At a special Tuesday morning meeting, educator, speaker and professional learning facilitator Dr. Sarah-SoonLing Blackburn spoke to the Dana Hall community about honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Her work focuses on identity, diversity and justice with an emphasis on race and ethnicity.
She covered a brief history of Asian stereotypes, which began in the late 1800s as Chinese immigrants came to the U.S. to work for the railroads, continued through the fear of “yellow peril” and anti-Chinese immigration laws, then shifted to that of the model minority myth during WWII when China became our ally.
“The model minority myth perpetuates anti-Black racism,” Dr. Blackburn said. “These arguments are used to say that Asians are a good group and everyone else should be like them. You’re upholding additional stereotypes when you say Asians are inherently good at this, so someone else is inherently bad at this. It’s not based in reality.”
She also shared how the myth acts as erasure for areas of AAPI history, like activism and civil rights struggles. “It hides real things that happened,” Dr. Blackburn said. “[The model minority myth] erases racism against and the struggles of AAPI people. We’re hiding the true harm that has happened historically and today.”
She gave helpful strategies for standing up against stereotypes—like disrupting or interrupting the moment, educating with new information you’ve learned, and echoing or amplifying the voices of people who speak up—and shared the following statements:
- Disrupt or interrupt: “I don’t like that.” or “It surprises me to hear you say that.”
- If you don’t want to confront, ask a question: “What do you mean by that?” or “Can you tell me more?”
- Educate: “Do you know the history of that group?” or “Here’s how that word might be interpreted.”
- Echo or amplify: “Thank you for saying that. I agree.”
Dr. Blackburn has experience teaching at both the secondary and elementary levels, and as a teacher-educator her areas of focus have included classroom culture and justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. She has designed and facilitated learning experiences with schools and districts across the country and with organizations including Learning for Justice, Microsoft and NY Times Student Travel. Dr. Blackburn has an M.A. in social justice and education from University College London’s Institute of Education and an Ed.D. from Johns Hopkins University.
She will be speaking with parents and alums on Wednesday, May 12, at 7 p.m.