Asian American leaders demand their own national museum

The late Rep. John lewisJohn Lewis History Shows Only New Voting Rights Law Can Preserve Our Fragile Democracy Democrats Must Not Give In To Self-Achieving Defeatism Hillicon Valley – Five Eyes Nations Warn Against Cyber ​​Threats MORE (D-Ga.) First introduced legislation to establish an African-American museum on the National Mall in 1988. It took almost three decades before the museum was finally completed and opened to the public. .

Asian American leaders who are now pushing for their own museum know that they too will need to be persevering and patient. But they see the African American museum as a model of success and have begun to see an early movement in their efforts to preserve and celebrate the history and contributions of the often overlooked Pacific Islander American (AAPI) community.

A House natural resources subcommittee this month held a hearing on a bill drafted by the representative. Grace MengGrace Meng Asian American leaders are pushing for a national museum to be their own 91 House Dems call on the Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden’s spending bill. (DN.Y.) who would establish a commission to study the possibility of a national museum of American history and culture in Asia-Pacific. Meng and other lawmakers said they hoped the legislation would be annotated in January by the entire natural resources committee, a critical step before moving on to the prosecution.

“I remember the excitement and pride felt by so many people when the African American Museum opened, and I thought it was amazing to have a physical location in our nation’s capital. that housed so much of the history of a community that is not I have always taught people here in our schools, ”said Meng, who represents a large Asian American community in his district of Queens, in an interview.

“And I just thought that we should, as the fastest growing community in this country, also have a museum dedicated to our history and our culture.”

The Asian American population grew to 24 million in 2020, up about 20% since 2010, according to the U.S. census. This has made Asians the fastest growing minority group in the country.

But alongside this growth, the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China, has sparked a wave of racist and violent attacks against Asian Americans over the past two years, particularly targeting the elderly – a phenomenon which, according to Meng, underscores the need for such a museum of learning and understanding.

“I felt even more strongly about it over the past year and a half when so many people in our community have been discriminated against or attacked, and I thought it was really important that in the capital of our country, we have something dedicated to helping more people learn about our history and culture, ”Meng told The Hill.

“I have felt for too long that when people see Asian Americans, they don’t really think of us as Americans. They see us as perpetual strangers.

Indeed, throughout American history, Asians have made significant contributions to the country while facing discrimination and bigotry. Thousands of Chinese workers helped build the transcontinental railroad, connecting the country. But to curb competition and cheap labor, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, putting in place a ban on Chinese immigrants that would last for decades.

During the riots of 1907 in Bellingham, Washington, hundreds of Indian immigrants working in sawmills were attacked, beaten and driven from the city.

And after the Pearl Harbor attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the mass incarceration of 120,000 American civilians of Japanese descent solely because of their ethnicity. More than 18,000 of them volunteered for the military, forming the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit of their size in United States military history.

“And yet there is no mention of these American heroes in our history books. In fact, students could spend their entire educational life without learning a single fact about Asian Americans in the Pacific… ”Lisa Ling, Asian American journalist and host of CNN’s“ This is Life ”series, testified at the natural resources hearing.

“When the stories and stories of a people are excluded from the narrative of a country,” she said, “it becomes easy to ignore and even dehumanize an entire population”.

In 2016, president obamaBarack Hussein Obama Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid Harry Reid, longtime political boxer and Senate Majority Leader, dies Oprah Winfrey offers first comment on Dr Oz’s Senate race MORE, the country’s first black president, led a ceremony to mark the opening of the $ 540 million National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is located a few blocks from the White House.

Other museums are at various stages of planning and development. A year ago, Congress passed a massive spending and COVID-19 relief program that also established the National Museum of Latin America and the National Museum of Women’s History. They will be designed, financed and built on the mall over the next few years.

Legislation Meng would create a commission to study the possible creation of the National Museum of Asian-Pacific American History and Culture act on or near the National Mall. This eight-member panel would provide Congress with a strategy for building and maintaining the museum; a fundraising plan; and potential locations.

Representative Andy Kim (DN.J.) and other members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, known as CAPAC, lobbied the majority leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHoyer calls for an update on the review of the gun carrying regulations in Clyburn House office buildings to Democrats eager to take a leadership role: “If you want my seat, come get it “Pressley offering a measure condemning Boebert MORE (D-Md.) And speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden Lawmakers Mourn Harry Reid The Narrow Road To Build Back Better Biden Biden Policies Are Not Very Happy MORE (D-Calif.) To carve out time for the bill next year. The Pelosi district of San Francisco has about 35% of Asian Americans.

But the legislation will have to go through the full natural resources panel first, which committee members say shouldn’t be a burden.

“We’re doing a lot of markup, so I think it’ll be quick,” said Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Who represents a large Asian American community in Orange County and who has chaired the ‘Meng Bill Subcommittee hearing. . “The markup will probably be the very first thing next year.”

An important task for a commission would be how to pay the museum. Like the African-American museum, the Latin and women’s museums will be financed half by federal funds and half by private donations. The Asian museum would likely follow this pattern if it were built.

But Porter said she would like a future Asian museum to receive constant federal funding to keep it running year after year. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, which is operated by a non-profit organization and relies primarily on ticket sales and private donations, has struggled to stay out of the red amid closures and less than visitors linked to the pandemic, said an official.

“Personally, I thought that was a bit of a caveat about private funding, based on what we heard from the 9/11 museum. … When COVID hit and they had to shut down and they didn’t have visitors, they have to come back to Congress every time, ”and ask for money, Porter said.

“I would rather see a publicly funded, strong and stable model that we have seen work time and time again. “

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