By Chen ZHOU, contributor
Sign seen at March 28 rally
I want tell you about my friend Ni. Years ago, she got a note that read “Go back to your country, we don’t want you.” And, to this day, she still has the note. It is a reminder that she has never felt accepted by this country.
I want to tell you about my daughter. Recently, she was called a “chink” on her way home. She was shocked and angered. What did she do to deserve that? Why so much hate? Why?
I want to tell you about my Hmong friend. He got beaten up because people thought he was the cause of the so-called “China virus.” He was born and raised in Minnesota. He’s never been to China. But it does not matter. They took their frustration and fear out on him.
Nationally, in the past few months, we had:
· Visha, 84-year-old Thai gentleman who was pushed and killed on the street of San Francisco
· Ngoc Pham, an 83-year-old Vietnamese man who was attacked in a farmers market (where?)
· Xie Xiao Zhen, a 75-year-old Chinese woman who was punched in the face In San Francisco’s Chinatown
What would you do if your grandmother was punched in the face? What would you do your father was attacked in the farmers market? What would you do if your grandfather got pushed and killed on the street? Would you tolerate that? Would you ask for justice? Would you stand up and demand a better America?
Just when we thought that was the worst, Atlanta happened. Eight innocent lives were lost, six of which were Asian women. I want to honor them by speaking all eight names out loud. They are: Delaina Yaun, Paul Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Sun Cha Kim and Yong Ae Yue.
These are not just names, they were somebody’s father or mother, they were somebody’s husband or wife, and they were somebody’s son or daughter. They were somebody’s family member. They died too young. They deserve better. THEY. DESERVE. BETTER.
In the Chinese language, Asian American is known as ”yayi.” It sounds exactly like another term in Chinese, “yayi,” which means “silent race.” We, Asians, have been too quiet, too silent, for too long. Now it’s time to speak up. America needs to hear us, and America needs to listen.
We are not the cause of the virus. We are not your punching bags. Our women are not somebody’s fantasy. Our grandparents should not be pushed and left to die on the street. We are not to be terrorized and killed when somebody is having a bad day.
We are known as the model minority. Well, this is our new model: if you give us a note and tell us to “go back to your country,” we are not going to carry it in silence. Instead, we are going to tell you this IS our country, and it is a free country. If you don’t like it, YOU are free to leave. And excuse my language; we really don't want your racist ass anyhow.
If you call us Chink, if you call us the China virus, we will push back. We will not be living in fear. We will not tolerate racism. We will not tolerate misogyny. We will not tolerate hatred. We will stand up and we will speak up.
We need to stop this violence; we must stop Asian hate. What we will do is we will listen to each other, love each other, and work together for that is what makes America beautiful. This is the land of the free and home of the brave. And we all need to be brave, and we are.
So, let me ask you: all of you, are you ready? Will you stand up? Will you speak up? Will you fight against injustice? Will you fight against racism? Will you fight against misogyny? Will you fight against hatred?
I ask all of us to heed the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Racism anywhere threatens freedom everywhere.
We are all Americans. This is our country and it belongs to all of us. May god bless America.
Chen ZHOU is community activist, a small business owner, a father and an Asian-American Minnesotan. He is the vice president of the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society.
He was invited to speak at the Stop Asian Hate rally at the St. Paul capitol on March 28 by the Chinese Community Center. This is an abbreviated version of that speech.