From Hate to Hope: SC victim reflects on Asian American hate and how to bring people together

Southeast Region

FORT MILL, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — The FBI released new, updated hate crime statistics on Monday.  According to the latest release, hate crimes against Asian Americans rose 76 percent in 2020.

Though it’s miles away from where she was born, eating at Lee Café in Fort Mill has a way of tasting like home for Znengzheng Wiley.

“It’s not just eating a dish, it brings up all the memories and it’s the important part for immigrants like me to taste food from our country,” said Znengzheng.

When she saw the Chinese-owned restaurant struggling during March of 2020, she said she created a YouTube video to help showcase their food and what they were doing to keep people safe.

But it wasn’t just businesses that were having a hard time.

“Especially for the first couple of months, I really I was worried walking on the street, getting in my car late at night. I was super cautious, just like many of my friends,” remembered Znengzheng.

She said, she found ways to reconnect with other Chinese Americans. She spent 2020 donating food, helping others and even cleaning up a highway. Everything was starting to look up until November of that year.

“She just called me and apologized and said somebody spray painted my sign with really bad words. I asked her, what words and she wouldn’t tell me,” Znengzheng.

The words no one would tell her were spray-painted on her real estate sign. The hateful message targeted her and her heritage.

“It made me just think, how could this happen?” said Znengzheng.

Across the country in 2020, hate crimes against Asian Americans went up 76 percent.

“I was one of those statistics,” said Znengzheng.

But her story isn’t one about hate, it’s one about hope. Someone cleaned up the sign for her, others donated money for a new sign, which she gave away.

“In general, I’m still hopeful, I think society is going to heal,” said Znengzheng.

She has a solution to all the hate… forgiveness.

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