The elected official and veteran removed his shirt, showing his military scars, and asked, “Is this patriot enough?”
Lee Wong, an Asian American elected official and veteran, has gone viral for his impassioned speech that took place during a meeting of the board trustees in West Chester Township, Ohio. During the meeting, as Wong addressed the staggering spike in violence and discrimination against the AAPI community, he unbuttoned his shirt to put on full display the scars across his chest — the same scars he sustained in the U.S. Army.
For Wong, this is what patriotism looks like.
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
“Here is my proof,” the board chairman said to those in attendance at the Tuesday meeting. “This is sustained from service in the U.S. military. Now, is this patriot enough?”
The video, which was shared on Twitter on Friday, has been viewed nearly 4.5 million times as of Sunday morning.
“People question my patriotism, that I don’t look American enough, they cannot get over this face,” Wong said. “I don’t have to live in fear, intimidation or insults.”
“I’m 69 years old and I’m going to show you what patriotism, the questions about patriotism, looks like,” he said.
Wong said that he put up with “a lot of shit in silence” and was “too afraid to speak out, fearing more abuse and discrimination.”
“I’m not ashamed to walk around anymore,” he continued. “Before, I felt inhibited. People look at me strange, dare to question my loyalty to this country.”
“Last I read the U.S. Constitution, we are all the same. We are equal.”
Wong was hospitalized at 20 following a racist attack in Chicago not long after moving to the U.S. from Borneo.
And while the perpetrated went to court, he “never got punished.”
“In the last few years, things are getting worse and worse,” Wong said. “People, don’t get me wrong. People love me in this community, I love them, too. But there are some ignorant people that will come up to me and say that I don’t look American or patriotic enough. Now that really gets my goat.”
While the speech was completely unplanned, Wong told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the timing was “right in light of what’s happening in this country.”
According to nonprofit coalition Stop AAPI Hate, 3,795 incidents were reported across the country between March 2020 and February of this year — up nearly 150 percent over 2019.
According our national report on anti-AAPI hate incidents following the COVID-19 pandemic, 21% of incidents involved "shunning" or avoidance. If something like this has happened to you, share your experience at https://t.co/vXWNaMnqWU. #StopAAPIHate pic.twitter.com/b4u8LAPoJJ
— Stop AAPI Hate (@StopAAPIHate) March 25, 2021
And according to California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes increased 149 percent in 2020.
“In that moment, I don’t know what came over me,” Wong said. “I just knew I had to say something.”