I was radicalized by the idealism of the Kennedy brothers, fueled by the anger of students against the Establishment, and demonstrated against the war in Vietnam. At the University of Washington (UW), I found myself drawn to the Asian Student Coalition, and later initiated and co-led a demonstration at the Kingdome groundbreaking ceremony in 1972. I believed that the concrete white elephant would have an adverse impact on the International District neighborhood. Later, I demonstrated against the federal Housing and Urban Development department to demand low-income housing for the residents in that area. In 1980, I was arrested and jailed for protesting the UW’s racist admissions policy, and several years later, arrested again for protesting apartheid in South Africa. All the while, I kept faith in this country’s political system and democratic values, and got involved in local politics.
In more than 40 years of community activism, I never truly thought about any other political system than what we have now. Presently, I am actively involved with local politics supporting candidates that shares our values of caring, compassion and community. The Seattle Mayoral race, although non-partisan, is challenged. McGinn and Murray are both Democrats and both claim to be progressives. However, only one is a true progressive supporting small businesses, working-class people and neighborhoods. He will keep City Hall away from the influence and control of downtown big business interests and developers.
After the Primary, I heard about Kshama Sawant, a Socialist Alternative candidate for Seattle City Council who advanced to the November election. Intrigued, I met with Anh Tran, a Socialist Alternative activist, who came of voting age when Obama ran for his first term. Like a lot of other young people, she was electrified by this feeling that a real fighter for communities of color and working class people had emerged from the usual indistinct mass of corporate politicians. But five years later of home foreclosures, stagnant wages, record corporate profits, government surveillance and drone strikes, Tran learned to stop waiting for a change from above because anything that happens will have to come from the masses below.
That is why Kshama Sawant’s campaign for Seattle City Council inspires Tran. Sawant’s campaign isn’t even about the candidate. It’s about a grassroots movement — owned and operated by youth, activists and workers — to give real expression and power to the majority who have been shut out of city politics. Sawant passionately articulates the concerns that we all have — that Seattle has become unaffordable for working people, that downtown business interests and real estate developers have enriched themselves while transit and school budgets are gutted, that Seattle police carry out their abuses with impunity. The campaign is fighting alongside fast food workers for a $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers, leading the charge for rent control and calling for a Millionaire’s Tax to fund mass transit and education.
Tran will continue with Sawant’s campaign to convince communities of color and working-class people everywhere that we deserve better than the corporate-controlled two-party system, but we must build this political alternative ourselves!
Our community is confronted with two political choices offered by community activists who are generations apart, but share a love for community, peace and social justice. What political path will Our People choose in two discrete political races?
In the state of Washington, the Asian Pacific Islanders are 8.4 percent of the population, and the largest minority population in Seattle and King County. In sum, they are a growing segment of the electorate and can make a difference in electoral politics, particularly in close elections.
In 2012, Asians and Pacific Islanders overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, especially those 40 years old or younger. We are concerned about immigration, education, jobs and the economy. And we look for candidates who can address those issues and concerns, not only in words, but also deeds.
Shall we stick with a progressive from a mainstream political party in one race, and in the other choose one who is independent from both mainstream parties? How do we decide who to vote for in these races? That is the question that only you can answer.