A San Antonio man whose restaurant was vandalized with racist graffiti days after he criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to rescind a statewide mask mandate says he has no regrets and will continue to speak out.
Mike Nguyen appeared on CNN last week, saying his stance was based on the safety of his staff, himself and the community. Since that interview, he said he has faced death threats on social media. On Sunday, Nguyen arrived at his Noodle Tree restaurant to find “no mask,” “go back 2 China” and other hateful messages scrawled in red paint on his storefront.
“I was born here and I’m not Chinese,” Nguyen, whose background is half Vietnamese and half French, told USA TODAY on Monday. “It’s not right that as an American I can’t state my opinion without being attacked.”
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More than 535,000 Americans have died from the virus, including more than 46,000 Texans. Abbott, however, cited declining numbers of deaths, hospitalizations and infections in announcing earlier this month he was going to “open Texas 100%.” No masks required, no restrictions on businesses.
Nguyen said he believes more confrontations are ahead in Texas as shop owners try to protect employees by requiring customers to wear masks without a mask mandate from Abbott.
“Instead of being a leader, he wants us to deal with it,” Nguyen said. “The blood is on his hands if anything happens.”
Neighbors came to Nguyen’s aid, helping him clean up the mess. Mayor Ron Nirenberg thanked them, saying the effort “proved that we’re better than this one hateful act.”
“We must work together to eradicate racism from our city,” Nirenberg said.
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The Chinese American Citizens Alliance and the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio released a joint statement denouncing the “ugly display of hate.”
“This ignorant act had not only damaged a business, but it also dishonored the distinguished reputation of San Antonio,” the groups said.
Incidents of hate against Asian Americans have risen sharply during the pandemic, sparking outrage and activism in the Asian American community and spurring some lawmakers and organizers to respond to the threat.
“Racially motivated violence and other incidents against Asian Americans have reached an alarming level across the United States since the outbreak of COVID-19,” a United Nations report released last year found. It cited increases in vandalism, physical assaults and robberies against people, businesses and community centers.
Last week, President Joe Biden condemned the violence Asian Americans have endured throughout the pandemic, saying “it’s wrong, it’s un-American and it must stop.”
Nguyen said he is encouraged by the support he received. He had to open late Sunday due to the cleanup, but said he was overwhelmed with customers. When he sold out, some just left a donation.
“The day started with negativity but ended positive,” he said. “People here, we are not going to tolerate racism and hate.”