HomeAsian AmericansMom Hong Lee fights back after racist attack

Mom Hong Lee fights back after racist attack

By Lillian Bit and Nancy Hung, AsAmNews Contributors

In August Hong Lee was ordering at El Taurino restaurant in Los Angeles when a man asked her to lunch,but she politely declined. The large and confrontational man screamed racial slurs and told her to go back to Asia and yelled more extremely derogatory sexual language. His screaming and cursing continued belligerently for two minutes.

Scared, Hong pleaded with anyone to help her, but no patron or employee stepped forward after the angry man went on cursing and threatening her while Hong was crying and filming him. She called 911 afraid and feeling along. The police arrived in half an hour. The police response amounted to a shrug and they told her it’s not a crime when she showed them the video. They said they couldn’t do anything about it because this happens all the time. The police told her to get in her car and go home.

Hong Lee was very disheartened and discussed this with her husband and they decided they would release the video on social media. It went viral with 1 million views. Other victims who had a confrontation with the same man came forward. Two days later the LAPD working on the case called her to apologize and said that the police officer at the scene acted inappropriately.

The statement “Go Back to Asia” by the perpetrator constitutes a hate crime. Her case and others were then elevated to hate crime status. Hong now collaborates with the LA Hate Crime Initiative and victims are referred to her for help. So far the man has not been arrested although he freely yelled out his own name, date of birth and social security number which Hong says were verified.

Hong’s experience triggered her to speak up and become an activist for the community. Hong said because people are not reporting crimes, and LAPD is not recognizing hate crimes , she is working with the County to encourage people to report, document and add witnesses. The LAPD is also receiving training now to help them determine what is a hate crime. Unlike New York which set up an Asian Hate Crime Task Force, Hong said LA is treating all hate crimes the same irrespective of race or ethnicity. It’s called LAvsHate.org which is a LA County program to address hate crimes. Hong is the new voice for the initiative.

She learned about Rapper Activist China Mac coming to Los Angeles and contacted him and told him about their common cause against anti-Asian racism and crimes against Asians as not being recognized as hate crimes. She was one of the key speakers at their rally in LA on Sept 5. She became emotional during her speech because she finally felt the support and positive feedback from supporters there when she got none during the attack. She feels it’s so important for people to have bystander support. That the victim has someone else to stand up and speak up so it gives strength to the victim and takes away the strength of the perpetrator. She says the myth of the Model Minority prevents people from speaking up and reporting crime. Sharing bad news is important because communication is key to solving hate crimes. Share your stories and report them.

Hong is the mother of two young boys. The older 2 year old saw the video of China Mac’s rally and immediately imitated protesters holding up a sign and shouting “Stand Up, Fight Back”. Mom of course videotaped him and put it on social media and that video went viral too.

Her desire and motivations, Hong said is that her two sons grow up in a world where diversity is tolerated and accepted. That they grow up kind, respectful and to love one another. But instead of what you would think would happen in this pandemic – she sees division instead. She feels this is because the current political administration is using the terms Chinese Virus and Kungflu Virus that has incited the more than 2500 racist attacks reported against Asians.

Hong encourages young people to vote and to get educated about the political process and to run for office. She said a survey was taken at colleges and the question in 2017-2018 asked college students : who would be voting in the next election? Many groups responded that they would not be voting. She encourages young people to pay attention and to get involved politically and to vote to have power. That is a path she has taken and as a parent she will teach her sons to take.

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