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Bay Area College Students Speak Out About Experiencing Anti-Asian Racism

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco State University students are speaking out about their own experiences with anti-Asian racism in light of recent attacks.

English lecturer Maureen Fitzgerald said when she recently asked her students to write about an experience during the pandemic, several students wrote about receiving racial slurs or discrimination.

Freshman Joshua Luna described when two white customers approached him at a San Jose Home Depot where he works, and mocked him.

"His friend decided to come up to me and speak imitation Chinese to me, and I took offense to that not because I'm not Chinese, I'm Filipino American, and for him to just assume that already to me... at a workplace where I have to remain professional and not cause a scene, it really made me feel hurt," said Luna.

Freshman Nathan Limpin described an incident at a Starbucks in Milpitas.

"I was literally just talking to my coworker the other day and she was called a bunch of slurs by a customer, because he didn't want to wear a mask, and he was basically blaming her and blaming Asian people for COVID," said Limpin.

Last month, a 91-year-old man was shoved to the ground in Oakland Chinatown. In San Francisco, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was knocked to the ground in a fatal, unprovoked attack in January.

They are not the only victims. The Stop AAPI Hate coalition has received more than 3,000 self-reported incidents of hate across the country, since the pandemic began.

"There's been a lot of coverage about elderly Asians being attacked, but it's affecting the young generation too," said SFSU Lecturer Maureen Fitzgerald. "My students are people who care deeply about their families, they're very protective of their parents and grandparents, so I've heard a lot of students stories. 'I'm afraid to let my grandmother go out of the house,' and that's pretty heartbreaking."

Fitzgerald added that she is appalled and angered by the violence. Many of her students are dealing with an unconventional start to their college experience, and are working to help support their families during the pandemic.

"In addition to having to go to college online, they're out there, working these minimum wage jobs, and that they're facing abuse on top of that is really just unacceptable. So I think that as a community we have to stand together," she said.

Fitzgerald's students agree that victims of racism need to call it out.

"I just hope that they understand that they're not alone in this situation. They may think that they're the only ones dealing with this backlash and this anger, but they're not. They have to remember that there's a whole community of us out there," added Luna.

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