A PhD student from China says she was called a pig and a dog-eater during a racist confrontation with two teenagers on a popular walking trail in St. John's.
Ting-ting Chen managed to snap a picture of the boys running away after accosting her on Friday on the Mundy Pond trail.
It's just the latest racist incident Chen has encountered since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador, bringing with it a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment, some of which has been caught on camera.
"I have been here two years, and I can hardly imagine I would have suffered from this two years ago before the pandemic," Chen told CBC NL's Meg Roberts on Sunday.
"I think the pandemic just became [an] impetus for the racism here to be thriving and rise up, and that really saddens my heart."
In a recent video shared with NTV News, well-known brewery owner Dave Fong was accosted by a woman outside his home in the historic Quidi Vidi Village of St. John's. The video shows her screaming at Fong to "go back to where you came from."
But Fong's family has been in Newfoundland and Labrador since the 1890s.
He did spend some time in nearby Carbonear as a child, but that doesn't seem to be what the woman was referring to.
She's been charged with criminal harassment and has a court date on Oct. 5 in St. John's.
Disturbed to hear it from kids
Sadly, Chen — who is studying Newfoundland folklore at Memorial University — has been subject to the same vitriol.
The first time happened when she was walking downtown and a car rolled past her with the windows down. Someone leaned out and shouted "Virus!" at her.
I don't want to see this small percentage of people destroy the beauty of Newfoundland. - Ting-ting Chen
The second time, a man shouted at her to "Go back to China." He didn't ask if she actually came from China, but just assumed.
The last straw was when the two teenaged boys made squinted eyes at her and spewed lewd nonsense in her direction.
"I just tell them this is not right and you should be better taught. Shame on you," she said.
"Racist ideas have already poisoned our young generations like that. I was astonished."
Moved to speak out
Chen stressed that the real troublesome minority is not any racial or ethnic group, but the racists themselves.
She said her time in Newfoundland has been marked by wonderful hospitality. A local resident invited her to live rent-free with them for two months when she first arrived so she could have a guided introduction to the province. Another friend has invited her to spend Christmas with her family for the last two years.
But she said it was time to speak about the ugly side and address it head-on.
The first time she experienced racism, it shocked her.
The second time, it scared her. She didn't go outside for a month, afraid of what people would say or think about her.
The third time, it made her angry.
"I don't want to see this small percentage of people destroy the beauty of Newfoundland," Chen said.
"I still love Newfoundland for sure, because I know all these haters and racists are only a small percentage, and they don't, and they can't, represent all Newfoundlanders at all."
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