Responding to last Monday’s anti-Asian hate crime, when a man brutally attacked a 65-year-old woman in Midtown Manhattan, Asians Fighting for Injustice held an emergency rally in Chinatown’s Columbus Park on April 3.
The attack was the latest in a string of racist attacks on the AAPI community, which has risen by 800% last year in New York City.
Before introducing Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng, founder of Asians Fighting Injustice Ben Wei admitted that he didn’t pay a lot of attention to politics but that he stepped up to do so in the face of rising attacks on his community.
“Now politics touches every part of our lives, as much as we don’t like the bickering, or we don’t like, kind of empty promises by certain politicians. I think that if we don’t get involved, we don’t have a seat at the table. And I think, though, if you think of one person in Congress that really gives us a seat at the table, it is Congresswoman Grace Meng,” Wei explained.
Looking at the diverse crowd of about 200, Meng expressed her heartfelt gratitude for the support.
“I’ve been really touched because never in my life. I’m in my 40s. Never in my life have I seen and felt such a widespread showing of support and encouragement from people who don’t look like me. And I am so thankful for that because it’s gonna take all of us,” Meng said.
The congresswoman, who has been pushing for the passing of an anti-Asian hate bill in Congress, felt that many hadn’t listened to her community when they reported discrimination and bias attacks. The history of the United States has largely omitted the story of Asian Americans. Laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese internment camps in WWII contributed to scapegoating her community.
“So we have been invisible for way too long. And now we come together to say that we are invisible no more. We are not going to take it anymore. We are gathered in solidarity within and with other communities, to say that we matter too,” the congresswoman emphasized.
She reported that last week she visited with the families of the victims of the mass shooting in Atlanta, where eight people, including six Asian women, were shot and killed by a white gunman. She, along with her colleagues, took the exact route the gunman drove that day. It took 45 minutes to get from the first scene of the shooting to the third one.
“It was a very deliberate and intention intentional action plan to find the victims in those second and third and first places. And part of that is because of the silence and the invisibility that we have seen, Asian American women in this country been treated as Asian American women’s stories have not been sufficiently told,” Meng underlined, referring to the objectification of Asian American women and continued, “And I told these families. As sad as they are, they have changed the landscape of our community and our nation. Across the country, and we are incredibly grateful for their legacies. So I just wanted to be here to be in solidarity with all of you. It is up to you and me.”
She thanked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for working behind the scenes to pass legislation to help the AAPI community curb the rising hate incidents.
The longtime Democratic Senator pointed out that it was a beautiful day, not only because of the Spring-like temperatures but also because millions of people across the country were standing up against bigotry and hate. He said that the first legislation Congress will vote on after the break was Congresswoman Meng’s bill.
“It will go far more in action, not just in words, to go after the bigots, prosecute the bigots, arrest the bigots. So we will not stop. We will not stop. Our voices will not be silenced,” Schumer declared.
City Council Member Margaret Chin pointed out that she and Queens City Council Member Peter Koo were the only Asians on the New York City Council. She reminded the crowd of a time when all ballots were in English only. She sued the Board of Elections for the lack of bilingual ballots, and now, registration forms come in many different languages, reflecting the diversity of New York City.
Chin also stressed the importance of building coalitions and said that she was actively involved with the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus. She urged everyone to get involved and speak out.
“We are anxious, we worry about our parents, our grandparents with what’s going on now. So we just can’t be silent. We have to speak out and use our voice, get training to be an upstander, not just a bystander. Get involved. I know people don’t want to get hurt, but there are ways that you can get involved to support the victim,” Chin pointed out and encouraged people to vote to get more Asian representation on the city council.
“Because visibility counts. And that’s why I am not afraid to speak out. I am not afraid to stick my neck out. But I have people targeting me with hate messages, but I am not going to give up. You shouldn’t give up because there is hope that when we work together, we can get a lot of good things done,” the councilwoman declared.