The below letter was sent to every member of the House Democrat Caucus via email and USPS.
Dear House Democratic Caucus Members & Leadership Team,
We represent one of the largest, most organized, and quickly growing groups that advocates for Asian American issues, especially Chinese American issues, in Washington State. We are also connected with other high-profile Chinese American groups throughout the United States. Our group began some years ago in the Eastside areas of Bellevue and Redmond but has now grown across the state of Washington, with scores of members in most Washington legislative districts.
The last few years of anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents have deeply troubled those in our community, and it is time for those of Asian and Chinese descent to get much more involved in the political process. The historical perspective of those of Chinese descent just waiting silently in the background is over. A new, energized, and younger group is now taking center stage. We will engage with those in the political process, regardless of their political party, who will work with us on issues that should have been addressed a long time ago. We will respectfully engage in a non-partisan way but also call out those who would revert to anti-Asian or anti-Chinese racism and partisan politics at each turn and fail to govern.
Chinese Americans have suffered greatly in the Pacific Northwest because of institutional racism. While racism against other minority groups moves to center stage, Chinese Americans are often left to the side because they are either seen as too prosperous or not enough of a genuine minority group, both of which are typical stereotypes deeply rooted in past anti-Chinese bias. This is a very dark note in our local Northwest history, both here in the United States and British Columbia, Canada.
Other Asian racial groups do not share this same history of actual violence and government-sanctioned exclusion, seizure of homes and property, and even murder. By our estimation, there were 22 documented incidents of violent anti-Chinese events across Washington State during the short period of 1875 to 1895. More than 300 Chinese were massacred or murdered, and hundreds of Chinese were forcefully expelled from their homes and communities. Those stories and this history must be taught to our children to keep such events from happening again. Although there are many issues we intend to become involved in as we build our group and move forward, there is a simple solution to this one specific issue of knowledge and remembrance, and that is to recognize this fact, pass SB 5264, and then begin to teach these lessons in our schools. This sad and violent history has been ignored and neglected for far too long.
This was so easy to do and almost came to pass, except for a disturbing intervention by a few House Democratic Members and the ugly face of racism we in the Chinese community have often seen throughout history.
This message explains why we will not let this pass without addressing it. We are just beginning our efforts to change this dynamic and will do whatever it takes to bring this current matter to a conclusion. We think that none of this should be necessary, and we did nothing to create this conflict, but we will see it through to the end. It would be far preferable for all involved to talk and work honestly and respectfully in the open to resolve it, but some of your members have chosen to take the path explained below.
We do not understand why your caucus would allow this behavior by a small number of your group to continue. Our intent here is to explain why we will continue to take action to call this out until such time as it is addressed respectfully and honestly. You will not like our upcoming actions to bring public attention to this issue. They are just beginning. Still, we also remain ready and willing to meet with your caucus and resolve it anytime you are ready as a group to do so with respect and honesty. We would much rather have a cooperative and respectful working relationship moving forward, but will address and resolve this matter either way.
On one last note before proceeding, we recognize that some of this pushback comes from our successful statewide Reject R-88 campaign win. In her email on March 4th, a few minutes after SB 5264, the Americans of Chinese Descent History Month bill, was killed, Rep. Cindy Ryu wrote, “[w]ith the passage of this bill, they would have been further emboldened”. There is no reason for the Reject R-88 effort in 2019 to block or impact any discussions on current legislative efforts. R-88 was a legitimate policy difference between us and those on the other side. The voters decided that we were right in a fair and free election. It also demonstrated our resolve and skill in running a statewide campaign to a successful conclusion. However, it should be noted that the only reason that this ever happened in the first place was the fact that members of your caucus refused to listen to our community’s legitimate concerns and ignored our repeated request to let the people vote on I-1000. This anti-Chinese bias was deeply puzzling to us at the time. Hundreds of people from our community took time to go to Olympia to let you know their concerns and urged you to put I-1000 on the ballot and let the people vote on it. R-88 would have never been necessary in the first place had anyone been willing to listen to us and if a few of your members had not blocked the voice of the Chinese American community from being part of the process. Please give this some thought before drawing any conclusions going forward. Chinese Americans deserve and demand to have a seat at the policy table.
On March 3rd, less than an hour after the House Democratic Caucus decided to put SB5264 on that day’s run list, Rep. My-Linh Thai sent out a high-priority email to “House Democrat Members of Color Caucus” (MOCC) saying “I respectfully ask you to support us by voting NO to SB5264”. Thai continued to say, “I can’t say enough the backwardness of moving this legislation forward.”
Rep. Thai’s absurd claim contradicts her own support vote on SB5865 in 2019. SB5865 established Filipino American History Month in Washington. As a matter of fact, Rep. Thai’s text message to Speaker Laurie Jinkins on March 3rd was proof that she was politically motivated to stop SB5264. At 10:38 am on March 3rd, Rep. Thai texted Speaker Jinkins and said, “Please hold 5264”. Then at 10:54 am Rep. Thai texted, “Love to hear your take on the “politics” of not passing this bill.”
In 2019, all MOCC members voted to establish Filipino American History Month. Three years later, the act of killing the Americans of Chinese Descent History Month was a discriminatory act against the Chinese American community and a step back into divisive anti-Chinese hatred, something we are all too familiar with in our history.
The Chinese American community in Washington supports the designation of Japanese Remembrance Day, Korean American Day, and Filipino American History Month. Establishing January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month will bring the Chinese American community in line with long-overdue recognition. We know we have our fellow Asian Americans’ support on SB5264. As a matter of fact, CAPAA (state’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs) signed on to testify in support of SB5264 at the public hearing. Commissioner Kendall Kosai of CAPAA gave a powerful speech in support of Chinese American History Month.
We urge the House Democratic Caucus members to denounce Rep. My-Linh Thai’s politically charged move to kill Americans of Chinese Descent Month and support designating January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month.
We also want to bring to your attention the recent actions by Rep. Cindy Ryu and My-Linh Thai to sabotage future efforts to designate January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month disguised as “work on a new bill for the Chinese American community”.
Public records document a move by some of your legislators to create a new Chinese American group to work with on this issue and others, ignoring the existing group that came to be on our own in the community.
In her email on March 9th, Rep. Ryu said, “I’m thinking beyond them, to MOCC owning this messaging and in fact gathering people together (in spite of this group)”. A group of non-Chinese legislators (Rep. Ryu, Rep. Thai, Rep. Sharon Santos, and Senator Bob Hasegawa) met on May 13th to discuss which organizations and individuals to recruit to support their agenda. Missing from their outreach list is the exact Chinese American group that has been advocating for establishing the Chinese American History month since 2020. Rep. Ryu, Rep. Thai, and Rep. Santos were the same legislators that decided that January should not be designated as Chinese American History Month during the 36-hour effort to kill SB 5264. We were deeply offended by their email exchanges. They completely lack the respect and understanding of Chinese Americans’ complex culture and history.
Why does the House Democratic Caucus entrust a group of non-Chinese legislators with deciding what the community wants for Chinese Americans? This type of racist behavior is alarming. Legislators are tasked with working with existing community groups, not making up new fake ones of their own to suit their political needs and wishes. This type of hyper-partisan behavior and discussion should shock and offend anyone who cares about the integrity of the democratic process of self-governance. Crafting or creating a community group to meet a specific partisan need or wish is the worst governing imaginable. Doing so for racial reasons is reprehensible.
PRA records revealed that Rep. My-Linh Thai and Rep. Cindy Ryu were behind the final 36 hours of hyper-partisan behind-the-door political maneuvering to kill SB 5264. And sadly, Speaker Laurie Jinkins was aware of this and allowed the anti-Chinese contingent in her caucus to kill the bill. If Rep. Ryu and Rep. Thai had any sincere intention of establishing January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month, they would not have killed the bill in the first place. As you all know, Rep. Thai asked you to vote NO to SB5264, and Rep. Ryu’s floor amendment to SB5264 effectively eliminated the designation of January as Americans of Chinese Descent Month. In response to The Spokesman-Review’s interview request after SB 5264 died in the hands of House Democratic leadership, Rep. Ryu sent an email to House Democrat Chief of Staff, Alex MacBain, on April 1st requesting to speak with Speaker Jinkins and saying “I am willing to work on establishing some sort of Chinese American Day”. Despite Rep. Ryu’s claims, she has no real intention of supporting or establishing January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month.
Your caucus leaves us with no choice but to raise public awareness of Chinese American History Month and educate the public about the importance of recognizing Chinese Americans’ history in this country. We have put up billboards in Speaker Laurie Jinkins’ district. The message on the billboards was clear: “1885 Chinese expelled from Tacoma. 2022 Speaker Laurie Jinkins killed Chinese American History Month. Learn from history.”
This is just the very beginning of our campaign to bring this underlying issue and well-documented racism by a small number of members in your caucus to the public’s attention throughout Washington State, with messaging, billboards, and other media and direct communications, much of which will be beginning after the summer. We remain hopeful that your caucus might discuss this issue and pick a different path.
We received a message from a third party we know two weeks ago. This person said the message to us was from Speaker Jinkins and was transmitted to them through former Speaker Brian Ebersole. The message was that Speaker Jinkins would engage with us, but not until the billboards were taken down. That is not acceptable, nor does it indicate that it is from your caucus as a whole, which we think it should be.
We are open to meeting and talking with your leadership team and putting this issue to rest respectfully and constructively, but not with pre-conditions. If you proceed forward in creating a fake Chinese group to address Chinese issues that you can control, you will be making a grave error, one that we, the media and public, will hold you accountable for. Our objective is easy to accomplish, and it is good public policy at the right time and for the right reasons. This straightforward issue need not be confused by further discussions, meetings on the subject of the bill, or being deliberated over by a new fake Chinese group created by your MOCC. It was passed out of the Senate and your own House committee unanimously. There was never any opposition to the bill’s substance by anyone at any time until it became a political and anti-Chinese issue for your MOCC and leadership team. Please consider a different path than the one you are on now. We are currently ready to commit significant resources to a political battle that does not need to be fought this fall, but we will fight it if it is necessary. It would be an error to underestimate us or our resolve.
WA Asians For Equality
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