By Doug Chin
SPECIAL TO THE NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
In March, an eight-person federal jury found the City of Medina and City Manager Donna Hanson guilty of firing former Police Chief Jeffrey Chen because of his race. As Chen’s attorney Marianne Jones stated, Hanson fired Chen because of “old school racism.”
“Donna Hanson,” said Jones, “is racist and needs to stop.” We, at OCA Greater Seattle, totally agreed.
So, why hasn’t Donna Hanson been fired? How can the City of Medina have a racist as their city manager? The jury heard testimony that Hanson made several racial slurs like asking Chen if “you people” eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Remember when Hall of Fame basketball player Rick Barry, who was working as a TV announcer on a nationally broadcast game, turned to African American basketball player Bill Russell and said, “You people like watermelon.” Barry was fired the next day for that racial slur.
But Hanson did not only have it in for Chen because he was Chinese. She apparently does not believe in racial minorities on her staff since not one of the 25 staff members who are employed by the City of Medina is a person of color. Moreover, there were other employees of the City of Medina, including those on its police force, who seemingly had it in for Chen because of his race. Like Hanson, they also directed some racial slurs at Chen.
Twice in early 2011, once before Chen was fired and again not too long after, the Medina City Council had the chance to fire Hanson. In January, a motion to terminate her contract was made by the city council, but it did not pass. Then in June, more than 350 people signed a petition to the council to fire her and to re-instate Chen. But the council did not even make a motion to do so.
The fact that the City of Medina failed to fire Hanson then and have failed to do so now is clearly an indictment on that city council and a reflection on the citizens of that city. While there is clearly a good number of fair-minded, racially tolerant citizens in Medina who appreciate racial diversity, our perception is that there is clearly a major element in that city that are racially intolerant. To put it mildly, our perception — and we are sure the perception of other persons of color — is that the Medina city government is not a welcoming place for Asians and Pacific Islanders and other people of color. It’s old-time rich people with old-time beliefs and values, including racial prejudice.
There is another disturbing thought as to why Hanson has not been fired. There is the prevailing perception that racial discrimination against Chinese in America is minimal, at worst, and practically non-existent. This belief permeates throughout all of American society, including Chinese and other Asian Americans. Much of this belief can be attributed to the educational and economic success of Chinese and their low crime rate. Consequently, when it comes to racial discrimination and equal rights, Chinese are not taken seriously.
Think about that and imagine what would have happened if the same or similar racial slurs were directed at an African American or a Latino. Would there be any doubt that Hanson would have been fired? (end)
Doug Chin is the president of the Seattle chapter of the OCA.
Doug Chin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.