Ever since Lee Wong came to the United States after graduating from high school, he has had questions about his patriotism.
It started, he says, when he was a college student in the 1970s, and a white man attacked him while hurling anti-Asian slurs. Discrimination continued throughout his life – his application as a policeman was immediately thrown in the trash when the policemen laughed at the “Chinese” who wants to become a policeman.
In recent years, Wong has continued to face similar feelings from the ignorant, he said at a meeting of the West Chester, Ohio board of trustees Tuesday. “People question my patriotism, that I don’t look American enough,” said Wong, pointing to his face.
“I want to show you something,” Wong continued. And the four other board members on the podium watched as the chairman took off his jacket. “Because I’m not scared,” he said. “I don’t have to live in fear, intimidation, or insult.”
The 69-year-old took off his tie and unbuttoned his shirt. He continued, “Here is my proof.” He got up, lifted his undershirt and revealed a large dark scar on his chest. “This is being kept up by my service in the US military. Is this patriot enough now?”
The video of Wong’s remarks has been viewed more than 3 million times on Twitter. They came just a week after a gunman opened fire at three different massage parlors in the Atlanta area, killing eight people – six of whom were Asian.
Several cities reported an increase in hate crimes against Asians in 2020. A survey found cases of harassment and discrimination related to the coronavirus.
Wong, a 20-year veteran in the U.S. Army, hadn’t planned on taking off his shirt at that escrow meeting, he later told the Cincinnati Enquirer. But “the timing was right, given what is happening in this country,” he said.
After showing his scars, Wong sat down again and buttoned his shirt. “Prejudice is hate,” he told the assembled crowd. “And this hatred can be changed. We are human. We have to be kinder and gentler with one another. Because we are all the same. We are human on this earth.”