We Asked Asians to Reveal the Most Racist Situations They’ve Faced at Work

asian racism

Workplace racism is a tricky subject — at times, it’s too subtle to prove or report and even when it’s blatant, there’s no guarantee that your supervisors will take you seriously. We’ve repeatedly been told that, “the customer is always right,” but what happens when the customer is so obviously wrong and bigoted, and your boss and coworkers are part of the problem?

Xia 15, Chinese

“I occasionally help out at a Chinese takeaway as a counter/phone assistant. It was a Saturday evening, a disheveled woman walked into the store. She had ordered some chips and asked for directions. We had her wait 5-8 minutes since we were obviously not a chip shop that only sells fried goods, this meant it would take longer. However this woman rudely asked for the time of her order, after we gave her the explanation that non-Chinese foods would take longer since chips need to be fried and cooled so it isn’t oily & seasoned. She even accused me of just taking her money and not giving the order to the chefs. After a good 8 minutes, she said she wanted to cancel the order and talk to the manager for bad service. She attempted to spit at me whilst slurring out ‘chink’ and ‘Chinese c**t’.”

Amie 28, Filipino

“I have patients who refused care from me and my other coworkers because we’re Filipinos – poor and uneducated. One even threatened to leave the hospital because all he saw was Filipino nurses. It made me laugh because Filipino nurses are in EVERY hospital in California. So, good luck!”

Advertisement

Amanda 28, Vietnamese

“I tried wearing makeup to work for the first time since I started. Just a little winged eyeliner, nothing big. I was told by my coworker as she smiled, that I looked ‘chinky’. No one in the room batted an eye.”

Justina 20, Korean

“I’m a server at an Asian fusion restaurant and I have had many ‘interesting’ racial interactions with customers. My favorite one was when an intoxicated man was leaving the bar, passed by me and said ‘Ni Hao’ and I said back to him ‘I’m not Chinese, I’m Korean.’ Then he lashes out and goes ‘how the f*** was I supposed to know. Just take the f***ing compliment next time!’ I was more confused than mad by this man’s logic. Now it’s more of an inside joke between me and my coworkers.

Nu 31, Burmese

“I am living and working in medical fields in Maine. People at work would say, ‘you guys eat dogs, right?’ Or like, ‘get that colored girl,’ and ‘I would never leave my country and family like you did.’ Patients would tell me to go do nails or ask if I like rice. Most of them are ignorant and make unkind remarks.”

Advertisement

Dean 16, Chinese

“I used to work at this pharmacy store in a low-income neighborhood where the people are pretty rough sometimes. So this one time, a lady comes in and asked me where the shampoo is, so I showed her. Then she squints her eyes towards me and opens a bottle of shampoo and pours it on the floor. She then walked away saying my race deserves that. I’ve never been more shook in my life.”

Jen 21, Korean

“I worked as an assistant for a TV producer and in the beginning everything was fine and very professional but as I started working there longer, my boss gradually became a bit too comfortable with me. He started telling me about how he used to be married to an Asian woman but she divorced him and he still finds Asian women very attractive. It was a requirement for me at my job to sit in on pitch meetings or lunches with our investors and he would constantly sit me down next to him and brag about how he has an attractive, young Asian assistant while these old white men stared at me and smiled and sometimes even wrote their personal numbers with little messages on important documents, addressed to me — I had old white men who were 40 or 50 years old, some with daughters around my age trying to convince me to go for drinks. And every time my boss complemented me, it was never on my work, it was for my appearance, he even said, ‘you’ll go far in life, with that face of yours.’ Whenever I had to leave the meeting early, he would say, ‘Oh Jen’s got to run because she’s got a dog in the oven’. Actually, he found new ways to bring up the dog joke in every business meeting I sat in and I was surrounded by old white men and women just laughing at me. I didn’t last a year in that job and one day I just told him I quit and never showed up again.”

Khoun 30, Thai/Laos/Cambodian

“This lady at my old job asked me where I was born and then asked if I speak the same language as my supervisor who is Polynesian. I said no and Thailand is in Southeast Asia. She responded by saying, ‘you guys look alike.'”

Advertisement

Monica 30, Chinese

“I work in an emergency department as a nurse. A couple of months ago, a patient cornered me and told me, ‘I’m going to kidnap you. I’m going to kidnap you and take you back to China.’ I don’t know if he was being racist but I remember being afraid. There was nowhere for me to run, he stood in front of the exit so I was trapped in a room with him.”

Laxmi 20, Nepalese

“So I work at a cafe with mostly all Asian people. People (mostly Caucasian people) come in and ask if we sell boba… it’s a regular American cafe but people just assume we sell boba because we’re Asian.”

Annie 20, Vietnamese

“I was working for this boutique hotel and I was the only Asian receptionist. All the cleaners were Asians too and I talked to them all the time. One time my colleague said, ‘don’t talk to the cleaners too much, you might get mistaken as the cleaners.’ And also, I always cook my own lunch while she always had Uber Eats and she said, ‘your people are so good at cooking and cleaning.'”

Advertisement

An Zong 38, Chinese

“My first job was at a robotics start-up. There were three of us hired straight out of college. Eventually, the owners decided to give us all new titles as a reward (lead, manager, etc). When the day came, I realized my title was still just ‘software engineer’. I confronted the new manager about it and his response was, ‘you don’t have enough experience. So I told them not to change your title.’ They were all white. I wasn’t. It wasn’t until years later I understood.”

Kristine 21, Filipina

“I was a counter crew at a fast-food place and had another coworker taking orders with me at that time. We forgot that no one was calling out and assembling orders at the back, so one of us had to take initiative. By the time my coworker called a white customer to approach the front, I nudged him to go to the back and assemble orders. I wasn’t able to do that because I hadn’t finished my transaction. Before I had a chance to explain to the customer what was happening, he said to my coworker, ‘YOU! Come back here! Don’t ever do that to me, You’re discriminating against me.’ And me, who just started to gain confidence at the time, had to explain to him that we were simply trying to get orders out asap. And the thing is, I couldn’t possibly bring up the issues of race because one word from a white person, your company is doomed.”

Emily 20, Korean/Irish

“I worked at an Asian supermarket to make money to go to school. It was pretty popular with all ethnicities. Working there really had me struggle with my heritage. White men would make Asian fetish comments and when I rejected them they would lash out, telling me to get out of their country. They would call me a ‘green card baby’ and leave. Customers would go after my older Korean coworkers for their accents, I was always the one to have to calm everything down but had to silently take being yelled at. The Asian customers would make comments in Korean without knowing I knew Korean — the stigma that mixed kids can’t speak the mother/father tongue still exists. They called me a child of a prostitute and a race traitor.”

Advertisement

Eleanor 17, Chinese

“I work at a restaurant as a hostess and the customers we get are generally from the older generation. There was one time an older man came in and struck up a convo with me and started asking me about myself and what not. Then he just goes, ‘so I’m curious, what kind of Asian are you?’ He proceeded to tell me how beautiful and exotic he thought we were and that his wife was also an Asian, as if that justified his question. It wasn’t terribly racist but it was one of the few moments at work that stuck with me.”

Total
365
Shares
Related Posts