Montgomery Group Unites Against Anti-Asian-American Racism in Aftermath of the Atlanta Shooting
By Barbara A. Preston l March 23, 2021
Tears flowed during a virtual vigil to reflect and unite against anti-Asian racism. Montgomery’s Inclusion and Equity Committee organized the event on Sunday afternoon, March 21, in response to the Atlanta shooting.
“I’m incredibly sad and angry about what happened in Georgia,” Cecilia Xie Birge, who became the first Asian American mayor in Montgomery Township and New Jersey in 2007, said at the meeting of about 75 people. “I am enormously proud of Montgomery,” she says. “You all have been pushing for diversity for many years.”
About 36 percent of Montgomery Township residents identify as Asian American, according to censusreporter.org.
Birge, who now lives in Princeton, invited the attendees to join a rally organized by the Princeton Chinese Community Group, together with Montgomery’s Inclusion and Equity Committee and a wide range of community groups, on Saturday, March 27, at 1 pm on Palmer Square in Princeton.
“Come to grieve, to heal, and to support each other and stand in solidarity to stop Asian hate and to stop racism,” Birge said.
Crimes targeting Asian Americans have risen dramatically since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks incidents of violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the US, reported nearly 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians in the past year. The actual number could be much higher, according to NPR, which reported that many cases go unreported.
Montgomery Committeewoman Shelly L. Bell, who leads the township’s inclusion and equity committee, moderated the vigil, which had about 15 speakers.
“We don’t fight racism with racism, we fight it with solitary,” she said. “When one is in pain, we all are in pain. That’s what community looks like.”
Committeeman Kent Huang reflected on the recent death of his father, and the experience of his family as immigrants to America.
“The comments we would receive on occasion made us wonder what was our place in America,” Huang said. “We would rationalize, saying it’s no big deal, and moved on. We didn’t want any trouble.
“I would like to say, though, that violence is unacceptable—but this shouldn’t be the line regarding what is acceptable behavior. Verbal harassment can be just as insidious, and should not be tolerated.”
Vivian Wang, principal of the Montgomery Chinese School, said she is heart-broken. “I think many people in the Asian-American community have the same concern right now about our safety,” she said.
"Even yesterday, I got a Facebook post about an incident that happened in Virginia last week. An Asian woman was just jogging in her neighborhood and an SUV drove by and someone threw hot coffee in her face.
“Things like this make me think—that could happen to me. Anyone in our community could be a victim. I start to worry about the safety of my family and friends,” she said.
Article continues after ad from our sponsor
“I have lived in this country more than half of my life,” Wang said. “I’m an American citizen, and I think I’m American. But, ... I feel people look at your face, or your last name, you are not considered to be a citizen of this country. You are just a foreigner.
"We are forever foreigners. It’s disturbing. I don’t think people do this intentionally, but I feel we have to speak up for the sake of our lives, for the sake of our children, so that they are not treated as foreigners. They were born here, they live here, they are Americans ... I’m sorry,” she said, ending in tears. ■