“Love, America” — Speech at Binghamton University Rally Against Asian Hate Transcript
I want to thank Nortee, Mike, Winni, and everyone else in ASU for organizing this and for looking out for our community. Bless your hearts, you have inspired me beyond belief. Lead and I will follow.
My fellow Americans.
It is with overwhelming love and pride that I share with you today a moment in the beginning of a vital transformation of divisive hate into racial unity in American history.
My name is Kaiwen Zhu. My friends call me Kai.
I am about to celebrate 22 years of blessed life, I am a human being, an immigrant, a brother, a loving Christian, and an American patriot.
I am graduating this spring with a dual degree in Finance and Actuarial Science and hope to pursue my master’s in quantitative finance this fall.
On campus, I founded and served as the first President of NAPA Council of united Asian Greek orgs who understand pain, sacrifice, and the power of creating things together. We seek to create supportive systems and advocate for the Asian community.
I was the Vice President of the International Student Association where I helped international students with career development. I decided to help them when I went to a networking event and waited in those long lines to talk to a recruiter. As I nervously looked around, I locked eyes with an anxious international student, saw the tension in her shoulders, and understood everything. I saw her panically look around at the tall white men in suits who were her competition, talking to the tall white men in suits who controlled her closed dream of becoming a cog in their machine. I felt the crushing weight of her family from an ocean away, who are grinding day and night to pay for her American education, and the immense pressure of either being hired or sent back home. I felt how absolutely alone she was, and how much she missed her family. I heard her rehearsing her futile 30 second pitch in her head, frustratingly unable to rid her accent from it and I saw the fierce determination in her eyes collapse into self-doubt and already accept defeat. For a second, I felt her hate herself for her English skills and for being Asian. Then she shook her head and her eyes regained fire. When she finally got to the front of the line, I listened as the recruiter, tired from a long day of networking, interrupted her 30second pitch and told her “sorry we’re not hiring international students right now”.
When I got to the front of the line, I introduced myself and said “Hi, my name is Kaiwen Zhu,” and the recruiter smiled and said Hi, are you an international student? I opened my mouth to clarify, and in perfect English, I said to the recruiter, “you know what, don’t worry about it sweetheart”. I was a freshman. I have worked with international students for 4 years since.
I am an admirer of Mein Bowl Mary because I believe in angels. I joined gospel choir because I love singing praises and they welcomed me with good vibes, music, dancing, hugs, and smiles. I love basketball because ball is life and brotherhood. I am a casual weightlifter, cook, and fly fisher, a dancing machine, and finally, a friend.
It is because of my Greek brothers and sisters, the international community, my amazing gospel choir, teachers, parents, friends and family who are here with me today, friends who are no longer with me, the 8 victims Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Paul Andre Michels, Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz, Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, and all of you here today, that I have found my voice. I’m sorry I didn’t find it sooner.
You are the future doctors, nurses, business people, researchers, engineers, lawyers, politicians, teachers, musicians, and artists whose ideas will change the world. I see that the future of America is in our kind hands of love and I know its fate will be as beautiful as ever. Thank you all for helping me find my voice. I know I am human because of you and I am strong because of you.
However, I know that some Americans will doubt that I am American because of the color of my skin. So redundantly, I must provide a brief of my American story as proof of my identity and the very fabric of my being.
I was born in China, my mother sacrificed everything to bring me to the United States to San Francisco, California when I was two years old. Everyday before school I sang the Star Spangled Banner and pledged allegiance to the flag. When we moved to Houston Texas, I experienced true Southern Hospitality, learned how to be a good neighbor and had some fire BBQ. I listened to Green Day, Linkin Park and Taylor Swift, and played Xbox, COD, Halo, and watched Oprah for the first time. Every week, my neighbors baked us intricate pies and my mom would return their kindness with traditional dishes. My third grade teacher bought me clothes for Christmas when she saw me wearing the same things. When Hurricane Katrina threatened to demolish Houston, my neighbors offered my family to stay with theirs in Dallas. It was there that I first received the greatest love: “for god so loved the world that he gave his one only son” .
When my dad lost his job in the 2008 recession, we moved to New York. I watched Saving Private Ryan, Spongebob, ICarly, Drake and Josh, the NFL, and I read the entire bible, but really only remembered that Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
I learned about the beloved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who marched for all people of color and had an American dream “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
I celebrated the election of the first black president of the United States and felt his dream roar to life inside of me. In middle school and high school I hated myself for my race, but I found amazing friends and teachers of all colors who accepted me and loved me along the way. I sang in chorus, played ball every day after school in my friend’s driveway, and I watched Jeremy Lin inspire a race. I read Stienbeck, Thoreau, and Dickinson. On weekdays, I listened to the stories of Nas, Jay-Z Tupac, JoeyBad@$$, Chance the Rapper, Kanye West and then sang praises of love and healing on Sunday.
When I first walked the streets of New York City I felt the hopes and dreams of every face overflow every street and corner, and I realized that they were all just like me. American. Last year, I screamed Black Lives Matter and felt the anguish of the black children of God who have been betrayed by this country throughout its history. I have walked the streets and dreamed the dreams of the beautiful cities of San Francisco, Houston, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, D.C, Boston, and gasped at mountains of upstate NY and the turquoise waters of Acadia harbor in Maine. I have seen from sea to shining sea.
In the future, I have the dream of building a fulfilling career, serving my country, falling in love, getting married and seeing my friends getting married, visiting every national park, seeing the world, starting a family, and creating art, dancing, singing and loving throughout. That is my American Dream.
This country is my story, my history, my dreams, my love, and my life. I am already home. So I ask my fellow Americans, do you hate me? Do you want to kill me?
Am I American yet?
It is because of the kindness of every American that I am alive, that I have a blessed life, and now I finally have a voice. I promise you that I will not waste it. I hereby dedicate my voice to spreading the same timeless messages of all the great American champions of people, democracy, justice, and love, whose shoulders upon which my voice will stand and never waver. And in the utmost reverence to them, I promise that my voice will only be that of blind, pure, childlike love and respect for all humans of this world regardless of race or creed.
To the racist American that is lurking at home, on the street, at the train station, or in front of businesses, waiting for a defenseless target to unleash bloodthirsty and violent hate, I say to you that I love you, as a Christian and American brother and sister. And I will die before I hate you.
We have lost 500 thousand of our fellow Americans, friends, and family to an invisible disease. Our families have been quarantined and isolated and our businesses are disappearing. You are angry and hurt. I understand. While the first case may have started in China, our government, sworn and paid by us to insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, has failed us. They let us spread it freely, not wear masks, barely granted any stimulus, and our ex-president has carelessly and conveniently scapegoated an entire race for all your suffering.
However, I warn you that this disease of hate is even more deadly and contagious. We are not your enemy. We are Asians, but the fact that we have crossed oceans to be here shows you how much we love you, how much we love capitalism, democracy, freedom-America. We are Asian-American, and by hating us, you are poisoning America and all that she strives for.
To cure this poison, I, Kaiwen Zhu, offer to be the last American to die of racism and demand that hateful racism in the United States must die with me.
To any Americans with racial hate in your heart I also say to you
- If you must devolve to violence, have some dignity and beat, maime, and kill me instead. I am a young man. I’ve told you my dreams. I’m about to graduate and continue my life of love, surely, I’ve much more to lose from than those elderly women. Is this the land of the free and the home of the BRAVE? Where grandmas cannot walk to buy eggs without the fear of death? Or perhaps talk to me, hear my story, and love me. Realize that you have let hate blind you, but know you still have love.
- Like you, I had once hated myself, but now I live every minute with nothing but love. I am a soldier of the gospel of love, I will spread it until hate is no longer, and my first mission is to directly redeem your heart of hate. Because if you harbor a hate so violent that murders elderly American women on a bad day, then within me is the creative and redemptive love powerful enough to understand you, forgive you, believe in your goodwill, and help you realize your love. And in the time of human history, love will always triumph over hate.
To my friends, family, and Asian brothers and sisters:
- Please don’t tell my mom about what I just said about telling racists to come after me instead. She will kill me worse than any racist. Thank you.
- Do not worry. I have zero desire of being martyred. I love living and laughing with you all too much. My offer is not radical when you consider the tragic reality that Asians are now in. We have an omnipresent target on our backs. We now live in fear, threatened by the knowledge that ourselves and our loved ones can be hurt or killed by anyone anywhere. I am simply taking control of that vile threat and using it to give a face, story, and weight to my voice to urgently seize the attention of those who are not listening so that the nation cannot ignore or silence it for a second longer. It is my experience that 99% of Americans are amazing and selfless people, and I believe the good people of the United States will protect me.
- Please search for your voice and share your story, but submit them through love. I feel your rage and your pain, however we must not let the hate of the shooter capsize our own hearts or let our voices succumb to violence. Our enemy is hate, not people. As Asians, we are neither black nor white, we have been attacked and befriended by both black and white. We have the unique ability to unite this country against hate and we can only do it with love. Let us elevate our voice above race not by screaming stop Asian hate, but by screaming stop racial hate.
- However, many of you are silent because you are trying to ignore our new reality. That unspoken contract of submissive and silent acceptance of their racism is now VOID because they are killing the people who have sacrificed the most for us. Have our elders really come all this way, sacrificed and endured everything, just to be killed on the streets? What good will that money be if they kill your mother? What good is all those years of hard studying if you can lose it in an instant? Do you want your children to live everyday with the fear that one day you’ll be slow pulling out your pepper spray and won’t come home to them? We can do more than buying guns and lying to ourselves that we can physically fight them. We must also go on the offensive of love to fight hate at its source TODAY. We cannot wait for time. Time is a neutral force, and if we the good Americans do not utilize it constructively, then the forces of evil will surely claim it as demon time. Please search for your voice of love. I understand many of you cannot speak because you are afraid. You want to preserve your friendships, your careers, your family’s safety. I understand. If you cannot speak right now, I humbly beg you to unite behind my voice of love. I cannot do this alone. I need help planning, organizing, marketing, fundraising, marching, and dismantling all manifestations of racism. Your inspiration will be more powerful than anything I can do alone.
To my black brothers and sisters and brothers and sisters of color:
Unfortunately you are veterans of the crusade against racial hate. Everyday I admire your people for your strength and grace with which you carry your history and live it with pure love and beauty. It is with supreme brotherhood, reverence, honor, gratitude, and love that I humbly beg you to allow us to help you in solidifying the dream of Dr. King Jr. into reality and share in living that reality with us. We can only do it together. In unity we stand strong.
To my fellow Americans:
Today, I fatefully declare that violent, hateful, bloodthirsty, racism in the United States is drawing its final breaths. Today is a new day of a reborn and united freedom. The time is now. The place is here. We Americans must emerge from quarantine reborn from shadows of racism into the sunshine of unity by remembering the love in our hearts, the love across our dinner tables, our love for our neighbors, our love for god, and love for the United States of America.
God bless you, I love you so much.