On August 3, 2015, I was pleased to vote for a Seattle City Council resolution condemning the racist anti-Chinese legislation and policies that were so ubiquitous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This resolution cannot undo the harm done in the past. But acknowledging this history and recognizing the immense contributions Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans made in building Seattle, we arm contemporary anti-racist activists with information to help combat the harassment and discrimination faced by immigrants to this day. Read my full remarks below.
Transcript of Speech as Delivered
I am really glad to have the opportunity to support this excellent resolution that honestly acknowledges and opposes the racist policies against Chinese Seattleites in the past. Seattle’s Chinese community has an incredible history of overcoming prejudice and adversity, and of being part of the backbone of labor productivity and building this region. As one of the speakers just said, Chinese workers are part of the workers who made Seattle. And this resolution honors that strength.
Throughout history, immigrants have done some of the hardest work in America, and for some of the least pay. The railroad barons profited immensely from Chinese labor under practically slave conditions, and they justified it with a culture of legalized discrimination. Big business politicians in Seattle and other parts of the country lined up to pass laws explicitly designed to harass, intimidate, and discriminate against Chinese people.
Passing this resolution will not correct that harm done in the past, but it will help arm anti-racism activists today with an official acknowledgment that racism was done and continues to be something with real consequences to real people.
We also have to be clear that this sort of official harassment of immigrants and of workers is not something that only happened in the 1800s. This year, and last year, the immigrant workers at Sakuma Brothers farms have been struggling for their basic rights, and for the right to unionize. And, again, in their case, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment is being used to discriminate against them. Last year, prisoners in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma went on a hunger strike to protest terrible conditions where they are paid $1/day for their work.
I am voting yes on this resolution happily, and I encourage everyone to continue this fight against racism. Racism is a divisive force in society, and working people should unite for better living conditions for all of us.
I really thank all of the community members, not only who came here, but who’ve been working on this issue. Thank you.