This past spring, at the height of violence against Asians and Asian Americans during the pandemic, my husband and I chose to eat dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant near where we live in South Florida — in a show of solidarity with our community. As we finished our beef noodle soup and paid the check, a White man, who was sitting with his family at the table next to us, started mocking the accents of our waiter and the cook, loud enough for the entire room to hear. Besides the staff, we were the only people of Asian descent in the establishment.
As a Chinese American journalist who had been covering the recent anti-Asian attacks, I was all too familiar with the scenario and how it could easily escalate into violence. I had recently interviewed 61-year-old Noel Quintana, whose face was slashed cheek-to-cheek with a box knife while he was on his way to work on the New York subway. Another victim I spoke to, Iona Cheng, was tackled to the ground as she delivered a Christmas gift near Oakland’s Jack London Square — not far from where I used to hang out with friends growing up in the Bay Area.