Asian Americans are speaking out amid a recent wave of hate crimes across the United States.
Recently, a video of Ohio politician Lee Wong went viral after he removed his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt at a meeting of the West Chester Board of Trustees to make a powerful statement. The 69-year-old explained that he came to the U.S. when he was 18 years old, right out of high school, and served 20 years as an active duty member of the Army.
"People question my patriotism, that I don't look American enough," Wong said, pointing to his face. "I want to show you something. Because I'm not afraid. I don't have to live in fear, intimidation or insults."
Then, Wong revealed a long scar across his chest. "Here is my proof. This is sustained through my service in the U.S. military. Now is this patriot enough?" he said.
"Prejudice is hate," Wong said as he buttoned his dress shirt back up. "And that hate can be changed. We are human. We need to be kinder, gentler to one another. Because we are all the same. We are one human being on this Earth."
He later spoke to The Cincinnati Enquirer about why he decided to bare his scars and speak on the topic. "The timing was right in light of what's happening in this country. In that moment, I don't know what came over me," Wong said. "I just knew I had to say something."
A video of Wong's speech, which was uploaded Friday to Twitter by Associated Press reporter James LaPorta, has since accumulated more than 4.6 million views.
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Wong's speech was publicly shared amid the rise of racist incidents against Asians.
On March 16, eight people were killed in shootings across three Atlanta-area spas. Though authorities said there's no evidence suggesting the suspect was motivated by race, six of the victims were Asian women.
Then on March 17, a 75-year-old Asian American woman, named Xiao Zhen Xie, used a wooden board to fight back after she was punched by a white man in San Francisco, California. (Steven Jenkins was arrested at the scene, after previously attacking 83-year-old Ngoc Pham.)
In addition, a report released this week by Stop AAPI Hate revealed there have been nearly 3,800 hate incidents during the pandemic.
Also findings of a recent study of police department statistics show that hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by nearly 150 percent in 2020, despite hate crimes overall dropping by seven percent. The report, issued by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, analyzed data on hate crimes in both 2019 and 2020 from authorities in 16 of America's largest cities, and found that the first surge in violence against Asian Americans occurred last year, as COVID-19 cases started to spike in March and April. The findings show that New York City saw the largest increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, rising from three reported instances in 2019 to 28 in 2020.
If you've been attacked or have witnessed an attack, please contact your local authorities. You can also report your incident here. / To learn more and to report crimes, go to: Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Stop the AAPI Hate, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, and Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council.