What History Has Taught Us?

Background: We have been sending a daily reminder to the Legislature (Senator Kuderer, Senator Majority Leader, Andy Billig included) since January 24th. This is our day 12 reminder.

On 1/17, Senator Kuderer used words “Chinese Fire Drill” at a committee meeting, and people at the meeting laughed after her remark. 

We are offended. Why have we reacted so strongly?

“Chinese Fire Drill” is a term with racist origin and hence racist overtones. It taps into a stereotype about Chinese meaning something which is chaotic, confused, incompetent that sort of thing.

On 1/20, Senator Kuderer used Senator Rosa Franklin’s story to frame the 1/17 instance as a “teaching moment”. TVW scripts of Senator Kuderer’s remark below:

Today we are remembering Dr Martin Luther King and some of our members are still on the floor giving speeches to his legacy and I heard a story today on the Senate floor that I had never heard before regarding Senator Rosa Franklin and how there had been a insensitive comment made on the Senate floor that she could have took offense to but rather used it instead as a teaching moment and and acted with grace and and humility and you know I have to say.
That really hit a nerve with me because I actually want to apologize for an insensitive remark I made in committee last week that a colleague had done the same thing with me had graciously and humbly pointed it out to me and it was quite a teachable moment so I think we’re never too old to learn something new and I just want to know that I will certainly and never to be more mindful in all the confusion that was happening on Friday calling of witnesses it was an attempt to be light hearted but sometimes we don’t say things the way we really intend them to be

I dug out the Senator Rosa Franklin story  (https://lmtribune.com/northwest/yakima-senator-makes-racial-slur-apologizes/article_8040dfbf-99e4-520c-9a53-4966a590f305.html ) … Below was what then Senator Deccio’s apology:

“I grew up as an Italian in a very bigoted neighborhood, where racial epithets were used against me, and I should know better,” Deccio said in a statement he issued Friday. “I realize a slip of the tongue like this is very hurtful to members of the African American community, and for that I am truly sorry.” 

NOTE: There was a call for “formally reprimand Deccio and strip him of his leadership position as chairman of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee”, even a call for Deccio’s resignation. 

In comparison to Senator Kuderer’s apology, which apology was more sincere? Senator Rosa Franklin was the offended of racist words, she accepted Deccio’s apology and graciously turned that into a “teaching moment” for the offender. In comparison, if Senator Kuderer, whose words offended us, would issue a similar apology, we, the offended, will be willing to turn the 1/17 instance into a “teaching moment” as well so that we can raise the awareness of racism towards Chinese Americans.

A disclaimer: we do not consider/accept Senator Kuderer’s remark on 1/20 as an apology to Chinese Americans.

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