Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Great-Granddaughter of Immigrants


This is an excerpt from Julia Holmes’ 100 New Yorkers, describing my great-grandfather, Kong Chow Chun, who was a shop owner and community leader in early- to mid-19th-century NYC Chinatown.

As a merchant, Chun was a Section Six exception to the 1882 Exclusion Act, which banned all Chinese immigrants—save merchants, scholars, and students—from entering the United States, though even Section Six immigrants could not apply for US citizenship, making the Chinese the first nationality barred by law from becoming U.S. citizens… Chun devoted his retirement years to activism: he fought for the removal of immigration quotas, for the right of Chinese immigrants to attend New York public universities, and for the posting of street and subway signs in Chinatown in both English and Chinese. (pg. 51)

It is in honor of my great-grandfather, and all of my students, that I say that we as teachers become part of the problem if we carry on with teaching as if it can be completely separate from the current presidential administration’s discrimination and the resistance against it. Teaching math can be an act of social justice itself (see this rubric for culturally responsive math teaching), but first and foremost I teach students. I’m not yet sure what it looks like in the Trump administration for teachers and students to resist, practice self-care, learn productively, and maintain a safe and inclusive community. But as I head to school tomorrow, and each day after that, I know that I am going to start with conversations with both adults and students. People’s hopes, concerns, fears, and anger are going to affect our learning environment no matter what.  Power and strength come from supporting each other and acting together rather than being isolated and silent.

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