By Shomya Tripathy
For Northwest Asian Weekly
This past year, the Asian community has experienced a heightened level of racism, violence, and harassment. As a result, community members are rightfully fearful of the physical violence they might encounter on the street, at the workplace, or in their homes. As we honor victims and survivors of this new wave of physical violence, it is important to also reflect on the multitude of other ways that Asian and immigrant communities continue to face systemic racist violence.
Anti-Asian violence is not just physical violence—it is also economic violence that is deeply affecting our day-to-day lives. In addition to what our families face on the streets, our communities experience real harm when our businesses are shuttered, our neighbors are losing work, and unemployment insurance is linguistically and culturally inaccessible.
This year, we needed our representatives to go beyond a symbolic statement of support and to instead take active steps to protect us. Many of the people we work with at Asian Counseling and Referral Services (ACRS) have been doubly or triply hit by the pandemic and face many barriers in addition to the fear of physical violence. As our lawmakers debated the budget and the economic crisis, we worked to make sure that they acknowledged the violence we experience, and all the other ways our systems leave us out.
One of these systems is our deeply regressive and racist tax code. In Washington, those of us with the lowest incomes, who are disproportionately people of color, pay up to six times more of our incomes in state taxes than our wealthiest neighbors. We have allowed the rich to get richer without asking them to contribute to childcare, health services, good roads, or any of the other shared investments that make our communities great places to live.
As a result, the services that are supposed to help us remain under-resourced and inaccessible to non-English speakers.
This year, our lawmakers finally listened to us when we talked about the economic violence that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Gov. Inslee signed two landmark bills into law on May 4. One was a tax on large profits from capital gains, which will make sure that the wealthy few will also pay their share to invest in our child care and education systems.
The other was the Working Families Tax Credit, which will put $300 to $1,200 back in the pockets of people with low and moderate incomes, including undocumented immigrants. State Rep. My-Linh Thai and state Sen. Joe Nguyen successfully championed this year’s effort to fund the credit, which passed by an almost unanimous vote after 13 years unfunded.
At ACRS, we know just how impactful things like direct cash assistance will be for our neighbors. When we distribute COVID relief, gift cards run out the fastest. People need cash assistance to get back on their feet—we live it and see it every day.
Policies like the Working Families Tax
Credit provide money with dignity, giving people autonomy and agency over their own lives. This credit allows working people to make the decisions on how to help their families—the money often goes towards something as simple as buying food with no strings attached.
This year’s historic wins for working people are our first steps towards a more just and anti-racist economy. But there is more to do. As our communities rally against the physical manifestations of racism, we must also work just as hard against the economic violence caused by our racist tax code. We hope that the lawmakers who have stood up against the physical attacks on our communities will also continue to address the economic injustice we face and choose to deeply invest in the services we need to recover together.
Shomya Tripathy is the Director of Policy and Civic Engagement at Asian Counseling and Referral Services (ACRS). ACRS is a social services agency that serves Asians and Pacific Islanders, including immigrants and refugees, in King County and beyond. Shomya makes sure Asians and Pacific Islanders have inclusive entry to political processes, and advocates for policies that will better the lives of community members.