A grieving Quincy family was surprised by an uninvited speaker during a funeral in March. The speaker has since apologized, after his comments were covered by local news outlets.
Quincy resident and finance professional Adrian Wong gave a eulogy for his mother Carol Tan Wong on March 18, who passed away due to lung cancer. Carol Wong was not a smoker and worked as a Quincy Public Schools paraprofessional for nearly 30 years. She immigrated from Pingtung, Taiwan, to Boston in 1976, marrying Yuen Kwong Wong in 1979. They had two children, Adrian and his sister Aileen.
After Adrian Wong sat down, private investigator David Small rose to address the mourners. “I see the smoke in the Asian churches is so prevalent that I gag when I go inside… I hope what I told you about the smoke in the church is not taken in offense. I mean, it’s your culture.”
Small added he did not know the deceased and attended the funeral with his girlfriend. He was cut short by the funeral director, while Adrian Wong was baffled by his comments.
“Was it someone from her school or the hospital?” Wong said. “My Mom’s cancer doctor told us they were studying Asian women for a genetic predisposition to lung cancer. I thought maybe he would talk lung cancer.”
The Wong family does not plan to sue Small, but found his comments insensitive after reviewing funeral footage. “A funeral is not the appropriate place to make these kinds of comments,” Wong said. “I want to address these types of ethnic and cultural attacks.”
Small apologized for his behavior. “I was in error for bringing it up there. I am truly sorry I hurt anybody.”
Small added he was Jewish, had an Asian girlfriend and his father had owned a poultry shop in Chinatown. “I have a long history with Asians,” he said.
Wong is a lifelong Quincy resident and finds racism rare. “My neighbor told my mom to go back to China when we were kids,” he said. “Currently, I personally haven’t seen blatant discrimination in years.”
State Rep. Tackey Chan, who represents Quincy, said, “To my knowledge, there has not been an increase in hate crimes in Quincy recently. However, given the current political environment, individuals may feel empowered to make assumptions regarding situations and people that they do not know. Statements made irresponsibly are inappropriate and harmful to the entire community. Looking toward the future, I am concerned how the younger generation will find making irresponsible statements acceptable and believe there are no consequences for their actions.”
Wong was advised by the Mass. Attorney General’s office to file a criminal complaint for disrupting a funeral with the Quincy Police Department. While offensive speech does not constitute a hate crime, threats or intimidation that make a person fearful of injury does. If a hate crime occurs, individuals should contact their local police department and then file a complaint with the state Attorney General.
How to report a hate crime
Hateful and offensive speech or symbols do not necessarily violate the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.
The law prohibits physical or verbal conduct, such as when a perpetrator threatens another person with injury or harm. Violations of this law are criminal.
- Call 911 and report the hate crime to your local police department
- Contact the Attorney General’s office at 1-800-994-3228or file a civil rights complaint online at mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources/your-rights/civil-rights/civil-rights-complaint.html
This post is also available in: Chinese