'Hate has no home here': Naperville event condemns anti-Asian racism after Atlanta shootings

  • Naperville native Jennifer Chan felt compelled to take action after last week's Atlanta-area shootings that left eight dead, including six women of Asian descent. She organized a rally that drew hundreds in Chicago last week, then joined other DuPage County activists Tuesday morning.

      Naperville native Jennifer Chan felt compelled to take action after last week's Atlanta-area shootings that left eight dead, including six women of Asian descent. She organized a rally that drew hundreds in Chicago last week, then joined other DuPage County activists Tuesday morning. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Naperville native Jennifer Chan, who helped to organize a Stop Asian Hate rally in Chicago last week, stands with Lisle Trustee Sara Sadat during an anti-hate event that also honored the victims of last week's fatal shootings in the Atlanta area.

      Naperville native Jennifer Chan, who helped to organize a Stop Asian Hate rally in Chicago last week, stands with Lisle Trustee Sara Sadat during an anti-hate event that also honored the victims of last week's fatal shootings in the Atlanta area. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Regina Brent, president and founder of Unity Partnership in Naperville, speaks at the DuPage Rally Against Hate on Tuesday to condemn anti-Asian bigotry and honor the victims of last week's Atlanta-area fatal shootings.

      Regina Brent, president and founder of Unity Partnership in Naperville, speaks at the DuPage Rally Against Hate on Tuesday to condemn anti-Asian bigotry and honor the victims of last week's Atlanta-area fatal shootings. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Bing Zhang, vice principal of the Lisle-based Ray Chinese School, says Asian American students and families have expressed growing concerns for their safety over the last year.

      Bing Zhang, vice principal of the Lisle-based Ray Chinese School, says Asian American students and families have expressed growing concerns for their safety over the last year. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/23/2021 5:22 PM

Growing up in Naperville, Jennifer Chan found herself repeatedly explaining the prevalence, severity and mere existence of anti-Asian racism.

She experienced it firsthand as a child, being told she was "made in China" and having wads of tape thrown at her in school. She had to describe how deeply her community was hurting when a friend made light of the rise in verbal and physical attacks on Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. And she fears every day for the safety of her parents and grandparents, hoping they won't be the next target.

 

So in the wake of the March 16 Atlanta-area shootings that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent, Chan felt compelled to act. After co-organizing a "Stop Asian Hate" rally attended by hundreds last week in Chicago, she joined DuPage County activists and political candidates Tuesday in her hometown to condemn racial bigotry, honor the shooting victims and convey a key message: "Hate has no home here."

"This is a bigger problem than just one incident," said Chan, a Naperville Central High School graduate. "What we are facing here is intolerance against Asian people on a level we have not seen before. It's time for us to take a stand."

Held along the Naperville Riverwalk exactly one week after the shootings, the DuPage Rally Against Hate featured representatives from various ethnicities and several organizations, including Unity Partnership, Ray Chinese School, Quad County Urban League, the Chinese American Association of Greater Chicago and Violence Interrupters. The guest speakers were followed by a moment of silence in remembrance of the shooting victims, whose names were read aloud by Chan.

The livestreamed event was organized by Lisle Trustee Sara Sadat, who said she has been working with DuPage County Board member Sadia Covert for months to develop a joint anti-hate resolution and action plan expected to be forthcoming. Sadat is running for Lisle mayor in the April 6 election against incumbent Christopher Pecak and Trustee Stephen Winz.

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As vice president of Ray Chinese School in Lisle, Bing Zhang said she has heard growing concerns among students and families who fear for their safety. Inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, such as references to the "China virus," has exacerbated racial tensions and anti-Asian prejudice, she said, pointing to the Atlanta-area shootings and other recent attacks on Asian Americans nationwide.

"We are subject to the hatred. We are subject to the assault," Zhang said, adding Tuesday's event "gives us an opportunity to speak out loud ... and raise awareness of the seriousness of anti-Asian crimes."

Having experienced acts of racism and hatred throughout his life, activist Tio Hardiman said he felt it was important to join Tuesday's conversation against bigotry. As president of Violence Interrupters, he regularly speaks out against gun violence in Chicago.

"Now I'm lending my voice to the Asian community because we have to do everything we can to educate people and raise children the proper way so they will not feel it's OK to have hatred toward another ethnic group of people," Hardiman said. "There's no room for hate in America. It's time for the country to heal."

Amid tragic circumstances, Chan said, she's encouraged to see residents of her hometown and surrounding communities demonstrate a desire for unity and "a willingness to listen."

"I think what we're fighting here is ignorance more than anything else," she said. "I really think this is so beautiful to see that DuPage is stepping up and taking a stand against racism and standing up for Asian communities."

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