Bacon Bits: Invisible No Longer

“We are invisible.”

Albemarle County resident Diana Kim, who has Korean ancestry, thinks Virginia public schools don’t teach enough Asian-American history — little beyond the contribution of Chinese laborers to building the trans-continental railroad. Now she’s petitioning the General Assembly to pass legislation requiring more Asian-American history in Virginia schools, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. “The current state is that we are invisible,” says Stewart Kwohm director of the Asian American Education project. “And we need to change that so that we are visible, so that Asian American history is part of American history.”

But wait, what’s this? Virginia Beach will get a new historical marker honoring Filipinos in the U.S. Navy, reports The Virginian-Pilot. Asian and Pacific Islanders, said Governor Ralph Northam, “have made significant contributions to our commonwealth and our country, but too often their stories remain untold.”

And then the Chinese… Yan Huiqing, known to classmates as W.W. Yen, will be honored with a highway historical marker, one of five across the state. Yen was both the first international student and first Chinese student to earn a degree from the University of Virginia — in 1900, reports the Daily Progress.

But there’s more. It turns out that five highway markers have been designated as the result of a May AAPI Heritage Month Historical Marker Contest in Virginia public schools. (AAPI = Asian American Pacific Islander.) Other honorees were Kim Kyusik, a Korean who graduated from Roanoke College in 1903; Arthur Azo Matsu, the first Asian American student to graduate from the College of William & Mary, in 1927; and Vietnamese immigrants in Northern Virginia collectively. (For details read Northam’s press release.)

Maybe there will be a commemorative marker one day to recognize the students and parents who fought for Asian-American rights at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. … But probably not while Northam is governor.

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9 responses to “Bacon Bits: Invisible No Longer”

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Great find! Where is that bit of historical brilliance found today?

      Archie Kao (the American actor who portrays “The Chaiman” on the food competition show Iron Chefs America) went to Thomas Edison High School in Fairfax County. Maybe we can replace Tochman’s sign with one for Kao.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Thanks, Lar, now it will be tagged for removal because he deserves erasure for that CSA service….

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I seriously doubt it but we’ll see.

            I’d actually be curious to know how many of these markers have actually been taken down. There is said to be more than 2500 of them.

            The difference between them and the UDC markers/monuments in my mind, is that they seem to not depictl figures as heroic,brave, honor, etc, but rather just a fairly dry accounting of that history. Many of them are descriptions of historical events that occurred at that location.

            Folks might be interested in VDHR criteria :

            “State historical markers are not erected to honor or celebrate people, places, or events. If you are primarily seeking to honor someone or something, a state marker is not the proper venue.

            Our mission is to educate the public, and markers are intended to present historically accurate information in as objective a fashion as possible. Therefore, texts will not editorialize or assign value judgments.

            Additionally, we cannot leave out factual information that is important, even if it may be considered upsetting or unpleasant”


            Maybe that ought to be the criteria for other historic monuments?

            Maybe if it had been……

    2. StarboardLift Avatar

      He deserves a plaque simply for living to age 83 in that era.

  1. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Ya know, if you put statues of Asian immigrants on those pedestals that say “To Our Confederate Dead”…

    Ooh, ooh, Confedrate flags on MLK’s statue. You gotta blend in.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      This exactly makes my point that these things are put up by politicians to appeal to certain groups of voters, whether in 2021 or 1921…Granted these are simple highway markers, but a form of political posturing just the same. Not to diminish the folks involved, but the Asian contribution is richer on the West Coast than here. Unless you count those original Asian Americans who came over the Siberian land bridge…

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Lemme see, did they arrive before the Irish? The were the overwhelming labor source for the railrods, but then so were black freemen. Didn’t you ever see Blazing Saddles?

        As for the Native Americans? No monuments needed. Casinos will do.

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