Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Florida high school grad called out racism in her salutatorian speech, racist bullies appeared


Rachel Cheng, a young Asian-American woman from Davie, Florida, has become the target of racist cyberbullying following her high school graduation speech. 

Cheng is this year’s salutatorian of Western High school, and decided to use her platform during her graduation speech to call attention to the anti-Asian racism she experienced throughout the pandemic, as well as express solidarity with her fellow students of color and peers from other marginalized groups. 

On Tuesday, June 8, Cheng stood in front of her class, the teachers, faculty, and family members, and jumped into topics that are often avoided.

 

 

She told the crowd about the humiliating and scary time she was chased out of a Walgreens pharmacy store by someone who did not want “China virus people” in the store. Cheng referred to this instance as “the first of countless racially profiled interactions” that she experienced in the past year-and-a-half. 

Aside from her fellow Asian-American cohorts, Cheng took the opportunity to express solidarity with and applaud other minority graduates, including African-Americans, Native-American and Indigenous, Latino and Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and Middle Eastern students. 

Throughout most of her five minute speech, Cheng received cheers and applause from the crowd. The trouble started when she addressed her Middle Eastern peers, whom she described to be in “constant fear of their families and friends being struck down by a militant government who’ve had their land stolen and abused.”

This statement drew boos from some students and parents in the crowd, but Cheng was not discouraged. She finished her speech and the majority of the crowd erupted in longer and louder applause. 

In an interview with NextShark, Cheng said she was not referring to any specific nation when she addressed her “Middle Eastern peers,” and that she never once mentioned Israel.

Still, a group of students from her schools, whom she described to be Jewish, felt her words were a “personal attack” against them and began sending racially-charged comments, hatred and “lies” about her, via Instagram comments and messages. 

Cheng’s attackers — who also called her “ch*nk” — allegedly accused her of being anti-Semitic, despite the fact that she acknowledged anti-Semitism toward the end of her speech.

One student allegedly contacted a man named Joe Zevuloni, a Miami-based businessman who has appeared in Isreali media in support of former President Donald Trump. 

Cheng told NextShark that Zevuloni sent his “70,000 adult followers” after her. In his own posts, the popular Zionist influencer accused the young salutatorian of spewing “hypocritical hate speech,” calling her an “anti-Semitic Chinese student.”

He also claimed that she said: “I stand with the Palestinians who stole their lands [sic] Israel is an apartheid state,” which Cheng did not say in the video.

Hoards of Zevuloni’s followers harassed Cheng on Instagram and Facebook, calling out her hypocrisy in not criticizing the Chinese government for its own mistreatment of its Uyghur Muslim population. 

Many of them also blamed China for bringing the pandemic to the world. 

The outrage led to Instagram permanently closing her account. Since then, she has continued to receive numerous racist comments from “zionists and white supremacists” — both students and adults — who are now allegedly threatening to get her college decision revoked. 

An online petition has been created, calling on Instagram to restore her account, with over 2,000 signatures as of today. 

Cheng said she has also received thousands of good messages praising and thanking her for her speech, but the attacks persist. 

“A lot of my classmates are defending me, but as POCs, we have little to no power compared to the group of white supremacist and zionists that are attacking me,” Cheng told NextShark.

 





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