In 1988, Mark Wahlberg plead guilty to assault for two related incidents wherein the actor attacked two Vietnamese American men while yelling anti-Asian slurs. As a teenager, Wahlberg spent 45 days in jail relating to the racialized assaults. Last week, the actor submitted a pardon request asking to have his criminal record expunged of that conviction.
Today, the Daily Mail published an interview with one of Wahlberg’s assault victims. Hoa “Johnny” Trinh tells the paper that he wasn’t aware that his 1988 assailant was a Hollywood celebrity, and he forgives Wahlberg for the attack.
Trinh, who now lives in Arlington, Texas and works in a clothing company making minimum wage, believes that Wahlberg should get a pardon.
In an exclusive interview with Mail Online Trinh said he is happy for Wahlberg to be given a pardon saying: ‘He was young and reckless but I forgive him now. Everyone deserves another chance.
‘I would like to see him get a pardon. He should not have the crime hanging over him any longer.’
Trinh added that he would like to meet Wahlberg face to face to tell him he does not bear a grudge.
‘He paid for his crime when he went to prison. I am not saying that it did not hurt when he punched me in the face, but it was a long time ago.
‘He has grown up now. I am sure he has his own family and is a responsible man.’
Trinh also says that the highly-reported detail that Wahlberg had blinded Trinh in the attack — which Wahlberg himself believed — is wrong; Trinh had already lost his left eye during his military service in the Vietnam War well before his April 8, 1988 encounter with a teenaged Wahlberg.
Trinh tells the Daily Mail that he didn’t know who Wahlberg was, but that he has since been invited to testify for or against Wahlberg’s pardon request. Because he can’t afford to travel to Massachusetts, Trinh says he plans to submit a written statement in support of Wahlberg.
Last night, Wahlberg also addressed his pardon request, saying in an interview:
“I’ve been working very hard to correct a lot of mistakes that I made since the day that I woke up and realized, ‘You know what? I need to be a leader instead of a follower,’” he said.
While I sincerely appreciate Trinh’s statements and his forgiveness of Wahlberg, I worry that they may also distract from the impact of hate-motivated crimes — like the one that Wahlberg committed — on the larger Asian American community.
Some within the Asian American (myself included) oppose the pardon request in the absence of additional outreach to the Asian American community, addressing the racialized nature of the crime. Wahlberg has focused his advocacy on youth development, but has not invested nearly as much time or energy on anti-racism efforts since his 1993 apology for the incident.
I fully support justice for those convicted of crimes, however I also think that if Wahlberg wants to be a leader, there is plenty of room for him to take a leadership role in efforts to stop racial violence and injustice; I hope that with the latest attention to Wahlberg’s criminal record, the actor will consider putting more of his considerable resources towards helping immigrants and other marginalized communities of colour who are often particularly vulnerable to crime and economic victimization.
It doesn’t escape my notice that Wahlberg last year earned millions of dollars to star in the latest Transformers. Meanwhile, Trinh is struggling to make ends meet while earning minimum wage and the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) — which helped solicit Wahlberg’s original 1993 apology for the attacks — continues to operate at the grassroots level in New York City helping to secure tenants’ rights for recent Asian American immigrants living in the city’s low-income housing projects. Many of those whom CAAAV is helping to organize can look forward to a life of economic hardship similar to Hoa Trinh’s. So, indeed, there is plenty of room here for Mark Wahlberg to “be a leader instead of a follower”.
18MillionRising has started a petition also opposing Wahlberg’s pardon request, and it currently contains over 10,000 signatures.