On Saturday, March 27, Dallas-Fort Worth residents gathered in Plano’s Russell Creek Park to honor the eight victims of the Atlanta spa shootings: Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, Paul Andre Michels, Chung Park, Hyun Grant, Suncha Kim and Yong Ae Yue. As six of the victims were Asian women, the tragedy has sparked outrage and advocacy among the Asian American community and its allies in North Texas and throughout the country.
The Stop Asian Hate rally in Plano was hosted by a collaboration of organizations, including the Asian Culture and Education Society USA (ACAES USA) and Association of Chinese Professionals (ACP) Foundation. The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) Austin Chapter also helped organize a pre-event virtual discussion.
Jan Xie, the founder of ACAES USA, led the day’s efforts to encourage Asian-centered organizations and residents to come together in solidarity. “So many tragedies happened around us these days in this country,” she shared. “Our community feels not safe. The violence and the hatred must be stopped, and we need to step up and take some action.”
Jan and the founder of Gendercide Awareness Project (GAP), Beverly Hill, have written a statement condemning the “surging violence, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans.” Their goal is to collect signatures and convince legislators to address the problem. Former Rhode Island Mayor Allan Fung helped guide the statement, and his wife, Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, a state Representative, plans to introduce it to the House of Representatives next week.
The virtual component of Saturday’s event hosted attendees from Dallas, Houston, Austin and beyond to witness various speakers leading Texas advocacy efforts for the Asian-American community. Moderator David Yan began by reviewing statistics of recent hate crimes, and also explained that most hate crimes in the U.S. are unreported. “We can’t be silent. We can’t be invisible. We have to speak loudly and clearly,” he declared.
Alice Chen, the Mayor Pro Tem of Stafford, Texas, shared that the recent crimes are not news to her, as an Asian American woman who has lived in the U.S. for more than 40 years. She said that people have yelled at her, “Go back to your country.”
“We have to work not just from the grassroots, but from the top,” said Kenneth Li, a pioneer of Houston’s Chinatown, implying that state-level government involvement was needed.
Anand Krishnaswamy, a local resident and leader of the DFW Asian-American Citizens Council (DFWAACC), compelled viewers on the Zoom: “Let’s hold our political leaders accountable for the statements they make. Leadership at all levels need to be perceptive and use inclusive words in their language instead of being divisive. Talk to your representatives, your senators and civic leaders, and if they don’t listen, speak through your votes.”
The in-person rally at noon welcomed attendees dressed in black, and speakers using both English and Chinese languages. Plano Plano Chief Ed Drain welcomed questions from the group, explaining what constitutes hate crimes and what citizens can legally do to protect themselves and their businesses.
Several local residents took the microphone, expressing a range of emotions.
William Yi, the vice president of US-China Chamber of Commerce (USCCC) Dallas chapter, brought his two sons with him to the event so they could understand the importance of speaking out and speaking up for the community. “We are here. We are not silenced,” he said to the crowd, a sentiment repeated by others throughout the event.
Stella Xu expressed a desire to create a more inclusive future for children of Asian Americans. “We do not want everything to just happen again to our next generation. Today, what we’re doing is for our future. If we do not speak up today – if we keep silenced – then we could not change our destiny.”
“In our community a lot of people are scared about the things happening,” said Robin Gan, president of a Plano homeowner’s association. He also had words for those who deny discrimination is happening: “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, this is not happening to me. This is not happening around us, so this doesn’t exist.’ No, discrimination and hate exists in the society.”
Li Sun lives in the neighborhood near the park. She said she came out to the event not as a representative of any organization, but as a concerned resident who has personally experienced racist remarks in the past.
Refering to a previous encounter when someone told her to go back to China, she got emotional. ‘There is no place to go back. I am American. This is my home. I don’t want any of you to think you have to go back anywhere. This is where we belong. This is our country.’”
“In the last few years [the stereotyping is] getting worse. Words like ‘the China virus’ and ‘the kung flu’ – they really hurt,” said an unidentified Asian-American male speaker.
Rhonda Williams, an African American woman, drove to the rally with her daughter to show solidarity with the community. “We know that this is not new, that people of color are treated differently,” said Rhonda. “We have a lot of folks in our community that are standing behind you.”
If you would like to position yourself as an ally for the Asian American community, you or your organization can sign the statement.