Parents of Color Protest Anti-Asian Racism by Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas and NAACP

Parents demand a meeting and public apology

By Coalition for TJ

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — At a disturbing time of increased attacks against Asian Americans nationwide, the Coalition for TJ, representing about 15,000 mostly Asian, mostly immigrant families of color supporting Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, strongly objects to racist anti-Asian views expressed by Virginia State Sen. Louise Lucas, the Virginia NAACP and the Fairfax NAACP in recent days.

The recent episode of hostilities against Asian Americans in northern Virginia comes after nine months of attacks by school board officials, activist alumni, state officials and school administrators and staff against students and families at TJ, in a race-based crusade to overhaul admissions to the state Governor’s School, ranked America’s №1 high school last year by U.S. News and World Report. The school has a student body population of about 70 percent Asians, 20 percent white and 10 percent Black, Hispanic and multiracial. After eliminating the school’s merit-based, race-blind admissions tests in December in a superficial attempt to increase the number of Black and Hispanic students at the school, the state’s activist Secretary of Education Atif Qarni teamed up with lobbyists to pass a bill, HB2305, as “guidance” to the state’s Governor’s Schools to increase “diversity,” based on race, not academics or merit. This bill paved the way for divisive, anti-Asian curriculum in Virginia public schools, including the polarizing ideology of critical race theory.

Last week, on Thursday, February 18, in a valiant defense of merit and the school’s diversity — which includes families from over 30 countries — Democratic State Senators Dick Saslaw and Chap Peterson won a critical vote 9–6 in the Senate Health and Education Committee, tabling the bill for this legislative session. In debate, however, Sen. Lucas refused a request by Sen. Saslaw to allow about 20 of our parents of color to speak against the bill, and she subjected Sen. Petersen and Asian Americans to shocking racism and disenfranchisement. You can watch the entire debate here.

Sen. Petersen said the bill amounted to “shaming” communities of “people that have been successful as immigrants.” He noted the bill had become a “lightning rod,” noting that “…it’s been serving to stigmatize a very hard working community in Fairfax County, which I am proud to represent and be married into, and that’s the Korean community, the Indian community, Bengali community, and so, I have a lot of concerns, and I hope I have spoken and I hope I’ve not left anybody out, but that’s why I am speaking. This is a big issue.’

As Sen. Petersen spoke about TJ, he noted, “Its population is 80 percent minority.”

Sen. Lucas, a Black lawmaker, interrupted him and said, “Sen. Petersen, for people who look like me, I would appreciate it if you would put a better definition to minority, because I know you’re not talking about people who look like me, so could you please, please be more specific?”

Sen. Petersen responded, “The population is about 70 percent Asian.” Then, Sen. Petersen, who is married to a Korean-American, said, “People who look like my kids. My kids.”

We watched Sen. Lucas in horror. After our parents were not allowed to speak on the House side against the bill, it was disturbing to witness Sen. Lucas marginalize and demean our Asian-American families and students, as if we were on the wrong side of “minority.”

To our disappointment, the Virginia and Fairfax NAACP responded to the legislative defeat by continuing to marginalize our minority immigrant communities of color, issuing press releases, attacking Senators Saslaw and Petersen for allegedly issuing “racist dog whistle” remarks during the debate. Furthermore, the Virginia and Fairfax NAACP singled out Sen. Petersen’s wife, a Korean American citizen, for attack, choosing to otherize her as simply foreign, reducing her identity to “Korean,” stating: “As Senator Petersen’s wife is Korean, he leaves us to wonder what community he believes is not hard-working enough to deserve an excellent, enriched education.”

According to the NAACP, recognizing Asian-American communities as “hard working” amounts to claiming Black communities are not hard working. This charge is absurd. Defending a minority group is what progressive politics is supposed to be about. Slicing and dicing what it means to be “minority,” as Sen. Lucas, the Virginia NAACP and Fairfax NAACP are doing, is not only illiberal but in fact bigoted and racist. Democratic political operatives, including the Blue Virginia website, are amplifying the racist attacks on Asian-Americans, making our families feel unwelcome in the state of Virginia.

Unfortunately, the bigotry that Asian Americans are experiencing in Virginia politics is emblematic of the wider, national attack on the minority group, as elderly Asian Americans are being attacked from San Francisco’s Chinatown to New York City. Last year, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand excluded Asian-American students as he spoke about TJ’s “students of color.” And last year, when Sean Perryman, now running for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket, was the president of the Fairfax NAACP, its officials tweeted out to Asian-American parents opposing the NAACP’s attack on the school’s merit-based admissions process, “All skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”

The racism against Asian-American students is systemic. In 2018, Virginia State Sen. Scott Surovell handpicked a witness to testify for legislation he had introduced to eliminate merit-based admissions to TJ, and she spoke disparagingly about “ravenous” immigrant parents from India, arriving here “however they got here,” to have their children attend TJ.

This past summer, in secret meetings led by Education Secretary Qarni to replace TJ admissions with a lottery, Sen. Mark Kean, a Korean American, demeaned families from Korea who were allegedly “not even going to stay in America” after their children attend school here. This fall, Secretary Qarni equated studying for the TJ entrance exam to taking “performance enhancement drugs,” later hosting a biased, hostile online panel discussion on “racism” not against Asian-Americans but “in Asian American communities.”

Together, these activists and lobbyists have worked with the NAACP on a racist scheme to admit fewer Asian Americans to TJ and other Governor’s Schools and institute unconstitutional racial profiling and racial balancing measures that amount to illegal discrimination against Asian Americans.

On behalf of the Asian-American community of northern Virginia, we seek the following:

  1. A meeting with Sen. Lucas and NAACP national, state and country leaders and public apologies for their racism against Asian-American communities of color.
  2. The immediate ceasing of the defamation against Virginia Senators Saslaw and Petersen for the alleged crime of advocating for not only Asian-Americans but all Americans.
  3. The immediate end to the shaming of the Asian-American community, and the respectful inclusion of Asian-Americans and all people in debates of public policy.

Coalition for TJ is a grassroots community group of parents, students, alumni and community members supporting diversity and excellence at Thomas Jefferson High School for Technology. They can be reached at CoalitionForTJ@gmail.com. Follow them at @CoalitonForTJ on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Coalition for TJ is a grassroots organization advocating for diversity and excellence at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

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