A trustee in Ohio's West Chester Township delivered a powerful reaction to Asian American discrimination this week, as the nation grapples with a spike in hate crimes against the minority over the past year.
Lee Wong, a 69-year-old Army veteran, took off his suit jacket and shirt during a town hall he was chairing, exposing scars across his chest as he asked, "Is this patriot enough?"
What are the details?
"I don't say much about much what happens unless it uh...hit me," Mr. Wong said, as he addressed the room.
He went on to explain that he came to the U.S. when he was 18, and noted that he had been an American citizen since long before most attendees had even been born. Wong went on to recall that after a few years of arriving in America, he was beat up in Chicago because of his race and the perpetrator was never punished.
After that, he explained, he went into the U.S. Army, and served 20 years active duty before retiring.
"For too long, we have, I have, put up with a lot of s*** in silence, excuse the language, too afraid to speak out, fearing more abuse and discrimination," Wong said according to dictation from The Cincinnati Enquirer.
"People question my patriotism, that I don't look American enough," Wong said. "They could not get over this face. I want to show you something, I don't have to live in fear, intimidation, insults."
As Wong spoke, he removed his tie, unbuttoned his shirt, and lifted his undershirt to reveal a scar across his ribcage. He said, "I'll show you what patriotism looks like," and as he showed his scars sustained during military service he asked, "Is this patriot enough?"
Lee Wong, an elected official in West Chester, Ohio & @USArmy veteran with 20-years of service, took his shirt off… https://t.co/cEHuQvmQE9— James LaPorta (@James LaPorta)1616793446.0
Wong said later that his speech and actions were unplanned, explaining to the Enquirer later, "In that moment, I don't know what came over me. I just knew I had to say something."
The outlet noted that Wong campaigned for his seat while riding a Segway and wearing a "Make America Great Again" cap, and he says the reaction from his town hall have been overwhelmingly supportive.
"People thank me for my service," Wong said, "People are glad I spoke. West Chester is a diverse community and we don't need that kind of rhetoric."
Hate crimes against Asian Americans reportedly shot up 150% in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic according to some estimates, with experts blaming the rise in violence with rhetoric criticizing China — where the disease originated.
The issue has become a political football, with Democrats blaming former President Donald Trump for his comments such as calling COVID-19 the "China virus," although it was widely known as the "Wuhan virus" when it first emerged.
Meanwhile, Asian Americans are fighting back to defend themselves, with gun shop owners claiming for the past year they've seen a noticeable rise in the number of Asian American buyers.
But guns aren't the only way folks are defending themselves. Last week, an Asian American woman in her 70's beat the tar out of a thug who sucker punched her in San Francisco, sending him away on a stretcher as she sobbed and refused to let go of the board she beat him back with.