A 10th Grade Student’s Petition to the WA Legislature To Establish January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month

Sammi Wang, a 10th grade student at Valley Christian Schools, just won the high school category’s 2nd place award at a national essay competition held by the Chinese American community (https://acefus.org/events-projects/essaywriting2022.html  ). The topic of the essay competition is “The importance and the value of having Washington State to officially recognize January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month.”

Below is Sammi’s petition letter.

Dear Washington State Legislature,

As one who lives in the land “with liberty and justice for all”, the pledges I used to recite daily throughout my childhood seem to lose their purpose and their stand. In a nation of diversity, minorities, and differences, I hold firm to those pledges, in hopes of it acting as a shield to protect my group of people against discrimination. However, this very shield transforms into a reflective mirror, and baleful words constantly stab the identity of many others in this minority. It is painful to watch Chinese Americans struggling to survive in the rise of Anti-Asian crime cases. We, as Chinese Americans, wish to speak our voices and thrive in pride in who we are as we stand upon the land our ancestors helped to make into what it is today. Standing on the soil of America, we aspire to believe that the “land of the free ” would allow the representation of every thriving culture. I, representing Chinese Americans, urge Washington state to establish an Americans of Chinese Descent History Month in respect of Chinese Americans’ impact and contribution towards the development of America, validate our presence, protect our rights with fairness between every minority, and incarnate the abstract shield that America vowed to protect us under.

Nothing excites me more than when my teacher opens up the lecture with a simple “Happy Lunar New Year” during January. During those times I would usually look around to see who else is as thrilled as I am, and seeing proud faces warms my heart. I firmly remember the highlight of my freshman year of high school- when everyone in my school, no matter their race, gender, or identity- dressed up in bright red for the Lunar New Year. I remember glancing toward the crowd of eye-catching red, thinking how proud I am to be contributing to the boldness. The month of January is vital as it bonds tightly with Chinese culture. As we look back in history, January 24, 1848, was the beginning of the Gold Rush, a time that attracted thousands of Chinese immigrants to the United States,  January 3rd, 1852, 195 Chinese laborers arrived in Hawaii to work on sugarcane plantations, and marked the beginning of foreign contract workers, or rather, slaves, in the islands; January 9, 1885, the Superior Court of California ruled that excluding “children of Chinese parents” from public schools violated state law and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This very train of Chinese American history tumbles through time, retracing back to dates of shame, humiliation, and unity- and the rails ran most in January. In Rep. Cindy Ryu’s claim, questioning the significance of January during a period with other events like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the opening of the Legislature, and the start of the new year in the Gregorian calendars, we believe designating the month in January will not overrule other events and hoard the spotlight. Placing Chinese American History Month in January will allow schools, just like mine, to commemorate a period that is significant to the Chinese. More importantly, this will allow schools to educate Chinese American history for generations to come.

According to NBC news, Anti-Asian hate crimes increased 339 percent nationwide in the last year of 2021. And the most recent Stop AAPI Hate data show that Chinese Americans were the victims of the most (43%) anti-Asian hate crimes. The rise of Anti-Asian hate crimes does not suddenly come from nowhere, though; the subtle cases of racial crimes trace all the way back to 1885 when 28 Chinese were killed by a white mob in an Anti-Chinese riot in Rock Springs, Wyoming; in the same year, 700 Chinese residents were expelled in an Anti-Chinese demonstration in Tacoma; just a year after, 350 Chinese residents were forcibly expelled in Seattle. Ironically enough, just a few years before 1885, nearly 17,000 Chinese contributed to the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad transcontinental railroad- and a few years after 1885, Washington became a state. Establishing a Chinese American heritage month allows a chance for schools to educate their students on the importance of Chinese American contribution, therefore limiting the chances of Anti-Asian crime cases in the future. State Sen. John Liu, D-NY, echoed that Asian American history is one of the many tools that can be used to combat anti-Asian discrimination. Education is needed to promote a better understanding of the minority and not a simple and blunt label of “foreigner” or the “yellow peril.” 

Moving this legislature forward does not promote the backwardness of segregation, but represents the forwardness of inclusiveness. Rep. My-Linh Thai, who personally voted to pass SB 5865 to establish Filipino American History Month in 2019, claims that establishing a month for Chinese Americans will promote unfairness between every other minority group. Along with Rep. My-Linh Thai, all House Democrats and Laurie Jinkins voted to designate October as Filipino American History Month, though Laurie Jinkins claims that Chinese American history month did not get a vote due to concerns about assigning months to sub-ethnic groups. Whywould passing SB-5865 be fair to every minority group, while passing for Chinese American History Month be not? The answers stay unclear, though the contradicting action of those who doubt the bill made us feel more excluded than united. It is hurtful to experience discrimination during the journey of establishing the bill just to eliminate the exclusion, but it is also what made us know that the journey must go on no matter the obstacle we face. Along the way to justice exists more contradicting voices of inequality. The Washington State legislature allowed the establishment of Korean American Day and Filipino American History month without prior discussion with the Chinese American community. However, in the case of establishing a month dedicated to the Chinese group, Jinkin suddenly claims that we must seek approval from all other racial and ethnic groups in the state. Those actions counter the vows of the Pledge of Allegiance, and there is no “liberty and justice for all.”

A month is not enough. This is a period meant to resonate within the culture and stand with purposeful representation. Chinese American history month deserves a month that is not merged with another such as the May APPI month. Both holidays have their own purpose; merging both together defeats the purpose and will possibly mislead generations to come. A month is not enough to respect the longevity of Chinese American contribution to America’s exponential development and growth. Immigrants came to the United States to contribute to the construction of the railway- the exact Transcontinental Railroad that put Washington state on the map. The immigrants endured racial discrimination whilst shedding sweat and blood to build the railroad, yet the Chinese Americans still have not received an acknowledgment of their heritage to respect their efforts. The attempt of Rep. Cindy Ryu to shorten the recognition of Chinese Americans’ history from a month to a day or a week disregards this very contribution. We, as the Chinese American community, are not the only ones advocating for the establishment and passage of the bill. SB 5264 was the only one state’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs signed on to testify in support of; the bill obtained the support of many of the state’s largest school districts, such as the Seattle Public Schools, Bellevue School district, Lake Washington School District, and Tacoma Public School. The bill also has the support of the League of Women Voters of Washington and the Jewish community: both “The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle” and “the JCRC of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle” support this bill. The broad support from many communities will continue to support us to urge equality and the establishment of January as the Americans of Chinese Descent History Month. 

We humbly await your response,

Sammi (Yufei) Wang

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