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Anti Asian Discrimination-1
Credit: Varun Sudunagunta

Students discussed anti-Asian discrimination at an event Wednesday night, following an incident at a local Taco Bell where an employee described a Penn student using a racial slur.

At the discussion, entitled, “Unpacking Anti-Asian Discrimination,” students shared their responses and discussed the racial and social class tensions surrounding the incident. They also noted that greater steps should be taken to prevent discrimination against Asians.

The event was created after first-year Ph.D student In Young Lee was described as “Steve Chink” on a printed receipt by a local Taco Bell employee on Feb. 16. Lee said he told the employee, who has since been fired, that his name was “Steve” to make it more convenient for him to spell. The incident left Lee infuriated, particularly after he found the employee laughing and joking after Lee confronted him.

Photo from In Young Lee

“That [racial slur] is somehow acceptable to some people,” said College sophomore and APSC Vice Chair of Political Affairs Jessica Li, who is also a Daily Pennsylvanian opinion columnist. “I think this use of the word reinforces the fact that discrimination against Asian-Americans isn’t really taken seriously sometimes.”

College senior Caroline Wang added that she did not know the word was still used in American culture.

The event was hosted by the Asian Pacific Student Coalition and the Pan-Asian American Graduate Student Association. Wharton and College junior and APSC chair Soomin Shin organized the event alongside Public Relations Chair Octavia Sun, a second year graduate student pursuing a Masters in Environmental Sciences.

Sun said the event was created to invite both undergraduate and graduate students to share their responses and thoughts on the larger significance of the Taco Bell incident. She added the event  aimed to address the flood of critical comments the two received received after an opinion column co-written by Sun and Shin was published in The Daily Pennsylvanian. Both Sun and Shin urged readers to consider the effects of racial tensions and anti-blackness in their opinion column.

Examples of critical comments that readers left were also shown, which included comments assuming the race and social class of the Taco Bell employee. Students discussed the negative impacts of “pitting” races against one another and the lack of discussion around inter-minority racism.

"In a situation like this, we can't stay quiet about it or else it will just keep being seen as acceptable," Sun said.

Lee previously suggested that Taco Bell should hold mandatory sensitivity training for their employees and managers with the hopes of promoting “racial consciousness.” 

“The fact that this happens so often and very repetitively [makes] it feel like maybe nothing is being fixed,” Shin said. "It's good to have awareness, but what can we do next?"