DEQ staff spotlight on Lynda Viray, in honor of Filipino American History Month

Lynda Viray, taking a selfie, social distancing and enjoying coffee on vacation.

Filipino Americans make up one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States with nearly 20,000 residing in the State of Oregon. Every October we celebrate Filipino heritage to increase awareness of the significant role Filipinos have played in American history.

We had the opportunity to talk to Lynda Viray, someone who knows first hand about Filipino American heritage, to learn about her role at the Oregon Department of Quality, her background and what makes her tick. Lynda’s story is a reminder of the social, cultural, intellectual and economic contributions of Filipino Americans in the nation and Oregon.

What do you do at DEQ?

I am a planner in the Air Quality Planning Section and currently work on the Diesel Emissions Mitigation Grant program. I’ve been with DEQ since March 2020 and previously worked at Oregon Department of Transportation on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund.

Lynda's family
Lynda enjoying time with her family.

What’s your biggest challenge as a Filipino American?

I find the biggest challenge as a Filipino American is a lack of a diversity in Oregon. I grew up in the Bay Area and prior to Oregon lived in New York City and most recently Honolulu. Also, Filipinos often get swept under the general Asian Pacific Islander umbrella.

The API community at-large is important for coalition building and solidarity efforts, but we are not one monolith group with the same exact issues. We are notably facing similar harassment and violence due to a rise of anti-Asian sentiments.

I hope that we all learn, empathize and recognize the different history and heritages that exist and continue to have much needed representation.

Lynda Viray

The CDC published a report that added Asian Americans to the list of groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19 but this doesn’t note that the subgroup of Filipino Americans being more heavily impacted by others. Filipinos have high COVID-19 infections and deaths due to the large representation of Filipino health care workers in part due to immigration. This commonly affects Filipino families who often live in multigenerational housing. A Center for Health Journalism article references other factors and barriers such as undocumented status, lack of health insurance and economic insecurity. Our data should be disaggregated to understand the deeper impacts on the Filipino community.

Lynda’s spouse , Tai (left), brothers and parents – a close-knit Filipino family which often extend to distant cousins, godparents and one’s barkada or gang of friends.

In one of DEQ’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference staff sessions specifically called “Chinese and Chinese-Americans in Oregon from 1865 to Current Day,” there was a bar graph from a 2018 American Community Survey showing the wage gap is different for each AAPI community. This showed Taiwanese, Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Filipino, Indonesian, Mongolian, Bangladeshi, Fijian, Thai, Guamanian/Chamorro, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Laotian, Cambodian, Hmong, Samoan, Tongan, Nepali, and Burmese. The slide stated: The “model minority” myth, furthers the misconception that AAPI’s don’t need additional resources or support. This is particular acute in Asian women, who are hidden in non-disaggregated data.

How do you hope to see DEQ or the world address these challenges?

There are several Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, commonly referred to as DEI, efforts in motion at DEQ that are exciting to see, such as hiring a new DEI Coordinator, establishing a DEI Council comprised of staff and leadership team members and incorporating a DEI Article in the union contract. I think this pandemic and working remotely has made it difficult to connect with others. However, the creation of four staff affinity groups, specifically the Black, Indigenous, People of Color or BIPOC affinity group for staff and managers, has been a resource in finding folks who understand challenges and difficulties. I hope that we all learn, empathize and recognize the different history and heritages that exist and continue to have much needed representation.

Tell me about your hobbies and interests?

I like listening to k-pop music from BTS, Exo, Ikon, Shinee, and Ateez to name a few. I enjoy live stand-up comedy shows and one of my favorite comedians is actually a Fil-Am one, Jo Koy. I binge-watch series such as Squid Game, Insecure, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, One Punch Man, Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and Reservation Dogs. I also listen to podcasts Asian Enough, They Call Us Bruce, Be Antiracist with Ibram X. Kendi, and The Read.

Lynda’s brother and cousins are seen here in their Filipino traditional clothing called a Barong (embroidered long sleeved formal shirt).

Background

Lynda earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management Economics from University of California, Santa Cruz and has a Master’s Degree in Sustainability Management from Columbia University.

Learn more about Filipino American History Month here.

-Jennifer K. Flynt, public affairs specialist

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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