Freedom to feel safe | Reporter’s Desk

Let’s not forget that July 4 is a day that celebrates the freedoms we have in this country.

Pak headshot

Pak headshot

Let’s face it. The United States has had a rough go at it in recent weeks.

The eyes of the world have been on our southern border as there has been seemingly endless coverage of young immigrant children who have been separated from their parents and detained in camps.

To put it simply, things have not been easy.

But this week, we celebrate our nation’s birthday.

Now, the 4th of July means different things for different people. For some, it’s a time to get together for a barbecue with family and friends (weather permitting, of course, since this is the Pacific Northwest). For others, it’s all about the fireworks. And for others still, it’s just a day off of work (or not).

But let’s not forget that the July 4 is Independence Day, a day that celebrates (among other things) the freedoms we have in this country.

And it is those very freedoms that drive people from other parts of the world to sacrifice and risk so much to come to the United States.

My family is among them.

My parents came to this country as refugees from Cambodia. My father arrived in 1975 after escaping the Khmer Rouge, while my mother spent years in the regime’s labor camps. During this time, neither knew what had happened to the other and it took six years for them to be reunited here in the Puget Sound.

Coming to the United States may have been a choice forced upon them based on circumstances beyond their control but this is where they ended up and here I am. My parents coming to this country afforded me and my sister opportunities we likely would not have had if they had stayed in Cambodia.

But while this country may be dubbed the Land of Opportunity and the Land of the Free, those opportunities and freedoms are not equal.

Police brutality against black people still occurs throughout the country and whether it’s touring a college campus, waiting for a friend in a Starbucks or barbecuing in a public park, people of color are having the police called on them for merely existing in these spaces.

And we in the upper left — and here on the Eastside — are not immune to these types of incidents.

In January 2016, a black-owned consignment store in Redmond received items similar to those worn by the Ku Klux Klan. Later that year in November, a mosque in Redmond had its sign vandalized twice in the span of about a month. And just a couple weeks ago, Neo-Nazi literature appeared in Bellevue, encouraging residents to report undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

And back in 2015, I personally witnessed a man “ching-chong” another Asian woman while in line at an Eastside bookstore. The racism may not have been directed at me but it still caught me off guard and left me shocked and feeling dirty.

In these cases, the targeted are just seen as “other,” a potential enemy or threat or just someone who does not matter. They are not seen as people with their own stories or even lives.

Their humanity is not a point of consideration when someone calls the police on them, encourages others to report them to the authorities or mocks them for simply being different. Very little thought is put into the type of domino effect these actions may cause — whether that is separating a family, an arrest or someone not feeling safe.

This is how this kind of behavior becomes acceptable. The people who are different from what’s considered “mainstream” are often seen as less than, and so it is OK to treat them as such.

This is not who we are as a country and this is not who we are as a community. We cannot let this become the norm.

Fortunately, I have seen members of the Eastside community respond to these incidents to let people know that they do not accept this behavior. They have supported the targeted through gifts and donations as well as just being there for them.

And while it is heartening and amazing to see the outpouring of support following such incidents, these incidents shouldn’t be happening in the first place. No one should need to have something bad happen to them to feel safe and welcome in their community.

We need to get to a point where this behavior and treatment of others becomes so unacceptable — no matter their background, orientation, status or whatever — that we won’t need these outpourings of love and support. People will just know they are safe.

More in Opinion

Preparing for safety: Making EvergreenHealth even more earthquake ready

In the event of a large-scale earthquake, EvergreenHealth is prepared to provide critical emergency health care services to those in the community and beyond.

A short changed public | Letter

Representing Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, I was one of dozens of… Continue reading

Food diversity in local grocery stores | Letter

Our ever-growing community is becoming more and more diverse with each passing… Continue reading

Raising the village: Accomplices wanted | Windows and Mirrors

The conversation around race on the Eastside continues.

Are sheriffs above the law?

Washington voters have spoken on I-1639. Sheriffs need to set the stage to follow their oath of office - and enforce the law.

Vote NO on EvergreenHealth’s $345 million bond | Letter

Taxes are already too high. Including interest, the proposed $345 million bond… Continue reading

Young people are the future | Letter

How exciting to see students helping to educate each other about not… Continue reading

Libraries are places of connection and community pride

KCLS has connected communities for more than 75 years.

Committed to transparency | Guest editorial

What does it mean when a city council holds executive sessions?

Sound Publishing’s seven Eastside newspapers are Bellevue Reporter, Kirkland Reporter, Mercer Island Reporter, Redmond Reporter, Bothell-Kenmore Reporter, Issaquah Reporter and Snoqualmie Valley Record.
Sound Publishing’s Eastside newspapers are moving to new home in Kirkland

New advertising director joins Eastside news team

In lieu of a perfect world | Windows and Mirrors

Violence in the world will happen but we shouldn’t just resign ourselves to it.

Resetting state view on helping those with substance abuse

In opioid epidemic, lawmaker wants recovery to be on the same pedestal as treatment and prevention.