Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Ballad of Zhong Yao Ren

               The American immigration experience wasn't always easy if you weren't white. I'm going to tell you a story, but change the name because his descendents still live in Arizona. It's a story that unfortunately is a part of American history. He was of Chinese heritage  so let's call this the Ballad of Zhong Yao Ren.
               A second generation American, Zhong owned a grocery store in Phoenix, Arizona. He was at a gas station near his market when a deputy sheriff came over and, without cause, beat him so badly he spent a week in the hospital. Phoenix didn't help with the medical bills. Later they let this deputy sheriff go. But back then in Arizona there was going to be no acknowledgment of a racially motivated beating.
               A patriotic man, Zhong loved America and all it stood for. He was proud and thought he should be accorded the same respect as any other man born in this country or naturalized here.
               One day he was in his new grocery store in a town outside of Phoenix (we won't mention the name of the town). All of a sudden this former deputy sheriff, who had turned into a common drunk, walked into the market. Zhong asked the man if he recognized him. The white man said no. At that point Zhong, who was cutting meet with a cleaver, raised his arm and chased the white man out the door, his cleaver above his head.
               He died a year ago, leaving behind his very successful children. They've never questioned their rights as Americans. My family came on the Mayflower, but Zhong knew what being American was all about. It doesn't matter when you arrived here; what color your skin is; or what your beliefs are. Everyone in this country deserves respect and Zhong Yao Ren never forgot that.

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