We sent a letter to the Dean of the UW College of Arts and Sciences, Dianne Harris, and requested that teaching professor Connie So be removed from an OSPI project on Americans of Chinese Descent History due to her recent xenophobic comments regarding “Americans of Chinese descent”. Below is the full letter.
Dear Dean Harris,
The College of Arts and Sciences has recently entered into an interagency agreement (#20230360) with the OSPI to produce materials and resources about the history of Americans of Chinese descent. However, due to Teaching Professor Connie So’s recent xenophobic comments regarding “Americans of Chinese descent,” we feel that she would be biased and is unsuitable for working on this project. Additionally, we have serious concerns about the quality of her work, judging from her poorly conducted research for the OSPI. Therefore, we would like to request that Professor Connie So be removed from the OSPI Americans of Chinese descent history project (interagency agreement # 20230360).
During the House public hearing on March 21, 2023, Professor Connie So argued that the term “Americans of Chinese descent” does not include people of Chinese descent in the US who were banned from naturalization. She went on to argue that Chinese railroad workers of the 19th century and many others are not “actually Americans” (https://youtu.be/t2uHaXFUQJQ). So’s xenophobic comments should be condemned.
Regardless of our heritage, we can all agree that America is a country of immigrants. Our family roots in this country trace back to immigrants who came to this land. Being an American is not defined by one’s race, ethnicity, or national origin, but by shared values and contributions to this country. It is our responsibility to rectify historical injustices and acknowledge that our ancestors, who built railroads, dug canals, and worked on plantations, in this country, are Americans. Their stories are an integral part of American history, and they are identifiable as “Americans of Chinese descent.”
While our society commonly uses the terms “Chinese Americans” and “Americans of Chinese descent” interchangeably, Professor So insisted on drawing a distinction between the two terms. As a result, Professor So’s definition of “Americans of Chinese descent” is much narrower than the intent and scope of OSPI’s Americans of Chinese Descent History project. Therefore, her involvement in the OSPI project will inevitably leave out a large part of the history of people of Chinese descent in this country.
The OSPI project originated from a proviso in the 2022 state budget. Senator Keith Wagoner, the primary sponsor of the Americans of Chinese Descent History Month bill, requested $25,000 to the OSPI for developing educational and promotional materials for Americans of Chinese descent. We, representing many people of Chinese descent in Washington, requested Senator Wagoner’s bill. Our intent for such a bill is to promote the entire and complete history of Americans of Chinese descent, which includes the early immigrants since the 18th century, regardless of their naturalization status. The term “Americans of Chinese descent” is used in the bill because it acknowledges that we are Americans first and foremost and fights against the exact xenophobic views that Professor So has on immigrants.
According to Professor So, she was commissioned to “evaluate whether January is the best month to honor ‘Americans of Chinese Descent’ –the title of the original bill”. On January 31, 2023, she submitted a report named “Recommendations for Chinese American Month” based on poorly constructed “research” from a survey of 18 respondents out of a homogeneous group of 40 people. (See attached) Professor So justified her recommendation based on the answers of 18 people from her list of close friends and political allies, which lacks diversity in immigration background, social economical status, and geographic representation. There was no modern survey sampling technique at all in her “so-called” research, and the size of her survey would NOT be qualified as quantitative research by any standard. The survey itself was confusedly designed with a bias towards their preferred name “Chinese American Month”. Professor So’s survey results can’t withstand any academic scrutiny.
It is appalling to see such poor quality work come out of a professor at UW. Professor So demonstrated a lack of basic research skills. The 2022 proviso is for our community, the OSPI project is for our future generation, and we don’t have confidence that professor So will be able to deliver quality materials that are free of errors or biases.
Copying OSPI and Senator Wagoner on this request.
WA Asians For Equality