By Nicholas Pasion
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“The strength of America is our diversity of people, ethnicities, cultures, languages, religions—this is the secret sauce of our dynamism and resilience,” said former Gov. Gary Locke in a speech last week.
The first Asian governor of Washington state gave the keynote speech on Oct. 18 at the Eradicate Hate Global Summit, a virtual conference dedicated to “honor the global victims of hate by breaking down silos, exchanging ideas, and engaging in prioritized actions against hate.” In his speech, Locke discussed the importance of fighting hate after the history of anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. and his own experience overcoming hate as an Asian American.
“The virus of hate threatens our safety, our institutions, our democracy, our freedoms, and not least, our common humanity. Let us commit ourselves to working together for a more peaceful, just, and loving world,” Locke said.
He described how diversity should be fostered in America, and that the differences in Americans is what makes the country a great place. He said that the right of every American to pursue their own destiny is what makes America great.
“How do we do this? How do we make real and lasting change?” Locke asked. “We need new laws, procedures, and guardrails, but we also need to create the conditions and environment where peace, tolerance, and acceptance of differences are more attractive and more valued there than fear mongering, hate, and aggression.”
Locke brags a hefty resume, after serving as the first mainland Asian U.S. governor, Locke served as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under the Obama administration, and then worked as the first ethnically Chinese U.S. Ambassador to China. Locke is currently serving as the interim president of Bellevue College.
Locke described how hate is corrosive to American democracy and over the last year, Asian hate has become more pronounced, and is the cumulative result of a history of anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S.
The National Coalition to stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate received over 9,000 reports of discrimination between March 2020 and June 2021 from Asians in the U.S. Locke said the report is symbolic of increased discrimination against the AAPI community as a result of false coronavirus conspiracies.
“This unprecedented increase in violent crimes and harassment against Asians in America have over the past year been due in no small measure to the false and inflammatory rhetoric scapegoating and blaming of the Asian community for the coronavirus,” Locke said.
Locke said anti-Asian sentiment comes after a continued national rise of xenophobia levels after the United States government implemented xeneophobic ‘red scare’ tactics during the Cold War. Locke cited a report published by the Committee of 100, an American-Chinese nonprofit organization, chaired by Locke, that reported people who have Chinese names are arrested and punished at a higher level of severity than their Western-named counterparts.
Locke listed a string of brutal Asian American murders, where xenophobia and racism drove people to kill Asian Americans throughout history, like Vincent Chen, a Chinese American who was killed in Detroit in 1993 by two white men, who believed he was of Japanese descent and blamed him for the declining auto industry in Detroit. He also cited the Atlanta spa-shootings, where six Asian women were brutally killed in March by a white man who cited, “sexual addiction.”
“We are united here today in our sorrow and grief for what our peoples have suffered. And what so many people have suffered, simply because we worship differently, or love differently,” he said.
Locke recalled his own experience with racism and xenophobia, and his family’s immigrant story fueled his desire for public service. Locke said he felt proud of the progress his family made when he moved into the Washington state Governor’s Mansion in 1997, about one mile from where his grandfather used to sweep floors and wash dishes as a houseboy when he immigrated to the United States in the 1800s.
“I joke that it took our family 100 years to travel one mile. But what a journey it has been,” he said. “Our family story is the story of millions of families whose ancestors came to these shores from all around the world in search of freedom, opportunity, and equality.”
Nicholas can be reached at email@example.com.