Earlier this week a 30 year old jerk went up to 76 year old Xiao Zhen Xie and punched her in the face. But she didn’t fall down. Instead she found a board and pummeled him. By the time the police arrived, the jerk had to be put on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. I wish Mary Fung Koehler, my mom, could have seen that.
The headlines have been full of statistics stating that hate crimes against Asians are up 150% this year. As if that is a big surprise given the 4 years of bigoted presidential vitriol that spewed from our White House. To me it is almost surprising to see the Campaign Against Asian Hate – because I’ve been aware of the situation since…always.
Mary Fung was born in this country though admittedly of immigrant parents. The Asian way was education in the 1950s. And she became only the third female and first minority female to graduate from the University of Illinois Chemical Engineering Department. But what good did that do her. She had great difficulty securing a job. She was Chinese. Not a man. And suspect.
In her second career as an attorney starting in 1968, there were a scattering of female attorneys mixed in with the white males. And only a handful who were minority female. I watched mom deal with prejudice all the time. She did not handle it in a meek way. She led with her chin. Always. Ready for a fight. If someone looked at her the wrong way she would attack them verbally (the story of the attorney she punched in court is in another blog entry).
In the late 1970s I watched in Snohomish County Superior Court, as she told a judge that he was prejudiced against her. To be even more clear she specified on the basis of being Chinese and a woman. As he sputtered she did not drop her head down. Lips pursed she absolutely glared at him.
As we left she snapped that he was a male chauvinist pig and a racist. And even though she lost that motion. I knew she was right.
Photo: Mary Fung chemical engineer in the 1950s