I’m all for recycling. The good kind. Paper. Plastics. Just not the hate.
But what do we have with us in Atlanta?
It’s Vincent Chin with the names changed.
Soon Chung Park, 74, who worked at Gold spa.
Hyun Jung Grant, 51, the single mother who worked at Gold Spa to support herself and her two sons.
Suncha Kim, 69, a Gold Spa worker.
Yong Ae Yue, 63, a worker at the Aromatherapy Spa.
Xiaojie Tan, 49, the owner of Young’s Asian Massage.
Daoyou Feng, 44, an employee at Young’s Asian Massage.
Those six names strike the discordant history of the hateful treatment of Asian Americans in this country, from the Chinese Exclusion Act to today.
President Joe Biden recognized it. Suddenly, Biden has become one of the most pro-Asian American presidents the U.S. has seen since Reagan signed the bill giving Japanese Americans redress.
Think about that. Did either of the Bushes, Clinton, or even Obama do anything that addressed Asian American existential angst like Biden?
One thing for sure, the last president was the absolute worst. He slurred Asian Americans and made us targets.
In contrast, Biden has shined a light on us and made us visible.
He selected as vice president Kamala Harris, who is half South Asian of Indian descent.
As he began his presidency, Biden signed an unusual executive order making sure everyone in the country knew that the attacks on Asian Americans were wrong and “un-American.”
He came out strong for us in his first national television address a few weeks ago.
And then, after meeting with local AAPI leaders after last week’s shootings in Atlanta, Biden once again elevated our status simply by showing everyone he has our backs. His remarks are worth remembering because they put him on record, as he described the impact of Trump administration rhetoric on our community.
“It’s been a year of living in fear for their lives,” Biden said of all AAPIs in the country.
Hate and violence often hide in plain sight and often are met with silence. That’s been true throughout our history. and that has to change.
Because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act. For all the good the laws can do, we have to change our hearts.
Hate can have no safe harbor in America. It must stop. And it’s on all of us, all of us together, to make it stop.
Strong words, from no less than the president of the United States.
It’s enough to unite Asian Americans. Is our fear enough to unite a country?
Not with Republicans like Texas Congressman Chip Roy, who couldn’t find the empathy at last week’s Judiciary Subcommittee hearing to change his heart and join in condemning the murder of eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian American women.
“My concern about the hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric,” said Roy, a Trump backer who was trying to defend the ex-president’s “China Virus” and “Kung Flu” remarks.
Asian American voters, a third of whom voted Republican for Trump, should remember this. The Republicans who remain hell-bent on defending Trump’s big lie–that he won the 2020 election–see “China Virus” as a matter of Trump’s free speech.
And what of the thousands of AAPIs victimized by his hateful turn of phrase?
Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) let him have it.
“This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community, and to find solutions,” Meng said in a rare show of emotion and passion. “We will not let you take our voice away from us.”
That’s where we are today.
People are angry. And only the Democrats truly seem interested not just in stopping the hate, but in recognizing it.
This week, Meng and Sen. Mazie Hirono continue to campaign for their Covid Hate Crime Bill that would have the Justice Department conduct fast reviews of possible hate crime cases. This was thought up long before the shootings in Atlanta, but it would seem to be perfect timing. The bill also sets up an online reporting system in different Asian languages that would stop the undercounting of hate crimes and make it easy for AAPIs to report them.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, the Atlanta shooting suspect, has been charged with 8 counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. Long has admitted to the shootings but told police he was just a religious man battling a sex addiction. The shootings, Long told police, weren’t racially motivated.
That’s what they all say.
Ronald Ebens, the Vincent Chin killer, said the same thing.
Ebens did get off without spending time in jail. Long is being held without bail while the police continue to investigate.
That does nothing for Asian Americans, still grief-stricken and angry. If hate crime enhancements aren’t forthcoming, it would definitely send Asian Americans a harsh message of our real value in this country.
It will also test the community’s strength. What will our response be then? Will others feel our pain, join us in alliance, and speak up in unison?
Or will we be left wondering how we get justice for the six Asian American women killed?
Soon Chung Park.
Hyun Jung Grant.
Yong Ae Yue.
They are our dead, the latest in the sad narrative of Asian Americans in this country since the 19th Century, an agonizing history of recycled hate.