Teaching About Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia


As the first wave of covid-19 spread across the globe, xenophobia and anti-Asian racism followed. The United States has a long history of racism against Asian Americans, including passing the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act and ordering Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II. The recent pandemic fueled anti-Chinese feelings because the virus originated in Wuhan, China, but these irrational fears are just that: irrational. Teaching students about anti-Asian racism and xenophobia, especially how they relate to present-day events, is very important, because in order to stand up against different types of racism and discrimination, they need to understand them. Bringing these topics into the classroom are also essential for teaching students how to combat racism when they see it and to make sure Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students feel safe at school. 


There are an abundance of resources available for educators to use to talk in their classroom about anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. The majority of resources below discuss how the coronavirus has fueled racism against Asian Americans, but there is plenty of helpful information for teaching your students about this topic generally.

Lesson Plans

  1. Leaders 4SC Task Forces: Leaders 4SC provides a variety of Task Forces that provoke students to think critically about key issues as they roleplay as decision-makers and brainstorm well-detailed solutions. Each Task Force comes with step-by-step instructions, Google slide templates to be used with virtual breakout rooms, and topic-specific questions to get students started. The activities can be completed either individually or as part of a group. A good Task Force is Anti-Bullying Policies That Work.
  2. In the Face of Xenophobia: saalt provides six different lessons addressing the bullying of South Asian American youth, specifically biased based bullying. Throughout these lessons, students will be challenged to build empathy, examine the historical roots of xenophobia against South Asians in America, and practice taking action when they see a peer being bullied (whether this bullying involves racism or not), and more. This resource offers educators activities to get their students actively involved in learning about xenophobia, bullying, and the history of Asian Americans in the United States.
  3. Coronavirus and Infectious Racism: ADL has put together two lesson plans in the wake of the infectious racism the coronavirus has brought to light. The first lesson plan is standard and includes an overview, learning objectives, materials, and directions which were created with classroom learning in mind. On the other hand, the second lesson is a virtual classroom option containing collaborative instruction and a presentation tool for the classroom. In both, students will gain a greater understanding of why anti-Chinese rhetoric or acts have increased recently amidst the coronavirus and how we can act as allies and make positive changes in our communities. This resource is perfect for educators looking to teach their students about the coronavirus and anti-Asian racism in 2020, whether it will serve as an end-of-year, summer, or opening assignment.


  1. Speaking Up Against Racism Around the New Coronavirus: Teaching Tolerance has published an article on speaking up against racism around covid-19. Because the coronavirus has become racialized, it is important that educators understand how to best address the issue with students and colleagues. The author discusses what students are hearing via the media, the historical context of anti-Chinese sentiment, how educators can interrupt racism, and the ways in which educators can “equip students with the historical context and relevant skills to discern when something is biased and how they can respond.” For educators who are unsure on how to discuss this topic appropriately in the classroom, this piece is essential!
  2. Erika Lee on the Enduring History of American Xenophobia, Drawn ‘From a Place of Fear’: In this article from MinnPost, Erika Lee talks about the enduring history of xenophobia in the United States. The U.S. has a long history of immigration, but according to Lee we need to reassess our immigration history to understand why our fellow citizens are supporting a president [referring to Trump] who supports these “draconian” policies. Though the author has political opinions which are apparent throughout the piece, it is still a useful read due to the fact that she makes many good points about American xenophobia and its irrationality. For educators who want their students to learn about xenophobia’s history in the U.S. and Trump’s immigration policies, take a read through this!
  3. Why I’ve Stopped Telling People I’m Not Chinese: In this opinion piece from the New York Times, Euny Hong explains why she has not been trying to “outrun” racism during the pandemic by dying her hair or telling people the truth, that she is Korean and not Chinese. This piece would be great to share with students because it will help them better understand xenophobia, racial profiling, and discrimination from the point of view of an individual who experiences racism. Also, Hong discusses how she has always been frustrated by the Asian-American label, but now her instinct when she is labelled by someone as Chinese is indignation instead of deflection.
  4. Anti-racism resources to support Asian American, Pacific Islander community: This article from NBC addresses key points on how to discuss and respond to the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, including how to talk about it in language that is both appropriate and simple.
  5. Min Jee’s Lunch: This article presents the fictional story of a student who is bullied because of the food she eats and her friends who don’t stand up for her. This story can be used to introduce students to the ways that anti-Asian racism can present itself and to engage in conversation about how students should respond when they see it happening.

Informational Sites

  1. The Long History of Racism Against Asian Americans in the U.S.: PBS offers information on the long history of racism against Asian Americans in the United States. Adrian De Leon touches upon topics including the Chinese Exclusion Act, “yellow peril,” Executive Order 9066, and more before jumping into discussing how Asian Americans have slowly been gaining better representation in certain industries. (However, she also talks about how this inclusion has been used against other minority groups, including African Americans.) Lastly, she touches upon Asian Americans’ roles in politics and says that during this difficult time everyone needs “reach across borders and contribute to collective well-being.”


Teaching students about anti-Asian racism and xenophobia is an extremely important task because to combat racism and inequality, we first need to understand why it occurs and its consequences. One fact which is important to emphasize to your students is that not all Asian Americans are the same. Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian. “Asian” is a general label for people who originate from the continent of Asia, but it can be frustrating for different minority groups to be lumped together for whatever reason, so be careful and remind students not to be so quick to identify a person’s race based upon personal beliefs!

Additional Resources

  1. Standing Up to Anti-Asian Racism: AFSC has put together some resources to help both educators and students alike respond to racism and built inclusive communities during this pandemic. Provided are resources for bystander intervention and for reporting instances of anti-Asian harassment. Ideally, these tools will help users stand up for those being discriminated against and serve justice against those who are causing the distress.
  2. Coronavirus – Fear of Asians Rooted in Long American History of Prejudicial Policies: Berkeley News provides information on how the fear of Asians is rooted in a long American history of prejudicial policies. Included in this article is an overview of the increased anti-Asian xenophobia during the spread of the coronavirus, Asian immigration in American history, anti-immigrant bias in the present-day, and empathy for the infected.
  3. As schools reopen, Asian American students are missing from classrooms: This article from the Seattle Times talks about how Asian American students are returning to school at lower rates than their peers, citing fear of racist harassment as one key factor.



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