West Chester trustee making national appearances as a voice to stop Asian hate, violence

Credit: Journal News

Lee Wong talks about speaking out against racism during West Chester trustees meeting

Credit: Journal News

Six weeks after West Chester Twp. Trustee Lee Wong showed brutal scars inflicted while serving in the U.S. Army, he is continuing to be active in the movement to stop violence against those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

On March 23, the four-term township trustee stood up during a township trustee meeting, lifted his shirt and bared his scars he suffered while stationed at the U.S. Army base Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

“Is this patriot enough?” Wong, 69, asked as he lifted his shirt displaying his scars. He said his patriotism has been questioned, including at a polling location in early 2020.

Wong said he felt compelled, in part, to bare his scarred chest because of the rising number of anti-Asian racism in the country. He said he couldn’t remain silent fearing the violence would continue. Though it wasn’t why he decided to break any silence, Wong’s March speech was just a week after eight people, six of them Asian women, were shot to death at spas in the Atlanta area.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong invited Wong to be one of the keynote speakers at Tuesday’s Attorney General Association conference. He gave another address on Wednesday at an American Legion conference in New York City, the same city as the most recent attack against a person of Asian descent. Sunday night near Times Square, a 31-year-old woman was attacked with a hammer while walking to the subway with a friend, according to news reports.

Wong says he’s been verbally abused because of his heritage and has been a victim of a race-based attack. Wong, who is of Chinese descent and grew up in Malaysia, moved to the U.S. in December 1970 when he was 18. He lived just outside Chicago, which is where he was attacked because someone thought he was Japanese.

Wong said he was told last year by someone unknown to him that he wasn’t “American enough for him.”

Wong’s message at the March 23 trustees meeting has been the same he’s repeated in various interviews and at several events, including this week in Washington, D.C., and New York City: “We are all the same, we are all equal.”

Wong told the in-person audience at the AGA conference and those watching the livestream, “Our message should be, ‘We have no tolerance for those who hate and plot to turn white against Black, Black against Asians, Hispanic against Black, or Black against white, and everybody against everybody.’

“As individuals, and as a nation, we fight for redemption every day. Our task, and even our duty, is to come together… and work fervently to make a more perfect union.”

Before Tuesday’s event, Wong told the Journal-News, “We cannot be one group against another … or there will never be peace.”

Repeating a message offered recently by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and later by President Joe Biden, Wong said, “America is not a racist country,” and later added, “We, like all nations, have people who do bad things. There are racists among us.”

Quoting President Ronald Reagan, Wong also said, “Freedom is a fragile thing, and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.”

Wong, who has previously touted he’s “American by choice,” then added, “I feel that too many people take our nation for granted. Patriotism is not skin deep. True patriotism is in the heart.”