AUSTIN (KXAN) — Video of a conflict that happened inside an Austin Vietnamese restaurant is garnering tens of thousands of views on social media and sparking conversations about hate against Asian Americans and how to stop it.
Whitney Spence posted the below video on TikTok after witnessing the incident last week, which KXAN has edited for language. We also blurred the customer’s face, since she has not been charged with any crime.
A female customer seems to get agitated with staff at the Vietnamese restaurant, at one point saying, “…Speak enough English so that they can take your order.”
Spence says it happened when she was having lunch with one of her bridesmaids last week. They were at one of her favorite restaurants at the Chinatown Center, Pho Saigon, when the waiter approached a woman at the table next to them.
“Then she started, just yelling, and she said, ‘Do your effing job right, I need you to stand in front of me,'” Spence remembered.
Then, Spence says the customer got upset again when she asked for miso soup, which wasn’t on the menu.
“That’s when she stood up and said to ‘speak effing English,’ and ‘get me someone that speaks English,'” Spence said.
Spence says she started recording the video when the woman then came back inside to pick up her order, and it wasn’t packed to-go.
“That’s when I started recording, was when she started getting in their faces, and I was getting a little bit worried,” said Spence. “I just wanted it for evidence in case something happened.”
She and her friend can be heard in the video saying things like, “You don’t need to insult people,” to the female customer.
Spence says she’s learned a lot, herself, through comments on her video from other users describing their anti-Asian experiences. She says it’s made her want to learn more about how to report incidents and be an ally.
“I am obviously a white woman, so I’m very privileged to not ever have that experience,” she said.
You can find and attend virtual bystander intervention trainings here.
Spence hopes spreading her video will encourage more Austinites to protect each other.
“Really, my main goal was just: Don’t be silent,” she says. “We’re all people, so don’t treat them poorly.”
One Austin leader says so many of these cases go unreported.
“Some Asian cultures and groups come from places where speaking out gets you in trouble,” said Hanna Huang, a member of the Austin Asian American Quality of Life Commission.
Huang is also the executive director of the Austin Asian American Film Festival and is working on a documentary series about experiences of Texan Asians.
“Asian American community members who, they went on camera, and they spoke to their younger selves about what they would’ve liked to know about the Asian discrimination and racism that they would endure,” she explained.
Stop AAPI Hate is a national group that tracks anti-Asian racism across the U.S. It released its latest report in September.
The group says it has gotten more than 9,000 reports nationally between March 2020 and June 2021. They say the most common type of discrimination reported was verbal harassment, although they report physical assaults have increased by 10% over the last year.
The coalition said, “a majority of incidents are traumatic and harmful — but not hate crimes.”
The owners of Pho Saigon told KXAN News they preferred not to comment on the incident, because it is a sensitive issue.