Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

How Do You Explain Hate?

Friday, August 18th 2017

As part of our citizenship services, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles offers ESL and civics classes for aspiring citizens. The post below was written by a staff member who teaches one of these classes. To learn more, visit our citizenship page.

For the past month, the students in my citizenship class have been learning about American civics in preparation for naturalization. In particular, they learned about all of the wars the U.S. has been a part of and the lessons that we have learned from them. They learned about the Civil War and the importance of equality when the northern states defeated the south and abolished slavery. They also learned about World War II and how entire nations had to come together to fight against hate and the Nazis in Germany.

This morning, one of my students inevitably asked me about what happened this past weekend in Charlottesville. She asked me: why were there people dressed with Nazi symbols here in America if we defeated them in World War II? I was unprepared and didn't know what to tell my students who are already terrified of the Trump administration. However, I knew that we had to at least have a conversation about it, so I asked my students how they felt after seeing the events of Charlottesville unfold on TV and the news.

One of the students expressed her fear about what had happened. She was fearful that if American citizens aren’t even safe or treated fairly then how safe could she be and how would she be treated as a green card holder? Another student spoke up about his anger and how this isn't supposed to be the America that he and his family immigrated from China for. Many of his classmates agreed with him and even laughed when he jokingly said that he would need to be "willing to bear arms" (one of the questions and requirements U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asks prospective citizens on their application) for the United States if there were another war against Nazis.

Again, I was speechless, but this time it wasn't because I had nothing to say. I was speechless because I was amazed at how my students were able to grasp right from wrong after what happened. They were able to condemn the actions of the white supremacists, which is something that our current "president" couldn't even do. Nowadays, it is more important than ever to have these types of conversations with people. It's vital that we teach our next generation of Americans and prospective citizens that hate will no longer be tolerated in our country. I am so proud of my students and can't wait for all of them to become naturalized citizens.

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Advancing Justice - LA’s hotlines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, consumer, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights.

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Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.