(3 min read)
On July 20th, 2018, Twitter user @iShineSoBright_ tweeted a video of a black man pretending to be a Vietnamese nail salon technician with the caption: “Watch this man do his wife toes acting like them Chinese [sic] ladies in the shop.” He proceeded to mock the Vietnamese language with a fake accent as he massaged the woman’s feet while she laughed away. This was retweeted over 40,000 times and liked thousands of times more, mostly by the Black community, before it was deleted. Video
This is not the first time that a video mocking Vietnamese nail salon workers has gone viral this year. In recent months, we have seen a number of videos taken at nail salons that show customers walking out without paying, talking down to technicians, mocking them or outright assaulting them. Instead of condemning these blatantly racist acts, many on Twitter have liked and shared these videos for entertainment.
Here’s the thing: women who work at nail salons are largely of Vietnamese descent. Many are refugees who came from war-torn regions. They work all day long to survive and provide for their families at home or abroad with little support. Rarely can they afford the time and money needed to learn English. They are underpaid, work long hours, and are exposed to harmful chemicals.
These women are also our mothers, aunts, and cousins who have gone through the turmoil of uprooting their lives, transplanting them to an unfamiliar place in the pursuit of something better. Asian nail technicians and spa workers are seen as servants and not the persons that they are, ones with real struggles. You recline while they kneel. They work to improve your bodies while sacrificing their own. They become faceless, existing solely to beautify you.
Before you claim that it was “just a joke,” please, put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel being mocked for your language or job? Meanwhile, racial slurs like “Ching Chong” and “Ling Ling” are exactly that — slurs. To use them is to sound like a bigot.
This casual racism downplays the actual robberies, violence and disrespect these women face every day. You are mocking women who are intelligent, independent and strong. Their resilience in the face of hardship and discrimination is a testament to their strength and why they deserve your respect.
In the current political environment, every minority is becoming intensely aware of their identity and individuality, as well as the oppression they face. In the past, these women may have been silent due to language barriers, misguided notions of customer service, or even fear of losing their income. But now, those of us who stand with Vietnamese nail salon workers are calling you out, while also appealing to your humanity.
There may still be many empty promises in 2018 of moving towards solidarity between different minorities against racial oppression. But it’s not too early — and never too late — to try.
Until we are all free, none of us are free. Please, help us end racism towards all minorities, including that towards Vietnamese nail salon workers.