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National

Let's come together to end the hate

Michael Chang | May 03, 2021

Throughout Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, USTA.com will feature a series of first-person essays from prominent AAPI voices in the tennis world. Leading the series is International Tennis Hall-of-Famer Michael Chang, whose 1989 French Open win at age 17 made him the youngest man in the history of tennis to win a Grand Slam singles title. Also a US Open finalist in 1996, Chang achieved a career-high No. 2 ranking, while winning 34 career singles crowns.

 

In his essay, Chang addresses the disturbing wave of recent hate crimes aimed at Asian-Americans in the U.S., and calls for an end to the overwhelming ignorance and mistrust that have fueled them. Chang’s message is one of tolerance, understanding, and unity—all vitally important ingredients in ending this unacceptable wave of hatred and healing the fractures in American society.

 

In recent months, we have seen an appalling increase in hate crimes targeted at Asian-Americans around the U.S. Even more disturbing is that many of these hate crimes have targeted elderly Asian-Americans who posed no threat to our society.

 

In fact, many of these individuals have sacrificed much of their lives so that they could afford and provide a better life for their children, and their children’s children.

 

How do I know? Because I am a product of the love and sacrifice of this older generation.

 

Without it, I’m sure I would not have achieved the same level of success personally or professionally in my tennis career.

These hate crimes are incredibly disturbing to me, an Asian-American born and raised in the United States. My parents are in their late seventies and, just like everyone else in this COVID-19 pandemic, have taken many precautions to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community from contracting the virus. But now, even with vaccinations being made more available and COVID-19 infection numbers falling, they have a new fear and concern: racial hate crime.

 

I understand that this pandemic has not been easy for anyone. Many of us have lost someone that matters or been sick ourselves. And we have all had to make changes and sacrifices in our lives which we never envisioned in order to do our part to stop the spread of this terrible virus. But unfortunately, some individuals have targeted their frustration and anger, choosing to place blame for this pandemic on my fellow Asian-Americans. I’ve experienced this type of discrimination firsthand. Recently, when walking into my local Walmart with my wife (thankfully without our kids), a man told me to, “Go back to China—you brought the coronavirus here!”

 

My wife and I were shocked and immediately replied, “Excuse me?” He made another similar comment and walked away. My first thought was, “Wait, I was born and raised in the United States just like you.” But even if I had been born and raised in China, would that make me worthy of harassment? As I have come to realize, ignorance doesn’t always recognize what is true, and the truth often remains unseen—particularly when there is so much misinformation being shared around us.

 

While I know that people sometimes make comments without thinking or out of ignorance, we are seeing that kind of ignorance taken to another level entirely—that of violence upon completely innocent people—and this is unacceptable. Every day, we all see the disturbing images and video clips of these hate crimes all around the U.S. It HAS to stop because it only results in shattered lives. Both the victims and perpetrators suffer the consequences. The fact is that racial violence does not make anyone’s situation better—in this pandemic, or ever. It ruins lives and perpetuates fear and hate, and nothing is accomplished. Death, injury or incarceration does not improve lives.

So how do we stop it? My belief is that hatred and racial violence are born from ignorance—fear of what you don’t know or understand. If we all spent more time learning and truly understanding our neighbors, we’d all be in a better place. And I mean getting to know your neighbors in the broadest sense, not just those who live next door, but those who live in your community—people who don’t look like you or have similar backgrounds, but who are all connected by wanting to create a better life for themselves, their families, their friends and their communities.

 

We have to be each other’s allies. We cannot let hatred and hatred-fueled violence ruin lives. And we all need to take the time to learn about each other and understand that NO American is to blame for COVID-19. We are all in this together.

 

And Asian-Americans are Americans, just like you.

 

Because truth be told, Asian-Americans are trying to survive and live life to the fullest just like any other American. We want our families and our communities to thrive. And it’s my hope, as it is with so many other Americans, that we can get back to a sense of normalcy in our nation. As a nation, our history has proven time and time again that we can accomplish and succeed more when we are united in love, compassion and understanding rather than hatred and division.

 

That being said, I want to thank ALL Americans who have stood by and behind Asian-Americans during this crisis. I know this hatred is a very small minority in our society and that support is coming from Americans of all different backgrounds and cultures! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and let’s continue to help one another during this difficult and trying pandemic and crisis.

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