After waiting in line at a local deli, Allison Lee was stunned when a disgruntled fellow customer flung a racial slur at her. The 27-year old Korean-American was shocked and disgusted but, in a moment of sheer bravery, did the unthinkable by politely corrected the offender by offering up a more accurate and appropriate racial slur.
The conflict began when Lee, a known Nice Girl from the Upper West Side, carefully and tactfully informed 57-year old Donavan Samuels that he had cut her in line.
“I said, ‘Excuse me, sir, I’m actually next,’” Lee explains. “Then he just turned around without missing a beat and called me a – I can’t believe I’m saying this word – ‘chink’.”
That’s when she, in a split second, decided that if he was going to throw outdated racial insults her way, he might as well be targeting the correct ethnic group.
“I immediately thought, ‘I need to stand up for myself and say something,’” she explains. “So I looked him right in the eye and said, “Excuse me? You’re taking out your anger on me by degrading my entire race. That is abhorrent and you are a bigot. Also, I’m not a chink—I’m a gook!”
When she realized that Samuels was confused, Lee quickly turned the moment into a further teaching opportunity.
“G-o-o-k,” she reportedly told him. “It’s the slur for Koreans, like me! Would you like to hear it used in a sentence?”
Samuels allegedly stuttered and tried to respond, but was so taken aback by Lee’s kindness and empathy, that he was left speechless.
“Look I get it,” Lee informed him. “I know how easy it is to assume every East Asian-looking person is Chinese, especially if you’re racist.”
“I didn’t even know there were different kinds of Asian,” says Samuels. “How am I supposed to remember slurs if I can’t even tell these people apart?? Maybe I should just stop being racist so I don’t offend anyone when I do it incorrectly?”
The same day as the incident, Samuels was spotted bumping into another Asian woman who wasn’t Lee and apologizing. This Japanese woman didn’t understand what he was referring to, but she’d been waiting for a white man to apologize to her for ages, so it all worked out.