It Could Have Been Any One of Our Fathers

2020 was the year I found my voice as an American daughter. 

A Black Lives Matter demonstration in June 2014 in New York City. (Marcela / Flickr)

As the Derek Chauvin trial wraps up, nearly a year after George Floyd was killed, I am finally able to recount the traumatic memory that came flooding back to me last year: As a 31-year-old—amid protests against racial inequalities, a resurgence of anti-Asian hate, and my learning about Vincent Chin’s death on the anniversary of his death in 1982—I remembered how in 2005, when I was 16 years old, my own Chinese American father was badly beaten by three white, male neighbors and survived.

A memory I had suppressed carefully and tightly was really hitting me now: They were upset over a parking spot they wanted to use at my father’s home in Missouri. It took almost a week for my father to recover to a stable, functional condition, and I was desperately worried about his and my family’s safety, both at that time and for the entire following year before he was able to move to another home. There was no law enforcement response and no repercussions for these perpetrators of violence. I had no words or space to process or communicate this to anyone, and so, as a teenager, I didn’t. I forgot about this memory until June 23, 2020. 

Hate and violence against people of color have long been dismissed and disregarded, and the racism of the past year has been a painful reminder of countless attacks on Asian and Black Americans throughout U.S. history.

In the Chinese zodiac calendar, 2020 was Year of the Rat—a year of supposed alertness, adaptability and observation. As a biracial Chinese American woman, I began to process what it means to be a person, woman and daughter of color in American society and in the current climate. For me, the year 2020 became the Year of the Daughter. 

As a daughter myself, I was touched by Gianna Floyd’s words: “Daddy changed the world.”

Those of us who are of color know that the violence we’ve all been seeing happening in front of us, reading about in the news, or hearing online, on TV, or from interpersonal conversations isn’t new. What has changed is that there is some sort of agency for people of color and white people to talk about how the violence is wrong in the public American eye

It could have been any one of our fathers. 

On June 19, 1982, Chin was celebrating his bachelor party when a white father and son blamed him as an Asian for Japanese success and shifts in the U.S. auto industry. The son held him while the father swung the baseball bat. Emergency medical technician Gerald Thompson said Chin was in fatal condition with his brains splattered on the street. He died four days later. 

Wayne County Michigan Circuit Court Judge Charles Kaufman, a white man, said of the perpetrators, “These aren’t the kind of men you send to jail.” They were ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and served three years of probation

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The sentencing galvanized protests by pan-Asian groups and the Rainbow Coalition. The U.S. Department of Justice agreed to investigate Vincent Chin’s murder as a civil rights violation.

This hate crime occurred 100 years after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and it wasn’t until 1983 that a Supreme Court ruling first established Asian Americans as a protected class of people. 

Vincent Chin and my father would be about the same age now if Chin were still alive. 

This could have been any man of any Asian descent on to whom these racists felt entitled to pin their frustrations—and that’s exactly the feeling I get watching the attacks on Black and Asian men now.

I am a third-generation Chinese American and a millennial, and this is culturally significant. The older generations had to stay quiet to better survive or were silenced—but now, for me, like so many other millennials, who are now around the ages of 27 to 40, we see that to survive (or at least better survive), we have no choice but to speak up.

2020 was the year I found my voice as an American daughter. 

If past generations were silenced and made invisible, it is now up to me and us all to speak up for those who couldn’t.

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Lucca Wang 王曦 is a biracial and third-generation Chinese American woman native to the Midwest, where she lives now. She is a professional communicator, and with the Kansas City Star, recently published an op-ed on the long history of anti-Asian racism in the U.S.