An elected Asian American official in Ohio made a powerful statement during an official March 23 board meeting by lifting his shirt to show the scars he sustained while serving in the United States army, as he gave an impassioned and impromptu speech about patriotism.
Lee Wong, 69, was making a point about having to prove his patriotism in the face of growing hostility in the U.S. against Asians.
There has been a reported uptick in racially-motivated violence against Asian Americans nationwide there, following the killing of six women of Asian descent in Georgia.
Wong was speaking at a meeting of the West Chester Township, Ohio, Board of Trustees, where he serves as chairman in a Cincinnati suburb.
A moderate Republican who faced racism first-hand
Wong revealed he arrived in the U.S. from Borneo at 18 and experienced racism back then.
While in Chicago during the 1970s, someone beat him up for being Asian, he said.
That "unfortunate event" led him to pursue a career in public service.
Wong considers himself a moderate Republican.
"We went to court and he never got punished, so that changed the course of my career. I went to the U.S. army and served 20 years in active duty," he said.
"For too long, I have put up with a lot of sh*t in silence, excuse me the language."
"Too afraid to speak out, fearing more abuse and discrimination."
A video of his speech on Twitter has been viewed close to 4.5 million times.
Lee Wong, an elected official in West Chester, Ohio & @USArmy veteran with 20-years of service, took his shirt off during a town hall meeting on Wednesday and revealed scars he received during his service. “Is this patriot enough?” he asked #StopAsianHate https://t.co/3nCwTlVGxD pic.twitter.com/0R1TX3MTtp— James LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) March 26, 2021
What he said in fiery speech
Wong said in the clip: "Don't get me wrong, people love me in this community and I love them, too, but there are some ignorant people that would come up to me and say that I don't look American enough or patriotic enough."
He then started to take off his suit and unbutton his shirt.
He said: "I'm not afraid. I don't have to live in fear."
"Here's my proof," Wong said as he showed his scars by lifting his shirt and undershirt while standing up.
"Now, is this patriot enough?"
He added: "Before, I was fairly inhibited. People look at me strange, and then they question my loyalty to this country?" Wong said.
"The last I read the American Constitution, we the people, we are all the same. We are equal."
"Prejudice is hate, and that hate can be changed. We are human. We need to be kinder, gentler, to one another."
Speech wasn't planned
Wong told the Cincinnati Enquirer that his speech was unplanned, but said “the timing was right in light of what’s happening in this country.”
“In that moment, I don’t know what came over me. I just knew I had to say something.”