By State Rep. My-Linh Thai
As Washington prepares to usher in the Year of the Dragon this Lunar New Year, I find myself reflecting on the complex tapestry of our community. This vibrant celebration, observed by billions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, shines a light on the richness and diversity that our communities contribute to the American fabric.
Yet, celebrating Lunar New Year also compels us to acknowledge the historical shadows that persist—stark reminders of the need for greater understanding and inclusion. The history of Asian Americans in the United States is, unfortunately, marred by exclusion and prejudice.
From the Chinese Exclusion Act, which effectively banned Chinese immigration for decades, to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, our nation has a dark history of discrimination against Asian communities. The scars of these events run deep, and their echoes still resonate in the experiences of many Asian Americans today.
Yet, despite these challenges, our communities have persevered. We have enriched our nation with countless contributions in science, technology, arts, and culture. We have built dynamic communities and businesses, woven ourselves into the very fabric of America.
Today, Lunar New Year stands as a powerful testament to our resilience and cultural heritage. That’s why this year, I’m proud to share that my colleagues in the House passed House Bill 2209, establishing Lunar New Year as a legislatively recognized holiday.
Recognizing and celebrating Lunar New Year sends a clear message: inclusion matters. It affirms the value of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities and fosters a deeper understanding of our diverse traditions. It sends a signal to future generations that their heritage is respected and celebrated.
However, acknowledging the significance of Lunar New Year shouldn’t be a single act of tokenism. It must be part of a broader shift towards genuine inclusion.
We must actively combat the subtle and overt forms of racism and discrimination that persist in our society. We must strive to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, or origin.
While we commemorate the past, we must also actively work towards a future where such discrimination never takes root again. Celebrating Lunar New Year alongside Day of Remembrance offers a powerful juxtaposition.
It allows us to celebrate the vibrancy of Asian American communities while serving as a powerful reminder that inclusion and understanding are not automatic—they require continuous effort and commitment.
Let this Lunar New Year send a message of hope and unity, reaffirming our commitment to creating a nation where every individual feels valued and respected. Let this Lunar New Year be a catalyst for meaningful change. Let us commit to building a society where true inclusion reigns, where the diverse tapestry of our nation is celebrated, and where the dark chapters of our past serve as reminders of the future we must strive for.
Rep. My-Linh Thai represents the 41st legislative district. She is the first refugee elected to the legislature in Washington State.