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Letter-to-Editor: Soft bigotry and racism against the Asian community

As a long-term resident of Lynnwood, I have always taken pride in my community’s economic, artistic, and park development, creating a stark contrast to Seattle’s current state. However, recent events have unveiled a disheartening disparity between these developments and the underlying attitudes of some of Lynnwood’s public leadership.

The United States has seen a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes and harassment. A Japanese American school teacher was deliberately attacked in the International District as recently as February 25th. In June, a pregnant Korean woman was shot dead in downtown Seattle. The national organization, Stop AAPI Hate, has been tracking anti-Asian hate crimes since the pandemic began, showing that these attacks disproportionately target elderly and female Asians.

Lynnwood, thankfully, has not reported such incidents, which always gave me the impression of it being a welcoming place for Asians. However, a recent experience has shattered that perception.

Vivian Dong was appointed to the Lynnwood PFD board by the city council at the end of April 2023. She is the first and only Asian representative on the PFD board. However, just two months after her appointment, the PFD board chair, PFD executive director, and the rest of the board members colluded, secretly drafted a letter, and launched an unjust attack on Dong without any prior notification, nor formal investigation, nor evidence. They accused Dong of actions she did not commit, silenced her during a public board meeting, and claimed they were removing her from the board despite lacking the authority to do so.

Many people in our community were outraged when they heard the story. What kind of hostile work environment is this? Attacking a new fellow board member for her support of women’s rights and Asian businesses? Fabricating lies to defame someone’s character publicly without a formal investigation? Muting their mic repeatedly before and during the vote? There is no basic respect, and this is not how business should be conducted. This is hostile, political, and intended to humiliate, shame, and defame. We can’t help but wonder if they would dare to do this if the target wasn’t an Asian woman.

A few of us attended the Lynnwood city council meeting last night to testify in support of Dong. I must confess, before that meeting, I couldn’t have imagined the degree of soft bigotry and racism against the Asian community within our local leadership. However, the actions I witnessed were unmistakably a wake up call.

In the meeting, Lynnwood PFD Board Chair Miller justified their actions by pointing out the existing ‘diversity’ of the PFD board. As an Asian community member who witnessed how our community member was unfairly treated, I find this hard to accept. Is he implying that Asian representation is irrelevant, or that the presence of other minorities on the board legitimizes the removal of a new Asian woman who simply holds different views? After all, Asians represent 18% of Lynnwood’s population, making it the largest and fastest-growing demographic and yet there’s no representation on the PFD board or Lynnwood city council.

Council Member George Hurst added to the prejudice by praising the other board members while conveniently omitting any mention of Dong’s achievements. Dong is a well-respected figure in the Asian community. In March, Dong was honored at the state of the city event for her contributions to the community by Lynnwood city council president Sessions and Vice President Crosby, along with other outstanding women in Lynnwood. Additionally, Dong is a senior engineer with expertise in technology and finance. Her work-life experiences resonate significantly with a large portion of the Asian population in Lynnwood, particularly those who have relocated here for tech jobs. She is someone who truly comprehends the struggles and values of Asians in this community, and what we look for as we choose to establish our homes here. And yet, her contributions were conveniently discredited and ignored once baseless accusations were leveled against her. Why is that?

Other subtle disdain was evident in the language used towards Dong by the PFD leadership. In the board meeting, she was abruptly interrupted and muted while defending herself, with Chair Miller dismissing her defense as ‘rambling’. It’s important to note that Dong has spoken publicly on many occasions, in city council meetings and other settings, and not one person would describe her communication in such a manner. It’s an act of discrimination that Mr. Miller might not even realize himself. 

Not to mention, three months after Dong’s appointment, Lynnwood PFD’s website still displayed a vacancy for her position. Was it a reluctance to acknowledge her appointment, or perhaps they were prepared to get rid of her all along? When confronted about this, Miller, laughing loudly, admitted the oversight and promised to correct it. But one can’t help but wonder, why did it take a public outcry to prompt this change?

I am disappointed and enraged by the Lynnwood PFD’s treatment of Dong. While some members of the Lynnwood city council value our beliefs and sentiments, it is clear that others do not. It is an uphill battle for the Asian community to make our voices heard, and such unwarranted attacks on our leaders only make it harder. But we will persist until our representation is acknowledged fairly and rightfully.

Rachel Zhang, Lynnwood Resident

DISCLAIMER: The views and comments expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Lynnwood Times nor any of its affiliates.

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