Please support the Chinese American community and sign the petition to establish January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month.
Below is a petition letter to the WA legislature drafted by Lucy He, an 11th grade student from Washington.
Dear Washington State Legislature,
Inconsistency, billboards, frustration. That is what is behind the momentum and vigor contributing to the passage of SB 5264. This bill serves grievances and hopes for a more united future in Washington State, making January Americans of Chinese Descent History Month. First introduced by Senator Hans Zeiger in 2020, and reintroduced by Senator Keith Wagoner in 2021, SB 5264 was restricted from a House floor vote and died on March 4th. This situation was not only disheartening to Chinese Americans in Washington, but the disparity between SB 5264 and past bills was the primary irreconcilability. We, as diverse citizens of the United States of America, implore the state of Washington to support a motion of racial solidarity and cement SB 5264 into law and precedent.
This bill was first introduced with an intent to impact and reach farther than Washington, and to inspire and build on previous efforts of Chinese Americans. The particular month of January especially holds historical, social and cultural importance. Lunar New Year is a significant memento of Chinese culture, often falling in January. Widely celebrated through Chinese American homes with dumplings, family and friends, and tuning into China Central Television’s yearly Chinese New Year program, January serves as a time of cheer and good intentions to start the new year. Historically, the Gold Rush attraction beginning in January of 1848 also begat thousands of Chinese immigrants to the West coast, and later resulted in the contribution of Chinese immigrants to the Transcontinental Railroad.
Despite these cultural and historical importances, it is also worth noting this bill serves to educate younger and future generations on Americans of Chinese descent’s lives, histories, achievements, and contributions; this bill means to encourage, not mandate, public schools to celebrate everyone’s differences and cultural history. This would be most productive during the active school year and is supported by several of Washington’s school districts, including Seattle Public Schools, Bellevue School District, Lake Washington School District, and Tacoma Public Schools. SB 5264 is clearly supported in the classroom, and this month could serve as an opportunity to educate our future generation to be a kinder, more accepting society. Washington has an obligation to this – Chinese Americans are the largest Asian ethnic group in the state. We are also all aware of the very apparent discrimination of Chinese in the past from many Washington cities, 1885 Tacoma riots among them. Namely, expulsion and systematic murder in this specific case. We must acknowledge these times in history by teaching and learning from them. Now is the time to address anti-Chinese sentiment in the modern day, especially following the 2021 dramatic increases in hate crime nationally against people of Asian descent.
Furthermore, any conflicts with other nationally recognized dates, such as Martin Luther King Jr Day, will just stand to combine the efforts of marginalized groups in the constant fight against systemic racism and hate in our country. In other words, the relative overlap can only bring together and unite our peoples more than ever in a community. SB 5264 has gained the endorsement of several other said Washington communities such as the League of Women Voters of Washington, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and the JCRC of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle that see the bill as nothing but beneficial.
Endorsement in the legislature is also nothing but positive – the 2020 senate resolution SR 8684, Honoring Chinese Americans, was passed unanimously in the Washington State Senate. Then, the 2020 move for SB 6679 (the beginnings of SB 5264) had bipartisan co-sponsors prepared to move forward. 2021 efforts with introductions to SB 5264 passed through Senate State Government and the Elections committee, again, unanimously yet was stalled by Senate Democratic leadership. Among similar bills, SB 5264 became the only bill for CAPAA (Washington’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs) to testify for, demonstrated by Commissioner Kendall Kosai giving a public speech in support.
When the legislative sessions of 2022 began, the bill passed through the Washington State Senate yet again and was then validated in the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee unanimously. Finally, SB 5264 was put on the House floor run list for a final floor vote. Political maneuvering and informal activities in the caucus resulted in the demise of the bill. Speaker Laurie Jinkins’ claim that “SB 5264 lacked broad support” was clearly misleading. Moreover, her criterion was that the Chinese American community would require approval from all other racial and ethnic groups in the state. This was not the precedent set for any other ethnic group seeking legislation in effort of equality; counterparts passed Korean American Day and Filipino American History Month without this questionable consultation. Our community only struggles to understand the inconsistency between other sub-ethnic groups who have time periods to celebrate and educate compared with our similar requests. The bar to pass SB 5264 has remained unfairly high.
To understand the reason for SB 5624’s death, you must understand Rep.Cindy Ryu, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, and Rep. My-Linh Thai’s claims – but also an understanding of hypocrisy. Representative My-Linh Thai contributes to Jinkins’ explanation that “the history month bill didn’t get a vote because majority Democrats had questions about assigning months to “sub-ethnic” groups.” This is a disparity shown through the WA Legislature with the 2019 passage of SB 5865 to establish Filipino American History Month. ALL house democrats, including Jinkins and Thai voted for October to have that designation. This is an unintelligible interpretation of precedent and we demand further clarification. Compromise offered by Rep. Cindy Ryu’s floor amendment to combine Chinese Descent History Month into the May AAPI month along with the inquiry on the length of the recognition (intended to shorten Chinese Americans’ history to a day or week) is again, a contradiction with past standards and is unacceptable.
While Speaker Jinkins asserted that she is “standing against bad ideas that divide people and pit communities against each other,” our community discerns the rich culture of Filipino history and Chinese history – the focus is not at all on the shallow comparison of time or overall recognition – it is instead on the individual recognition, racial injustice awareness and cultural education that will benefit society as a whole. As written by Linda Yang of WA Asians for Equality, “It is deeply concerning that the opportunity to begin to address this historic racial injustice was not important enough to get a very brief floor vote.”
In short, empowerment of any group of peoples can only inspire and build on interracial relationships in the community. We wish for this bill to be passed to cement unity and celebrate the differences that our beloved state Washington possesses. We have solidarity in our struggles, and we are all connected through the closely knit and sometimes, frayed fabric of society. We determinedly desire a reconsideration of SB 5624 and hope to see its passage into law shortly.
Emily Shi, a 6th grade student from Washington, summed up very well the reason why Americans of Chinese Descent History Month should not be lumped into the AAPI Month in May or shortened to a day or week.
If Americans of Chinese Descent History Month is conjoined with AAPI Month, there will be no use for Americans of Chinese Descent History Month. Chinese Americans deserve to be recognized. They were a key part of establishing America as it is today. If Americans of Chinese Descent History Month stays as part of AAPI Month, no one will know the history of Chinese Americans. No one will know or care about the history of Chinese Americans because the idea isn’t brought out to the public. If Americans of Chinese Descent History Month is conjoined with AAPI Month, the result will be the same as the current situation, and won’t make a difference. If Chinese Americans got their own history month, people would think about their history.
The Chinese worked hard to benefit America, though they were often mistreated and weren’t given any credit. A month to recognize their actions would give them the credit they earned and deserve and is a good way of balancing the scales. Shortening the month to a week or day wouldn’t give them enough recognition. Although we cannot directly apologize, this would be a sincere way to make up for their mistreatment.
If you agree with the two students and would like to join the petition to urge the Washington Legislature to designate January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month in the 2023 legislative session, please sign up below:
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