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Teachers > Civil Liberties & Equity > What Does It Mean to Be Asian American
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In this video, young Asian Americans share reflections on their identities and the challenges they face. The discussion was filmed in 2022 during the COVID-19 pandemic and a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and hate incidents in the United States. Point out that the experiences of the six American students who appear in the video are just a few examples of the tremendous diversity that exists within the Asian American community. Play the video for students, then lead a brief discussion using some of the questions below.


  1. How do the students identify themselves? 

  2. How do the students illustrate the diversity that exists within the Asian American community?

  3. What comments are made about how historical episodes, e.g., immigration, Japanese American incarceration, influence the students’ views of their identity and perception of the Asian American community today?

  4. What comments are made about perceptions concerning what it means to be an American?

  5. What experiences with hate crimes and hate incidents (as well as concerns about hate crimes and hate incidents) do the panelists mention?

  6. What thoughts are shared about raising awareness of the Asian American experience?

  7. How did one or more of the panelists’ comments especially resonate with you? 

Next Up:




Define Civil Liberties and have students write down examples.




Read and discuss key amendments to the U.S. Constitution.




Students read scenarios and answer questions related to whether civil liberties have been violated.

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 Project Four 


Have students write their reflections on one of these prompts: 

A stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. What are some of the comments that the students make about stereotypes or biases?

Research the “model minority myth” and share how it has affected and continues to affect the Asian American community.

Describe how the panelists’ comments are similar or different from the comments shared in “Students on Current-Day Social Equity Issues,” “What It Means to Be Muslim American” or “What Does It Mean to Be a Young Black Man in America?” which are also included in this lesson.

Have you ever been prejudged due to a stereotype? What can be done to counter stereotypes? Have your civil liberties ever been challenged? Is so, how?

Consider the statement, “history is basically being erased,” that was made by one of the students. Historical erasure often focuses on expunging shameful and horrific events from history to allow certain groups to avoid guilt and responsibility. Write about an example of this.

Ask students to select an Asian American-related topic as the focus for their “Civil Liberties & Social Equity Research Project,” which is also included in this lesson.


Have students choose one of the following laws or events and write about 2–3 key lessons that we should consider during this time of frequent hate crimes and hate incidents against Asian Americans. 

  • Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882

  • Tape v. Hurley, 1885

  • Immigration Act, 1924

  • Japanese American incarceration, 1942–1945

  • Killing of Vincent Chin, 1982

 Project Two 

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 Project Three 

Have students read the article, “The History of Anti-Asian-American Violence,” and lead a discussion on what surprised them the most about the interview.

Next have students write an op-ed about the article. It was written by Renee Tajima-Peña, a professor of Asian American studies at U.C.L.A. and an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker.

Photo by Ted Sahl. Identifier: sahl_portraits_241
Source: San José State University Special Collections & Archives

 Project One 

Have students write their reflections on one of the questions below. 

What is the relationship between racism and civil liberties? Racism and social equity?

What can we as individuals do to help address some of the issues raised in the video? What can we do collectively as a society?

What kinds of current-day issues around civil liberties and social equity most concern or interest you? Why?

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