By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The year 2020 will be remembered for more than just the pandemic.
How about recognition for the players in a year of contradiction and conflict, drama and anti-climaxes, the highs and lows during COVID? This helps us to understand the dynamics involved in 2020. It’s also a good way to wrap up the year.
Most disappointed award
Just look at what Donald Trump did to instigate violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 with the intent to disrupt Congress for the election’s certification.
Asian immigrants, who are anti-China and anti-communist, were spreading rumors about Joe Biden being senile, and urging the Asian community to support Trump. So racial discrimination perpetuated by Trump’s words, “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu” throughout the entire pandemic, is forgiven?
One immigrant told me that she voted for Trump to stall China
from suppressing Hong Kong people’s freedom. And what was the result? More than 60% of Asian Americans voted for Biden.
I guess some Asian immigrants don’t realize that they are living in America, and not Asia any more. What they should vote for is America’s wellbeing first, the other motives second. What is more important? A candidate’s character, experience, and knowledge about governing? Or someone who lies a lot, has no interest in problem-solving and governing, and the only time he clearly enjoys himself was on his campaign trail at big rallies, in which he’s the center of attention in a show?
The big loss
While COVID has disproportionately impacted the Black and Latino community with high numbers of infections and deaths, the pandemic has impacted the Asian community with a different kind of loss—jobs.
According to NPR, the jobless rate for Asian Americans was 2.8% in 2019—lower than that of whites, Blacks, or Latinos. But last May, Asian American unemployment soared to 15%,
and it was still 10.7% in August.
About 25% of our community works in restaurants, nail salons and spas, retail, and service industries. A restaurant or nail salon provides several full-time and part-time jobs. With these businesses closed, it hit hourly-wage workers and those who rely on tips especially hard. It is challenging for immigrant workers to find alternative jobs with limited English-speaking ability. Those industries have been devastated by the pandemic, and they traditionally employ many Asian Americans, said economist Donald Mar of San Francisco State University.
Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (CID) is an economic hub for the community and city with hundreds of businesses, including restaurants, travel agencies, banks, and professional services. Half of the seven travel agencies have closed or left the neighborhood.
Big CID restaurants with over 150 seats, including House of Hong, Joyale, Eastern Cafe, and Little Sheep’s Hot Pot, have closed. Whether they are closed permanently or temporarily, the owners have no answers either. It depends how soon the lockdown ends. Although mid-sized restaurants remain open and offer take-outs, each restaurant has laid off many workers. The big and mid-sized restaurants used to employ over 30 people for their morning, lunch, dinner, and wee-hour shifts. Jobs such as waiting and bussing tables, bartending, and cooks have been cut. Restaurants now employ a much reduced crew, from six to 10 people to barely one chef, for each shift.
Early in 2020, the glass storefronts of several CID businesses, including the library, were broken into more than once. Almost one out of three CID restaurants have been broken into, more than once last year, sometimes by the same suspects. It was a rough and challenging 2020 for restaurants. For those who are still keeping their restaurants and businesses open, inside and outside CID, they all deserve the Resiliency Award.
The female Trump of the Year award
President Trump has been depicted as the worst U.S. president for his extreme bullying, truth twisting, spotlight and power-grabbing, rebel-raising behaviors towards his critics, and abuse of power. Which Seattle City Council member exemplifies Trump’s character best?
Kshama Sawant. Also crown her the worst city council member of the year for her unethical and inappropriate actions. But the most recent ones were opening City Hall’s door with her key to let protesters in during the Black Lives Matter protests, and revealing Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home address to protesters. City Hall was closed to the public due to COVID.
In a letter, Durkan wrote that Sawant knew that her home “address was protected under the state confidentiality program because of threats against me due largely to my work as U.S. Attorney.” Durkan was Seattle’s top federal prosecutor before being mayor.
Unprincipled official award
The most unprincipled City Council member award goes to Council President Lorena Gonzalez. Durkan wrote a letter asking the council to investigate and possibly expel a member “for disorderly or otherwise contemptuous behavior,” according to The Seattle Times.
But Gonzalez chose not to. Instead, she criticized Durkan for not being helpful, asking for an investigation when the council should focus on more urgent matters. The least she could do is reprimand Sawant for her unacceptable behavior in public or at the Council, if not an investigation. Gonzalez’s refusal to do anything showed that she wanted to weaken the mayor’s position as she harbors higher ambitions herself. Perhaps she is more afraid of Sawant.
The Lawless Proposer award
Lately, Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold has received lots of publicity and notoriety. Hong Kong and California Chinese media have been reporting and jeering at her proposal of allowing misdemeanor crimes to be dismissed if the suspects are poor. Who would want to live or visit Seattle if such an ordinance passes?
Unpredictables of the year
COVID erupted in Washington state in January, and the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland was the original epicenter. This was followed by the Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged as the largest social movement in the world and in Washington state. Over 70 major protests took place in the state after the unjust death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best resigned after the City Council voted to cut her department’s staff, as well as her salary. Mayor Durkan announced she would not run for reelection, citing reasons that she needs to concentrate on fighting COVID, and not campaigning.
The best kiss-ass award
It’s a tie. Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for enabling President Trump in all policies and actions, especially echoing his recent accusation of voter fraud in the presidential election. Pence and Graham, who are personal friends of Joe Biden, couldn’t care less about their conscience. They side with where the power is.
The best campaign
This goes to Biden’s campaign. The president-elect has never been known to be charismatic, and the pandemic didn’t help. His age puts him at high-risk for COVID. So he couldn’t be exposed to crowds.
Opponents accused him of being hunkered down in his basement.
Even with few in-person appearances, Biden’s virtual campaigning was able to beat an incumbent president who has used his bully pulpit and the White House as a campaign ground to lure donors and supporters.
The media described Biden as boring. Fortunately, voters wanted someone who is solid and gets things done without being showy.
Credit goes to Biden who selected the right team to run a strong and disciplined campaign.
The best election system—Washington state
We Washingtonians have taken our absentee ballots for granted.
Former King County Assessor Lloyd Hara, who moved to San Antonio, Texas recently, said it is not easy to get an absentee ballot there. He got one because of his senior status. It takes a lot of work to get one for the regular voters.
Remember the long lines for early voting in the November election in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It’s a pain to wait for hours and hours to vote. Passed as law for mail-in ballots in 2011, Washington even pays for voters’ postage. And we have no scandals of voter fraud in the presidential election. Only five states, including Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Hawaii, and Washington, have mail-in ballot systems.
The Wise and Courageous Soul award
After Sawant used her key to let the BLM protesters into City Hall, she trashed Amazon and pushed the need to tax the corporation. Sawant, who often lectures her colleagues, was being lectured back.
According to the New Yorker Magazine story by Jay Caspiano Kang, a person stood up and said, “…I’m really sorry…for all the council members…, please stop using Black Lives Matter for your political campaigns. I’m really sorry. I want to tax Amazon, too. …But this is not a movement for you to be politically active, for you to be politically correct, and for you to gain all these votes. Please stop taking advantage of us…Can we please talk about Black Lives Matter for one second?”
One Black journalist told me many people at the gathering felt the same way. Yet, only one person spoke up. Those were powerful words. It exhibits leadership, clarity, and sharpness to point out how the group had been misled and misused. It’s a mighty moment not only for the audience there, but for me who read those words afterwards.
The heroes award
The heroes award goes to healthcare workers and professionals fighting COVID on the front lines. Thank you for your tireless effort in saving lives. And thank you for the sacrifices you and your family made during the pandemic.
The best news award
It’s a three-way tie. It goes to the Seahawks for winning the NFC West Division and making the playoffs recently with a 12-4 record. The Seattle Storm Women’s basketball team won the national championship this year, adding to their titles from 2004, 2010, and 2018. Former Washington state Gov. Gary Locke was appointed to be interim president of Bellevue College.
The best CID project award
If you have been to downtown and other parts of Seattle, you would be shocked to see much of the city boarded up. Fortunately, over 100 artists of all races descended in CID and volunteered their time and talent to paint boarded-up storefronts, after rioters and looters vandalized the CID on May 30. You won’t find anything close in other Chinatowns across the United States. I would pick some of those CID art murals for postcards—New An Dong, Dong Sing, Tracy Tran, and Tai Tung.
For the story of the CID murals, watch youtube.com/watch?v=VE9BA7KkbKc.
The best virtual event award
Space Needle’s New Year Virtual Fireworks show was an inspiration and a culmination of 2020. No other U.S. city did what Seattle did—closed out the year with a bang, not with fireworks, but a virtual light show with imagination. It exceeded our expectations. The program was designed by Terry Morgan, owner of Seattle-based Modern Enterprises and founder of BOREALIS – A Festival of Light, in partnership with Maxin10sity, the co-producers of BOREALIS.
The show dazzled viewers and you would be amazed and proud of what Seattle has accomplished. You can still catch the show on YouTube.
The worst Lunar New Year stamp
I never heard so many people complain about the 2020 Lunar New Year Stamp. The Year of the Rat looked more like a tiger. No, wolf! No, cat? It’s one of the worst images of the 12 zodiac animals for the Lunar New Year stamp collection since its insertion in 1992. Will the year of the Ox stamp in 2021 be more like an ox??? We’ll find out.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.