Youlan Wang, a 7th grade student at Odle Middle School, just won the middle school category 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 Youlan’s petition letter.
Dear Washington State Legislature,
To many, appointing January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month was an opportunity. A chance for more people to learn about the struggles and varying experiences Chinese Americans went through to achieve equality in the eyes of others. However, backstage politics held back the bill that would have approved the month (ESB 5264), eventually killing this beacon of hope. Having a month to celebrate a certain specific race of Asians, they reasoned, could cause separation instead of unity. Despite this, in 2019, Americans of Filipino Descent History Month was created smoothly without creating any division, and so was Korean American Day as well as Japanese Remembrance Day. Why shouldn’t Chinese Americans have January as a month to promote and encourage more learning about their race? Chinese people have made large contributions to America and other Asian communities greatly support this idea. January also has symbolic meaning for Chinese Americans, and months to promote celebration of sub-ethnic groups have been made successfully with full support and no questioning.
Choosing January as the month to celebrate Americans of Chinese Descent History Month honors the cultural and historical ties January has with Chinese Americans. This is because January is the month which Chinese New Year often falls upon, bringing a cultural and traditionally significant meaning to January for Chinese Americans. January is also the beginning of the Gold Rush, which attracted the first wave of Chinese immigrants and signifies the first arrival of Chinese people into America. Both these historically significant and traditional ties convey a strong sense of symbolism for Chinese Americans. The necessary duration of the entire month is due to the large scale of contributions to the US that the Chinese people brought, such as partaking in the construction of the transcontinental railroad, assisting in the struggle for equal education, and other great achievements. Chinese Americans’ history and contributions have been a great factor in American history, so one month is an appropriate time to celebrate and honor them. From Liu Jinnong’s creation of the versatile “Lue Gim Gong” Orange to the thousands of Chinese immigrants that supplied the bulk of workforce starting from the mid 1800’s when they first set foot in America, the Chinese made vital contributions to America’s development. That being said, proclaiming January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month doesn’t stop other holidays from happening such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and other celebrations that may happen in the future. In October, Native Americans’ Day, Black Poetry Day and other celebrations are held even though October is also officially Filipino American History Month, and it will be the same with Americans of Chinese Descent History Month.
Secondly, Americans of Chinese Descent History Month is solely about promoting learning and celebration of the Chinese people and their contributions. For example, Americans of Filipino Descent History Month’s purpose is to spread awareness and knowledge about their culture and history. Americans of Chinese Descent History Month’s purpose is the same; meaning the celebration will be simply dedicated to honoring the Chinese people, not putting them above others or separating them from other Asian races. In other words, the main reason that Washington state should establish an Americans of Chinese Descent History Month is to honor the fact that Chinese Americans have been through a lot, and their history in the US consists of many challenges as they worked to finally be able to be seen and treated as equals. Another example is the unfairness Chinese immigrants faced upon arriving in America. Because they were immigrants escaping to what they hoped, a better life, their futures were always uncertain so they took up any jobs they could find. Even if the wages were half the price of the other workers with poorer living conditions. Eventually, they tired of this, yet Congress then refused the Chinese immigrants’ right to have a voice in court, preventing them from demanding fair wages and rights. These struggles, thus far, have gone greatly unacknowledged and the greater public unaware; seemingly dismissing the suffering that the Chinese went through. A month that encourages the learning of the Chinese and their stories could help create more awareness. And stories like this spread a sense of community among races and bring people closer together.
Finally, despite what some may say, many other organizations have expressed their support for Americans of Chinese Descent History Month and the many similar ideas that have passed without question, meaning it has all the broad support it needs to pass as a bill. For example, when it came to voting for Chinese American History Month, some claimed that most Democrats still weren’t sure about assigning months to “sub-ethnic” groups. However, this has not been the case in other scenarios. In 2019, all House Democrats voted in favor of SB 5864 to designate October as Filipino American History Month, meaning Democrats aren’t actually against assigning months to celebrate individual races especially since they didn’t object to Japanese Remembrance Day or Korean American Day. On the other hand, some people also say that Chinese Americans need approval from other races in order to establish Americans of Chinese Descent History Month. However, when Korean American Day and Filipino American History Month was passed, they did not check with the Chinese American community. Other similar bills have not been questioned or needed to be consulted, so why is SB 5264 is constantly challenged? In addition, among all the other bills that aim to honor a specific sub-Asian race, SB 5264 is the only bill that CAPPA (Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs) signed in support of. Some of the members of CAPPA also gave powerful speeches in support of Americans of Chinese Descent History Month. CAPPA is a state representative of Asian communities as well as other Pacific Islanders so having their support signifies agreement from other races for this bill.
In the end, the contributions Chinese people have made for America should be honored in January, which holds symbolic meaning for Chinese Americans, especially since many large groups have agreed to this idea. Afterall, what the Chinese Americans experience in America is very different than what other races go through so they shouldn’t be considered all the same and put in one category. Months to promote learning and celebration of other sub-ethnic groups have been made smoothly with full support and no questioning so Americans of Chinese Descent History Month shouldn’t be rejected. Afterall, celebrating other people’s journeys will create more general unity and appreciation in America.
Please support the Chinese American community and sign this online PETITION TO ESTABLISH JANUARY AS AMERICANS OF CHINESE DESCENT HISTORY MONTH .