Last week, it was announced that King County Executive Dow Constantine’s top aides were six notable people. Two of them are Asian Americans Frank Abe and Sung Yang. Seattle Mayor-elect Mike McGinn named Asian American Phil Fujii as one of his three top aides.
Is it a mere coincidence that exactly one-third of these two politicians’ respective teams are Asian American?
But it’s no coincidence that the Asian American presence continues to be strong in politics. This week, Northwest Asian Weekly ran small biographies on each of these individuals. Our intention is to introduce — or reintroduce — them to the community.
Every so often, a reader asks us why it’s important to spotlight Asian Americans when there are so many other people of other races who are also presumably doing great work in a particular field. Why continue to single out certain people just because of their racial, cultural, or ethnic background? Don’t we live in a post-Obama society where we are looking beyond race?
Ask yourself this: Are we being completely inclusive in our political system, laws, and institutions? For instance, is Asian American history being taught in high school?
The fact is that our institutions continue to give certain privileged groups social and economic advantages. This means that race is still as important as ever.
In The Seattle Times, Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell cited the numbers. “In Seattle, 9.4 percent of whites live in poverty,” he wrote. “The rates for people of color are alarmingly and disproportionately higher: 30.9 percent for Native Americans or Alaskans, 30.2 percent for African Americans, 18.8 percent for Hispanics, and 15.3 percent for Asians. These statistics are not simply poor human choices, but attributable to our history and institutionalized behavior.”
We must continue to be mindful of our biases and be as inclusive as we can so opportunities are available to every kind of person. Constantine and McGinn were being inclusive when they chose Abe, Yang, and Fujii as their aides — this is important because some other politician would not have done the same. Another politician might choose aides from a far more limited pool of people, even though there are others who might be more talented.
The Northwest Asian Weekly’s mission is uncomplicated. We strive to empower Asians and Asian Americans.
It was only mere decades ago that Asians weren’t even mentioned in the mainstream news unless they were associated with a tragedy or emphasized as un-American. Today, we are able to tout the great accomplishments of Asians. This is no small privilege, and we look forward to being able to continue to do this. ♦