An experience of the impact of Asian hate

By Augustine Gallespen, Neuqua Valley High School

This podcast was previously recorded on Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2021.

Augustine: Hello everyone. In the past year or so there have been many acts and attacks of racism and white supremacy. In the past month, there have been incidents of racism against Asians causing the community to feel discomfort, distress and the sense of being unsafe. Even in the previous week, there was a major hate crime in Texas where a restaurant named Noodle Tree was vandalized. In response to this, many people have come out in support of Asians and Pacific Islanders, but these crimes and racism are still apparent. Today, I am interviewing Megan Huynh, a sophomore at Neuqua Valley and also an employee at Noodles Pho U, a Vietnamese restaurant, to add in some insight both as an employee and as an Asian. Thank you so much for joining me today, how are you?

Megan: I’m good! How are you?

Augustine: I’m great and that’s great. On this subject I am also Asian, and I identify as Pacific Islander, but still an Asian. And I am Filipino. What race/ethnicity do you identify as?

Megan: I am Asian American, more specifically Chinese.

Augustine: As I mentioned in the beginning there have been many prominent incidents of racism against Asians in the past month, what are your opinions on these events?

Megan: Obviously it is absolutely terrible. It makes me sick to my stomach. I find it ironic that anti-Asian hate crimes have increased a lot since the pandemic because even though it originated from China, the US is a country that doesn’t have it under control. The US is a country that has tens of thousands of new cases per day while China has less than a hundred. And it makes me really scared that one of these hate crimes could happen to me, to my mom, to any of my friends.

Augustine: Yeah, it’s been really tough through the entire pandemic, based off all the backlash made against Asians. When in reality, it really isn’t our faults as Asians for just being Asians.

Megan: Exactly.

Augustine: In accordance to the previous question, casual racism is very prominent in our society to the point where racism against Asians is seen as jokes or satire, can you name an instance where you were affected by racism against Asians?

Megan: Yeah, definitely. A few months ago, my sister and I were at Oberweis getting ice cream and we saw a woman sitting in her car, parked right outside, along Oberweis and she did not enter the store until we left. She was looking at us, she did not have her seatbelt on, so she was clearly about to leave her car. But she did not get out until we left Oberweis, got in our car and left. At Noodles Pho U specifically, many people, more than you think, actually ask me “is this your family’s business?” or they see my manager and ask “oh, is that your daughter?” And it typically has no ill intent behind it and is usually asked as a joke or seriously but it is honestly kind of racist and definitely, at least, a microaggression. Every time someone asks that, I feel pretty uncomfortable because, first, I’m not Vietnamese. As you asked before, I’m Chinese, and working in a Vietnamese restaurant. But most people don’t bother to make that kind of distinction between certain Asians. Like, let me ask you this: If you walked into your local, say, Italian restaurant, do you see a white person, working as the cashier, and ask them if their boss is their parent? No. That’s not something that you ask and you don’t assume that that’s true, so why do you do it at your local Asian restaurant?

Augustine: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I’m so sorry that you had to go through those things and it is really unacceptable that people have grown accustomed to these sorts of things. To ask them, like you were saying, an Asian if they are working at an Asian inspired or influenced restaurant, as if they work there or their family works there or if they know people there, just because they are Asian. When, in fact, there is no general correlation or fact. And even with, as we talked about before or just now, about that lady at your Oberweis, also completely unacceptable. To just assume that because you’re Asian, you just have Corona or you somehow have correlation through that. It’s just completely unjustified and unnecessary, even as some sort of precaution, more so, just a racist prejudice. And then, in terms of this casual racism, do you feel as if racism against Asians is downplayed in comparison to other forms of degradation of other races?

Megan: Yeah, for sure. I think that, sadly, a lot of microaggressions and racism towards Asians are really normalized in the US. When you think of discrimination and racial inequality, I think that most people would think of African Americans, myself included. But I also feel that people tend not to be as educated on Asian history and their contributions to society or like famous Asian men and women, I think, as they do for black people. Obviously Black history is something that is so, so important and Asians and blacks face very different types of discrimination, but in order for people to be more accepting and understanding of Asian people and their culture, I think a big step would be including more Asian history in our textbooks and our curriculum.

Augustine: Yeah, I really agree. I think- I do appreciate all the effort that is put into trying to diversify all our literature. I think it’s more so based on diversifying- diversifying it based on black history, which is amazing and I love it and I love that that’s going on. But I think it would also be very beneficial to everyone, especially in media, to also diversify everything where we will not be able to have these racist prejudices or jokes or any sort of stereotype like that and rather it be more normal. Or just like that people look different or people are different races and all of that. But more deeper into this, in response to what happened on Monday night at the Boulder, Colorado Grocery Store shooting, do you feel safe as a worker in a general work environment that is not traditionally thought of as being at risk for a shooting?

Huynh wearing a Qí Páo, a traditional dress typically worn for special occasions like Chinese New Year. (Picture provided by Megan Huynh)

Megan: Generally, yeah. I feel really lucky and privileged to have grown up in an area where people are typically accepting and don’t associate my ethnicity or race with a value that is different from theirs. But with the exponential growth of Asian hate crimes in the US, such as last March, it is obviously really worrying. And the more and more things happen, the more and more anxious me and my family get. And, I don’t really like to say, but the less respect I have for a lot of people and a lot of things that go on in this country.

Augustine: Yeah, I think that is completely justifiable based on everything that has happened. I think there is a lot of change going on, so I think it is perfectly acceptable and justified to not feel the most respect or the most proud with being in America or being American or anything America.

Megan: I was about to say I also worry that a lot of people see this as a trend. Just like I feel a similar way towards the Black Lives Matter movement because it was so strong during this summer with the death of George Floyd and there were so many amazing protests and rallies that were held. But after a while, things started to die down, or at least I happen to think that they do, and I think that it is really important to keep these types of movements going, including Black Lives Matter and Anti Asian Hate rallies and things like that.

Augustine: I completely agree with that too. I think, although that it is very- I forgot the general term for it- but people do tend… Although it’s great that people are trying to help, they are educating themselves, aid in all the movements towards acceptance and normalization of many things, I think a lot of it is just for show or to stay on trend or anything like that. And I very sincerely hope that, as someone who is also Asian, that this won’t be- and as a person of color, that this won’t be some trend or some sort of thing that people Tik Tok about or post something on Instagram. I think that it is something that needs to be continued to be said to have strides for being accepted and normalized.

Megan: Yeah, because it’s not a trend. It is something that is really important and these movements help make strides towards racial equality. More specifically to racism against Asians, there was a prominent hate crime in Texas against Asians where a restaurant named Noodle Tree was spray painted with insults, some revolving around the coronavirus, aimed at Asians. As someone who works at a restaurant that embraces Asian culture and food, what does this mean to you?

Huynh serving boba smoothies at Noodles Pho U. She started working here in mid-October of 2020. (Taken by Augustine Gallespen)

Megan: Well, first off, that is horrifying. Not only because I work at an Asian restaurant but also because that should never happen and it’s not okay. I think that COVID meant that a lot of people were confused and a lot of people were angry and people wanted something, or rather in this case, an entire group of people to blame and to harass. And it’s really scary because that restaurant easily could’ve been Noodles Pho U or a different Asian restaurant here in Naperville. So it means that I text my sister when I get to work and when I leave work and at times I feel nervous and anxious about going out in public because of my ethnicity. And it’s just not okay. I don’t know if this will go away once we reach herd immunity or when the pandemic finally stops, I guess. But it’s very concerning and I’m really happy that you asked me to be interviewed today.

Augustine: For those who are watching and listening, or those who want to help and aid Asian Americans or Asians or people of color in these movements, what do you suggest that they do or what can they do in order to help?

Megan: So there’s a bunch of rallies and protests that are going on right now, if you can attend one of those I’d think it’d be really good on educating yourself a little bit more. Obviously with social distancing and masks on. There’s also certain organizations and GoFundme’s that you can donate to, one of them is Stop Asian Hate. And also, even just watching a Youtube video or reading an article about hate crimes against Asians. There’s even a documentary that was posted by the Try Guys who- actually one of the members is actually an alum for Neuqua, but that’s besides the point. They released an hour long documentary about Asian Hate Crimes in the US that are going on right now and it’s a really insightful video if you wanna check it out. And if you ever witness, see or hear a Asian hate crime going on, then you can report it at stopaapihate.org. And just reporting things or retweeting things, all of those reach your followers, whatever people follow you on your instagram or your snapchat. So those things also help as well.

Augustine: Yeah, I fully agree, and I think those are great ideas and options for those who want to help and support all Asians and people of color throughout what has been happening. And, for anything we just talked about or anything in general, do you have anything else you want to add before we conclude this interview?

Megan: No, I think that’s it. Thank you so much for having me!

Augustine: And thank you so much for being so willing to be interviewed by me. And thank you all for listening.

Links to:

Stop Asian Hate Go Fund Me

Try Guys Documentary

This story was originally published on The Echo on April 19, 2021.