San Juan Islands

Why Travel Abroad When We Have Amazing Hidden Islands Here?

With Christmas firmly behind us many of us are looking forward and seeing where we would like to head off for our annual vacations. And while destinations such as Europe, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand are always popular for American tourists, we also have some amazing “home-grown” destinations waiting to be discovered.

While over 40 million visitors head to Seattle each year – spending roughly $7.8 billion in the city and surrounding areas – few continue to the beautiful San Juan Island.

Situated sixty miles off the northwest coast of America and a mere 40-minute seaplane journey, the island can easily make one forget the busy Seattle lifestyle and settle into a lifestyle that is more relaxing and full of neighborly spirit.

While many coastal areas have been built up over the years to accommodate tourists, the 20-mile main island has remained unspoilt. Traffic is also a rare sight with no traffic lights and few other drivers meaning you have less stress as you navigate your way around the island.

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You can also visit the island via one of the cruise lines that stop off, including UnCruise and American Cruise Lines, however it is worth adding the trip to any other cruise that offers it. Many head here to watch the whales that are often spotted as well as to visit the seaside villages that welcome you like a long lost relative.

Make sure you take advantage of any offers to fly into the region, as you will get to see some amazing views not just of San Juan Island but also of all the 400 islands that are located nearby, although some are far smaller than the main islands, making them look like diamonds glistening in the water.

San Juan Island is not without its history. Back in the 1800s the American army had a base on the island while the British army also had a base there, albeit thirteen miles apart. During the twelve years they were both based there they appeared to live in peace, with athletic races between the two camps. The British camp created some formal gardens and these are still open for you to visit today. The camps also remained respectful of each other’s culture with the Americans celebrating the birthday of Queen Victoria while the British attended Independence Day celebrations.

However this was to change in 1859 when a pig escaped from a British farm and headed towards a vegetable patch of an American settler, who subsequently killed it. Although he apologised to the pig’s owner a disagreement was had over the worth of the pig. With this disagreement in full flow both the British and Americans tried to declare themselves owners of the islands therefore enabling them to enforce their own laws.

When it was clear neither side was prepared to settle the dispute the American military sent in 60 troops while the British responded with a full warship. The US then sent a further 450 more troops with the British sending another two more warships. When the US president decided to send army leaders to meet with the British a decision of joint occupation was made. Kaiser Wilhelm I – an independent arbitrator – held a ‘trial’ in neutral Switzerland that decided the Americans should own the islands and the British troops withdrew from the island within the next two weeks.

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If history is not your idea of fun you could always head to Lime Kiln Point State Park, also known as Whale Watch Park. Situated between the two camps – which you can still visit – tourists are treated to sights of orcas. Head down towards the shoreside path and make your way to the charming 1919 lighthouse and you should be able to see the beautiful creatures as they swim past.

Further along the waterfront is Roche Harbor. Situated in an impressive setting, the 1886 Hotel de Haro is a major attraction for loved-up couples to hold their weddings. The island’s sculpture park is nearby and has an amazing array of strange sculptures that move with the wind.

The main town on San Juan Islands is Friday Harbor and is home to around 2,000 residents. Not only can you visit the whale museum here you can also book boat trips to see the many marine mammals in the area including seals, humpbacks and of course, orcas. However if you want to see them while eating a great meal head over to Friday Harbor House and enjoy the sights from their clifftop restaurant.

Nearby Orca island – named after a sponsor of one of the Spanish explorers who originally found and named the island – is only a short plane or ferry ride and can be reached via Friday Harbor.

With an eclectic range of restaurants, cafes, parks, boutiques and galleries, many tourists like to head to the historic village of Eastsound.

If the great outdoors is your preference then head to Lopez Island, which offers great hiking and cycling trails.


Andrew Yang Draws Controversy for his Handling of Asian Stereotypes

A number of people may have the unwarranted impression that positive stereotypes about a minority community can be beneficial to that community, as they think that portraying an entire group of people in a positive, if narrow, light can help that community to succeed. However, this impression is far from the truth, as even stereotypes of communities as being hard-working and intelligent can lead to negative consequences not just for members of the community in question, but for other communities to which so-called “model minorities” can be compared. Though it may not be obvious to people not well-educated about the history of racism in the United States, positive minority stereotypes have long been used as a tool to disenfranchise and alienate minority races in a number of ways.

The question of how positive stereotypes can cause offense and harm has been brought to the forefront recently as a result of democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s casual invocation of Asian stereotypes on the campaign trail. One of Yang’s catchphrases, “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math,” invokes a well-worn Asian stereotype, and during the third Democratic debate he quipped “I’m Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” While supporters of Yang and Yang himself view these comments about his race as playful in-group references, others have seen these remarks as inappropriate and demonstrating ignorance of the harm Asian stereotypes have caused historically.

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Yang has also drawn controversy lately for his reaction to being referred to with a racist slur by comedian and former SNL writer Shane Gillis who on a podcast called Yang a “Jew c—-k.” Gillis was fired for this and other racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks, prompting Yang to comment that while he found the insult hurtful, he did not think Gillis should lose his job and invited Gillis to have a conversation with him about the controversy, which Gillis accepted. Yang further commented that he had experienced a lot of anti-Asian sentiment over the course of his life and felt that discrimination against Asians was not taken as seriously as discrimination against other groups in America, but that in 2019 people have grown excessively sensitive about issues of race in some circumstances. Gillis did not apologize for this and other remarks, instead arguing that it is his job as a comedian to push boundaries, but commented that he respected NBC’s decision to remove him from the cast of SNL.

While Yang has fared better than other presidential contenders when it comes to discussing the issue of race, his repeated invocations of his own race on the campaign trail may come back to haunt him as the primary progresses.

Despite Yang’s willingness to open up a dialogue with Gillis about race, the candidate has drawn criticism for how we went about handling the controversy. Li Zhou, for instance, thinks that Yang’s frequent references to math and other stereotypical aspects of his Asian identity “[set] the tone for how many people may see Asian Americans and [perpetuate] a damaging caricature in the process.” Zhou points out that while stereotypes of Asian Americans tend to focus on intelligence and propensity for success in professional and academic environments, these characterizations have caused harm not only for Asian Americans but for other communities as well. According to Zhou, these stereotypes obscure diversity in the community, leading people to believe that all Asians have the same talents and interests, and Yang’s use of them panders to a white electorate which may be inclined to racist judgments. 

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Zhou also alludes to the history of the immigration of Asians to America and how their integration into American life led to the development of harmful stereotypes. In a 1966 op-ed piece published in the New York Times, sociologist William Petersen hailed Japanese-Americans as being the “model minority,” arguing that despite being the object of discrimination, this group of people has achieved a great degree of success relative to other “problem minorities,” a thinly-veiled attack on African Americans. This analysis, Zhou points out, fails to take into consideration the structural racism experienced by black people throughout American history as well as the fact that there were strict restrictions on immigrants from Asia to the United States, as only immigrants with a certain degree of educational or professional achievement were allowed to enter. The myth of the model minority, Zhou argues, is used to pit minorities against each other and further disenfranchise the individuals affected most by racism.

Yang’s comparison of society’s treatment of racist slurs targeting Asians versus those targeting other minorities also ignited criticism, as Yang observed that slurs like the n-word are treated more seriously than those against people like him. For this comment, Yang was accused of taking advantage of racism against black people for his own political ends and unfairly comparing the type of racism he experiences to the type of racism others experience, falsely implying an equivalency. While Yang has fared better than other presidential contenders when it comes to discussing the issue of race, his repeated invocations of his own race on the campaign trail may come back to haunt him as the primary progresses.