Tell us about your childhood growing up in America.
I was born in Hong Kong and my family immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-’70s. In the community we lived in, we were different—we weren’t Caucasian. I didn’t speak English as well in those days. So, of course there’s going to be prejudice and racial discrimination. I was called names, not included with others a lot, and always made to feel second class. That was on the East Coast where we first lived, in Bethesda, Maryland, as well as the West Coast in Whittier, where I grew up in the ’80s. With some kids, there was a mean attack, and some kids were just joking and thinking it was OK, but to me, it wasn’t OK.
What is it like to experience racism as an adult?
If someone doesn’t know me, they’re very polite, but if you know someone a little bit better, then they feel it’s OK to tell you those stereotypical jokes—similar to what I experienced with kids while growing up. It is ingrained in American culture, through the movies, things that people learn. I tell people, “I know we’re friends, but those jokes aren’t innocent,” and some people say, “I didn’t realize that. I had no idea that was bad.” So, it is an education.
You recently hosted a Stop Asian Hate car rally. What inspired the event?
A lot of Americans have a stereotypical idea of an Asian person. What I think President Trump has done—calling it the “Chinese virus,” putting the blame on the Chinese—has encouraged people to feel this way. My friends and I thought if we bring the car community together to know that we are against Asian hate, we could educate them. We organized a car rally that started in downtown Los Angeles, driving all the way to Hing Wa Lee Plaza in Walnut, 20 miles away.
Are you worried that you will be targeted for speaking out?
You know, it’s always the people who take a stand who are subjected to the potential of being a target, but you can’t live life always being silent. For the Chinese, if something happens, we keep it quiet because if we speak up someone might retaliate, but then it’s almost empowering people to continue to cause harm. We want to change that philosophy, and that’s why we’re educating our people. But if I don’t take a stand and put the bullseye on my back, how do I expect other people to?
What is your hope for the future regarding ending racism and violence toward Asian Americans?
The first step is speaking out. If any incidents happen, tell the police, local mayors, or city councilmen and help them put pressure on the government to make laws to protect the people. We won’t solve the problem of racism itself. We can only try to manage it by having laws with consequences. Hopefully, we will help the future generations live in a better way.