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PRA Records Revealed Behind-the-Scenes Politics Surrounding the Failed Chinese American History Month Bill

 A billboard in Tacoma, WA. The message on the billboard says, "1885 Chinese expelled from Tacoma. 2022 Speaker Laurie Jinkins killed Chinese American History Month. Learn from history." 

A Billboard in Tacoma, WA Urges Speaker Laurie Jinkins To Learn From History.

The failed Chinese American History Month bill is not without controversy. PRA records revealed the behind-the-scenes politics.

Love to hear your take on the ‘politics’ of not passing this bill [i.e. The Chinese American History Month bill].”

— Rep. My-Linh Thai

BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES, June 2, 2022 / -- This year, the Washington State Legislature failed to establish a Chinese American History Month. PRA (Public Records Act) records revealed how behind-the-scenes politics were played out surrounding ESB 5264, the Chinese American History Month bill.

If passed, ESB 5264 would declare January as Americans of Chinese descent history month and encourage (not mandate) public schools to commemorate Americans of Chinese descent’s lives, history, achievements, and contributions.

The Senate quickly passed ESB 5264 by 48 to 0 in January. The bill then passed the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee unanimously and reached the House floor calendar on February 26. The bill was even added to the House Democrats' "Bills to Brief and Run" list on March 3rd. Then, the behind-the-scenes politics began to play out.

In a text message exchange on March 3rd, Rep. My-Linh Thai told Speaker Jinkins to "Please hold 5264", then asked, "Love to hear your take on the ‘politics’ of not passing this bill." On March 4th, shortly after ESB 5264 missed the cut-off and died, in an email exchange with her legislative assistant, Rep. Cindy Ryu said, "I am sure they will try to beat down our doors. Same group as those who were occupying the hallways and the rotunda with the drumming and yelling three sessions ago re: I-1000." She later added, "With the passage of this bill, they would have been further emboldened."

I-1000 was an entirely separate policy issue a few years ago when the WA Legislature overturned the voter-approved Washington Civil Rights Act. After the WA Legislature denied voters the right to vote on the repeal, Chinese American advocacy groups legitimately disagreed with them and led the effort to put I-1000 on the ballot through a referendum. Voters ultimately overturned the Legislature’s decision and rejected I-1000.

On March 9th, Rep. Ryu wrote, "I’m thinking beyond them, to MOCC owning this messaging and in fact gathering people together (in spite of this group)." The Chinese American advocacy groups that Rep. Ryu suggested their caucus by-pass have been working on establishing a Chinese American history month for the past three consecutive legislative sessions. In her March 7th email to a small group of legislators, Rep. Ryu explained her plan to form a new one of their own to represent Chinese Washingtonians so that they can "lay the foundation, but in [their] own terms".

When asked about the prospect of a Chinese American History Month in Washington State, in her interview with The Spokesman-Review in April, Speaker Jinkins did not commit to supporting the bill.

Chinese American advocacy groups are not giving up the fight for a fair recognition of their history in the State of Washington and in the entire United States. They are gearing up for the next legislative session. "For the Chinese American community and the Chinese American History Month bill, we hope that Speaker Jinkins can govern instead of politicize; unite instead of divide," said Linda Yang of WA Asians For Equality.

Linda Yang
WA Asians For Equality
+1 425-588-8011
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