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Korean student speaks up against racism in California

A video catching a scene of raw racism against Koreans in California has catapulted Annie An, a community college student in Walnut Creek, in the East Bay area of California, to immediate online stardom.

The shocking incident took place Sunday at a local Starbucks, where Annie was having a conversation with her friend in Korean. Her Korean-American tutor, Sean Lee, was also at the scene.

Breaking off the two Korean women’s chat, a middle-aged white woman, unprovoked, suddenly told the two, “Don’t you dare say that again,” adding that she does not like to hear that language, which she thinks is “disgusting,” adding that only English should be spoken in America.

Annie hit the record button on her smartphone.

Annie An, also known as An Hong. (Annie's Facebook)
Annie An, also known as An Hong. (Annie's Facebook)

“Some specific words she mentioned made me so mad. ‘Especially Korean,’ ‘disgusting,’ ‘Be quiet and sit down,’ ‘English only,’ and ‘immigrants,’” Annie told The Korea Herald in an interview.

Starbucks employees and three police officers escorted the woman out of the coffee joint.

“I have experienced racism on multiple counts during my stay in the US,” said Annie. “For instance, the waitress would refuse to serve me at a restaurant in a white neighborhood, or a white man would yell at me from a passing car, calling me ‘Ching Ching.’”

“But this is my first time to encounter someone who exhibited such outright sarcasm in a nonchalant, uncaring manner,” the 21-year-old said.

“We should never brush off racist remarks and actions. The more we stay quiet, the more history will ignore us. I wish more people would realize the power of immigrants, as the nation of US was built by immigrant hands.”

Annie’s video of what had been her “most unexpected and unbelievable day” of 2017 went viral via Facebook.

Annie said she has received much encouragement and support from people following her post, but not all the feedback has been positive.

“Some left aggressive comments on the video thread. Two people sent direct messages. One read, ‘You should have talked quietly. Your language sounds kinda annoying,’ and another read ‘F--- off Asian,’” she said.

Annie said she believes there is much burden on immigrants to speak up in times of inequality and racial adversity.

“I am proud to be bilingual,” she said.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (