Towards Action Where all Students Can Thrive – Statement on Comments by Ann Hsu

CPA condemns Board of Education Commissioner Ann Hsu’s racist remarks on a candidate questionnaire. Not only are such remarks inaccurate and wholly false, but they also promote a racist stereotype about Black and Latinx families that obscure the broader inequities impacting communities of color across our city. Blaming student engagement on parents makes invisible the system failures that contribute to our district’s student achievement gap among Black, Latinx, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander and working class immigrant students- historic racism in the school system, generational poverty, government funding abandonment of public schools.

As we have for nearly five decades, Chinese Progressive Association remains committed to addressing white supremacy, racism, and anti-Blackness. There are significant issues negatively impacting so many of us, like systemic racism within our public school systems, that contribute to the anxiety and precariousness of many Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and working class AAPI immigrant families. Hsu, if she is sincere, must take accountability and address the harm and breach in trust caused by her statement, particularly to Black and Latinx students and community members. This includes addressing the disrespectful meeting with Coleman Advocates student leaders from several weeks past and initiating dialogue with our Latinx students and families. You can read Coleman Advocates’ statement here. 

Over the last two years, Chinese Progressive Association and Coleman Advocates have engaged our Chinese, Black and Latinx members and staff in honest dialogues and cross-racial community exchanges around safety and healing, which continued in the wake of Hsu’s statements. Among some of the lessons learned is that lasting solidarity requires consistent time and effort, as well as space for our own healing and growth. These last two weeks, we’ve listened to the reflections and concerns of our Chinese youth and adult members. Many called on all of us to stop pitting our communities against one another, while others wanted to use this as a teaching moment for Commissioner Hsu to do some deep unlearning about her internalized and systemic racial biases, which are too widespread even within communities of color including Chinese immigrant communities. Some felt that Commissioner Hsu was not fit to lead, while others wondered whether resignation would address the root cause of the issue. Most of our members were deeply concerned about the painful and ongoing impact of racial trauma that exists between our communities, and the need for unity. 

“The words of school administrators and people in positions of power have a great impact on parents and students, we should definitely recognize the harm being done” said one Chinese immigrant parent at one of our discussions. “We need to come together to unlearn our biases and listen to each other,” they emphasized.  Our CPA Youth MOJO leader Nicole Chen shared, “As a Board of Education Commissioner, Ann is supposed to represent Black and Brown families, and she should have more insight already. It was wrong of her to generalize and attribute it to a lack of parental attention.” Many in the Chinese immigrant community are rightfully concerned about needing representation and voice for working class Chinese American immigrant students and families, especially around issues of xenophobia and anti-Asian targeting, language equity, mental health crises, generational poverty, and whole family support. But quality representation for our community is only possible alongside a deep responsibility towards our Black and Latinx students and families who are directly impacted by lasting historical inequities. 

Our commitment remains the same- to do the long-term work to change the system and policies that perpetuate inequity and anti-black and anti-Asian racial bias and to hold honest dialogue within and across communities about anti-blackness and racism. Now, more than ever, we need leadership in our schools and communities that will model rigor in unlearning racism and humility to listen to our most impacted students. We need leadership that will take courageous action to decriminalize our students, eliminate our student achievement gap, dismantle ongoing systemic biases against Black and Latinx students and families, and ensure all students receive the academic and mental health support they need to thrive.