Letter dismissing ‘China 19′ as a joke didn’t deserve to be printed (Letter to the editor)
The letter below references another, originally published March 11 and submitted under the name Mary Brighton. Montclair Local has been unable to confirm Brighton's identity and has removed the letter published under that name. Should Montclair Local be able to confirm Brighton's identity after further follow-up, that letter may be restored.
A letter by a Mary Brighton of Montclair published by the Montclair Local online on March 11 falsely attributes Officer William Coad’s suspension not to the Montclair Police Department’s independent investigation and disciplinary process but to a fictive “takedown and shaming” by the Civil Rights Commission. The letter goes so far in its speciousness as to argue that objecting to anti-Asian rhetoric evoking “China” as a monolithic enemy is "an endorsement of slavery and genocide.”
In fact, Officer William Coad’s employer, the Montclair Police Department, found he violated its regulations when he posted “China 19 check” in a community forum on a weekday afternoon. The police department found Officer Coad’s conduct so serious he was suspended for 20 days, which warranted it being reported to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
Over the past two years, Stop AAPI Hate has recorded more than 10,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans. In New Jersey, bias incidents against Asian Americans skyrocketed over 80% during the pandemic. These incidents have been linked to dangerous rhetoric such as “China virus,” “Kung flu,” “China-19,” and other slurs that stigmatize people of Asian heritage. Words matter. To say this rhetoric is a “joke” ignores both that reality and the Montclair Police Department’s own conclusion.
All members of our community deserve to be safe. As Asian Americans in Montclair mourn and remember the March 16 Atlanta massacre and countless vicious attacks, we also have to wonder: if our families are verbally harassed, threatened, or worse and call on our police for help, who will respond? Will it be an officer who is professional, respectful and empathetic? Or will it be someone who will treat us like Officer Coad?
In publishing letters of low truth or logical value, the Montclair Local elevates them to public notice, stamped worthy of “sparking dialogue.” As Asian Americans who have spent the last two years absorbing wave after wave of anti-Asian rhetoric and violence, let us tell you: not all dialogue needs to be sparked — we are living this nightmare every day. At its worst, offering a platform to screeds such as this imposes an additional burden on historically oppressed groups, as when the Black community and allies were put in the awful position of responding (or not) to the “intelligence gap” letter published in 2020. If someone would like to discuss such matters as free speech in public roles or the connection between online hate speech and real-world violence, we are here. But mistruths and straw men are a poor spark for civil discussion. Some conversations are not worth the candle, especially for a publication as respected and valued as the Montclair Local.
Amber Reed, president
Jeffrey Chang, advocacy chair
Editor’s note: Writer Amber Reed is married to Justin Jamail, a member of the Montclair Local’s governing board.
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