LOS ANGELES — Hong Lee is a first-generation Vietnamese-American whose life changed last summer when she was the victim of a hate crime. She was at a restaurant, simply trying to order some tacos, when a man walked up and asked her out to lunch.
When she declined, things turned ugly.
The man, who was Black, screamed a series of racist obscenities at Lee, also yelling "Black lives matter" before leaving the restaurant.
“I knew if he took another two or three steps towards me, I would have been cornered in, so my only defense mechanism was to record in hopes it wouldn’t turn into a physical altercation,” Lee said.
She says an officer initially told her no crime had occurred. It was only after the video went viral she says, that LAPD responded with action.
“LAPD actually reached out to me to apologize for the responding officers' lack of action,'” Lee added. “They then took my police report as a hate incident and retrained all of their patrol officers on how to address acts of hate.”
Her confrontation along with the recent surge in hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans led her to team up with the LA vs. Hate program, a county campaign that's intended to encourage people to report hate crimes.
“There’s a lot more people [that] are scapegoating us for the pandemic,” said Lee.
Nationwide, there have been almost 4,000 hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders within the last year, according to the Stop AAPI Hate group. But Lee says many in her community just don’t speak out.
“In our culture, we’re told to keep our heads down and not speak about things that humiliate us and to just get over it,” she said.
It’s why she’s using her voice and hoping others will join her.