I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know, it’s my first time at this park.” She said: “There are signs everywhere. Can you read, you Oriental?” It became apparent that she was not just there about the leash, but to also call me a name in front of my kids. I said: “I’m sorry. There are other dogs off-leash, so I was confused. You don’t need to be rude about it.”
Her husband started walking toward me, too, and he said, “Go back to where you came from.” With Covid-19, it’s scary when someone without a mask on won’t stop coming toward you, so I got my phone out, started recording. They walked away.
How did your children react?
They were thoroughly confused. I had never told them the word Oriental was bad or what it means when someone says, “Go back to where you came from.” I had to explain it. My son burst into tears. He said, “Why would they say that, Mommy?” He also wanted to know what I was going to do to protect them next time. I didn’t have an answer.
Why did you decide to post a video of the incident?
I wanted people to know what happened. My oldest son was so sad, but also kind of humiliated by it, which is so heartbreaking. Victims can’t be embarrassed. Perpetrators should be. That’s just the odd way in which this works. As a kid, I always wanted to brush it under the rug because I wanted to fit in.
[Chinese-Americans have been spit on, yelled at and attacked by bigots during the coronavirus pandemic.]
You and your family came here from China when you were 6. How does it feel to be Asian-American at this moment?
You’re always constantly feeling you’re not fully accepted in one or the other. You work hard to have this dual identity and feel every bit as American as Asian. When something like Covid-19 happens, it becomes so clear how much you’re not “American” in a lot of people’s eyes, and you will never be.