Stop the hate, speak out, and love one another. Those core values were expressed again and again Saturday at a Denver rally in support of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, who historically have been brutalized and discriminated against and now face intense pressures and violence during the pandemic.
Eight people were shot dead Tuesday in Atlanta, six of them Asian-American women. Hate and racism have been on the rise against Asian-Americans, partly fueled by political rhetoric and labeling of COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” some rally participants said.
“Hate and racism is a virus!” said the Rev. Joseph Dang, Denver Police Department chaplain and executive director of the Vietnamese Senior Citizen Center. “We are here today to say enough is enough.”
Some of the speakers — there were more than a half dozen — shared painful stories of friends, colleagues and family members being verbally abused, spit on and attacked. Asian-American businesses have been vandalized, windows have been broken and racist graffiti has been spray-painted on walls. Asian-American children have been teased and bullied at schools and on playgrounds.
“An attack on Asians is an attack on us all,” said Clarence Low, a board member of the Asian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers.
More than 200 people attended the late-morning rally Saturday in Denver, near the Pacific Ocean Marketplace on West Alameda Avenue. Speakers stood in front of a Vietnam War Memorial, and the American and South Vietnamese flags fluttered in the breeze.
Stopping discrimination and hatred
“Hate is un-American,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat. “We will not tolerate hate here in Denver, in Colorado or in our country.”
In January, President Joe Biden released a memorandum “condemning racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
“Congress will act in solidarity to stop discrimination and stop hatred,” DeGette said.
Alyssa Nilemo, a board member of the Asian Chamber of Commerce who is of Japanese descent, made a plea to combat sexism. “We are not a fetish,” Nilemo said of Asian women.
Nilemo told the gathering that she comes from a family of “strong and resilient” women and that family members drove across the country during World War II to escape internment.
“I don’t want to be afraid anymore” she said. “We are humans deserving of dignity and safety.”
Police Chief Paul Pazen described himself as a Denver-raised Latino, married to an Asian woman for 28 years. Recently, his mother-in-law expressed concerns about going to an area she has long frequented because she has been harassed. Pazen expressed concerns for his children’s well-being.
“What I ask is that we end this now,” Pazen said. For our children, “that we live in a world without hate and racism.”
“I want you to know, I’m as furious as hell”
Nga Vvong-Sandoval fled South Vietnam with her family in 1975 and came to America as a refuge. She’s now a historic preservationist and activist among other endeavors. “Asian Americans have endured a painful history of racism,” she said.
At the shopping center where the rally was held, Vvong-Sandoval just last week watched a senior couple, Asian-Americans, push a shopping cart into the parking lot.
“Will they be the next” victims, Vvong-Sandoval said. “Will my mom be next? Will someone I know be next? This is the anxiety we deal with.”
And with the anxiety comes anger, she said. “I want you to know, I’m as furious as hell.”
Vvong-Sandoval and others asked Asian-Americans to speak out when they are being harassed or attacked, to inform police and pursue justice. Speakers asked all Americans to be vigilant, to be aware of the problem and to help stop hate and racism whenever and wherever they see it.
“Dismantle the arbitrary differences among us,” Vvong-Sandoval said. “Show up for other communities that don’t look like us. We can’t afford to wait. … Hatred is igniting into violence all across the country.”
Source: Read Full Article