‘Chinese Virus’ slur prompts surge in xenophobia at nail salons

By James Nguyen
May 19, 2021

SAN BERNARDINO, CA- After former President Trump referred to the COVID-19 virus as the ‘Chinese virus,’ it was not long until people started targeting members and areas in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, including Asian nail salons.

In the past year, Asian nail salons have been targeted and profiled in California. Several allegedly have been harassed in several ways, such as being robbed, threatened, or attacked. Even though Asian salon owners and employees may be aware of the situation, they continue to show up for work to pay bills and survive.

Tiffany Ta, daughter of a family-owned nail salon, stated that people were targeting her family’s salon during the pandemic. Yet, her family still shows up to work every day to make ends meet.

“Never in our twenty years of owning a nail salon have we encountered many problems,” Ta said. “We, unfortunately, had a robbery. He stole all our nail polishes, and every tool in our store was taken away.”

A broken door due to someone breaking into Ta’s nail salon (courtesy of Ta family)

The family did indeed contact the police. However, due to the pandemic, officials could not show up and investigate. It resulted in Ta’s family sending pictures and show recordings, but because they did not come into the store and investigate, the crime was not taken seriously.

After the incident occurred, Ta’s door at the nail salon was broken into again, but fortunately, everything was in place. 

Afterward, The family set up higher security cameras and an alarm system at the salon for better safety.

Higher security cameras and an alarm system installed after multiple crimes at Ta’s nail salon

Ta mentioned that even when business was doing well and no problems were occurring, she always had to deal with misconceptions of nail technicians talking poorly about their customers in a different language.

“A lot of people would have the mindset of, oh you know, are they talking about me? Are they talking about my feet or my toes? But a lot of these employees come from Vietnam, so their first language is obviously Vietnamese. Not a lot of these employees were blessed to have English as their first language, so the way they communicate to other employees is in Vietnamese.”

Although Asian nail salons face multiple allegations, many would never imagine receiving a hate letter sent from the postal service and straight to their doors.

Top 10 Nails, a family-owned nail salon in Riverside, California, received a racist Asian hate letter in the mail from the postal service. 

An anonymous hate letter sent to Top 10 Nails with racial slurs and profanity (courtesy of Vu family)

The letter left horrible remarks such as “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE” and “NO ONE CAN STAND HOW UGLY, SMELLY, AND DISGUSTING YOU ARE.”

The letter was received a few days after a shooting in Atlanta at a massage parlor leaving eight people dead, of which six happened to be women of Asian descent.

We reached out to Jackie Vu a month later, the user who posted the hate letter, to see what investigations were made with Top 10 Nails.

“It’s a letter to them I believe.They are saying anyone could have sent the letter. Multiple people got sent the letter so they are not actively targeting me, our nail salon for example.” Vu said.

It appears that another Asian nail salon in San Bernardino County also received the same letter. Hence, the Riverside police department informed Vu that it wasn’t just Top 10 Nails being targeted, but the overall county.

A letter was sent to a woman of Asian descent after her husband passed away. The letter stated “one less Asian to put up with in this Leisure World.” (courtesy of Choi family)

Nonetheless, police officials were not going to prioritize because it was only a letter, and there was not much they could do about it.

Vu also was a veteran and served for the country, and to see this hate letter received made it difficult for her to believe anyone would send it.

“My family has a lot of history connecting to the United States.”

Adee Diaz, a stylist who works in the same plaza as Top 10 Nails, stated that it was a horrible incident that occurred, especially since we are already dealing with a pandemic.

“Through the pandemic, we’ve all tried to support each other in any way we could, but finding that out was horrible,” Diaz said.

Diaz found it utterly disgusting when online users quickly accuse Vu of lying and that the letter was fake.

“We work next to them. We’re probably here more than at home. And so they’re kind of like work-family to us as a business. So to go into there and see how uneasy they are looking out their windows, why would anyone make that up? There is no way they would make that up.”

As of now, officials are not doing anything about the crimes committed at Vu and Ta’s family-owned nail salons, but police officials ask that if you happen to know any information about the incidents, report it to them.

Asian nail salons have been suffering through it all during the pandemic and much longer prior. If you happen to witness harassment in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, make sure to do something about it as it can ultimately make a difference.

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