As town meetings progressed, the discussion was fairly routine, ranging from what Memorial Day celebrations might look like in the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, to a request for federal grant for protective vests. bullets for the police.
But when the time came for the directors of West Chester Township, Ohio to make personal remarks at the group’s final meeting, board chairman Lee Wong, who is of Asian and American descent, said does something unusual.
Mr. Wong took off his suit jacket and tie and unbuttoned his dress shirt, according to video from the March 23 board meeting, which has since garnered widespread attention. Then, he lifted his undershirt, revealing scars on his chest that he said he had while serving in the US military.
Mr Wong, 69, said he could no longer bear the indignities of prejudice against Asian Americans or for people to question his loyalty to America.
“Here is my proof,” he said. “Now is this patriot enough? I am no longer ashamed to walk around. Before I was inhibited. People were looking at me strangely.
It was the first board meeting since March 16, when a gunman killed six Asian women in a series of attacks on massage companies in the Atlanta area, killing eight. .
Prosecutors question whether to classify the shootings as a hate crime, but the rampage has come amid an increase in violent crimes targeting people of Asian descent across the United States, which the U.S. said. advocates, has been exacerbated by racism linked to the pandemic.
Mr. Wong immigrated to the United States from the island of Borneo in 1971, according to a profile about him in The Cincinnati Enquirer last year when he ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate.
He is a Republican, although the township council is a non-partisan body, The Enquirer reported. He was first elected to the board of directors for the Township of West Chester, a northern suburb of Cincinnati, in 2005.
About halfway through the board meeting, Mr. Wong said he would be deviating from protocol and had something he wanted to share.
He said he came to the United States when he was 18 and was previously assaulted in a racially motivated attack in Chicago. For too long, Mr. Wong said, he had endured racism but was too afraid to speak out because he feared he would face further discrimination and abuse.
“Over the past few years things have only gotten worse,” he said. “There are ignorant people who will come to me and tell me that I don’t sound American or patriotic enough. Now, he’s really my goat.
He said Asian Americans have been subjected to widespread prejudice, especially restaurant workers.
“These are hard working Americans,” he said. “Some even served in the US military – not the Chinese military. The American army.”
Noting that he had been a US citizen for some time, Mr. Wong said he served in the US military for 20 years. He suffered the scars while serving at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, the Hamilton, Ohio Journal-News reported.
Efforts to reach Mr. Wong on Sunday were not immediately successful, but he told CNN he had the scars after undergoing several surgeries for cuts that had been infected during combat training.
“People are questioning my patriotism, which I don’t look American enough,” Wong said at the meeting. “They can’t get over that face.”
Mr. Wong said the country has an important job to do to combat bigotry.
“You know prejudice is hate,” he said. “We have to be nicer, nicer to each other, because we are all the same. We are a human being on this earth. “