In Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkin’s recent opinion piece, “Governing is hard.Politicking isn’t”, she lauded her caucus for focusing on governing, not politicking. However, just a couple of months ago, the House Democrat Caucus played politics and killed ESB 5264, the Chinese American History Month bill.
If passed, ESB 5264 would declare January as Americans of Chinese descent history month and encourage (not mandate) public schools to commemorate Americans of Chinese descent’s lives, history, achievements, and contributions.
The Senate quickly passed ESB 5264 by 48 to 0 in January. The bill then passed the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee unanimously and reached the House floor calendar on February 26. The bill was even added to the House Democrats’ “Bills to Brief and Run” list on March 3rd. Then, the behind-the-scenes politics began to play out.
In a text message exchange on March 3rd, Rep. My-Linh Thai told Speaker Jinkins to “Please hold 5264”, then asked, “Love to hear your take on the ‘politics’ of not passing this bill.” On March 4th, shortly after ESB 5264 missed the cut-off and died, in an email exchange with her legislative assistant, Rep. Cindy Ryu said, “I am sure they will try to beat down our doors. Same group as those who were occupying the hallways and the rotunda with the drumming and yelling three sessions ago re: I-1000.” She later added, “With the passage of this bill, they would have been further emboldened.”
Clearly, rather than governing based on the bill’s substance, Speaker Jinkins allowed a few members of her caucus to play partisan politics, using ESB 5264 as a vehicle to seek revenge on the Chinese American community who legitimately disagreed with them on an entirely separate policy issue a few years ago.
Rep. Ryu went so far as to suggest that their caucus by-pass the most active and organized Chinese American advocacy groups that have been working on establishing a Chinese American history month for the past three consecutive legislative sessions and form a new one of their own to represent Chinese Washingtonians so that they can “lay the foundation, but in [their] own terms”.On March 9, Rep. Ryu wrote, “I’m thinking beyond them, to MOCC owning this messaging and in fact gathering people together (in spite of this group).” Having individual legislators, or the House Democratic Caucus, form a fake Chinese minority group to serve their own political interests is a frightening concept. It is politics at its very worst.
When asked about the prospect of a Chinese American History Month in Washington State, in her interview with The Spokesman-Review in April, Speaker Jinkins could not look past the politics and refused to commit to supporting the long-overdue recognition that Chinese Americans deserve.
And to suggest that “other racial and ethnic communities” may oppose ESB 5264 in that same interview, Speaker Jinkins is attempting to divide the Asian American community and the broader persons of color communities. Speaker Jinkins claimed that she is “standing against bad ideas that divide people and pit communities against each other.” We are hoping to see that she applies the same standards to the Chinese American community and the Chinese American History Month bill: governing instead of politicking; uniting instead of dividing.