In response to rising AANHPI hate crimes, 25 AAPI nonprofit organizations requested Gov. Gavin Newsom to make Lunar New Year into a state holiday.
Lunar New Year is often celebrated with ceremonies, dances, fireworks, and traditional food. It is a hugely significant cultural holiday for East and Southeast Asian communities to remember their heritage.
“Just as other communities of color have lost their culture through generations of oppression and forced assimilation, AANHPI communities run the risk of losing their culture without recognition of this critical cultural holiday,” the letter said.
According to the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crimes against AANHPI individuals has increased 339% since the beginning of the pandemic.
Making the Lunar New Year into a state holiday would counter the marginalization experienced by the AANHPI community over the past couple years, the letter said. It also promotes a message of inclusivity and diversity to all Californians.
San Francisco also aims for inclusivity.
The San Francisco school board decided a month ago to add two Muslim holidays–Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha–to the academic calendar. However, in August, the decision faced backlash over the lack of similar recognition for other religious or cultural observances.
The district and board may be violating state and federal laws in favoring one religion over another, Attorney Paul Scott said to the San Francisco Chronicle.
District student Sara Ouchene, who helped create the original petition told the SF Chronicle how excited she was to see the initial resolution passed.
“After years of having to feel invisible in the classroom, this resolution brought a sense of relief and hope,” Ouchene said to SF Chronicle. “Learning that there are threats to walk back on this effort, is really disappointing. Why is it that when our community makes progress in the city, we are automatically met with attacks and threats to turn back time?”
Board member Ann Hsu was the only one opposed to adding the Eids holidays. Hsu said the district should have a more formal process for designating days off.
“If we don’t establish any criteria and approve this request every other community can ask for their own holiday and we would have to say yes to everyone,” board member Ann Hsu said. “I don’t believe that is a practical way to manage a school calendar or run a school district.”
On Tuesday, the board will vote on how and when to determine holidays “based on the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, student-centered outcomes, and compliance with the law,” according to the SF Chronicle.
As seen with both, the recognition of state holidays is important to marginalized communities.
“As the state with the largest AANHPI population, California has the opportunity to be the leader in addressing hate and fostering AANHPI belonging,” the letter to the Governor stated. “Establishing a state holiday to recognize the contributions and history of the AANHPI community would be monumental for millions of AANHPIs.”
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