Asian American family honored for standing by Black Lives Matter

Debbie Lee and her daughter Celi Tamayo-Lee. Photo by Nikka Singh

Covering the Police is an effort to look more closely at how police work in the Mission and elsewhere in the city. It is a collaboration with U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. 

The Monday after a car drove into a crowd of protestors in Charlottesville, a hate letter was delivered to the home of San Francisco resident, Debbie Lee — and then another.

“It’s time to replace your BLM sign, how about Chink Lives Matter,” read the second message sent to the Tamayo-Lee family.

Since 2015, the Tamayo-Lee family has displayed a Black Lives Matter poster in the window of their Forest Knolls home. In July, they received their first anonymous letter, which read “BLUE LIVES MATTER! Get rid of your sign, or we will!”

On Monday night, those blue lives and Supervisor Norman Yee recognized the Tamayo-Lee family with a “Certificate of Honor” at the Park Station police district’s community meeting.

“The citizens of SF and the Board of Supervisors extend this accommodation to the Tamayo-Lee family for inspiring others to carry the message of inclusiveness and community empowerment,” Yee said during the ceremony.

Initially, the Tamayo-Lees chose not to involve the police, but after the racist language of the second letter, they filed a report with the Park Station police district and the district Supervisor, Norman Yee.

“It symbolized someone knows what we look like,” Lee’s daughter, Celi Tamayo-Lee said. “Someone has been looking into our home.”

The family lives in one of the city’s more conservative enclaves — 10.8 percent of voters in District 7 identified as Republicans in the 2016 Presidential election. That is the second highest percentage of Republican voters in San Francisco behind only District 2, with 14.5 percent.

Instead of being intimidated, Lee and Tamayo-Lee went door-to-door in their neighborhood, passing out Black Lives Matter signs.

“We talked about taking down the [Black Lives Matter] sign,” Lee said. “But we felt like, no, we didn’t want to be silent; that was the point of this threat.”

When asked about why the family chose to put up the sign in the first place, Lee responded. “I think it’s a very important thing that has happened across our country,” she continued, as “African-Americans have been shot down in much disproportionate numbers.”

Tamayo-Lee said later, “For me, there is an element of surprise that this happened to us, and also of non-surprise, Tamayo-Lee said. “The political moment we are in and people feeling more empowered with the President — with the one we have — to say things that are averse to Black Lives Matter.”

Lee echoed her daughter, saying, “We really think that it’s not a coincidence that it was postmarked after Charlottesville.”

The sign on their home. Photo by Nikka Singh.

The messages. Courtesy of the family.

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One Comment

  1. Dani Nya

    yes, there is white racism against asians… has been for centuries in this country. you don’t need to go to Berkley or any other liberal college to learn that. particularly if you are asian. you need to learn, apparently, the same groups you support, including the liberal parties and BLM… that asians are violently harassed, intimidated and killed in may urban cities and nothing is done by anyone, including the asian leaders of the democratic party. Such as, in philadelphia where asian leaders, are so dug in with the democrats and support black and hispanic causes, they turn their backs on the poor asian communities. don’t take a side unless you know. you are simply looking to join a cause, then work for your people instead of riding the wagon of others.

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