!

(The National Mall)

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill in May 2021 to establish a commission to study the feasibility of establishing a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture to preserve and celebrate the history and contributions of the Asian American Pacific Islander community – the fastest-growing minority group* in the country. 

Museums are gateways for Americans and the world to see the United States’ rich history, challenges it overcame, and potential for greatness. Establishing this commission is the first step toward the creation of a national AAPI museum. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation,Meng said in one legislative session.

China Insight readers probably are familiar with various discriminatory acts against the Chinese (Sept. 2021, p. 11; July-August 2019, pp. 10-11; June 2014, p. 13 ) and the internment of the Japanese Americans during WWII, but not the less-known 1907 riots where hundreds of immigrants from India working in lumber mills were attacked, beaten and driven out of the city of Bellingham, Wash. 

Meng said that the history and contributions of AAPIs are “forgotten or ignored in the greater narrative of American history.”  And given the wave of anti-Asian crimes since the pandemic, Meng told The Hill, “… it's really important that in our nation's capital we have something dedicated to helping more people learn about our history and culture.”

Watch Meng’s and Chinese American journalist Lisa Ling’s testimonies at the Natural Resources hearing last Dec. 7. (Meng comes on 28 minutes into the video and Ling, 45 minutes in.)  “When the stories and histories of a people are excluded from a country’s narrative,” Ling said, “it becomes easy to overlook and even dehumanize an entire population.”

“For too long, Chinese Americans and the AAPI community are seen as the perpetual foreigner – strangers in our own homeland,” said Zheng Yu Huang, president of Committee of 100, a group representing 100 Asian Americans and Pacific Islander leaders.  “As the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, Asian Americans deserve a place on the National Mall that is representative of our contributions to the fabric of America.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016.  Other museums, currently in various stages of planning and development to be located on the National Mall are the National Museum of the American Latino and the National Women's History Museum.

Next steps

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) need to carve out floor time for the bill this year.  Meng urged for a vote on her bill to take place when the House Natural Resources Committee reconvenes this month.

As The Hill reported Dec. 29, “One big task for a commission would be how to pay for the museum. Just like the African American museum, half of funding for the Latino and women’s museums will be financed by the federal government and the other half by private donations. The Asian museum would likely follow that model should it be built.”

But Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) who chaired the subcommittee hearing on Meng’s bill said she would like to see a future Asian museum receive a steady stream of federal funding to keep it running year after year.

There is a Chinese saying, “萬事起頭難, wàn shì qǐ tóu nán” meaning taking the first step is always the hardest.  Now that the first step has been undertaken, let’s hope the AAPI community will step up, unite and provide support in the completion of this museum.  You can help by:

·         Spreading the word around your community about the museum

·         Becoming a friend of Friends of the Museum

·         Continuing to help and / or visit your local AAPI museums

·         Asking your congressman to co-sponsor Meng’s bills

·         Writing your senators to issue Senate bills for the National Museum of AAPI History and Culture

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed much to this country.  They also have faced many unjust barriers.  An AAPI museum to preserve and present the trials and tribulations will ensure this history be recorded for coming generations.

 

*  According to U.S. Census data, there had been a 20% increase in the Asian American population since 2010, to a 24-million strong group in 2020.

 

Keywords: Chinese history, history and culture, Asian American, Asian American history and culture, museum, AAPI, Asian contributions, National Museum

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