A man went on an anti-Asian tirade after being asked to wear a mask while riding a bus in Florida earlier this month.
The incident, which was partially caught on video, occurred on a Miami-Dade Transit bus on the evening of March 9.
Lai, who is Chinese American, asked the man and his companion, a white woman, to wear masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The woman, who had a bandanna around the neck, allegedly refused to cover her face, saying she could not breathe with a mask on.
“I justified it by saying, ‘Ma’am, I’ve been working about six hours and wore my mask all day, and I think we have to be courteous to one another,’” Lai told the Miami New Times. “My dad is 76, and I can’t afford to bring COVID home.”
However, the pair of commuters still refused to cover their faces. This forced Lai to turn to the driver for help.
It was at that point when the man reportedly began his racist tirade. He allegedly referred to Lai with slurs such as “gook” and “chink.”
Lai decided to film the incident. The man became visibly upset, walked toward the driver and asked to be dropped off at the next stop.
Lai then told the man, “Maybe you don’t need to be racist to me.”
“I don’t give a f*ck what you saying, man. I got daughters older than you,” the man replied. “Mind yo’ goddamn business, Chinese lady. Ugly-a** chink. Mind yo’ goddamn business, man.”
The verbal altercation went on as the man continued to hurl slurs. At one point, Lai had to insist that she was born in the U.S.
As the man prepared to drop off, he gave Lai the middle finger.
“Smile for the camera. Smile for this chink,” he said. “F*ck your culture.”
Lai has since reported the incident to Miami-Dade Transit and to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. A prosecutor reportedly told her that the man cannot be prosecuted for a hate crime as “no crime” was committed in the first place.
Florida law allows prosecutors to add enhanced penalties for crimes that include discrimination. However, the state does not have standalone charges for hate crimes, according to the New Times.
In a statement, Miami-Dade Transit announced that an investigation is ongoing and pointed out that all passengers are required to wear masks.
“The safety and wellbeing of our passengers and employees is our number one priority. We regret any of our passengers having had a negative experience while on our system,” the transit system said. “Miami-Dade Transit follows all state, federal, and CDC COVID-19 requirements, and passengers are required to wear masks while riding on public transit.”
Feature Image Screenshots via Miami New Times