UW–Madison’s DelaRosa is author of ‘Teaching the Invisible Race’

UW–Madison’s Tony DelaRosa is the author of a newly released book that’s titled, Teaching the Invisible Race: Embodying a Pro-Asian American Lens in Schools.”

DelaRosa is a PhD student with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He explains that he is an anti-oppression educator and researcher, who is determined to help transform how schools teach Asian American narratives.


In his debut book DelaRosa gives educators insight into how to embody a pro-Asian American lens into the classroom. He explains that the work is designed for students in pre-service teaching programs, and for upper elementary, middle school, and high school social studies, English, and literature teachers. DelaRosa also notes the book may be of interest to curriculum specialists, coaches, and school principals.

“As an Asian American racial justice consultant who works with all of these audiences, I realize that there is a gap in knowledge in understanding how to approach Asian American students, families, staff, and teachers,” he says.

DelaRosa also explains how he hopes the book can reach education researchers who often overlook the experiences of Asian Americans.

“As a researcher at UW–Madison, I’ve seen so much research on race, racism, and racialization that omits the histories and narratives of Asian Americans or references this group haphazardly,” he says. “My book can inform that way researchers view Asian Americans and how to write and research about them.” 

In the book, DelaRosa offers readers stories, case studies, research, and frameworks that will help build the knowledge, mindset, and skills teachers need to be able to teach Asian-American history and stories.

DelaRosa is in the midst of a book tour. Two upcoming stops include:

  • Nov. 13, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
    UW–Milwaukee & Boswell Books Collaboration
    UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, 2100 E. Kenwood Blvd., room 107
  • Nov. 27, 5 to 7 p.m.
    UW–Madison Curriculum and Instruction Colloquium
    Engineering Hall, room l0408-3032

Following is a Q&A with DelaRosa, talking about his new work:

“Teaching the Invisible Race,” by Tony DelaRosa

Q: The book examines the need for a “Pro-Asian American lens” in education. How do you define the term “Pro-Asian American?”

A: Asian American people have acted pro-Asian American without even labeling their actions as such through the building of Asian American employee resource groups, affinity spaces, businesses, movies, networks, and more. In a similar ethos to Pro-Blackness, “Pro-Asian American” balances the concept of combating or fighting anti-Asian hate and racism, since it is a symptom of white supremacy and colonialism. “Pro-Asian American” means you are actively supporting the Asian American community with a big focus on low-income Asian American communities that go invisible due to the model minority myth (ie: Hmong, Lao, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, and more). “Pro-Asian American” means you are actively supporting Asian Americans with the notion that our liberation is tied to combating anti-Blackness and embodying a pro-Black lens. We owe our freedom to radical Black activists and organizers, many of whom are Queer, Trans, and Non-Binary, who paved the path for us to thrive as a community. I speak more about the history of Black-and-Asian American relations later in the book when talking about Isang Bagsak pedagogy and cross-racial solidarity. 

Q: I think most are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic fueled anti-Asian racism and xenophobia both in the United States and across the world. What, if any, role did that ugly reality play in your decision to write this book? 

A: Anti-Asian hate reports rose in the 10s of thousands nationally, according to the 2022 Stop Asian Hate Report Card. As a Filipino American, I’m not new to anti-Asian hate and racism, but unfortunately, the world sees this as a “phenomenon.” From a policy level, anti-Asian Hate and Racism can be seen in the 1790 Naturalization Act that restricted naturalization to only persons identifying as “white.” Anti-Asian hate stems from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese people from entering the U.S. for decades. This act was extended to people from the Philippines, India, and Japan (indeed, an entire “barred Asiatic zone” was established in 1917), lumping different national-origin groups into a single racial category, the “Asiatic.” Anti-Asian hate is an American tradition from a policy level, institutional level, interpersonal level, and individual level that I’m trying to change. 

Q: What do you wish more educators would know/understand about teaching Asian American history? What are some ways to build into the classroom more opportunities for Asian American voices to be heard?

A:  My book helps educators understand the nuances of teaching Asian American history and narratives. So while it is packed with content, it is not a go-to guide of every anti-Asian incident that has ever occurred or every movement of Asian American resistance. Rather, this book supplements many Asian American history books with critical concepts. I’ll briefly share one concept of what this book does for its audience: 

One of the major issues that this book tackles is the issue of the Black-white binary of race, racism, and racialization. Since I have positionalities on both the practitioner and research side, I’ve come to realize that both realms perpetuate the notion that race predominantly exists within the history of white and Black communities. From an Asian American-to-Black perspective, the Black-white binary harms both the Black community and the Asian American community because it omits intersectional Blasian voices and flattens Black and Asian American cross-racial movements, and undermines our collective solidarity. My book offers a chapter focused on combating the Black-white narrative called Isang Bagsak as an Education Framework inspired by Dr. Kevin Henry Lawrence’s Critical Race Theory in Education course.

To learn more about DelaRosa’s new book, check out this podcast produced by Harvard EdCast. And stay connected by following @TonyRosaSpeaks on Twitter/X or Instagram, where DelaRosa regularly posts updates on book tour locations both locally and nationally.

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