Sounding Board: Teen calls for stopping hatred of Asians
Rosie Zhou, a senior at Ferris High School and a local Asian-American activist and leader, helped to organize the Stop Asian Hate Vigil March 20 in Spokane. She is involved in incorporating more Asian-American history into school curriculum.
In addition, Rosie is active in Sunrise Spokane, a youth-led organization working on climate change and environmental justice issues. At Ferris, she is part of the Black Student Union and in the community, she is a student ambassador for the League of Women Voters of the Spokane Area.
When I first learned about the shooting on Tuesday night in Atlanta, I felt numb. Like I couldn't process what I was seeing on my phone screen, I couldn't believe, or maybe didn't want to believe, what I was seeing. I had trouble sleeping that night, I couldn't stop picturing horrific images in my head and thinking about the fact that this happened, that eight people were now dead, eight lives lost—six of them being Asian American women. For what? For simply going to work that day? For working and striving to create better lives for their families, for being Asian American?
The next morning, when I woke up I immediately checked the news, only to be disappointed and angered. Here were all of these articles, showing the murderer's face, describing his life—his hobbies, his passions, his strong ties to his church, even his grandparents' descriptions about him. So this murderer was being humanized—suggesting that we needed to empathize with him.
Then came the part that really made my blood boil—the video of the Cherokee police officer talking about the shooter—saying "He was pretty much fed up, at the end of his rope and this was a very bad day for him, and this is what he did."
A bad day for him? For him? What about the eight people who lost their lives? Does him having a bad day mean he can take the lives of eight innocent people? Does him having a bad day mean he can target Asian women because of his supposed "sexual addiction, "which, by the way, in and of itself reflects on the history of U.S. imperialism in Asian countries, the dehumanization of Asian women, and the fetishization of Asian women.
It is saddening that in America, a white man went out and intentionally took the lives of Asian women, then had his actions justified and attributed to him having a bad day, and was not even said to have committed a hate crime. Why? Because he didn't explicitly tell the police that he was targeting Asians?? Well, his murders speak louder than his words.
When I started learning the stories of the victims, I think that's when the numbness finally started to wear off, replaced with pure grief. These women had families, they had desires and dreams for the future, they were kind and loving and beautiful and resilient. They, like so many other Asian immigrants, came to America, filled with hope and a desire to create better lives for their children.
Now I'd like to share the stories of Xiaojie Tan and Hyung Jung Grant, who were both killed in Atlanta on Tuesday. We do not need to humanize the murderer, we need to humanize these women and remember them forever.
That day was the day before Xiaojie Tan's 50th birthday. Her family in China were gathering to celebrate her birthday. Her mother kept on asking if she could talk to her daughter on the phone but her family didn't want to tell her that her daughter had been killed, because they were worried it would make her sick. So they cut a slice of cake and told her that her daughter couldn't come to the phone.
Xiaojie was an immigrant from Nanning, China. She opened her spa in America and was described as the sweetest person, she housed her own workers and had a cake ready for her customers on their birthdays. She and her daughter, Jami, were best friends. They soon planned on celebrating her 50th birthday with a slice of fresh strawberry cream cake.
Jami said, "She did everything for me and for the family. She provided everything. She worked every day, 12 hours a day, so that me and our family would have a better life." She had dreams of traveling the world.
When I read about Xiaojie, I immediately thought of my own family: my mom and I here in America, and my aunt and grandma in China. My grandma messaged us a few days ago telling us to be extra cautious, she didn't want us to get hurt.
Hyung Jung Grant was a 51 year old Korean American. She was a single mom, raising two sons. Her son Randy said that she lived a life of work and not much else to support their small family. He said that they were best friends and he could talk to her about anything. She loved disco music and she loved to dance. She was full of energy and joy, described by her son as a "big kid." Eleven days ago, Randy and his mother had danced around together and laughed to music. It would be the last time they would. Asked what he would say to his mom today, Park said, "You did a good job. You've done enough and finally get some sleep and rest."
Now, I would like for us to say the names of the eight victims together, to remember them and honor them. I would also like for us to say the names of two Asian American elders, Vichy Ratanapkdee and Pak Ho, who were killed in recent months due to anti-Asian sentiments.
I'd also like for us to say the names of two Asian American men who were killed by police. Christian Hall and Angelo Quinto.
Soon Chung Park
Hyun Jung Grant
Young Ae Yue
Delaina Ashley Yaun
Paul Andre Michels
To these 12 kind, beautiful souls, may you forever rest in peace and power. You will never be forgotten, your Asian American brothers and sisters from all around the country will carry you in our hearts forever and carry on your spirits. We will speak up for you, we will stand up together, united, against anti-Asian racism and violence, we will NOT let your deaths be in vain.
Rosie's speech will be published online at thefigtree.org with speeches of Ping Ping and Jasmine Meredith.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, April, 2021