Community gathers to Stop AAPI Hate

While+listening+to+speakers%2C+toddlers+sitting+on+the+ground+hold+signs+to+support+Stop+AAPI+Hate+efforts.

Photo by Bennie Chang

While listening to speakers, toddlers sitting on the ground hold signs to support Stop AAPI Hate efforts.

Bennie Chang

On the morning of March 27, hundreds of people gathered in front of Saratoga’s City Hall to protest the recent surge of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans in the United States. 

Organized by the cities of Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Campbell and Monte Sereno, the Stop AAPI Hate event attracted over 400 attendees, including U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo, State Senator David Cortese and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, among others. Lynbrook students also attended the event, volunteering with organizations like BAYouth and Young American Policy Advocates to set up the event.

“The rally was a place for all types of people to express themselves, and I thought that was pretty wonderful,” sophomore Emma Tu said. “My favorite thing about the rally was seeing all the different types of people and ideas there. Walking around the rally, I saw lots of handmade signs and heard some really awesome speeches. I even saw a family wearing their homeland’s flag on their backs. There was so much creativity, passion and diversity, and I really liked that.”

The event began with a rhythmic Chinese drum performance to showcase Asian cultures and was followed by messages of anti-racism to promote unity within the Bay Area community. In her opening speech, Saratoga Mayor Yan Zhao talked about her experiences with discrimination in Saratoga when she first ran for office, recalling an incident in which a Caucasian man told her that he would not vote for her because she was Asian and demanded that she move to Cupertino if she wanted to run for city council.

“I am the mayor of Saratoga,” Zhao said. “If I cannot feel safe walking down the streets in my city, how can I tell my residents that our city is safe? We have to speak up now. We have to ask our community to stand in solidarity with us.”

As the event progressed, more individuals gathered to show their support and the attendees became more spirited. The event reached its climax when Cortese urged the crowd to raise up their homemade signs and chant, “Love not hate,” with him. A plethora of signs emerged across the sea of people as dozens raised their messages and shouted in unison.

“We need everyone in Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Gatos, the West Valley cities, San Jose and East San Jose to hear us!” Cortese said. “Love not hate! Love not hate! Love not hate!”

For many attendees, the event was not merely about the recent violence targeting the AAPI community. With racism at the root of U.S. history, to them, the event was also about acknowledging America’s storied past of discrimination and working together for a better future. Speaking with high school students, Foothill De Anza School Board member Gilbert Wong shared his personal experiences growing up as a second-generation Asian American.

“When I was growing up in East San Jose in the 1970s, I was the only Asian kid going to a public school,” Wong said. “Half of the students were Latinos, and half of my classmates were Anglos. I was the only Asian kid, and I was poked fun of because of my eyes and my funny last name of Wong — I felt very lonely. I never complained to my teachers, and it really hurt my self identity. I wish I didn’t stay quiet.”

Times have changed. Wong, along with the hundreds of others who took to Saratoga’s City Hall, spoke up at the Stop AAPI Hate rally to unite America moving forward. 

“‘E pluribus unum’: Out of many, one,” Eshoo said. “That is our north star. How proud I am to represent a community that has a conscience, understanding what we have wrong and what we have to make right.”