A rally organized by Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe Wednesday afternoon that was supposed to demonstrate solidarity with Asian Americans, ended up instead, as one bystander put it, “undid everything this event was supposed to promote.”
When Council Member Kevin Park — Santa Clara’s first Korean American Council Member — asked Watanabe if he could say a few words, after looking towards Mayor Gillmor as if expecting a cue, she replied, “I, uh, no you can’t. This is my event.”
She then added curtly, “Thank you for being here. I appreciate the support.”
Watanabe reportedly issued a statement to TV news media that there wasn’t time for Park to speak because he didn’t RSVP and the event permit wouldn’t allow the rally to run past an hour.
But that isn’t the full story, according to Park and others who were there. One person there said that people were still hanging around more than an hour after the event concluded.
Evidently, Gillmor and Watanabe initially scheduled the event at the Northside Library without inviting other Council Members.
“I received a screenshot about the event a few days ago [before the event] asking if I was part of it and I never heard about it,” said Park.
The day before the rally Park finally got an invitation. He responded that he was a ‘maybe’ because the event was during the workday. Ultimately, he was able to attend.
Most of the speakers were scheduled, but Park says that several others were not. Members of the City’s Diversity Task Force, he said, were clearly not expected, but were nonetheless given time to speak.
Park waited for other speakers to finish before he indicated he wished to speak briefly. I didn’t want to take anyone else’s time.
“I was surprised at the coarseness of her response,” Park said. “You don’t have to agree with someone to be polite to them.”
“I think something to be mindful of,” said District 25 State Assembly Member Alex Lee who saw the exchange between Park and Watanabe, “is that solidarity means amplifying voices, not speaking over voices.”
In that spirit, The Weekly would like to share with the community the one-minute statement that Council Member Park prepared but was not allowed to read on Wednesday afternoon.
March 31, 2021 Statement by District 4 Santa Clara City Council Member Kevin Park
I am Asian by background. I was born in the United States. The first language I learned, and my primary language, is English.
Until about five years ago, I considered myself Asian American. After marrying my wife, who comes from Korea, and having a young daughter whose first language is Korean, I realize I am American Asian, with the American first, and in capital letters. I am learning more and more every day how much I don’t know about their experience.
It is not enough to ask, or even demand respect. We must support the processes that make people equal, not just repeat the social acknowledgements that we should be equal.
#StopAsianHate and Black Lives Matter are current and historic movements, centered around events that highlight the ethnicity of victims. And they are based on the history of our country and our culture of immigration: inviting the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
But let’s be clear. Equality and the political issues that enable, prevent, and surround it, will always be a struggle.
Let us find ways to be inclusive and find similarities, be proud of our differences but united in equality. Equal respect. Equal opportunity, equal protection, and eventually, equal representation.
Editor’s Note: Our full coverage of this event is coming soon.