The 6th Annual NYC Father’s Day Pledge to End Violence in our Homes, Schools and Communities
June 10, 2015 (delivered on)
My mother’s father was a mean man. I don’t know if he ever struck my grandmother but he was very emotionally abusive. He would take the family’s food money to gamble. He and my grandmother had 6 children. Their children adored her and hated him.
I didn’t know him well. I heard that in China as the son of a rich man He was carried everywhere. His feet never touched the ground. Then at 15 he came to New York City. Working as a laundryman his feet never left the ground. He hated the job and resented his position. At every dinner he drank an 8 ounce glass of whiskey.
He and my grandmother moved in with us when he was close to 60 years of age. Soon after my grandmother developed Alzheimer’s and it got progressively worse. She kept leaving on the gas burners unlit and would wander from the house.
Most amazingly my grandfather nursed and protected her. My uncles were shocked and thought it was poetic justice – the abuser who hated being subservient was the caretaker to his victim.
My grandfather’s life is full of irony. Our response to domestic violence is also ironic. Society treats women unequally. Salaries are lower; chances for advancement are fewer; and, educational opportunities are restricted. Yet, we are surprised that this inequality expresses itself in our homes and families. The public perpetuates a systemic power differential. But, we are shocked when a person with the societally endowed upper hand takes advantage of someone with less power. American society condones hundreds of millions of people having fewer chances than others. But, we are outraged when this lack of opportunity contributes toward violence.
If my grandfather can change, so can many others. But, it is difficult. The abuser feels justified while living in a sexist society that entitles male privilege over women’s well-being. To prevent and reduce domestic violence all people in our society must be treated equally. Bringing about this change is everyone’s responsibility.
Speech by Larry Lee, Executive Director, New York Asian Women’s Center