Rapper China Mac: 'Who Will Stand with Us If We Don't Stand Up for Ourselves?'
PEOPLE's Voices from the Coronavirus Crisis will share firsthand accounts of the people facing unique challenges during a global pandemic
China Mac, born Raymond Yu, is a Chinese-American artist from New York City. The rapper has made a name for himself not only through his music, but also for his compelling redemption story. After spending years in gang life and eventually serving more than a decade in prison for felony offenses, Mac has evolved into a successful — and socially conscious — hip-hop artist, establishing a solid and ever-growing fanbase. The star is also a social justice activist, and is working to help bring awareness and seek justice for crimes against the AAPI community. To learn more about Mac and his #TheyCantBurnUsAll campaign, visit his Instagram at @chinamac.
When I saw that an 89-year-old Chinese woman in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, was slapped in the face by two men, had kerosene poured on her, then was set on fire — I had to take action. The story, which was first reported by WABC on July 24, was another shocking, brutal attack on the Asian community.
Throughout the pandemic, I've been seeing all of these terrible stories pop up around the world about Asian people getting beat, screamed at and terrorized by others who have used the virus as an excuse to be racist and spread anti-Asian hate. While the number of stories began to grow at an alarming rate, I wanted to do something about it, but couldn't. I was on parole and couldn't jeopardize my situation, so I had to wait until the timing was right. Now that I'm off parole, I've been free to say and do what I want.
Last month, when I heard about the Chinese woman for the first time on NextShark's Instagram account, I thought, "What the f---?" To make matters worse, the assault was not considered a hate crime [by police], although it was clear that it was a targeted attack.
First of all, the woman is 89 years old. Secondly, she's not only Chinese, she's Cantonese, and so am I, so at that moment, I felt like this woman could've easily been my own grandmother. I've been fed up with everything for so long — everything I was seeing around the world, the attacks, the racism. Now that I was free to make a move, I knew it was time for me to do something.
I immediately commented on the news clip to see who would be down to rally with me. We needed to show others that we are not going to tolerate these racist attacks anymore. The comment got over a thousand likes, so I contacted William Lex Ham, who's been instrumental in organizing for Asians for Black Lives, and we started to make a plan.
Our first rally was a success. After we had blasted our social media to spread the word and encouraged other Asian celebrities to speak out, we ended up having a couple hundred people show up to support. I remember looking out into the crowd and seeing the looks on people's faces. I saw how committed people were and felt really proud of what we had done.
After the rally, we went to go eat, and a Chinese officer came up to us and shook my hand. He thanked us for speaking up for the elderly woman because it was something he wanted to do, but couldn't because of his job. We asked him why her case wasn't considered a hate crime, and the officer said it was a direct result of Asian people not speaking up and reporting crimes.
"It's about numbers," the officer told us. He said that most Asians don't report crimes that are committed against them so if they were to classify it as a hate crime, other non-Asians in the community may feel as though they were being targeted and blamed for what happened to the Chinese woman. To avoid causing tension, they chose to treat it as a random assault. Now knowing this information, Will and I have decided that our short-term goal is to make the NYPD bump the assault to a hate crime, and our long-term goal is to continue to fight until justice is served.
If all of these people never showed up to our rally, never spoke up or refused to share the Chinese woman's story on social media, the story would've completely gone away. Media rarely reports on the Asian community in general, so these are just the first steps to make sure we are being heard from now on.
When people assume Asians have nothing to fight for, just understand that these comments are coming from ignorance. As Asians, we need to change our views on dealing with racism, abuse and mental health. We can't just allow things to happen and not fight back. We have to start speaking up, and we have to teach our children to do the same.
I'm not a role model. I'm not a politician, and I'm not trying to be one — I'm just China Mac. I'm not perfect, but I know that there are more people out there, like me and Will, who want to continue this fight so people can start respecting our community. All we want is for others to understand our plight and our right to be treated like everybody else. It's up to us — the Asian community and Asian public figures — to be more vocal. Use your voices and show up to support and protect each other, so we can bring more power to our people.
Who will stand with us if we don't stand up for ourselves?
- As told to Diane J. Cho
If you’ve been attacked or have witnessed an attack, please contact your local authorities. You can also report your incident at asianpacificpolicyandplanningcouncil.org/stop-aapi-hate/.