A township trustee in a Cincinnati suburb stunned those gathered for the regular township meeting this week by unbuttoning his shirt – to send a message about racism.
In a West Chester Township meeting, Trustee Lee Wong lifted his shirt and showed a series of scars across his chest, announcing he won't tolerate discrimination or racism.
"For too long, we have, I have, put up with a lot of s--- in silence, excuse the language, too afraid to speak out, fearing more abuse and discrimination," Wong said during the Tuesday board meeting.
The 69-year-old Asian American talked about immigrating to America at 18 and finishing high school during the comments section of the meeting. He spoke of a time in Chicago when he was beaten up because of his race, took the people to court, and they were never punished.
Wong served 20 years in the military, where he received the scar that is now on his chest.
"People question my patriotism, that I don't look American enough," Wong said. "They could not get over this face. I want to show you something, I don’t have to live in fear, intimidation, insults … "
While still talking, Wong took off his tie, unbuttoned his shirt, and then lifted it and bared his chest – and his scar – for everyone to see. "Things are getting worse and worse," he said.
While showing his chest, he said, "I'll show you what patriotism looks like."
Wong is a Republican, though elections in the township of 61,000 are nonpartisan. The U.S. Army veteran has campaigned for office on a Segway, wearing a "Make America Great Again" cap.
Wong's speech came a week after eight people, six of whom were Asian women, were gunned down in spas in Atlanta.
Wong said he is not the only person experiencing racism, but mentioned local restaurant owners as well.
The owners of the Oriental Wok reported last week that they have been receiving daily calls telling them, "go back to China" along with threats the Wongs described as crude and violent.
When he was done speaking, Wong left the dais.
"I'm not afraid to walk around anymore," Wong said. "We are all the same. We are all equal."
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Ohio official Lee Wong bares scarred chest to decry anti-Asian racism